When it comes to women in tech, the conversation is often focused on the lack of female representation in the industry. But some brave women are making a difference, and we need to empower them. That is what exactly Nicole Trick Steinbach speaks about. Nicole is the international bravery coach for women in technology. She coaches women in tech all over the world to succeed in their careers, earning more money and creating more opportunities with less stress and more fun. Listen to this episode to learn how to empower women in tech, be brave, and thrive in their careers.
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Empowering Brave Women In Tech With Nicole Trick Steinbach
I have the awesome Nicole Trick Steinbach as my guest in this episode. Before we get started, let me remind you that if you’re curious about how your presentation skills are doing and where you’re strong, you can take our free four-minute quiz at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition you deserve.
Nicole Steinbach, welcome to the show. I’m so happy to have you here. Nicole Trick Steinbach is the International Bravery Coach for Women in Technology. She’s a former Tech Exec, and she’s worked in over 25 countries and is at home, both in the US and Germany. She coaches women in tech all over the world to succeed in their careers, earning more money and creating more opportunities with less stress and more fun.
She also has a podcast called Celebrate Brave, which is deep into season two. Nicole, before I get into the specific questions for women in tech, if you were to have a dream interview, somebody you wouldn’t normally be able to get to, who would you interview, what would you ask them, and who should be listening?
This one’s easy for me because it’s Angela Merkel.
She is the former Chancellor of Germany.
When I first moved to Germany, she was not yet the chancellor. I got to experience her until the last few years when she was in position of power. One of the things that impresses me so much about her is that she makes decisions based on her values. This can be seen in repeating outfits. Why is that still a thing? It’s still a thing. She wears what she wants.
By repeating outfits, you’re talking about the assumption that women must have a new outfit every time.
It has to fit this certain idea of what someone, somewhere who doesn’t exist, that someone somewhere, but without that someone somewhere that’s imaginary, assumes a woman in power has. It’s never repeated to the point where she was called out numerous times. She was even asked about it at a serious meeting where there were real conversations to be had.Bravery is not about the doing. It is about the need to feel and take up the space. Click To Tweet
A reporter asked, “What do you think about this noise around you repeating your outfits?” She was like, “We have better things to talk about.” That’s the fun way to look at it. I was also living in Germany during what people are now calling the refugee crisis of 2013. I saw her make value-based decisions that she stood for when she was running multiple times and that her party was voted into power and expected the blowback.
She decided to open Germany’s borders to refugees from Syria.
Also, Eretria and many places in the world are suffering. In my small town, we were about 20,000 people and by 6 to 8 months, we were a 10% refugee population. There was concern and blowback. Different perspectives of what that was going to mean because it’s a multi-party, multi-identity society. She assumed that there was blowback. She spoke to the blowback and she continued to repeat the value over and over again. She brought in the history of her own country and more importantly, the future that we’re headed into with climate change, refugees, economic refugees, etc., and navigated it without apologizing for her beliefs, choices, and what she had run on in the first place.
I would want generations and generations of women from all over the world in the front. I would want generations and generations of men in the back. I want them to experience it but I would want the focus to be on women. My main question would be, “How did you daily decide? What were you thinking? What were you feeling? Who did you spend time with? Did you daily choose again and again your core values and yet remained open for conversation and learning?”
I want to be in that audience to hear her say that. I keep hoping that she’s going to come hiking in our village in the Alps. I’ll just bump into her at the cafe and then say, “Hello.” I probably couldn’t get past her bodyguards, but wouldn’t that be fun to bump into her on the path and say, “I’m a huge fan of yours.”
Let’s invite her. Let’s make it happen.
That leads me to my first major question which is, Angela Merkel is a great example of being brave and your brand is Brave. What does that mean to you? Why did you choose that word?
I’m going to start with the second part first. I chose Brave because it’s so hard for me. It’s building my brave, learning to use my voice, learning to use my height, and learning to use the intelligence and the curiosity that I have. In my bio, it talks about 25 countries. Most of those were solo. I traveled by myself. I’m from a welfare family in Southern Ohio. Going abroad was strange, but then I was traveling all by myself. It took a lot of commitment and dedication to choose to do those things. I inherently learned. I had an incredible teacher, a therapist, and an amazing coach who helped me realize that it wasn’t about the doing. It was about how I needed to feel. I was like, “Here we go. We’re going to be brave again,” and taking up the space.
That is why it’s brave. My husband was the one who crystallized it for me. I was invited to speak at an incredible organization. I didn’t want to roll in with the theory of personal change. I found it boring. He’s like, “You always talk about being brave. Make it brave.” I was like, “That’s what we’re going to do.” The definition of brave that I’m talking about are things that go counter but could complement how many societies think about brave like brave soldiers, brave fire people, or brave whatever.
