If you’re like most people I cross paths with out there, talking about your accomplishments or showcasing your achievements may not come that naturally to you. Communicating your successes can feel like you’re bragging or shamelessly self-promoting. Asking for what you want can feel intrusive or presumptuous. And just sharing your own accomplishments with others can feel awkward or forced.
At the same time, if you don’t advocate for yourself, you run the risk of disappearing into the background. If you don’t drive visibility for your work, no one may be aware of your accomplishments. And if you don’t ask for what you want, opportunities are unlikely to just fall into your lap.
In episode 98 of the Career Relaunch® podcast, Claudia Bruce-Quartey, a political scientist turned key account manager shares her thoughts on why making a career change often involves a leap of faith and why you have to be the one to advocate for what you want. I also share some thoughts on how I manage the delicate balance between modesty and self-advocacy during the Mental Fuel® segment.
Key Career Change Insights
- Focus on the things you can control, not those you cannot.
- Sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith in your career and jump.
- The onus is on you to make yourself seen and heard in your career.
During this episode’s Mental Fuel® segment, my challenge to you is to pick one aspect of your work that you feel deserves more support . . . and to advocate for it. Maybe it’s a project you feel deserves more visibility within your organization. Or an overdue promotion you feel is worth getting onto your manager’s radar. Or a piece of career news you’ve been keeping to yourself but want to share with your network.
Whatever it is, take ownership of your career and proactively promote it. If you don’t advocate for it, you can be sure others won’t either. And you might just be surprised how people respond.
About Claudia Bruce-Quartey
Claudia Bruce-Quartey has followed a career path that’s required self-advocacy throughout. Raised in Germany as a first-generation immigrant after her parents moved there from Ghana, Claudia eventually completed her Master’s Degree in Public Administration in France and most recently relocated to Switzerland.
Originally a political scientist with no knowledge of IT, Claudia’s now a Key Account Manager for the software company Red Hat. She also passionately works with underrepresented youth and female professionals to help them confidently speak about their accomplishments and ask for what they want in their careers.
With over 8 years of experience in the Swiss Tech industry, Claudia describes herself as an agent for transformation, on a mission to create equal representation and opportunities. She’s also the author of the book My Hair, My Choice, a book that encourages young children to understand that being unique and different is great.
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Interview Segment Music Credits
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Episode’s Interview Transcript
Joseph: Hello, Claudia. Welcome to the Career Relaunch Podcast. It is so great to talk to you on this show.
Claudia: [03:50] Hi, Joseph. Thank you so much for having me.
Joseph: Okay. Well, let’s get started by first of all talking about what you have been focused on at this moment, in both your personal and professional life. What’s been keeping you busy?
Claudia: [04:04] My children. First and foremost, I’m a mother. I’m a mother of two. We are about to head into the big summer break. This is what’s keeping me busy. Also, preparing everything at work in order to make the transition to holidays as smooth as possible. I am a key count manager working for a major open-source software company in Switzerland, and this is kind of my main job. Secondly, I help women advocate for themselves. That’s what I do passionately and I love doing that. So, these are the three key things that are keeping me busy. If not, it’s summertime, I love going out with my bike.
Joseph: Sounds good. Let’s take those one at a time here. You said mother of two, you got summer vacation coming up. How do you balance your ongoing demands as a key account manager there at Red Hat? With idea that I’m assuming, your kids are not going to be in school most of the day. How do you balance that on a practical and personal level?
Claudia: [05:02] I think the key word here is flexibility. And then, my partner, of course, helps me out a lot with regard to how we manage our schedules. The key part here is really flexibility. Being able to do remote. The pandemic has done us, actually somehow, a great favor in understanding that you can do your most effective work without having to be on-site every single time. That’s one thing. And then, setting the expectations with customers, but also at home, and setting boundaries. I think this is the most important part.
Joseph: Before we go back into your past, can you also explain just a little bit about what you do as a key account manager for Red Hat? What’s your day-to-day look like?
