From Women’s Tech Forum’s inception, Kris Bennett has been a fierce ally and supporter. As an industry veteran with over 35 years of experience — the past 11 of which have been spent at Google as a Global Infrastructure Negotiator —Kris brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table that she has proactively put to good use by providing career advice (that is actually helpful) and mentoring women in the industry.
Last year for our ITW event, Kris sat on our panel and shared her thoughts on gender diversity, women and competition, and imposter syndrome within our industry. It was a breath of fresh air to hear Kris, along with the other panelists, be completely transparent and open about her experiences without sugarcoating anything. That’s why we’re pleased to shine the spotlight on her this time around. Kris and Google’s support & sponsorship helped us make our PTC 2019 event a reality and we look forward to continuing our partnership as WTF continues to grow.
Check out the below Q&A with Kris who shares some tips on what has helped her throughout her career and where her nickname, Boomer, came from.
What did you think of the WTF event at PTC? Did it help facilitate meeting new women in the industry?
The WTF event is growing leaps and bounds! I’m so excited to see such great positive results. The settings chosen for these functions are relaxing and yet exuberant. They make the attendees feel safe and “special”, providing a space where they exchange open and honest thoughts. I was personally asked by two groups from China if they could start a WTF chapter there. When we get a response like this so early in WTF’s inception, it leads me to believe the growth of WTF will be widely successful and will help participants grow their professional careers.
What’s something that has helped you tackle the gender divide in our industry and succeed in your career?
In today’s corporate world, you don’t get promoted being at a company for a long time or because your manager thinks you should be promoted. You get promoted by promoting yourself. For women in a lot of cultures around the world, promoting yourself is foreign. In seeing this, I started doing a lot of mentoring, trying to teach women confidence, giving them tools to ask for difficult things. For instance, how to ask their boss what to do in order to get promoted and what steps to take to prosper. For me, mentoring within Google has been a great achievement because many women I've mentored have been able to achieve their goals.
What’s one thing you wish you could teach your younger self upon entering your career?
I’ve always been fairly confident, but in my younger years it would have been great to have the confidence I now have. I also wish I had been a bit more of a risk taker. It is hard to say where I might be today if I had both those traits as I began my professional career. These are two primary points I try to instill in those individuals I’m mentoring. Hopefully it will propel them to higher levels as they transition through opportunities presented to them.
How do you see WTF helping the gender gap in our industry?
I believe the most successful people are well connected. The WTF program allows associates to let their guard down and be free to develop and improve their skill sets. It helps them stay on top of the latest trends, explore the job market, meet future mentors, partners and clients and gain access to resources to foster their career development. Developing your career is a lifelong evolution and the burden resides with the individual. Hence WTF bestows a wonderful environment to explore opportunities for growth, and develop the skills to prevail.
What is a WTF - in its original meaning (: - moment you had to endure as a woman in your career and what did you learn from it?
Oh, there are so many WTF moments in my career, but I recall one of the earliest encounters which helped mold my profession. I was working in the office of an Outside Plant Engineering firm, watching my male counterparts go to the field to do the engineering drawings. I wanted to learn that skill so I went to my boss to ask if I could join the field teams. He looked astonished at me and said, “the men stay all night in the field....won’t your husband have a problem with that?” I immediately replied with, “would your wife have a problem if I went to the field with you?” What I learned is how to be confident and willing to step outside my comfort zone to gain new competencies. It was the beginning of doors opening for me, molding me into who I am today.
Kris is short for your birth name, Christine, so where does the nickname Boomer come from??
I've been asked over the years how I ended up with my e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), which has ultimately become my nickname.
I am a product of staunch Corporate America so when I first joined Google, I expected the same sort of treatment. On my first day of orientation, there were 153 ‘Nooglers’ [new Google employees] in my class. As we marched up the steps, we arrived at a long table where there were about 10 individuals behind the table, each asking us questions. As you can imagine, this was a very stressful situation considering I had been used to orientation environments where others told me what was next instead of asking what I wanted next. With butterflies in my stomach and my mind drifting and racing with thoughts, I approached the table and thought I was being asked what I wanted my password to be for my computer. I was born and raised in Oklahoma and so I blurted out "BOOMER".
At the end of the day, I was issued my computer. Sitting at my desk, I logged into my new e-mail and I couldn’t believe my eyes. BOOMER@google.com showed up on my screen. I was horrified!!! I figured nobody would ever know who I was but that is not the case. In fact, it had quite the opposite effect where it stuck with people and became memorable. Over the past 11 years, it seems my mistake has faired me well.