250: Powering Up Your Professional Presence with Magdalena Yesil

By January 17, 2018Podcasts

 

 

Technology mogul Magdalena Yesil shares how to boost your gravitas, results, and ability to be heard at the workplace.

You’ll Learn:

 

  1. What is the professional ask and why you should do it
  2. How to access and convey greater gravitas
  3. Tips for being heard better in meetings

 

About Magdalena 

Magdalena Yeşil is a founder, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist of many of the world’s top technology companies, including Salesforce, where she was the first investor and founding board member. Yesil is a former general partner at U.S. Venture Partners, where she oversaw investments in more than thirty early-stage companies and served on the boards of many. A technology pioneer, Yeşil founded three of the first companies dedicated to commercializing Internet access, e-commerce infrastructure, and electronic payments.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Magdalena Yesil Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Magdalena, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Magdalena Yesil
Thank you. I’m very excited to do this.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I am, too. And I’d love to kick it off, if you could share with us, the story of when you had to take the SAT you got there via a ride from a fisherman. What’s the backstory here?

Magdalena Yesil
Yes, not the most traditional way to go to the SAT exam. So, I have to take you back to 1975, in the late fall. And so, women and men in high school in Turkey did not think of going abroad to university, so the SAT exam was something incredibly unique. I had never really heard of it and I certainly had never seen a multiple-choice test before. It was being offered on the European side of the city, Istanbul is a city that is built on two continents, Europe and Asia. I happen to live on the Asian side. And it was being offered starting at 8:00 a.m. which meant that I should be on my way about 5:00-5:30 a.m.

Well, it turns out we did not have ferries running that early, so what ended up happening was that my boyfriend took me to the narrowest part of the Bosphorus, and we knew that in that narrow part of the Bosphorus, which is the waterway that divides the Asian from the European side, we would find some fisherman who usually spent the nights so they could go out fishing with dawn, and we were able to wake one up and when we offered him enough money and told him what the reason was, he was kind enough to actually take us across on his little baby motorboat, fishing boat, to the European side.

And then the exam was up a really steep hill in a spot that today is the Bosphorus University, but in those days, it was a school, it was a boys’ high school. And not only did we cross the Bosphorus on a fisherman’s boat but then we actually had to hike our way up to the exam venue. The biggest shock, though, wasn’t crossing the Bosphorus to get to the SAT on a fishing boat; the biggest shock was actually seeing that you had to answer by coloring in circles, the exam questions. I had never seen anything like that before. That was just amazing to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what a story. And I think about, whenever we’re tempted to say, “Oh, I don’t want to inconvenience that person,” or, “Oh, I guess I’m out of luck. I can’t make it,” just that sheer resourcefulness and determination. And I don’t know if you can recall, but at the time, just what was the amount of money it takes to get a sleepy fisherman to give you a ride across?

Magdalena Yesil
Probably it was, you know, five or six liras, probably no more than with the local, at the time, exchange rate maybe about a dollar, but that was big money for a high school student.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah. And then you put forty-ish years of inflation there and, okay, I’m with you. So, I’ll try it out if I find myself in that situation which is very specific with another urgent need. Now, SAT is behind me except in scary dreams that come up from time to time. I guess I’m naked and unprepared for it. Cool.

Magdalena Yesil
Well, it just shows, first of all, I had a very nice boyfriend who was willing to help me out to make that journey to the exam, and that we were very resourceful. We actually were able to think of a way to get me to the other side of the Bosphorus.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Well, so, I want to talk about some of your resourcefulness. You’ve packed a whole lot of it in your most recent book called Power Up. What’s the main idea behind the book? And why is it important here and now?

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah, so Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy is really all about being resourceful and how I, in my career, was able to take advantage of the opportunities and really embrace them with both hands, and make do with whatever I had. And it wasn’t just me but also was other women, 27 others that I interviewed for the book – our learning, our experiences, our advice to the next generation.