Claudia: [05:49] The easiest part to say is that I work in sales. I’m a key account manager. As a key account manager, my day-to-day job consists of helping customers through digital transformation. Every customer today needs to be at the forefront of innovation, at the forefront of their competition, and be successful. That is through tech and through IT. My job as a key account manager is that I support roughly about six accounts on this transformation with the solution to their open-source solution that provides. The easiest way to understand is that everything that happens in the background. When things run smoothly, that’s how Red Hat provides its services. When something breaks, you know where to find us. That’s the easiest way to describe it.
Joseph: Well, I know that you haven’t always been a key account manager for Red Hat. You haven’t always worked in sales. In fact, you are in a very, very different sector before. I would love to hear more about your time working in political science when you started off your career. And then, we can move forward from there. Maybe the best way to start here is just to get an understanding of, how did you get interested in political science originally?
Claudia: [07:02] That’s true. I never even anticipated being in sales or being in the tech industry. Everything that had to do with STEM, it was repellent to me. So, when I graduated and then started studying in 2010, for me, naturally, I gravitated towards international organizations, and then also policies. Not per se, being involved in politics. That’s a big misconception for anyone that thinks, “Okay. You’re going to political science to become a politician.” It’s not that. For me, it was really integrating international organizations, being in international relations, the United Nations or European Union, being in one of these institutions. With that being said, there were no sales involved; there was no tech involved or so I thought. That was kind of where I started off and where I really found myself. I thought that this would be my career.
Joseph: Now, I was just in Washington, DC last month, Claudia. I used to live and work there many years ago. Have you been to DC before?
Claudia: [08:15] I’ve been to DC last year.
Joseph: Okay. You’ve been there recently. One of the things you might notice about DC is it’s one of those places where the professional scene is kind of unique compared to other major cities. Because there are people there who certainly work in the more traditional corporate for-profit world, but you’ve got a lot of professionals there. Especially, young professionals — me, including, when I lived there, who are much more focused on the non-profit, governmental, more social policy-type, cause-based organizations. So, that’s what I would describe as a major split in the professional world. Why were you originally drawn to that world, and not initially the more corporate-like, more for-profit side of the professional world?
Claudia: [09:05] Some is also part of my heritage. I’m originally from Ghana. I was born and raised in Hanover, Germany. For me, I wanted to create an impact that would either help advance our community or help advance Africa, in general. That’s why also, international relations was so important to me to be able to shape policies or shape programs that would help advance Africa as a whole. More importantly, also Ghana, and then also the Ghanaian community within Hanover. So, that is the reason why I was rather drawn towards that.
Also 2010, 2012, there were lots of different programs out there, especially for young people. For me, I was a youth mentor also. Everything and anything around helping the youth out, and with regards to their professional development, with regards to their integration into society, is something I was very, very much drawn to. I wanted to professionalize that. The European Union, at that point in time, first of all, there were not a lot of people that looked like me inside of this organization. So, for me, it was really, “Okay, I can make an impact here with my voice and also with my work.” So, that’s the reason why I was naturally drawn to that.
Joseph: How were those early days for you as you were looking for professional opportunities in that space? How did that transpire for you?
Claudia: [10:27] Lots of these opportunities come through either connections or just sheer hard work. Because for me, I had different types of opportunities, of course. Lots of them were either very, very short-term or were entry-level positions. For example, I used I lived also in Paris during my studies. At the same time, I was working. I was working for a governmental institution over there. It was very short-lived, number one. It was faced by multiple short-lived opportunities, that’s one thing.
Secondly, the pay wasn’t also the best, to be transparent. I was looking at myself and the vision that I had created about myself of what it means to be what I thought would be successful, and that was not it. To have a master’s degree and still be struggling in finding a real proper job and a long-term job. This is kind of also where I was really questioning myself whether or not this is the path that I want to take. Even though I love it, I wasn’t sure whether my love, my passion for the field would sustain me there.
Joseph: That’s really interesting, Claudia. One of the things I hear from people as they are either embarking on a new career path or even just the career path they had thought they wanted to go on is sometimes, the going is a bit rough and it’s a bit bumpy. I suppose one of the decisions you have to make is, do I keep trying to make it in this industry or do I walk away and do something else? How did you think about that? How could you tell when you should keep trying and when you should call it quits?