It’s like these huge moments of diving into a burning building or leaping from something. It’s these superhero movies. That is a form of brave but it’s also asking the question, having the bravery in a meeting to say, “Excuse me. You said this and that wasn’t quite clear to me. Could you clarify?” It’s negotiating. They offer you $220 and you’re like, “Thank you so much. I appreciate that. We need to review my value because I’m worth this or I’m expecting this.” It’s choosing to have a family or not. You and I have these mobile lives. We could be available to everyone all the time but we don’t and that’s brave.
For me, when it comes down to that form of brave, it’s clear. You know you want. Two is momentum. You do the things and you feel those things. We forget often what we need to feel. The third thing is accountability, which I’m summing up right now in a question, “Who do you want to be?” Angela Merkel wants to be the woman who stood by her values. When we answer that question, choose, and then move forward, even if building brave is hard, we still do it. We do it incrementally over time. It changes everything. I help women like you. I help women enjoy their careers and it changes everything.
I’ve heard you several times. I’ve known you for a while so I wanted to get you on the show. What I love about what you’re saying is doing it in small steps, the bravery of that one question, the bravery of that little thing. So much of what I do is helping people be heard. For women who are not being listened to, I help them be heard. It’s a whole bunch of little tiny things, dropping seeds, planting seeds to seeding your value with stories and such where slowly but surely you notice, “They’re paying attention these days.” I wish it could be an overnight revelation. If you and I could each a bottle what we do, have it in a pill, take the pill, and you’ve got it, we would be bazillionaires.
So would all the women we helped, which would be the best part.
If we could just do it, I want to create the magic elixir and then you drink from that little bottle and you’ll be fine. Unfortunately, you’ve got to do it little by little.
That’s the best news as well. I remember an early conversation that we had and you were like, “Can I make a suggestion?” You offered a small tweak to the verb form I was using or the structure of my noun. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I was like, “That’s going to make a difference.” It’s those small things and then building on top of that is exactly the truth.Choosing who you want to become and following through is the accountability of seeing where you're going and keeping yourself going there. Click To Tweet
You talk about clarity, momentum, and accountability, but you have a cool metaphor about dentists, kindergartners, and so forth. Could you explain that to us?
It’s a lot of fun. If we’re not having fun, let’s try something else. Let’s shift how we’re thinking about it. I call the clarity piece of my Build Your Brave Framework, Tell It to Your Dentist. This is from the inspiration. I grew up with some healthcare lack in the United States so I have some toothaches. That means that in my travels to 25 countries, I went to 7 dentists in different countries. It’s probably me. Let’s be real. I love real conversation, but I always have a dentist who asked me interesting questions that I want to answer.
I have to be so clear and specific. When I’m in the back of the chair, the hand is in and the tool is in, and they say, “Why does your work matter?” I have to be able to answer. That’s why I call it Tell It to Your Dentist because that’s the conciseness that you have to have. We think about these CEOs and they’re always on for a soundbite. That soundbite always sounds a little bit different, but they know exactly what they’re there to do. We have to have that clarity as to the CEOs for our goals and results.
The soundbites are part of what I taught. What are your golden nuggets? What are the little things, the one-minute story, or why does it matter? In the days when we went to in-person networking events, we all had a 30-second intro of what we do. You could have lots of those and you put them together to make a speech or you just drop them in terms of reminding people about your success and things like that.
I had a lot of dental work done by an Italian dentist and his team. I’m fluent in Italian so I could talk to them in Italian, but they said, “Should we do Italian or English?” I said, “Talk to me in English because it will force you to slow down.” If I said, “Talk Italian,” they would be speaking rapid Italian and probably dialect to each other and I would be going, “What?” I said, “Please talk to me in English because it’ll make you slow down enough that you’ll explain something.” You’ve got the dentist, the clarity, tell it as if you’re talking to a dentist who’s got her hand in your mouth. Where does the kindergartner part come in?
Part 2 Momentum, I call it Experience it like a Kindergartner.
Most of our international learners are in Germany so kindergarten you understand, but it’s like a 5-year-old or a 6-year-old.
They’re talking. They’re moving. They’re practicing their independence and experiencing the world. Adults do this as well. We tend to approach new situations, new opportunities, and new obstacles in 1 of 2 ways. We either learn and then we take an action or we act and then we learn from the action. My kiddos, I have one of each. I love to talk about the monkey bars, especially in kindergarten, because it feels so big. They can’t touch the ground.
Those are the big bars that you can climb on like a monkey.