What’s really heartwarming is that a lot of the reviews I read on the book are actually coming from men. I want to say maybe even more than 50% of the reviews are written by men. So, even though I originally wrote this book for young women, I feel that the advice applies across the board. It’s supposed to be incredibly pragmatic, incredibly easy to apply because when you are resourceful, when you don’t have very many resources in your hand, you make do with whatever you have. A lot of that actually translates to other generations, other geographies.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Well, thank you, and so I am eager to dig into some of these items. Your table of contents is so tantalizing. And so, I just want to just jump into the pieces that I found most intriguing. So, could we start off by sharing what is the power to flow and how do we get that?

Magdalena Yesil
So, I open the book with the most traditional way to basically send someone off on a journey, which is exactly what my friends and family did, as well as my neighbors, as I embarked on my journey to come to the United States. What people do is they take buckets of water and, as the individual is departing, they throw these buckets of water after the person as they’re driving away or walking away or taking a ferry.

The idea is that water always flows and gets to a destination, and they’re wishing the person leaving the ability to flow and get to where they want. Water flows around rocks and boulders, and if there’s a big barrier it usually finds cracks. Sometimes it goes underground and becomes underground streams. And that concept of flowing and when you’re faced with difficulty, sometimes when you’re faced with absolute no’s, and to be able to maneuver your way around has really helped me a lot in my career.

I’ve actually used that imagery for myself, and I do think it’s a strong imagery. What it means is that no one can stop me. I might not end up exactly where I wanted, I might not end up taking the journey I thought I was going to have, but I’m going to get to the other side one way or the other.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, it’s about mindset and a visual and metaphor that sort of triggers that sense of conviction and motivation. That’s great in terms of starting in your brain. And so, then, when it comes into practice in terms of like the day-to-day, what are some things that you’re, in fact, doing, actions you’re taking to keep that flow of power going?

Magdalena Yesil
Well, some of the simplest things to do is when you want something to actually ask for it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Magdalena Yesil
You know, very often we want something and, for some reason, we are feeling like we cannot actually specifically put it on the table and ask for it. A good example, actually I share this in the book, is I wanted to be a speaker at a invite-only conference years back. I was the co-founder of a no-name company, I was a no-name person myself, and this was a conference that was really for the elite of the industry, of the technology industry.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re elite now.

Magdalena Yesil
Well, maybe so. Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, those types of names would get invited, not a nobody startup founder. And I had the opportunity to actually have a meeting with the organizer of the conference, and as we were talking about this startup and the new technology, and as he was leaving I said to him, “Do you know my birthday is coming right up.” And he like looked at me like, “What does that have to do with anything?”

And I said, “Do you know what I want for my birthday more so than anything else?” And he took my bait and said, “What?” He probably thought, “What is she talking about?” I said, “What I want for my birthday, more than anything else, is to be a speaker at your conference.” And I said that because I knew that I would never get an invite as an attendee. The only way I would get invite is if I could actually bring something of real value that would allow me to be a speaker.

So, he laughed, he thought it was a cute joke, and that was the end of that but I put my request on the table. And, literally, about maybe four-five months later, I got an email from him. He was putting together a panel. One of the panelists was Scott Cook the founder of Intuit, a couple of other people from the financial industry, and he was very excited to invite me as well because I had a company that was creating a product called CyberCash which was an electronic payment for the, at the time, emerging e-commerce industry.

So, the bottom line is: ask; you may receive it. You may not, but if you don’t you didn’t lose anything. That’s a way to flow forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s excellent. And I’d love to zoom into the psyches of your readers and as you’ve engaged in conversations. What are some key reasons why people don’t ask? And what sort of the mental antidote to those excuses?