Claudia: [12:12] That’s very much a good question because I struggled with that a lot. Because I was looking, “Okay. What are the skills that I can actually apply within this industry or within the field I was working in?” So, I speak five languages. Maybe anything around languages, and could help sort of translation jobs. For example, I was one in more facilitating conferences. So, there are a lot of different areas actually within the field, which is great. The field is very rich.
Again, finding these opportunities, at least for me, posts to be a challenge. As I was also growing, and graduating, life caved in. I got married. Also, I had a baby. This is what’s really the turning point for me. To get an understanding is that, “Okay. First, I’m single and I can hustle.” But, with someone else in this world where she depends completely on you, on you to make it happen, things shifted very quickly for me.
To me, the turning point was in 2015, when I had been in a position that absolutely had nothing to do with what I had studied. It was an entry-level sales position. I got to the realization, “This cannot be it. There has to be a better way.” To be honest, I didn’t know what this looked like. I certainly didn’t think that it was IT. I just knew something else has to come up for me.
Joseph: Let’s talk about the transition that you went through here. Things are taking a little bit longer than maybe you had expected to gain some traction in the political science world. You have gotten married. You’ve got a baby. Now, you’re feeling like the phase of life that you’re in right now might require you to reconsider your career options. Take me through the transition as you went from what was political science to then eventually a sales role. The first question I have about this is, how easy was it for you to let go of the idea of pursuing political science?
Claudia: [14:14] That was very difficult. Because I chose political science after having taken a break from my studies for a year. So, when I did my A-Level degree, I went to France for a year to find myself, to find what it is that I want to do. I knew, again, nothing about STEM. I knew the law wouldn’t cut it. Because also in Ghanaian communities, either you become a lawyer, a doctor, or a banker. These are the three career paths that you’re open with. Anything else, we don’t know, so you don’t pursue it.
So, I have to find something where I can still become successful, and political science was that field where I could bring so much of my abilities into it. And then, studying it, doing my bachelor’s degree, doing my master’s degree in France, and then not finding a job in which I could thrive, not finding ground in a field that I had studied and had worked in for some time was very tough. I was like, “Now, I’m out of my studies, I need to have a proper job. I need to have a contract.” It was the very basic necessities of, I have a job, I have a contract, there’s a long-term thing and I see myself progressing in that career. I didn’t see that.
Then, I was like, “Okay. Will I keep doing things that are not working and dragging my entire family into it? Or, will I start opening up my eyes towards opportunities that are out there?” So, I started then, not randomly, I would say more openly applying to jobs that were outside of my field. Some had the sales component to it but definitely not the role that I’m currently in and the career I’m currently pursuing.
Joseph: I know along the way, if I’ve got the timing right here, I’m just going to broadly describe them, as the stop-gap or like transitional hold-yourself-over-for-a-while jobs.
Claudia: [16:16] Yes, lots of things.
Joseph: Can you give me a sampling of what were some of the other jobs you took just to make ends meet, just to hold you over while you figured this out?
Claudia: [16:23] Wait tables. I was a waitress. I was teaching children at some point in time. I did translation jobs along the way. I help people with some administrative work also. It’s really little petty jobs that kept me along the way, that kept me afloat. I was a tour guide for a very, very short amount of time.
Joseph: In France?
Claudia: [16:48] In France, right. What are the odds, right? I’m from Hanover, Germany. I am Ghanaian. I go to France and became a tour guide. It was a very, very short amount of time. Somebody couldn’t fill the role, so I hopped in. I also promoted flyers. Different kinds of brands and shops and just works outside giving out flyers and promoting flyers. The accumulation of that brought more and more frustration, very much frustration. Because it wasn’t steady. There was no strategy behind it. It was just, “Okay. What am I doing to get to the next paycheck?” To me, that wasn’t it. I just had a much bigger vision about myself and where I wanted to see my family than what I was currently doing.
Joseph: How long did that period last for you?
Claudia: [17:40] Right after my pregnancy, I think about a year and a half. To me, it was an eternity.
Joseph: Yeah. I’ve had those phases in my career also. I have actually waited tables briefly also. I worked in a retail store for a while. It can feel like a very long time, these transitional periods. Even though we’re talking a few months to a year, it can feel like an eternity. You eventually decided to do a masters in France, as I understand it. What did pursuing an advanced degree allow you to do?
