If I’d Only Known: 3 Tips for Success in the Workplace
In honor of Women’s History Month, NYCEDC is highlighting the wisdom of three of its own.
We asked Nicole Ackerina, Nikita Sharma, and Tiffany-Ann Taylor what advice they wished they’d received when they were first starting out in the workplace. The women, all members of the organization’s Women’s Leadership Group, quickly agreed on some themes.
Nikita Sharma, a project manager for NYCEDC’s Capital program, remembers how much she wanted to appear familiar with her field of work when she first started out. She’d nod along in meetings before going back to her desk to start Googling, trying to fill in her knowledge gaps. Her mentor gave her the sage advice to stop searching the web and start speaking up instead. “I started asking questions about certain terms that would get thrown around and eventually started ‘recapping’ at the end of meetings. The more I engaged myself, the more I noticed an increase in my confidence and even started running meetings rather than sitting in the corner.”
Nicole Ackerina, vice president of NYCEDC’s Asset Management group, seconds this idea: “It’s okay to ask questions and to not always be the expert in the room—that doesn’t make your input any less valuable. Your perspective matters.” She also highlights how important it is to learn from the best. “Identify the masters of specific fields and trades as they relate to yours—it’s essential to build a solid contact list, do the right thing by people, and ask for help when you need it.”
Sharma has continued speaking up throughout her career, noting “There’s only so much they teach you in school. It’s important to understand that there is no harm in asking questions. There is no better way to grow!”
Know Your Worth
Our three experts also agree that women should have confidence in all that they bring to the table. Tiffany-Ann Taylor, senior project manager for Ports and Transportation, puts it this way: “In your industry, you will often be the only one of the following in a meeting: black, young, or female. Make sure people respect all of that. Do not let anyone make you feel as though you do not belong. If you were hired, you belong.”
Similarly, Ackerina says women shouldn’t doubt their value. “Know your worth. If you work hard—and you should always work hard!—you should never fear respectfully speaking up when it comes to how your needs can be met and what you feel you deserve. Be confident and advocate for yourself.”
As Aretha Said: R E S P E C T
Lastly, both Ackerina and Taylor note the importance of recognizing everyone’s contributions and treating everyone with dignity. “Always treat people with respect—especially interns, support staff, nighttime cleaning crews, and administrative assistants. They always figure out a way to save the day, and they are the gatekeepers to everything,” Taylor says. Ackerina’s closing thought sums this idea up nicely: “Lead with empathy. We’re all human here!”