For Simona Posea, visualizing a career in technology came easily.
“My mother was a role model, as she’s been working with computers since punch cards were a thing,” Simona laughs. “We had our first PC when I was six years old, and she taught us how to operate it. At the time, I would use it to play games.”
This early interest in technology was further reinforced when Simona took programming classes in high school. She found she loved learning basic algorithms and languages like C, so she decided to marry her passion with her career.
17 years later, she’s a director of engineering at Elastic.
We caught up with Simona to hear how she transitioned into management and developed a winning strategy for leading her team. She also shared her top five tips for how other women can grow their technology careers.
Setting the management wheels in motion
Although a career in software engineering was something Simona anticipated, her shift to leadership caught her by surprise.
“I was just a software engineer when my team lead asked me if I’d consider a career in management given my way of operating in the team. That was something I’d never thought of before. I really thought I was way too junior to be a team lead,” recalls Simona.
In her early years as a manager, Simona had to overcome multiple challenges — starting with the initial jitters of a new job.
“I had no experience managing people, especially handling different personalities. I still remember my first one-on-one as a manager with one of my team members, who happened to not talk much, so my main focus was to keep the conversation flowing for more than five minutes,” Simona shares.
With support and trust from her manager and peers, Simona started to settle into her role and build confidence in her abilities.
She became acutely aware of the risk of micromanaging and made an active effort to learn to delegate. “As a leader, giving your team space and empowering them while also providing support when needed is key,” she says.
Leadership through mentorship, growth, and failure
Simona welcomed the opportunity to empower others’ growth as a director for a fully distributed team at Elastic. “Building successful teams with colleagues located all around the globe is definitely challenging, but also something I’m excited about,” she says.
To find success, Simona focuses on three key practices:
1) Providing mentorship
At Elastic, Simona uses mentorship and coaching as tools during her one-on-ones. “Every individual is unique, and understanding how they work, what motivates them, and the type of support they need is key,” she says.
Sometimes this involves sharing her experiences, and other times it means asking the right questions to guide her team forward.
“Whether it’s about getting better at time management and delegation, keeping focus, or improving collaboration with other organizations in Elastic, my role is to identify and apply the right type of support for my teams.”
2) Identifying growth opportunities
Simona shares an example to illustrate the impact — for both the individual and the wider organization — of guiding her team toward growth.
“With my direct manager reports, we set objectives for ourselves at the beginning of the year. These objectives touch on topics such as processes, team performance, and engagement. Each team member takes ownership of one or more of these objectives, without the expectation that they’ll achieve it by themselves, but rather work together with the rest of the team,” Simona explains.
In the process, her team comes up with new ideas that can improve their current processes, helping them to evolve as both a team and a company.
3) Accepting failure
Simona points back to another lesson she learned early in her management experience: learn how to fail in order to succeed.
She believes that failure is part of the job, and as leaders, it’s important to learn and then continue forward knowing your team is looking up to you. When Simona bounces back from failure, she opens the door for her team to do the same.
“Overcoming barriers is hard and sometimes it takes a few trials, so the best a manager can do is empower the team and have their back while knowing when to intervene,” she says.
5 tips for women to grow as leaders in technology
As an engineering director, Simona is paving the way for other women to build a leadership career in technology. “There have been times when my abilities were questioned by those around me just because I was a woman in technology. That only motivated me more to learn, grow, and trust my skills and knowledge,” she says.
Simona wants other women to feel empowered to advance as leaders, too, especially in male-dominated spaces. To help, we asked her to share her top five tips for growing your career as a woman in technology:
Think of yourself as a professional among professionals, rather than a woman among men. Simona calls out that it can be difficult and isolating to work in a male-dominated workplace, but she avoids imposter syndrome by focusing on someone’s role, not their gender. “This will allow you to project more confidence and inspire those around you to see you in the same way,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. “You might sometimes feel intimidated by those around you, but remember that diversity is our greatest strength. You might change the world,” Simona says with a smile.
Don’t self-eliminate from career opportunities. Simona reminds us that we don’t need to check all of the boxes when applying for a job. “Trust your skills, and let the hiring team decide if you’re the right fit for the role or not! As women, we tend to underestimate ourselves, and you might miss great opportunities because of this,” she says.
Remember that soft skills are just as important as technical skills. Throughout her career, Simona has noticed a tendency from technologists to brush off the power of soft skills. “Tech skills without soft skills can only get you so far. Most complex problems are solved in a team and therefore require some good soft skills,” she confirms.
And finally, understand your strengths — and leverage them. “We have a tendency to focus on what we need to improve and forget about our strengths,” says Simona. She encourages you to pinpoint what you’re good at and use it as your superpower.