Claudia: [18:15] In 2010, exactly, I was still pursuing a career in political science. I had not let go of that idea. I thought, “All right. Well, let me have an advanced degree. Let me have it in a foreign country to open up my chance to be considered for roads inside of the European Union, inside of the big NGOs.” Because this was the profile that they were looking for. Somebody that is international, versatile, has done several things and understands the system.
To me, it was like, “Oh, great!” It opened up opportunities. Again, being able to work in some of the French institutions, in different cities, in Paris. At the end of the day, it all didn’t help me to really build the career that I was looking for. It helped me today, absolutely. Because I think all of the experiences that I made moving from Germany to France and then coming here to Switzerland, have absolutely helped me. Because I know today, for a fact, that it is my stop in France that helped make the transition to Switzerland very smoothly because I speak French.
Joseph: So, how did you eventually make your foray into the tech industry and the sales role? What was the first breakthrough for you in that sector?
Claudia: [19:37] There was a program that was being run by Cisco. Cisco, at that point in time, was looking for junior sales representatives. The way it was conveyed to me was, “Hey! Yes, this is a tech industry, but look at all the things that IT touches.” This is where I started to listen up. I was like, “Hey, it’s true.” To me, the perception of tech was you have to code; you have to be a nerd. When I was studying, the people that I saw pursuing anything in tech or engineering were nerds. When they opened up their textbooks, I understood absolutely nothing.
This is not the field that I want to be in. But this program was completely different. This program was something that I was already doing but just realized was sales. In every type of industry or every type of job also that I got, and being qualified/overqualified, I was still able to sell myself somehow and sell the fact that I’m the best candidate for this position. That type of presentation skills, that type of sales skills, helped me then make the transition. Again, it was, someone saw my CV, and being headhunted. Someone saw my CV and said, “Hey. We believe you’ll be great in this industry. You would be great for this particular company.” I just gave it my all. I just gave it my all. I said, “Okay. I have nothing to lose at this point in time. I am jobless, so let me go.”
Joseph: Before we started recording, Claudia, when we spoke before, you had said that navigating careers for women can be quite lonely, costly, and scary, without a support system or without some sort of a road map. What were those early days like for you in a brand-new industry in tech, in sales? Do you remember what it was like?
Claudia: [21:34] In Switzerland?
Joseph: Yes, in Switzerland.
Claudia: [21:38] Yes in Switzerland, definitely. It was definitely a moment. The beginning was very exciting. Going through all of the interviews, and being given the prospect of joining an industry that gives you the chance to establish a career. That was what I was going for, the idea that I had. I didn’t know what I actually signed up for. I didn’t know that I was signing up for an industry that was chronically underrepresented by women, and then women that look like me. Women that were at the intersection of women, Black, mothers. So, I fell into a very, very traditional company then at that point in time. It was, yes, Cisco, but there was a partner in between. So, I worked with a partner organization.
Yes, even though there were small bits of support, it was very lonely and very scary. Because I had no knowledge and no background in IT. I had no knowledge, and no background in sales, besides the academy and the sales program that I went through. It was pretty much that I was pushed into the cold water to start doing the job. Which, in the end, helped me get into the job and get the ropes of this job much faster. It is because, naturally, I’m a person that doesn’t give up easily. I can tell you that I shed lots of tears. I think six months into Switzerland, I was very much doubting whether or not this was the right decision to take, to make, and to bring my family here.
Joseph: This is probably a hard question to answer but, how much of that challenge do you feel you attribute to just the fact of being in a completely new industry? How much of that do you attribute to being an underrepresented minority female in the tech industry?
Claudia: [23:22] Sometimes, one or the other plays more. Because, in the beginning, again, I went in with an open mind. I didn’t go in with, “Okay. I’m a woman. I don’t see a lot of women here, so this might be it.” I was trying to understand what will this industry give me and how can I apply my knowledge, and be more knowledgeable. Because in my understanding, if you become more knowledgeable, things will get easier. That was, for me, the baseline. What can I do professionally? What can I control? The fact that I’m a woman, or I’m a Black woman, or a mother; these are things I cannot control. So, I focus on the things that I can control.
