Confidence and resilience are two attributes that are commonly linked, and vital for personal and professional success. However, although they’re highly sought after, they are two qualities that we can often find difficult to master. Sun Life’s Chief Digital Technology Officer, Alice Thomas shares three tips for growing your confidence and resilience.
By Alice Thomas
I started working in technology in the late ’80s. There were very few women employed in the industry at the time, and not a lot of support for those of us trying to navigate our careers. The gender imbalance wouldn’t improve much over the years, but it would end up teaching me important lessons about confidence and resilience.
At the start of my career, I struggled with carving out a place for myself in the industry. Being in the minority, it was all too easy for self-doubt and insecurity to set in. I routinely held back in meetings and stopped myself from raising a hand to ask questions.
To stay afloat in the industry, I knew I would have to change the self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that were in my control. Despite having all of the skills and knowledge to succeed, if I wasn’t confident or resilient, my career would eventually stall. The following three tips have helped me nurture these two areas over the years.
Since most of our insecurities stem from a fear of failure, our confidence levels are linked to how well we manage this fear. Mistakes and slip-ups are inevitable. The sooner we learn to accept them, the sooner we open ourselves up to trying new things. I’ve felt the most confidence at times when I’ve taken a leap of faith, only to realize the initial outcome I feared didn’t come true.
Once you learn to embrace failure, the easier it becomes to pick yourself up again. You spend less time pining over the mistakes, and more time implementing the lessons.
It’s your career, but you’re not in this alone. The relationships you build with others can help boost your levels of confidence and resilience at times when you can’t do it on your own. Building a network of support takes time and precision, but the sooner you assemble the right people in your corner, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.
Your supporters can be found in all types of diverse settings. My group of advisors consists of men, women, people younger than me, people in my field, and some who are not in the workforce at all. The common denominator between them is that they allow me to be myself in a judgement-free zone, and have my best interests at heart.
It was only after receiving encouragement from one of my mentors that I took a role in a new and uncertain area of technology. Ecommerce was uncharted territory at this time, and I was hesitant to take on the challenge. Pursuing this role ultimately led me to find my true passion for digital innovation, which shaped the remainder of my career.
Mentors are great, but you have to learn how to be your own cheerleader at times, too. When times get tough, take stock of your past successes rather than the missed opportunities, and use them as motivation to keep going. Believe in yourself and the accomplishments that are already under your belt. You’re far more resilient than you think.
More often than not, the unfortunate thing that happened usually has very little to do with you. Sometimes, it really is just business. Other times, a co-worker might be having a bad day. It’s completely natural to be disappointed by a business decision, but try not to put yourself at the centre of it.
This was a difficult lesson for me to learn as it felt like I was automatically at a disadvantage because of my gender. I spent a lot of time indulging in setbacks and using the negative event as fuel for my insecurities.
What helped me overcome this mentality was to view the negative event through the lens of a third party. I thought about the advice I would give to a friend in a similar situation. It helped me take myself out of the equation, and view things in a more productive light.
I’ve seen many women leave the industry over the years because they lacked the confidence and resilience to see their careers through. I likely would have been one of them if I hadn’t identified the internal roadblocks preventing me from moving forward.
I consider confidence and resilience to be like any other set of muscles in our body. They require training and exercise in order for us to exert our true potential. By practising these tips, your confidence and resilience will maintain their strength over time so that you can flex them in the moments when you need them most.
Alice Thomas is Chief Digital Technology Officer at Sun Life, where she oversees technology enablement of the company’s digital strategies globally. Alice is a passionate supporter of diversity and inclusion and champion for the advancement of women in technology. She was recently named Advocate of the Year by the Women in IT Awards Series for her efforts to increase the participation of women in IT.