Bethany Hedger, EMEA Strategic Partner Business Manager at VMware

We feel so privileged to once again be able to introduce you to another inspiring woman – Bethany Hedger, EMEA Strategic Partner Business Manager at VMware, we hope you enjoy and are as inspired by her words as much as we are…

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Bethany Hedger. I respond to Hedger, Bethany or B at work usually. I’m an 80’s baby, well, 1980, born as the Technology Revolution was emerging. I’d like to share with you some history about myself in hope that it helps you understand some of my struggles. Perhaps it may resonate with you and I hope inspires you by giving you the strength to grow and be who you are meant to be?

At school I struggled to keep up with the academics; the ones who always got A’s and sat at the top of the class. There was no jealously on my part, just admiration and acceptance of who I was.  Even at that age, I knew that I wasn’t going to be a Doctor or Mathematician. Let’s just say that I excelled at other subjects and team games; I was totally ok with that.

I was bullied by both boys and girls at every school I went to. Whether that was a state school, which I attended up until the age of 11, or private school up until the age of 18. I suppose I never fitted in with the status quo, plus, I didn’t have school chums that I knew from a young age who followed me through my later years of schooling. No clique for me. Just lots of character building!

In terms of my career, I have had the privilege of working for some of the world’s largest IT companies: Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe and VMware.  As my professional roles have grown and developed, I firmly believe that my  passion, enthusiasm and motivation has had as much impact on my success as experience and track record.
The drive I exert through my interactions its congruent in me and everyone who meets me sees that.

Today, I work for VMware; a Global software business.  I am responsible for circa $45M of VMware’s net new revenue and I’m here to help my clients better serve theirs, I love it! The UK revenues from three of my customers is just shy of $3BN across their entire portfolio – WOWZAZ!

I’m super proud of myself, pumped and thrilled to be part of a company that supports diversity of all kinds, including Women in Technology. I’m passionate about this and I’m involved in a few initiatives where I hope pass on my experiences to inspire the current and future generations.

I said to my Manager at VMware ‘I don’t feel like I have a job’ he looked at me quizzically, wondering whether I meant to say that. I had to clarify ‘I am actually working but love my job and what I do’. Giggles were followed with a sigh of relief from both parties.

2. What is it that you love most about your work?

I’m a full-blown extrovert. I love getting to know people, I thrive off face time and like to challenge those who don’t input or feel shy to engage. I build trusted relationships with my customers, whether that be the CTO or the amazingly helpful, saving-my-bacon receptionists, to, on a personal note, a man that goes by the name of Simon, he’s homeless and sleeps in the local University grounds. They all deserve to be treated equally, to not be judged and to be spoken to how I would wish to be spoken to. Like I said, keeping it congruent.

The best part of my job is that it allows me to meet some incredible and inspiring people who I hope to motivate and enthuse, as they do me. One of my aim’s is to inspire and help ignite their passion, to open their eyes so they can see what is possible and what they are possible of; my objective is to empower them!

3. What strengths or personal attributes do you think have really helped you to succeed?
If I’m being honest, which I always try to be, I am direct and clear.  The subtlety of this depends on my audience. I believe that I always offer a true representation of myself.  It was not until my mid 30’s that I truly accepted who I am and what I am exceptional at. I believe that being able to acknowledge I needed a mentor, then choosing the right mentor who could help me achieve my goals has been the key to my success. A person who believed in me, who’ve coached me through challenging times and has been a sounding board when I’ve needed someone to talk to.

Acknowledging and being comfortable with what motivates me has been one of my biggest revelations in terms of personal development and was the resulting brain child from hitting a tough patch. External praise and recognition for what I do is something that makes me feel valued and I thrive on knowing that I make a difference.

My other half, is analytical, introverted but with some seriously good communication skills. He requires no external influence in order to feel good, he doesn’t wobble and never questions himself – he just is. We are chalk and cheese, I admire how he listens, takes what seems a life time to either do or respond to something as I’d rather do it now, or make a plan or agree a date to revisit.

I believe that becoming who you are doesn’t ever stop, developing yourself and becoming the best version of you is a life time project.

