AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

“Make Your Power”: Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector at Amazon Web Services (AWS), shares some of her advice for women working in the tech industry

Find your mentors

Early in your career it is important to find individuals that you respect and admire to act as mentors. I still have mentors, and I still ask questions. You need to remember that the onus is on you to use your mentor’s time. You need to be prescriptive when it comes to asking for their help. Come to them with specific questions and give them perspective on where you need guidance. Approaching a mentor with a clear understanding of where you need guidance is key to respecting their time and getting the most of yours.

Take the advice

Finding a quality mentor and coming to them with the right questions is only half the battle. Trusting the advice that is given can often be a trial as well. When you ask for help, you have to accept it and not dismiss it. Feedback can be hard to take, but you cannot get upset and dismiss the guidance you have been given.

Emulate Others

I also like to seek out and watch people that I respect to learn how they get things done. You can begin to emulate behaviors when you see how these people have utilized a certain technique.

Stay fresh

IT is known for its rapidly changing landscape. Anyone working in the IT space will have to refresh their skills numerous times during their career.  Be proactive when learning. Learn something new once per month that could add to your work portfolio. For more complex topics, divide your learning into smaller sections, and master one section each month. Learning something new is like building a muscle. You build muscle through practice.

Make your power

Women in traditionally male-dominated spaces can often feel pushed to the side – particularly when it comes to high-level discussions. You have to have authority in a respectful way, so that people understand you have an important seat at the table. You have to have a voice, and practice how you get into that conversation.

Find a hole and fill it

Oftentimes, problems at work will go ignored if no one takes ownership. If you find a hole, fill it. If you see a problem at work, call it an opportunity. Don’t wait for someone to assign you to fix the issue. Show people that you have capabilities that they didn’t know you had. People will come to you as a problem solver, not a problem maker.

Embrace ownership

While working as a team is often essential to a project, some tasks are best owned by individuals. Women tend to assign tasks and deadlines using language like “We need to get this done” when they really mean “you” or “your team.” Sometimes you need single-threaded owners to make things happen. If an individual needs to be responsible for a task, make that clear by using “you” instead of “we” when delivering an assignment, or delegating responsibility.


Grab your headphone and listen in to the podcast featuring Teresa – Bringing more women into tech: A message from Teresa Carlson, Worldwide Public Sector VP, AWS.