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Uniting the Stellar Women Community: Workshopping Your Value

Mary Rechtoris

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Bringing the community together is at the crux of our mission for Stellar Women. In addition to our biweekly podcast, we aim to provide forums for discussion and a place to share resources that will help us achieve our larger goal: telling the stories of female leaders in legal tech who are working to create a more gender-equitable world.

To that end, my Stellar Women co-host and I recently had the opportunity to host a roundtable with three all-star Stellar Women guests: Sonia Chowdhury, Kamaka Martin, and Maribel Rivera. The discussion was anchored around a topic we touched on previously in the podcast—how do you know your value, whether you’re aiming for a raise, a promotion, or simple validation on a personal level? The three guests discussed this during the first part of the conversation, and then we opened the floor to attendees to share their thoughts.

The audio from our session is embedded here. Want to dig deeper? Scroll down to learn more about how you can get involved or read through the transcript.

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After listening to the podcast, we invite you to explore some ways to connect with the Stellar Women community. After all, you are at the center of what we do.

#1: Join our LinkedIn group. If you think of the podcast as our way to provide tangible advice for our listeners, the LinkedIn group is how we invite your feedback on that advice. Our community of listeners and guests has a wealth of knowledge, so we created the LinkedIn group to exchange tips, check in with each other, and share compelling articles. We will also share updates on the Stellar Women program, including our next workshop coming up in late June. Please join and invite your friends and colleagues. We also invite our male friends and allies to join the conversation!

#2: Nominate a Stellar Woman. A great part of our Stellar Women program culminates in October when we announce the winner of our Stellar Women Innovation Award during Relativity Fest each year. Stellar Women winners include legal tech rockstars Joy Murao, Stephanie Clerkin, and Kenya Dixon, who elevate the careers of others and pave the way for emerging leaders to make their name in this field. The Innovation Awards give us an opportunity to recognize industry comrades who strive for innovation and help create a better work environment for us all. We encourage you to nominate a colleague or yourself.

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Mary Rechtoris: Hi Stellar Women fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris. This is a special episode for Stellar Women. It is the recording from a roundtable we hosted earlier this year with guests Sonia Chowdhury, Kamaka Martin, and Maribel Rivera. They talk about their professional and personal value, making internal or external moves, and how to advocate for yourself. We invite this Stellar Women community to join us in our next workshop in June. We will be posting updates in LinkedIn group in the coming weeks, which I will link to in The Relativity Blog. All right, onto the workshop. If we want to introduce ourselves, why don't we go with you, Sonia, and we'll just go down the line. If you would, tell us your name, role, and an opening thought for the panel?

Sonia Chowdhury: Thank you, Mary. So my name Sonia Chowdhury. I am the Trace Compliance SME at Relativity. I also am a compliance consultant working in financial services based in London. And my thoughts on knowing your value: You are the only one who knows the struggles that you have been through to get to where you are today. So don't let it all go in vain. Sell yourself like it's your last fight and advocate for what you deserve.

Kamaka Martin: I’m Kamaka Martin and I am the vice president of managed services at Legility, which is a new law company. As for understanding your own value in your personal and professional life, I think that this is a continuous process of exploring your potential. If your value is really rooted in the belief that you are passionate about what you're doing and when you do have goals, you're taking the initiative to act on those goals. I have a belief that you can achieve results and be resilient when things don't necessarily go as planned. I think that knowing your value really does resonate across the board. When you think about yourself as a holistic person, when you know your value, you will be confident. You'll approach both your personal and professional life with a belief that your knowledge, your skills, and your experience are all the things that impact your life.

Maribel Rivera: Hi everyone. My name is Maribel Rivera. I am the senior director of community relations at the Association of Certified e-Discovery Specialists, or AECDS. I am also an independent marketing consultant and event strategist. I've created some amazing things, including last week's University of Florida College of Law E-Discovery Conference, which I hope you attended. And my thought for today is that we all too often are the champions for others and fail to ourselves what we tell our team, our boss, our family, our friends. After this workshop, I want you to walk away ready to understand your value and champion yourself. Men don't assume that people just notice their value and we shouldn't either.

Mila Taylor: Kamaka, let's start with you. Why is it challenging for young professionals and often female professionals to understand and articulate their value?