Magdalena Yesil
I think the hardest thing for people and the biggest barrier for not asking is being turned down. They feel that if they get turned down that will really be depressing, they will lose face, and they just don’t want to go there. So, the most important building block to being able to ask what you want is to actually convince yourself that if you are turned down that’s totally okay. It actually is not a disaster and it doesn’t take anything from your self-esteem. Once you convince yourself of that it gets much easier to ask.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Now, as I’m thinking about some things I’ve been a little bit hesitant or slow to ask for, I think it’s been kind of like I really, really want it and there’s not any direct urgency, and so I have maybe this conception that somehow I will be more worthy or impressive or persuasive if I do so at a different or later time. And I’m starting to think that that’s BS, that’s not actually true.

Magdalena Yesil
Yes, I totally agree with that. I think a lot of people feel that, “Well, tomorrow I might be in a better position to get a yes, so let me just hold off. Let me just wait until then. I might be in of higher stature or somehow things might have worked out for me and I might be in a much better position to get the final answer that I want.”

You know, that would be great but life doesn’t usually work that way, and if we postpone, tomorrow, who knows what will happen tomorrow, what will it bring. So, in my life, a sense of urgency has always been in me and with me. I have always had this desire to do it now, partly also I’m a very impatient person. So, asking today, I just want to get it over with. I want to put it on the table. Let them think about it now.

Pete Mockaitis
You know that’s a great point in that it’s sort of like upon what evidence or data do we have to suggest that delay will be good because there’s plenty of data points, from my own life, in which delay is bad? It’s like, “Oh, I was going to ask for that opportunity from that person I know who likes me, but that person no longer works there or no longer holds that title or role or position in order to extend that offer to me.” And so, it’s like the delay hurt me and the delay, it’s like there’s not much hard proof or evidence that it will help me.

Magdalena Yesil
Absolutely. And I think my impatience actually comes in handy here. I always feel like this is the best time now. Now is better than ever before or ever later so I embrace things that way. Sometimes I’m full of it, it doesn’t work out. I was just too premature. I just didn’t have the credentials or it wasn’t the right timing. But I’d rather step forward now than wait. And that’s usually working out for me.

You know, I’m doing a new startup right now so I’ve gone from being a venture capitalist and an angel investor with the power of the checkbook to being a very needy entrepreneur again. And this desire to just ask for things and put it all on the table so that others are thinking about it on my behalf as well, I’m back to that mode and it’s working out.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And I know this is hard to pin you to a number, but I think it’s helpful context. So, when you ask for something, and maybe if you historically have thought, or others that you’ve advised thought, “Well, you know, I really have no business doing this. I’m not worthy yet. They don’t like me enough. I don’t have the credentials,” or whatever sort of. How often do you think people get yeses when you just put yourself out there person-to-person, face-to-face?

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah, let me tell you, more than 50%.

Pete Mockaitis
Booyah. Awesome.

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah, so it’s more than average. So, the good news, I feel, and the reason why I keep doing it and I recommend it to others, is that the probability of getting yes is actually much higher than you thought. And if that is, in fact, the case for others as well, then it becomes you get that positive feedback and you do it more.

Because I’ve asked in the past and I’ve gotten what I’ve wanted more than half the time, then I’m more likely to ask. If you never ask you’ll never get those statistics and you’ll probably just assume that, “Well, the probability is probably less than 5% I’ll be given what I’m asking for.”

I’m not talking about outrageous stuff, I’m not talking about going and asking for a big house or a big car or any of that. I’m talking about in your career, asking for a meeting, asking for the audience of someone, asking for feedback from someone you care about, asking to be included at a conference.

The professional ask, that make a lot of sense for your career even though it’s a little early for you and your career, extend yourself. If you’re not a VP of sales, act like you’re a VP of sales. If you’re not a director of engineering, act like you’re a director of engineering, so have that chutzpah to go ask for what you really feel maybe in the future you’ll deserve. Ask for it today.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yes. That’s so good. And I’m thinking about I remember one time I met with someone who asked me, just randomly, didn’t know him at all, about when it comes to some advice about consulting or getting involved in it, and I said, “Oh, yeah, sure.” So, we chat and then I noticed he had this like detailed notebook of all the people he had reached to and talked to. I was like, “Wow, could you tell me how often total strangers like myself have said yes and agreed to meet and chat with you?” And he said, “Oh, yeah, let me crunch those numbers.”

