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5 tips for women looking to move up the corporate ladder

Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances at DellCheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances at Dell
Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances at DellCourtesy of Dell

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time? is written by Cheryl Cook, Channel Chief at Dell.

As a woman leader in a large corporation I definitely know how important it is to keep up with constant changes. However, this can be a real challenge when you are being pulled in a hundred different directions at once. So when you get an opportunity to step back and reflect, it’s always a good idea to re-evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and career path. Here are my top five tips for women moving into a leadership position for the very first time:

Build relationships
Developing strong relationships is crucial in any area of the business world. But try to take it one step further and build some of your strongest relationships with leaders outside of your direct contacts, such as the CIO and CMO. For example, I’ve always worked closely with Dell’s CIO and often share much of what the IT department has learned with our partners and customers through trainings and new solutions. There is a lot to gain from interacting with your peers in other lines of business so be sure to nurture these relationships — you could end up working directly with these people in the future.

Be accountable
In other words, be transparent and routinely self-assess your team. At Dell, we analyze how we’re doing on a quarterly basis to review what we’re doing well and what we need to do better. I always share the best takeaways from these self-assessments with my colleagues, customers and partners. This holds us accountable and ensures that we are constantly striving to deliver the best solutions to our customers.

Stay current in your industry
Invest in training and certifications so that you can become an expert and trusted advisor across a full breadth of products and solutions. This includes gaining deeper insight into how industry “mega-trends” are changing both technology decisions and business decisions.

Support the next generation
Join a mentorship program. Formal or informal, these groups can provide both parties with valuable advice. I’m a big advocate of sharing my own experiences — whether they were successes or failures — and discussing what I learned and how I grew from my mistakes. These types of resource groups within large organizations provide excellent opportunities for networking with similar career-minded women.

Don’t be afraid to fail
Take risks – a lot of them. Staying in your comfort zone will not allow you to experience new things or grow in your career. Do something once a day that scares you and don’t be afraid to fail. Making mistakes in your career is one of the best learning opportunities. If you make a mistake, accept it and grow from it.

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