Kamaka Martin: Many believe that their work will speak for itself. However, I do believe that self-advocacy is an important part of ensuring that your interests are accurately represented. We're afraid to speak up and speak up for ourselves for fear of being painted as aggressive or ambitious or any other phrase that has historically been used to quiet women who confidently articulate their value. Some simply just haven't taken the time to contemplate their value. Take the time to assess which part of your work is fulfilling and why that requires some proactivity. So I really do think that it's really important for you to know what your non-negotiable is. Having an idea of how you see yourself growing within an organization is also key so that you can answer almost the inevitable question that will come for stellar women, which is, where do you see yourself in this organization? Be able to answer those questions. How do you go about doing that? I think that you really have to identify in yourself what you need to do to figure out how to do that. Here are some suggestions. Identify someone who has been successful in the profession of your choice or has the role that you see your future self in. Ask yourself what qualities in that person you would like to emulate. If this person is a thought leader, attend some of their webinars. If this person is someone within your organization, pay close attention to how they navigate the workspace. And I know that that can be really difficult in the virtual workplace right now. But there are still options to consider, such as taking a strengths assessment, things like the enneagram or CliftonStrength to get some qualitative insights about your talents so that you can lean into your greatest potential. I also think it's important to note that if you're not an active participant in the narrative of your value, you have to be mindful of what that inaction will result in. It could result in giving someone else an opportunity to bolster their own narrative or present a narrative about your abilities that may not be in line with the true value that you bring to the table. So self-advocacy can be challenging, but it's like any other skill. It really does require practice.

Maribel Rivera: I want to take this from a different point of view because I am not a young professional. I'm a middle-aged woman. I'm sure there's a lot of other women who are middle-aged that are on here. It's not only being a woman, but also ageism, right? Sometimes we're looked at as women who are older, that maybe we're seen as not as ambitious as others. Maybe we’re looked at that way with technology as well. We’re looked at in various different ways. So I agree with Kamaka that we need to make sure that we're doing a lot of different things, including building cross-generational networks. For me, that means working with individuals like Mary and Mila and Sonia and Kamaka to make sure that I have the knowledge that they have coming up as young professionals. I've been in the industry for 30 years, but I also need to learn from the younger generations coming up. So that's really important for me. Be mentored by younger individuals. Learn how to manage up when working with somebody. And what that means is I have to learn all about them and how they lead, how they're managing their teams, how I have to work with them, and what managing up really means. It’s not just understanding my values and who I am and what I do, but it's also how do I manage this person? What is their personality? How are they reacting to certain things? And if they're a younger person than me, how do I work with them so that they know that I have the knowledge or that I'm willing to learn from them? So it's a little bit of give and take. It doesn’t matter what age you are, and I say that as we started the question around young professionals. But I want to make sure that we know that as a woman who is in her 40s, I also have a lot of value. And sometimes it's harder for us women who are in the older generations to say, “this is my value.” We weren't really taught those things. We had to fight and build that. So it's a lot harder for us because quite often we were quiet. We didn't learn until later on that you have to fight for a voice in a room, right? You have to fight for a seat. So I think it's learning to do those things and saying, “Okay, this is my value and this is why I should be heard.” And this is why you need to find those. And I think someone mentioned it in the chat, finding the allies. Finding those individuals who are going to work with you and say, yes, this is the value, and seek it. And then you also have to look at what you're good at and what you aren't good at. And if you're not good at something, understanding how to either strengthen the other skills that you have or how you can actually strengthen that skill. So it's looking at both of those things.

Mary Rechtoris: Whether you're looking to move internally or externally, it’s really important to do your due diligence and do your research so you know your worth. If you’re considering an internal or external move, where do you even start? Can you share what tips you've learned throughout your career thus far?