When you then go up the industry, move up the ladder, and then there are still certain glass ceilings that you face, there’s where you start questioning. When you walk into every single room and you’re the first or the only. When you are being questioned on certain things that your male colleagues are not being questioned on. When you face challenges that you make clearly don’t even recognize as challenges. Here’s where you stop asking yourself, “Hey, is this normal or is this because I’m a woman?” So, yes, in the beginning, it was really the knowledge gap. Then, eventually, very quickly, I understood it is not just knowledge. It’s really very much also the fact that, surely, there are not enough women here.
Joseph: I do want to come back to this topic toward the end of our conversation. Because I think it’s an important one that navigating, not only being a minority in terms of your experience, but also minority in terms of how you look, where you’re from, and being underrepresented in that way. Right now, I would be interested to hear about the evolution of your career in the face of all this challenge, you did manage to actually progress and navigate your way through the tech sales world. Can you describe what was the evolution like for you going from that first role at Cisco to what you’re now doing for Red Hat?
Claudia: [25:20] I started really at the bottom. Meaning, I was a business development representative. Even though my title was account manager, my role was entitled to bring in new business. This is really business development. Meaning, cold calling, prospecting all these types of things. And then, further down the line, there was the evolution in account management after I had gained knowledge, after I had understood really how do our solutions help our customers, and how can we also help broaden the market.
I started really with small and mid-sized companies, to prospect on them. And then, further down the line, I became an account manager properly for mid-sized companies. Also, completely leading the French-speaking market for the company I was then working with. Also, as a second — this is where really everything that I learned within politics science came in, was building their relationship with our external partners. That was very much important also in transitioning into that role solidifying that relationship that we had with external partners.
Joseph: That’s interesting you mentioned political science. Because, obviously, one of the major challenges and I guess opportunities in any organization is to be able to navigate the politics of the organization. I know you mentioned that you could feel it playing out in your current workplace. Can you just share more details on how did that training and education in political science end up benefiting you in a completely, and seemingly, unrelated industry?
Claudia: [26:57] One major factor that attributes to the success I find currently, and also the rewards that I find currently, is my ability to communicate, my ability to present in complex environments and situations, and build the bridge between how a tech solution can help the business. That’s one thing. Within political science, mostly also, you have lots of data. When you go through lots of data sets, you have to make sense. You have to make sense with the data that you have for different stakeholders. This is also something that I do day-to-day; convincing stakeholders, internally and externally. In external, the solution that we’re providing is the best one. So, I would say communication, definitely. Stakeholder relationship also, secondly.
And then, reading the room. As in something I would even say, very intuitively, understanding the dynamics of the room. Understanding, “Okay. Can you bring this to the table or not? Can you have this discussion right now or not? Or do you need to convince different stakeholders individually before you come to the bigger table?” This is very much politics.
Joseph: Well, before we talk about a few of the lessons you’ve learned along the way of your very interesting career change journey, Claudia, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you a little bit more about your life in sales. For anybody who’s interested in switching into sales, and maybe this is someone who has had zero exposure to sales, has maybe had no experience in sales, what’s something that you think they should know that you wished you had known about the world of sales before making the decision to pursue that route?
Claudia: [28:44] I think one thing that I encourage everyone to do is first, just give it a try. There’s a huge misconception about what sales is. We have sleazy car salesmen or women that are trying to oversell you and underdeliver. But, in essence, professional selling, there’s an art and there’s a science to it that entails lots of different elements. Such as negotiation skills, communication skills, and consulting. It is really the consultative approach that, to me, was very appealing inside this industry.
If you look at the challenges that customers and companies face today in order to serve their customers better, it is through technology that we help them advance. If you have any type of transversal skill; such as being a good writer, being a good communicator, being a mathematician also, any of these transversal skills that they have. So, being very analytical, being structured. These are the types of characteristics, hard skills, and soft skills, that are being currently looked out for at companies. The most important lesson is just give it a try. Don’t limit yourself.