And he told me that amongst total strangers it was about 28% of the time. And so, you put into context, you’re talking about a professional ask and someone that you have some kind of a connection or relationship or like-mindedness, affinity and affiliation in some way, that can really skyrocket past 50%, so that’s encouraging.

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah. The other thing I just would like to say is if you feel like you’re asking for something and it’s going to be really one-sided, meaning you’re going to be the beneficiary and the other people are really giving you, extending themselves for you, then think of what they will get out of it, and then make the ask. Because it’s almost much better to approach someone with something you want but also be able to articulate for them what it is they’re going to get so always think about it from the other side’s point of view as well, “If I make this request, are they actually going to benefit from giving me what it is that I’m asking for?” If you put it in that context, the probability of getting a yes goes up significantly.

Pete Mockaitis 
Perfect. Okay. Cool. Well, now to totally change gears, I wanted to get your take on how one goes about developing gravitas?

Magdalena Yesil
Oh, okay. Well, gravitas is a word that I truly use over and over again that I really feel has guided my career as a woman in technology, and it’s a concept that I like to promote especially for young women. What is gravitas? Gravitas is your dignity and your seriousness all combined together in the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Magdalena Yesil
What it is is the way you carry yourself, the way you dress, the way you make eye contact with someone when you first meet them and shake their hand, it’s your openness, your friendliness, and yet your seriousness, your professionalism. Put it all together and you create a package which is basically communicating to the person across from you, “I am just as serious as you. I mean to win just like you do. I am your equal. And I may be just a tiny bit better.” That is a great place to start.

I think that I did that as a kid, I did that as a young adult partly because I really grew up in an environment where things weren’t necessarily being handed to me. I didn’t always feel like I was the equal of other people but I wanted to make sure that other people knew that I felt I was their equal. So, communicating that very, very early in relationships in your workplace is so important for young women because it sets the tone. It basically subconsciously sends the message to those that are working with you that you mean business and nothing else.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so now, I’d love it if you could maybe just really break that down in terms of you mentioned the smile and the handshake and such. So, could you give us some examples that you see frequently in terms of gravitas-conveying versus gravitas-destroying behaviors you see time and time again as you meet and interact with people?

Magdalena Yesil
So, I think gravitas, let’s just start with dress because that’s the external packaging and it’s easy to decipher what it communicates. I have my whole professional career, and you have to realize at 21 years old I was a semiconductor design engineer in a semiconductor company back in the early ‘80s, and the world was quite different.

I mean, it was technology industry was extremely male dominated especially in semiconductors. I was the only woman almost always in my work environments so, for me, it was very clear that I had to communicate a real professional image. And dress actually says a lot about what your intent is, why you’re there.

I know that as we’ve gone to casual Fridays, and then we’ve gone into casual dress, it has become the acceptable norm for dress has become much wider. And with that actually there’s a lot of confusion on the recipient’s end. So, personally, for me, my dress going to work has looked very different than my dress on the weekends or my dress going out at night.

My going-to-work dress has always been extremely serious, extremely professional, and I’ve always looked to see if I can dress as if I’m someone at a higher level in the organization than my current level. So, as a young woman, as a 24-year old, 25-year old, I really wanted to look much more like one of those VPs. Now, it happens to be there were no female VPs in my company but there were female VPs in adjacent industries, other industries, so I wanted to dress for a role I was aspiring to not just dress for my role of today.