Sonia Chowdhury: So firstly, I think it's about the research. Before we even talk about an internal or external move, there are bits of information that you need to gather. Number one, look at internal human resources. Internally, are there any contacts you can speak to? Is there anyone in there who can provide a bit more information around pay and any information around progression on the job architecture? Now, what I'm going to do here is caveat it with some firms, especially in competitive industries, they refuse to give out the pay band information purely because they need to protect it. It's sensitive information. Then your next step would be to check out sites like Glassdoor. Glassdoor is an amazing website where you can actually go in and look up any role on a global level or a local level, and it can give an indication of the payback for that specific role of a certain level. So that's another place you can get that kind of information around salary and benefits. Then the final piece would be to speak to recruiters. Now, before I continue with recruitment is that I want to say a lot of feel like they're exposing themselves and they put themselves in a vulnerable situation with their current role [when talking to recruiters]. I want you to wipe that out of your minds, because one thing you need to remember is your line manager and many senior individuals at your firm are having open conversations with recruiters. Recruiters know what they know because they are speaking to people who are happy in their roles and those who are really unhappy in their roles. So all that information they've collected from years of conversations. So speak to a recruiter to get more information about markets and see what industries are looking at. They have more information around the salaries. You can actually ask for the demand for jobs currently in the market and the number of roles that are available for your caliber with the experience you've got, et cetera. Now, those are the three pieces of key information you need before you think about an internal or external move. Now, moving on to an internal move. Firstly what I would suggest is: Ensure that you understand the role so you can map that role to any other roles that are available in the market, because you can then look at the job specs around it and see what's required. What are the essentials? How many years of experience and qualification do you need? And that way, when you're approaching that role, you already understand what's in the market and what's required in the market. And then, if you want to, go forward with that specific role. Just bear in mind, some firms have set standards. Some firms have set a percentage salary increase on internal moves. Now, what I can tell you is from experience is that percentage that has been set by human resources is not permanent. You can negotiate it. Now, many people decide not to stay internal and not to move internal purely because they have a limit of a five percent increase. And if they chose to move externally, they'd get potentially 10 to 20 percent increase. Now, what I can say is that you can negotiate it. But, have your research and know your statistics. So the first thing I would say is when approaching an internal move, speak about the external costs that the firm will have to incur when they bring in a new candidate. So, for example, the recruitment fees, training that individual. Bear in mind it takes six months for any new candidate to be up to speed. And then, again, that candidate may need additional equipment and additional kinds of qualifications to meet the standards of that role, whereas you as a person that's internal, you understand the firm's ethos, the plans, the projects are in scope, and you don't need that extra training. Plus, you are someone that's internal and potentially could be the future of the firm. Use those pieces of information to bulk up your conversation and persuade her to potentially sign off. When you're talking about an internal move, it’s important to emphasize that even if it is the case that you are unsuccessful in receiving that role, it's not the case that you will leave the firm. I've personally hesitated discussing an internal move when I feel the firm will think that I'd be unhappy and leave because that's not always the case. I'm just trying to see my prospects. I'm trying to see what I can be offered. And potentially, if I'm not successful in getting that role, it doesn't mean I'm leaving the firm. It just means I'll wait and try and train so I can get that next move in the future. That's internal. External roles are slightly different. What I would suggest is for external role, you need to do more research. You need to understand the market a lot better than you already do, purely because when you're dealing with other hiring managers, they have a different set of knowledge about the market and they have different requirements. And yes, you need to sell yourself a lot more externally. Internally, you've already got a bunch of key deliverables that you've sent and delivered. You've shown examples of good work practices and best practice. Externally, you have to start from scratch and build on that foundation. But I would suggest as well for any interview you’ve been invited to please, please attend them. Even if it's the case that you've decided from the offset that firm isn't for you, or know someone that works at that firm and you choose not to actually go forward with it. I would always say to go for that interview because: One, you can use it as experience. Two, you get to learn from that interview and you get to build a network. From the offset, you might say you don't want to work for X bank, but then you go into the interview and you really hit it off with the hiring manager and other peers in the team. You realize you fit right in, so you don't want to write it off. The final piece, I'd say is around negotiating your salary, your comp, and your benefits. When a job spec is provided to you by recruiters or one that you've applied to directly, there tends to be a pay band. For example, say it’s £60,000-90,000. What I would suggest is when you're starting with a salary or you're proposing a salary and package, always go beyond that. Start off at 92,000 and work your way down because that 90k is not the limit. There's always room for negotiation. If you've done a lot of activities outside of work by building your profile or completing X amount of qualifications or delivering audit requirements for that year and working on global projects, add all of that in, because all of these tasks that you just delivered on, you've learned a lot from and you can transfer those skills to this new firm and therefore you can use it as a negotiable.

Mary Rechtoris Thank you very much, Sonia. That’s all great. Say you do your research and you're ready to go talk to your line manager and whomever to say, “I deserve X raise or X benefit.” That’s a whole other ball game when it comes to actually communicating that and articulating that. So, Maribel and Kamaka, I think you both are very well versed in communication styles. How do you articulate yourself in a way to get your point across? Why don't we start with you, Maribel? What tips do you have for communicating your want in a way that will resonate with your manager, or whomever you're trying to appeal to?

Maribel Rivera: Once you have everything in place, it’s all about preparation and being ready to counter any of the conversations that come back. If it's internal and they've seen you grow within the organization, you should be able to say, “These are all the things that I've accomplished.” You should say, “I have set goals and these are the things that I did to accomplish this goal that we had. This is how I surpassed or accomplished this goal. These are the things that I did with this team. This is the thing I did as an individual.” You should be able to be prepared to have the conversations and also to have the counter conversation, because sometimes they will counter you and say, “Well, this is why I don't think that you would be right for this role, or this is why I don't think that salary would be the adequate salary for you for this role.” You have to be able to say all the points you have and be able to say it, no matter what they counter with. “I can show that this is the value I provided to the organization. This is the value I provided to the team. This is the value I provided to my clients.” If you have internal clients or external clients that have given you any kind of feedback, that should be in a portfolio that you provide and say, “Here is all the feedback that I've had on these projects that I've worked on.” For me, everything is always client services, right? No matter who I'm speaking to internally or externally, everyone is a client for me. And I should speak to them in a way that I would want to get their feedback. Having all of that feedback should be something I'm always striving for.