Joseph: That’s a good point, Claudia. I don’t know if I told you this before, but many years ago, I sold life insurance for a large financial institution in Hawaii. I have to say before I went into sales — and this is coming from somebody who was going to pursue a career in medicine. I would say that I did have a sort of a negative perception of the sales industry. Like, pushing products and services onto people, trying to convince and persuade people to buy things they don’t really need. I have to say, I really had my eyes opened when I was in that sales internship. That it is a lot of times about helping people. It’s about helping people identify what can actually benefit them in their right careers. What’s one or two skills that you feel you’ve actually developed as someone in sales that you feel have been especially important to you, in both your professional life but also in your personal life?
Claudia: [30:54] Being able to help people. We have the notion, or at least, I have the notion that if we help people, it has to be non-profit. You cannot help people if you are for profit. Being in a professional sales field can show me, first of all, it is your job to be able to help people. If you want to do it right, you really have to get an understanding of what is currently going on in an industry and how your solution can help them. So, very much developing that skill of understanding, that listening skill, was something that I had developed in the past. Being in this industry for so long and for the past eight years has really helped me develop that skill even further down the line. Also, just keep up with the trends of what is going on in your field. I mean, what are the next tech trends? What is the next way? What are the next challenges that companies will be facing? These are the things that I have developed even furthermore.
Joseph: Well, the last thing I want to talk about before we wrap up, Claudia, are just some of the key takeaways that you’ve had from your career change journey. I know that one of the things you’re passionate about is the idea that women and underrepresented minorities should advocate for themselves and to speak about their accomplishments in a way that raises their profiles within their current organization and beyond. You had shared a few takeaways from your journey with me before we started speaking. I was hoping we could go through them one at a time. You shared three with me. First, you mentioned that courage is especially important for women. Tell me more about what you mean by that.
Claudia: [32:36] I believe courage is so important because, especially when you are from an underrepresented group, I mean women, minority, whatever it is. At times, speaking up for yourself and speaking about accomplishments is very difficult. In the absence of confidence, what do you have? There’s fear and there is a limiting belief. So, how do you overcome that? It is by finding courage and just making the jump. That’s why courage is so important.
Because at times, you just don’t have the elements of confidence. For me, that was it. I didn’t have the elements of confidence that I could succeed in an industry, succeed in a role, succeed in a country, that I knew nothing about. So, the only thing that I was left with was my courage to just take a leap of faith, jump, and see what is going to happen. That is why I encourage everyone just find it within you to jump.
Joseph: What are a couple of ways that you feel people can advocate for themselves? You had mentioned to me before we start recording that you got to advocate for your accomplishments, and you’ve got to successfully position yourself so that you can be considered for promotion, raises, and opportunities.
Claudia: [33:52] Absolutely. I think one of the most important things is to write down every single week — and I’m going to make it very actionable because this is one thing I do. It’s that every single week, block your calendar for 20 minutes and write down 10 things about why you are great, of the things that you do very well. Whether it’s a presentation that you failed; whether it is a co-worker that you helped out; or whether it is a new business that you brought in. Write those things down. Because the misconception is that people see you. The wake-up call is people don’t see you. Especially, with women, we work and work and work, because we think somebody will see us.
But, one thing I’ve seen is that, when we work hard in school, we get good grades. When you transmit that same mindset into the workplace, you get frustrated and burnt out because people simply don’t see you. People have their own things on their plate. So, if you don’t advocate for yourself, you’ll be passed by promotions, and salary increases. So many opportunities will just pass you by because you’re not making yourself seen, known, and heard. So, it is your job to really write down those accomplishments, set a one-to-one with your manager, and say, “Here are the three things that I’ve done. Here are the five things that I’ve done that’s helped advance the company. Do you notice, first of all? Can we maybe think about a promotion? Can we talk about a salary increase? Can we talk about my professional growth inside this organization?”
Joseph: Yeah. It’s a really good tip, Claudia. As you were sharing that story, I was just thinking about — this might not seem like it’s related. Actually, I was on an airplane yesterday and there were these guys who were trying to catch a connecting flight to South Africa. We were landing in London, and our plane was delayed. They were just standing there in line, and a woman behind him actually said, “Why don’t you just ask people if they can let you through?” Because they were just standing there. They did. And then, people let them through. She was saying, “I don’t know why they didn’t ask for that earlier?” I do think it’s important to not assume that people know what you want but to actually verbalize it, articulate it, and be very specific about what you’re looking for.
