We caught up with our Global Partnerships Director, Jenny Wong to discuss her 16-year career journey with Thoughtworks. Jenny tells us what it means to be a Thoughtworker, and the advice she would give to women looking for a career in tech.
Tell us a bit about your Thoughtworks journey
I've worked in 12 Thoughtworks office locations, 10 countries, and on over 60 client projects. I started as a Graduate Business Analyst at Thoughtworks University! I've worn SO MANY hats, from Business Analyst (BA) and Product Manager, to now where I'm advising C-suite executives on how to build new organizations.
Over 16 years there have been so many highlights it’s impossible to choose one. One would be advising a client chief information officer from a 110-year-old railway company on how to innovate with tech, such as mixed reality, 3D printing and smart contracting was incredible. As was creating a first-to-market product that reduces the time planes are stranded on the runway for another client. Or re-architecting roadmaps for a company within the automobile industry on their electric vehicles, and revamping a subscription service that predicted the future of fashion - the list goes on!
Life as a consultant is hectic - we live in the fast lane. But I love the variety of businesses we get to work with, and the impact we can have on them through technology - it’s such a privilege. We really get to walk a mile in their shoes which has led me to so many experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I am always learning, and that’s why I’ve stayed for as long as I have.
Growth looks like an explorer's journey. But the key is not the roles you play, the projects you are in. It is the impact that you will create, the positive change, and the knowledge or the tools you have shared with the people you have crossed paths with.
You've had an amazingly varied career so far, what have you learned about managing all those transitions and taking on new opportunities?
Taking on new opportunities is part and parcel of the deal. It's embedded into the culture of learning inside Thoughtworks. You have to embrace it. That doesn’t necessarily mean saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes your way; it’s about identifying what’s right for you and being smart about what you bring. Trust yourself - you are more equipped than you think you are.
All that said...Luck favors the prepared; don't just go with your eyes closed.
What value do you think mentoring brings, and what advice would you give to anyone either with experience to share, or looking to learn from others?
The best advice is to build a robust network so that you navigate this journey together. But it's not networking, it's building your foundation, your mirrors, and finding your champions. Going at it together is better, it gives you far more chances to succeed than going at it alone. Whether you have the advice to give or are looking to learn, always make the time - whether it’s a formal cultivator or coach relationship, or just a serendipitous interaction - use it!
I would encourage everyone to consider mentoring others. You don’t need to be an expert (please don’t worry about thinking you’re not enough; as long as you can provide psychological safety, trust, and respect. Reflecting on what you’ve learned is how you discover where you are - start sharing your experiences and learn from it.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the way we work. How has it changed things for you, and do you have any tips on how to keep building your networks and advocate groups when we don't have as much face-to-face contact as we once did?
It's been extraordinarily hard for me because this shift has shown me that I needed those essential networks and support systems. I've been lucky that I've built a robust system and have relied heavily upon it. For our clients, we are the Thoughtworks experience that they chose to work with, so we have had to find other ways to share that experience with them.
My Global Community Lead role has definitely taken a hit, because what is a community without the ties that bind us together through meeting people face to face, in a rich exchange of information? Those connections are what define/differentiate us from just any large group of people. But we are constantly re-establishing what we can do, how we can continue to build and contribute towards a virtuous learning ecosystem. We even managed to pull off our European virtual BA day with 100+ Thoughtworkers - this is what a global community means! It has opened new doors and opportunities, where more diverse working models are accepted as the norm. I am optimistic that we will come back stronger and more resilient.
What can you share about your experience of being a woman at Thoughtworks and working in technology?
There have been many times that I’ve been working with clients and have been the only person who looked like me in the room. The path hasn’t always been easy, but I would say “You play a part in shaping and defining what good looks like, despite what current reality may be”. Open the floodgates. Find your people, your champions both inside and outside of Thoughtworks.
And to all the senior women and underrepresented gender minorities (W&UGM) technologists out there, you are a badass - if you were mediocre, you wouldn’t have made it this far. Think about how you can continue to create opportunities with what you have, and the experience of what you want to have.
When you look back at your career, what impact would you like to have had on Thoughtworks and/or the industry?
To leave Thoughtworks with more leaders, more women and underrepresented gender minorities who know what is absolutely possible, what is absolutely achievable. And to do it with style.
And finally, is there anything you know now that you wish you had known earlier on in your career?
That to navigate with a support network is far greater than going at it alone, even if at times it seems like you are alone.
If you would like to find out more about life at Thoughtworks, please follow this link.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.