Kamaka Martin: I definitely think the concept of being prepared [is important]. We think that this is something that internally that you want to do, but preparation is really key for these conversations. For any crucial conversation you're going to have, it's important to be clear on your motives and your goals. You can radically change your motives by thoughtfully answering a simple question. Some practical things to do in those scenarios is ask yourself, what do I really want? I find it helpful to answer that at four levels. You want to answer: What do I really want for me? What do I want for the other person? What do I want for the relationship and what do I want for the other stakeholders? Because to Sonia's point, if you are doing an internal interview or you're trying to move internally, you want to be thinking about the longer term impacts of those conversations. Have open discourse. Build goodwill. So, you know that, hey, if this doesn't work out right now, that doesn't mean that I'm not going to do it or put in the work to build the skills so that I am prepared for the next time the opportunity is available. I also think that it's really important to set specific goals for those conversations. I want to leave the conversation with zero confusion. Make sure that you leave the conversation feeling completely confident that you've communicated all of your interests and your goals. And that's really only going to be effective if you are doing some planning beforehand. Then, you want to be very clear on what you want. Don't be squishy. Don't go into it thinking, well, if they say this, I'm going to respond with that. If they say that, I'm going to respond with this. You want to be clear. You want to be firm on what you want or you won't be able to articulate it when the time comes.

Mila Taylor: I love that. I haven't heard that term, squishy, enough. Often, I'll be feeling a feeling in the moment and I want to get off my chest and I want to speak to my manager. I want to speak to someone. And I don't take the time to take a step back and say, what do I actually want to achieve with this conversation and why am I having this conversation? I think that's a really important distinction to kind of say, like, this is obviously important to you. You take the time to actually figure out why you are having this conversation in the first place and exactly what you want to achieve. I want to shift gears slightly: So, understanding your value as a professional in this way is important in all the ways that we've discussed. But there are other ways that we value ourselves in the professional world and in our personal lives as well. Maribel, you do a lot, both professionally and personally, to mentor others and help in a variety of organizations. How have you integrated your personal and professional interests to drive your value?

Maribel Rivera: For anyone who's on the webinar who knows me, they know that my personal and professional overlap. I am authentic. This is who I am professionally. This is who I am personally. It is the same way I am with my both my friends and family and my professional colleagues. For me, I have values. I’m involved in anti-human trafficking [efforts]. I am a huge pet lover. I love animals. I am involved in diversity programs. I am involved in mentorship programs. Next week I am doing a full event with the Female Collaborative. I have got Soledad O'Brien and Sallie Krawcheck. We're talking about toxic masculinity. We've got people from the NFL in place. We've got a rap singer, Ja Rule, who will be there. I've taken all of that from my marketing and my personal branding. I do marketing and events on a professional level for global organizations. I've taken all of my skills there and put it into the nonprofit work I do. So in giving back, I've taught women how to brand themselves personally. Working with the Coalition for the Homeless, I am teaching women how to speak up for themselves and how to look at themselves. As we’ve talked about on the podcast, I am the CEO of my life. I walk into a room, any room whether that personally and professionally, I am the CEO. So everything I do personally and professionally has to reflect that. When I walk into a room at the Coalition for the Homeless or I walk into a room at Relativity Fest, I am doing the same. How do I build others up? How do I help them market themselves? How do I network and connect? If I want to look at an organization and they are against certain things that I am for, then that shouldn't be a company that I go work for long term. I'm not going to be happy if they don't value flexibility for men and women, let's say, who have families. Especially now when we're all working from home, you have to go find an hour or two to provide physical ed to your child because of classes. If your company is like, “No, you've got to be on meetings with me all day,” then maybe that's not the company for you. Right? So you have to find the companies that have the values and the culture that you want, and it has to overlap with the things that drive you personally.

Mary Rechtoris: Thank you everyone for tuning in to our latest recording from our first workshop. Stay updated on details for our next workshop in late June in our Stellar Women LinkedIn group. And with that, for Stellar Women, I'm Mary Rechtoris. Signing off.

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Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the brand team at Relativity, where she's always collaborating and looking for new ways to develop and socialize stories.