And I know it sounds very old-fashioned but it certainly has made a very big difference for me. Also, I think, when you meet someone, to really have the posture of standing up really on your own two feet, to have a firm handshake, to put out your hand first, especially if you’re with a man, shaking their hand. For the woman to extend their hand first, what it shows is power. It shows actually affirmative behavior. It shows, “I am choosing to shake your hand versus I’m reacting to you.”

And pretty much everything, it’s taking that first step. It just replete with so many subtle messages. And gravitas means that, as a young woman, you are leading. You know what you want in that relationship, and you’re taking charge.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, I’m thinking when you talk about so many subtle messages, I think a lot of it is even below the realm of our consciousness in terms of what we’re doing and what we’re putting out there. And yet, I think if you have that sense of belief, I guess I’m also thinking kind of method acting here in terms of rather than an actor fixating on, “Okay, I can do this with my eyebrows, and this with my hands, and this with my chest,” and sort of hitting a series of movements that they want to convey an emotion. Rather they just get into the place where they feel that emotion.

Magdalena Yesil
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
So, all these things flow naturally. So, I guess, I’m thinking maybe a central sort of belief or attitude is, “Does someone really believe and feel that they are equal to the people that they’re speaking with or engaging with, or that they are just a worker and someone so much more impressive and influential and amazing relative to them?” So, how do you think about, I guess, just the fundamental mindsets self-belief stuff there?

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah. Well, I think it, unfortunately, usually starts very early in our lives and, therefore, if we have children it’s very important to ingrain in them that sense of self-confidence, and we can talk about that some more. But it’s that self-confidence that comes through. You’re absolutely right, and the advice I give in Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy is all about dressing and stuff that makes you feel powerful, because if you do, if you are walking out of your house, and you say to yourself, “Wow, I really look good. I feel powerful. I feel just so great today,” you’re going to communicate that to people.

I have a story in the book about my college classmate, Christy Wagner, who basically had nothing to do with the computer industry. She had a great degree in biology, but she got a computer industry job. and I said, “Christy, how do you do it? You don’t know this stuff.” I had a double degree. So, it was like I was just amazed she had so much self-confidence she got a job. She said, “You know what, I put on my bitch in clothes and I get out of my house, and I walk into that office and I feel so good.” And, sure enough, she was incredibly successful because she had that attitude. It didn’t take her very long to learn.

She obviously was a smart woman, she was a quick study, but it was that attitude that carried her forward. She didn’t walk in saying, “Well, I’m not good at this, I’m not good at that. And these other people, please, let me sit all the way in the back and not get noticed.” No, she put herself out there and people took her lead. She looked like she knew what she was doing and they believed that she knew what she was doing.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I really like how you’ve zoomed in on clothes and how they make you feel. And I’m kind of reflecting on I remember there was a number of occasions I went on a speed-dating event in sort of the same event, same place across multiple years. And one year I had some shirts that were sort of custom-made to my measurements, and so I just sported one of those. And what do you know? That year I had like three times as many women interested.

Magdalena Yesil
Isn’t that the truth? Because you felt so great.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. And I’m sure part of it was, “Hey, it looks good,” but a huge part of it is that I felt a sense of comfort and confidence. And, for me, I think, when it comes to clothes, fit is really king. It’s like, “Is it kind of pinching and tugging or billowing? Or is it just, ‘Hmm, perfect.’?”

Magdalena Yesil
Perfect, yes. And the key is, of course, whatever it is for you, figure that out. Put on those clothes. See which clothes make you feel better. It might not be your clothes. It might be your hair. It might be something else. But whatever it is, embrace it, because if you feel great about yourself, others will think the same.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. You know, I also think it’s really powerful to be able to reflect upon victory moments and accomplishments and achievements, and so that those are more top of mind than the times that you totally screwed up in a similar context. So, any other quick tips on the confidence game?

Magdalena Yesil
So, I always feel that what works for me is projecting myself in a winning position that I really want. So, if I really want to close a customer or turn a prospect into a customer, I will think about them six months out and we’re having a celebration dinner because actually our software has really increased their sales, and they’re telling us how fantastic it has been.