Claudia: [36:00] We think that people will say no. Very specifically, HBR released a study on how women negotiate. The sad truth about this is women negotiate four times less than men, and women start also with a much lesser salary than men. So, what did accumulate to is that not just are you leaving money on the table, but you’re also leaving money out of your pension, out of any dream that you can aspire to. But, simply by asking, just having the courage to ask, you can really up your salary in a very easy way. Without having to learn the ins and outs of negotiation skills, but just simply asking.
Joseph: The third and final point here is that you mentioned the currency for pivoting careers is your professional network. What would you like people to know about the importance of their professional relationships?
Claudia: [37:01] This is something I learned very late in my career because one that that, retrospectively, I believe would have made my transition within political science way easier would have been if I had an established network. I did not have any establishment program. Within my family or my close immediates, there was no one that was in the industry I was in, the working industry that I wanted. In IT, in the first place, also no. One thing that helped me a lot was building up a professional network. That network became really my currency with regard to opportunities; job opportunities, and professional development. So, I encourage each and everyone, especially women, to build up that network as soon as possible, if you haven’t done so. If you’re looking especially to pivot into careers, or transition into different careers, such as how we doing now.
The easiest way is to reach out to someone in a career that you’re interested in, that is completely different from the one that you are in currently and to have a conversation. Ask, “Okay. What is your day-to-day? How do you become successful in this role? What does it take? You might find that it’s not as far-fetched as you think. That career transition can become much easier and much smoother than if you’re just all by yourself and trying to figure things out all by yourself.
Joseph: I was hoping to wrap up by asking you a couple of final questions about some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Also, I want to ask you about your book. What’s one thing that you’ve learned about yourself now that you have successfully broken into the tech industry as someone who, at least on the surface, initially, maybe didn’t seem like you had any business being in that industry?
Claudia: [38:43] I learned about myself that I have an innate value, and that value is growth. I’ll find to grow in no matter what industry. To me, in the beginning, it was just sheer frustration. Why can’t I make it? Why can’t I become successful? It’s because I had the value of growth. So, today, if I approach companies, this is the first thing that I bring onto the table. What are the possibilities in which I can grow? Because I’ll find them. If I don’t find them inside, I’ll find them outside. That’s I think the biggest lesson.
The second one is very much that if I have courage and I stop limiting my beliefs, I can achieve what I want to achieve. I can also reach out to ask other people for help, and that is not a bad thing to do. I don’t have to figure it all out by myself.
Joseph: You also wrote a book called, My Hair, My Choice. What’s that book about?
Claudia: [39:36] The book, My Hair, My Choice, is a book I wrote for my daughter when she was around 7 years old. She had an encounter at school that wasn’t so pleasant about her hair, about the afro hair that she has. I had that experience too when I was much younger. I wanted to give my daughter an empowering narrative. Because I understand that there will be times when she has to become an ally for herself where nobody will stand up such as when she added incidents in school, and I wanted to give her something that will remind her of her beauty and her strength.
So, the book, My Hair, My Choice, is that narrative that she can carry her hair any way she wants, and this is her power, her superpower. Being different is completely normal and being different is your choice. That’s why the book, “My Hair, My Choice,” was written.
Joseph: I’m definitely going to check that out. We will include a link to that book in the show notes. Where can people go, Claudia, to learn more about you, and also how they can advocate for themselves in the workplace?
Claudia: [40:39] The easiest way that I hang around lot on LinkedIn. You can connect with me at “Claudia Bruce Quartey,” LinkedIn. You connect with me also on my website. I’d be happy to chat with you. Yeah, you mentioned that, in order to help you advocate for yourself, I developed a guide, a very short sweet guide that you can download in which you can write down what other things that make you remarkable, what are the things that make you great, and start advocating for yourself.
Joseph: We’ll include a link to that resource also in the show notes. I just really wanted to thank you so much for your generosity in giving us some of your time today and telling us more about your life as a key account manager, how you broke into that industry, and also just the importance of advocating for yourself in the workplace. Especially, if you’re someone who is coming from an underrepresented background. Best of luck to you, Claudia, with all of your work there at Red Hat. I hope it continues to go well for you.
Claudia: [41:40] Thank you so much, Joseph, for having me.