Strengths which transcend across my personal and business life (for me the two integrate with one another when you love your job), are and in no particular order: Passion, enthusiasm, motivation, drive, tenacity, strength, kindness, and being a ‘rapport builder’. I like to bring people together, help build relationships and encourage people to be accountable, honest and congruent with how they deliver themselves.

Now, I’ll let you into a secret: I’ve never really spoken about my early learning challenges throughout my career. It wasn’t until my manager and I spoke about strategies for success in our roles and he admitted he too was the same as me. It was like a huge sigh of relief washed over me.

I suppose a part of me always felt I wouldn’t be hired with this label as its not understood, however it’s never stopped me from doing any of my job. I recall an EMEA Sales Director at a previous employer stating that he would never have hired this person if he knew they were Dyslexic. It is the lack of understanding that makes this a scary subject and one you can be judged and discriminated against quietly.

4. How have you managed set-backs / challenges along the way?

Generally, I have inadvertently created self-made set-backs having ignored some good advice along the way, but you have to walk your own path, right? My father, who has played such a key role in my career has been such an inspiration and he’s generally the one I have ‘historically’ ignored, oh the irony. On last year’s birthday card, which I have framed, he wrote, ‘non-compliance, I like this idea, fits you’. To add some context the front of the card said, and I quote Katharine Hepburn “if you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!”

I recall many years ago, a senior manager calling me into a meeting. So, I sat there diligently waiting for an enlightened piece of advice or guidance on perhaps how to improve. He began by asking me open questions about my ambitions and what drives me. So, I did what any career focused person would do, I shared my story.

What happened next was something totally unexpected, he struck me down rather harshly saying that I must stop networking and trying to advance my career and only he will tell me with whom and when I can talk to senior people.

Wow…no way I hear you say… what an absolute BEEP I thought. He did this in front of my manager who remained quiet and obedient.

I quickly ruled his comments out as irrelevant and carried on discreetly meeting colleagues from whom I sought guidance mentoring/coaching to improve myself. I wonder where he is today?

Another experience that really hit me hard was when I was recommended by a board member to join a company. I interviewed with all the relevant Senior Executives and the job was mine. However…..The next step involved taking a CCAT test, for anyone who knows about these tests it involves some mathematical work with no calculator. I passed three of the tests but failed the Math’s one. No job for me. I found this immensely frustrating as I had voiced my concern over this due to my Dyslexia/Dyscalculics.  Sadly, the VC backed business wanted a certain brain type and I wasn’t their girl. I felt slightly discriminated against as it had never stopped me evaluating ROI’s, reading balance sheets and figuring out margins. A hard day!

5. What is your formula / top tips for a successful work / life balance?

I’ve grown up with technology in my work and personal life, whether it be my pager sending me messages from my mother to come home for dinner or the latest smart phone with a plethora of applications I use daily.
As the CMO of JP Morgan Chase shared in a recent interview, ‘it’s about work-life Integration’.

I am also acutely aware of remaining present when I’m with friends and family; and what irritates me I try not to do to others.

So, in the pocket it goes, unless I’m taking photos for Instagram.  But generally, onto silent it goes and I go make some memories, admire the beauty of nature around me, practice yoga, go to the gym, walk, run and have fun! You can’t store an emotion on a phone.

6. What advice would you give to a woman looking to achieve a senior role or to reach their professional potential?

1.     Be yourself, challenge yourself, get rid of the life limiting stories you tell yourself daily as to why you haven’t, can’t or won’t achieve what you want. No one has that power over you, only you. You always have a choice.

2.     Take some time out to re-write your internal story, your mantra, make it positive about you, your strengths and the things you love about yourself.

3.    I have a term I use, its call the ‘Teflon effect’! When I’ve been given some bad news, harsh feedback, didn’t get the results I wanted, so I act like I’m wearing it! I suggest you find a Teflon suit that fits you.

4.    Get yourself a mentor and find a few people outside of work too that you look up to or you just admire. Many a great mentor, coach and friend has created the person that stands here today. Sinead Bryan, Julie Simpson, Gavin Dimmock, David Callaghan to name a few.

5.    Mirror talk…… out loud ”You’ve got this Hedger, you’ve got this! Go get it”!

6.     I’ve rarely used recruiters, I use the community of contacts I’ve built up over the years, I approach the ones who have experienced me and how I work.