So, I do these mental imagery that makes me feel like I actually have made my customers’ life so much better, I have increased their business, I have solved the problem that they couldn’t solve before, I brought efficiency. And when I create these images for myself, I start believing that, in fact, our software can do that. So, when I meet them, I am talking to them with so much more passion, with so much more conviction.

And same thing when you’re fundraising. When you’re fundraising as an entrepreneur you’re sitting across from venture capitalists, they’re all powerful because they happen to have the money. But are they? You are actually the one who’s going to make them money. You actually are the one that they should be chasing because if they’re not an investor in your company but others are, they’re going to feel so sorry. They’re going to feel so left out.

So, getting yourself, doing these pep talks with yourself, “I’m going to meet that investor but, in fact, that investor, you know, I’m giving them the opportunity to invest in me. I’m giving them the half hour that they might not have then deserved, but I will give it to them.” And let the other side feel that it’s really an honor to be with you. It’s really an opportunity to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so fun. And I think there’s some gurus about pitching, and I’ll find them and have them on the show one of these days. That’s kind of a huge part of their whole approach, and people say, “They don’t ask for the money. They just take the money.”

Magdalena Yesil
Exactly. And, listen, I have done a lot of pitching at Salesforce where I’m the first investor and founding board member. We could not raise a penny of venture capital, and it’s hard to believe that with Salesforce now building the tallest building west of the Mississippi. But it’s not always easy, and yet we never got discouraged just because VCs didn’t get it. We just said, “Hey, they’re not just as smart as we thought they would be.”

So, it’s that attitude really comes in and helps you out when things are not going your way, and that ability to flow. So, we went and found money from private investors. You know, it took a lot more work because we raised it in small chunks but so be it. We were going to persevere.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, once again, to dramatically change the topic, but I think there’s probably some good overlap at the same time. I’d like your perspective on how can one be better heard at meetings? And I’m thinking about some scenarios where it’s almost comical or enraging where two people sort of say just about the same thing, and one is just sort of, “Eh,” brushed aside, and the other one, people sort of vigorously nod, like, “Yes, this makes a lot of sense. I’m excited about what you’ve said.” So, what’s behind that? How are you better heard there?

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah, I’m going to address that, but before that, I want to say something else. And that is if you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re thinking something, which we all do, but you’re holding off on saying it, don’t hold off. Say it. Because if you’re thinking of a thought that you think the rest of the team should hear, this is actually value-add to the group, but you’re holding off. There’s a chance every minute you hold off, there’s a chance someone else will say it before you.

So, again, it comes back to that, you know, be bold. So, rule number one is if you think of something that you think is worthwhile in a meeting, don’t just talk to hear yourself talk. You’ve got to have something to say that’s really worthwhile. But if you think it’s worthwhile, don’t hold off. Don’t be musing in your head how you should be saying it, and repeating it. Also, the more you think about a thought and try to say it just the right way, the less you’re listening to whatever else is going on in the meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Magdalena Yesil
Right? So, it’s much better to get it out of your chest so that you can actually pay attention to what’s going on. Now, number two, the question you asked me, and that is you have said it and the conversation continued as if no one even really heard you, or maybe someone said something. And then, about five minutes later, if you’re a woman, it’s usually a man, who says something almost exactly the same or very, very similar, and people say, “Wow, that was great, Greg. Good for you. That is a very good observation.”

Now, what do you do? You sit there, usually just do and feel so horrible, and really start saying, “Oh, life is so unfair. Women, we will never be able to have an equal chance to be heard.” You know, don’t go there. Don’t make yourself a victim. Instead, what I recommend you do is you say, “Greg, thank you so very much for amplifying what I said a few minutes ago, and I really appreciate it. Thank you, because when I said it the team didn’t seem like they picked up on it, so I really appreciate you underscoring what I said.” What did you do? You just took the credit back. You didn’t get angry, you didn’t get sour, you didn’t start saying, “Oh, gosh, I will never get recognition. Look at this guy. He copied me.”