You have a hold of both. You have to release one and shift yourself forward to get the next one. One of my children runs, climbs off the little ladder, flings herself forward, maybe gets 1, maybe it gets 2, and always will fall down. She then has her breath of feelings and experience. We’ve got to feel things. Whereas my other child will cautiously walk up, check it out, and see what’s working and what’s not working.
He’s totally soaking it in and then he purposefully climbs up the little ladder. He does his thing. He does one, he does two, and then he falls down. He has had that experience and the loop starts to happen. They’re joyful. They’re sad. They’re frustrated. They’re excited but a kindergartner, generally speaking, a 5-year-old or a 6-year-old, we expect them to have feelings and show them. Why do adults not?
That’s the secret. We’ve been taught a lie that it’s about what we do. What we do is important. We do create output. When we create an outcome is when we can connect to the emotional experience of the person across from us. We create those memorable moments. We hand them a shiny gold nugget and not one that they have to try to figure out what’s going on. We can only do that when we are experiencing the feelings as well.
What’s the third one?
Own it like a boss. This is accountability. It’s so funny because a lot of people are like, “I love this part. I love telling other people what to do.” I’m like, “Fair. I’m a bossy older sister myself.” It’s about accountability in my head, in my heart, and with my hands. Choosing who I want to become and then following through. What do I believe? What do I think about it? What music do I listen to?”
Many people who come to me want to have that first executive role. They’re not yet in an executive role. They want to have that first one. I’m like, “When you’re an executive, what do you do? What do you wear? What questions do you ask? How do you listen? Who’s your mentor?” That’s the accountability of seeing where you’re going and keeping yourself going there. Honestly, that’s where I spend the vast majority of the time with my clients because we have this strange idea. Einstein very clearly said, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” I love that description.What made you a successful student will not make you successful in the career world. You got to change. You have to grow. Click To Tweet
What got you to a senior level? What made you a successful student is not going to make you successful in the career world. You got to change. You got to grow. If you’re conscious about where you’re going when you get there, you like who you are and you have fun on your way there. We’ve talked about this a little bit. We get some people like me who got so into, “I’m going to cross six figures. I’m going to have people below me. I’m going to travel that place.” I got there and I was not a pleasant person. I was unhappy. I got mandated coaching because it was such a disaster to work with.
They made you get coaching.
That was my first experience with coaching. It changed my entire life.
What’s unique about being a woman in tech in 2022?
We have never had more opportunity ever. That is true for men. The way I like to describe it is because we get lost in systems of power. The current identity that makes the vast majority of decisions from investment all the way into when we retire, we sense that technology is the minority of a minority. A straight White man is this tiny little percentage of the world. When people say, “I don’t like tech. I’m not a tech person.”
My answer is, “You don’t want to think like a straight White dude.” I get that. I totally understand. As tech is exploding, every industry understands that its entire spine is tech, supply chain, military, auto, and air. Everything is tech. Right when people are understanding that, every single element of what we do is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s right at a point in time when mass areas of the world are getting online because of the investments coming primarily out of China. We think about the infrastructure in Africa. There’s this incredible opportunity for generations to come into Web 2.0 and the feedback is, “That doesn’t work for me.”
What do these tech companies, startups all the way to the giants need? They need different identities. Right now on the market, especially for these companies who are truly implementing diverse hiring practices. It means that their report panels, they’re taking names off of resumes, etc. They’re doing multiple 90-degree feedback cycles. It’s not just one person, but multiple people. Women are being offered more positions than men globally. There are women coming into tech as well globally. In addition to that, we can get all the money and negotiate. That’s what’s special in 2022.
One of the things I love about that is something that the pandemic has done for us and to us. Many people are working from home, for those of us who are able to work from home, have made people question the old way of doing it. Working in tech doesn’t necessarily mean you’re just coding. You’re not sitting at your computer creating a code. There are massive organizations with lots and lots of parts where either men or women will be fine. It doesn’t matter.
You don’t have to be an engineer. If you are an engineer, that’s wonderful. I think it started with the #MeToo Movement and women claiming their power. I’ve had several conversations in the last several days about companies that are trying to do it right. They’re appointing women, they’re appointing women of color and trying to do the right thing. In the last few years, we’ve changed because there was a global disruption of the status quo. Everything changed and we had to rethink how we survive and what matters.
People created these systems that we live in so people can create a different one. That’s up to us. I do believe very strongly that regulation is having a very powerful impact. We think about the S&P and they are currently voluntary reporting gender stats. We think about California and the demand to have more gender representation. We think about the EU and the reporting that’s voluntary there. We have some noise happening in various places of APJ as well. The regulation does matter.
For our international readers, APJ is what?
Asia-Pacific and Japan. Australia and Tonga would be in there. India is often part of that as well.
