Microsoft Corporate VP Gavriella Schuster: How Women In The Channel Can Use Change To Power Their Career

Think like a customer, act as a translator, be honest with yourself.

The world changes at a rapid pace, and this permeates women in the channel at every aspect of their lives – particularly in their careers, said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, global partner channels and programs at Microsoft.

"The world changes really fast… how do you make that something you can build your career around?" Schuster asked, speaking at the The Channel Company's Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West event, which takes place this week in Napa, Calif. "You need to make sure your skills stay relevant and power your career."

Over the past three years, Schuster said that the focus of her own career has transformed drastically from enabling cloud services to discussing artificial intelligence and digital transformation – but she has honed skills that help her capitalize on those changes.

Schuster shaped her career by being a lifelong learner, so she could become more rounded by understanding different aspects of business, and ultimately increase her chances of working in various jobs in different sectors.

"I knew I would learn and move forward from the jobs I took," she said. "I took these jobs where people thought what we had to do was impossible, and it was my role to jump in and figure it out."

While every woman in the channel has her own set of skills, Schuster said there are three critical factors for capitalizing on these skills to build a career successfully, despite change.

First, it is invaluable for women in the channel to think like their customers and listen to what their clients want. "For every decision you make, first think like a customer," said Schuster. "Today, my primary 'customers' are partners. I think about what opportunities different decisions might open for partners, or how to help them build businesses around our technologies."

Another important key for success despite change is understanding that everyone needs a translator, said Schuster – it is important to act as the translator and both listen to what the engineer is building and help the partner figure out what the value proposition is.

Schuster said she worked in a variety of positions – including marketing, sales, product planning, and ecosystem development – to build up skills that would help her act as a translator between customers and engineers.

Finally, said Schuster, women need to be honest with themselves and understand what they really want to gain from their career. As part of this introspection, women in the channel need to take a step back and ask questions about their career – are they learning something new? Is their career giving them energy? Do they enjoy the work environment? Does the career play into their strengths and skills?

"Careers are built because you've purposefully thought about what you want to get out of the time you spend working," she said. "You need to ask yourself, 'am I doing things I enjoy and building on my strengths?"

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