Okay. So, the other thing that I say about meetings is if you’re kind of a timid person, and not everyone is as aggressive as sometimes these companies require you to be, if you’re sort of on the timid side, find someone who can actually be your amplifier in a meeting, one of your colleagues. If you’re female it’s probably better to find a male colleague to be your amplifier. What do I mean by that?

When you make a comment that is worthwhile, your amplifier would say, “Just like Magdalena said, I agree,” and give you credit and repeat what you just said. That person just amplified you, gave you credit so that the rest of the team doesn’t forget that was your idea, and put it back on the table when maybe you weren’t getting as much attention to your point.

An amplifier is such a great tool to use in your career. And what do you do for that amplifier? You become their amplifier. You become the one that does it for him, and it’s a symbiotic relationship. And, especially if you’re the timid one, you learn how to speak up to second your friends’, your colleagues’ ideas. And sometimes it’s easier to second someone else than to come up with your original idea, so it’s great practice for public speaking as well, speaking up in a meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, in your example, in which you said, “Thank you, Greg, for amplifying what I said previously,” I’m wondering if there are some sort of misbehaving professionals who are kind of credit-stealing or just would feel furious if you sort of reasserted your claim to the credit for the idea in the meeting. Any pro tips on navigating those waters?

Magdalena Yesil
So, I think that if you have the right, and if you are feeling like you are in control, and someone maybe belittles you for what you said, or they don’t give you credit, or they just actually still walk over you, that’s okay. You’ll do it again in the next meeting. It’s just a practice. You’re not going to win each one so you have to have some patience as well that you’re not always going to get the credit, but to hang in there and to make a practice of it. And, over time, people will actually learn to listen to you because they’ll realize that if they don’t give you the time of day you’re going to come back and ask for it.

Pete Mockaitis
And along these lines I’m wondering about environments in which sometimes Dr. Evil who inquired, “Why must I be surrounded by idiots?” I think there are times when there are professionals who are good and smart and sharp, and yet it’s like both their bosses and their colleagues all seem obliviously unaware of something that’s just so clearly true and right and good and necessary. And it seems like they don’t even get or appreciate how you are raising critical factors.

And so, I have a number of ideas are coming to mind whether it’s people are doing some group collaborations and trying to win over a big customer or grant. And it’s like, “Hey, you straight up have errors or inconsistencies in this proposal that you’re putting forward. Like, come on now.” So, I think that’s a uniquely tricky situation. But I’d love your view on that one, too.

Magdalena Yesil
Well, first of all, if you don’t have a supportive boss, if you have a boss who is minimizing you or ignoring you, it probably is time to find another boss because there’s no one more important for your career advancement than your current boss. And I cannot stress that enough, and I do talk about a boss as potentially a sponsor where they are actually trying to open up doors for you and help you advance in your career.

Now, we cannot always find another job, we cannot always find another boss. Sometimes we’re just stuck with a situation. And there, what I would do is I would pull my boss aside, and say, “What is it that I need to do to actually have you hear me better, to actually have you give me more credit? Because you know what, I work for you. If I win, you win. I’m here to make you look better. So, how can we collaborate more? How can I actually really move your career forward?”

So, you put it always in terms of the other person. What can you bring to them? How can you make their career better? How can you help them get the recognition from the CEO? Then they’ll actually listen to you because you’re giving them a very personal reason to collaborate with you. Then it’s no longer about you; it’s about them. And then, over time, they might actually start confiding in you and coming to you, asking you to do certain things. So, it’s that level of collaboration with your boss and with some of the higher ups in the organization. If you think everyone that’s around you is kind of an idiot and they just don’t get it, you’re at the wrong company.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got it. Well, Magdalena, I think we can go for hours, but I might need to push fast-forward a little bit. So, can you tell me, is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear quickly about some of your favorite things?