When you’re talking about diversity and equity, also because there are studies and studies that show that companies with diverse leadership and voices make better profits. This is my question for you. The core of what I do is helping individuals who say, “Here’s the trend and I’m still not being listened to because it all comes down to people.” How do you address that, “We’re having a global opening?” I do have to say that the global opening for women does bring a global opening. It comes for White women first just because that is the easiest for companies and for White men to swallow. As women, most of us are then going to turn around and open the door for somebody else.
That is hope. White women do not have the best historical record for that.Helping people understand the lay of the land frequently leads to more authority inside of meetings. Click To Tweet
There is a movement to turn around and help others. It’s not that men don’t do that. It’s that women consciously look wider because we’re used to not being heard.
I believe that for parts of my life, I misunderstood, not consciously, but in the air like, “I’m closer to power and if I disrupt that power, I will lose power,” which in truth is and we see this with Elizabeth Holmes. I’m not defending her actions in any way, shape, or form, but we all know that that nonsense is happening all the time in health tech. We know that. MedTech has a lot of problems, but one person has gone down, one White woman. Being close to the power is not power.
To answer your concrete question, there are two things that I have found are very powerful in different ways. People are saying, “I’m not heard. Because I’m not heard, I’m overworked. Because I’m not heard, I’m underpaid,” or whatever the case may be. The first one that makes a lot of sense is to document exactly what your role is supposed to be. Listen very carefully to what’s being said and done and have a confrontational conversation with your manager your PM or your scrum manager or whatever. It doesn’t have to be confrontational but have a clarifying conversation. “I understand this. This is reality. What’s going on with this gap?” Helping people understand the lay of the land as it frequently leads to more authority inside of meetings.
The other thing and you talk about this a lot. Create an alley shot before you even walk into a meeting, “I’m going to pitch this. Can you second my voice?” It’s like, “100%, let’s do that.” The other thing that’s been powerful for a number of particularly my senior women who have families or are in caregiving roles for elders or whatever the case may be. How are you using your time if you are harried, frustrated, stressed, annoyed, and doing three things at once, and people don’t listen to you? Why should they?
Do less and delegate.
Give people the opportunity to do the job that they want to do.
For a recovering perfectionist, myself, and a bit of a control freak, I was paid to direct people for many years. When I switched from acting to directing, my younger sister said, “You boss everyone around anyway. You might as well give up and get paid for it. I found a business where I was paid to boss people around and tell people what to do. It’s an interesting talent. Delegate and let people do it. Even if you could do it better, they need that learning experience and perhaps their way of doing it is not necessarily your way of doing it.
There was a time when you couldn’t do it well because you had to learn how to do it.
You have to make mistakes and say, “That didn’t work. Let me try it another way.
Two other things that instantly come to mind are the power of silence, which is brilliant and feel free to repeat yourself. One aspect of diversity is that extroverts and introverts have a more even playing field which is powerful. We’re experiencing that over Zoom. At first, this wasn’t the case, but we’re starting to see really interesting data models coming out of it
Utilizing the chat, the physical movement, calling on people, and the mute button intentionally is another way to make sure that you’re heard. Also, you’re positively controlling an “uncontrolled situation.” I can say, “Elizabeth, it looks like you have something to say about that.” The person over here is, “Not a problem.”
Nicole, this has been awesome. It’s so much fun to have you on here. I love knowing you. It’s nice.
I feel the same way. You send the best postcards, by the way.
You’re one of the few people who understand the bilingual jokes, that’s why. How can we find out more about you?
I do have my podcast, Celebrate Brave. It has awesome conversations with women in tech roles sharing their brave stories. One of the biggest pains that came out in the 2019 report Women in Tech was that we feel lonely. We don’t have the stories of each other so I’m doing that, as well as tips and tricks for how to have an amazing career and earn the money while you’re having fun. I have my website, which is TrickSteinbach.com. I love LinkedIn. I have a lot of fun over there so come on and join the party. Don’t follow me. Connect with me. I am super excited to be connected.
Thank you so much, everybody. My guest was the wonderful Nicole Trick Steinbach. Thank you so much for joining us, everybody. I will see you at the next one.
- Nicole Steinbach
- Celebrate Brave
- #MeToo Movement
About Nicole Trick Steinbach
Nicole Trick Steinbach shares invaluable strategies for becoming Brave at work. And in life!
Guest 1 Bio: o Nicole Trick Steinbach is the international bravery coach for women in technology. A former tech exec, she has worked in over 25 countries and is at home in both the US and Germany.
Nicole coaches women in tech all over the world to succeed in their career, earning more money and creating more opportunities, with less stress and more fun. Her podcast, Celebrate BRAVE, is deep into season two.