Magdalena Yesil
Yeah, so I think the most important thing, and I open the book with this, is not being afraid to fail, because if we are afraid to fail we will never really be able to take risks. We’re always going to go down to the common denominator. The ability to fail, to accept failure, and say, “You know what, I’m going to probably fail multiple times before I get to where I want to go.” That is really an important mindset. And I certainly have failed multiple times in my careers. They were painful processes but they made me much stronger. And the one thing I knew was that no failure was ever going to stop me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Magdalena Yesil
I don’t know if it’s inspiring, but a quote that I think very often, that one of my old bosses used to say is, “You get nothing for trying.” It’s kind of a harsh quote, but he’s absolutely right, and the first time he said that to me I was very taken aback, “I get nothing for trying?” Like, Americans like saying, “Nice try. Good try.” But he said, “No, you get nothing. There’s no result. Okay, maybe you’ll learn something.”

So, I often say to myself when I think about him, “I have to get whatever I’m going after. Just that I tried and I didn’t get there is okay. I failed. I’m not afraid of failure but it is not a good try. It’s the goal that I’m really after.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Magdalena Yesil
Well, my favorite study is actually one that I did very many years ago when I was looking for a job and I couldn’t find one, and I was trying to figure out how I could be an entrepreneur because I couldn’t find an employer. I did the very first internet user study, and that really put me on the map. I actually got a speaking spot at a conference at the very first internet conference, I presented, and I went from being a nobody to being somebody and actually someone who got regarded as an expert. And then I found my co-founder for my first entrepreneurial company.

So, doing the user study at an area, you’re going to learn a lot. If you can fund it yourself, great. If not, study up with others, but I do actually think conducting studies is a great way to gain expertise in some of the new fields that are emerging.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Magdalena Yesil
Alice in Wonderland.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite tool?

Magdalena Yesil
My favorite tool ever is a smile. It really works.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. And how about a favorite habit?

Magdalena Yesil
Asking every day as I drive to work, or as I commute to work on ferry, or walking to work, whatever it is I’m doing, I always ask myself, “If there was only one thing I could accomplish today, what would they be? What would that be?” I want to everyday establish the most important task for myself, and then tell myself that I cannot leave that office until I’ve accomplished that.

It’s amazingly hard to accomplish even one simple task sometimes because the day gets so crowded and you become so reactive especially if people are working for you and they’re constantly coming to talk to you. So, making that decision every day there’s one task, I have to get this done, it’s the highest leverage, and if I don’t get it done I’m not leaving that office until I get it done.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget that you share in your book and speaking and working with folks that seems to really connect and resonate, getting them quoting it back to you often?

Magdalena Yesil
I think the biggest quote I have gotten out of this book is people telling me that they themselves have started using the imagery of flowing especially when things don’t go well for them or they don’t go as they predicted or wanted. That thought that, “Okay, I will find a way around this because I’m like water. You cannot stop water. It might stop for a little while but then it’ll become a roaring waterfall on the other side.”

So, it’s amazing how I thought no one would really embrace that, they would think that the whole concept of people throwing water after you as you depart is some arcane habit of a different culture, but it really seems to resonate with people.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Magdalena Yesil
To Magdalena.com. Also, you can find me on Twitter, on LinkedIn as Magdalena Yesil.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Magdalena Yesil
Never be a victim. Never. Never let anybody make you feel like a victim. And take the word “hurt” out of your professional vocabulary. The workplace is never a place to feel hurt.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Magdalena, thanks so much for sharing this perspective. Powerful stuff. It served you well and I think will serve many listeners as well, so please keep doing what you’re doing, and it’s been great chatting.

Magdalena Yesil
I hope it will help very many especially young people push forward in their careers and get to where they want.

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The Gold Nugget

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