Welcome to Part 2 of the article I wrote in May called Did You Earn Certs & Expect a $20,000 Raise?
I was supposed to write this post a week later, but the way my life is set up, we’re in November….
As I was reflecting over this year, I felt compelled to write about using accomplishments, communication, and accountability to secure the bag.
Women continue to struggle with self-promotion due to lack of confidence or fear of being perceived as bragging. But if your accomplishments are invisible to a boss who is busy juggling a thousand balls, you will not be rewarded at the frequency of the person who is advocating for themselves.
Additionally, I thought about the points of contention this year and realized that most of the issues could have been addressed with better communication. Whether it was projects that did not progress as planned or wrong assumptions about someone’s intent, lack of communication was always the root cause.
Moreover, I’ve observed that some people struggle with accountability. Well I have the opposite problem: I’m slightly OCD about holding myself accountable for the goals I set. As a result, I am always looking for ways to improve the process of setting goals and achieving meaningful results. (I also beat myself up when I do not meet the expectations I set for myself).
I know that these issues are universal. Therefore, let’s talk about a solution to the following:
- In the midst of all the tasking, how do you keep your accomplishments in front of your boss?
- How can you improve communication with your manager?
- How do you hold yourself accountable for reaching the goals you set?
An effective way that I’ve learned to accomplish all three is a weekly report of accomplishments, activities, issues, and projects.
If you fight fires all week, how do you decide what is an accomplishment? This answer will vary each week, but I encourage you to define success on your own terms. Having this section appear on your report first serves many purposes, including that it:
- Forces you to achieve goals so that you have accomplishments to report.
- Challenges you to be intentional about identifying and prioritizing high value work.
- Provides a running list of tangible contributions to justify pay increases and promotions.
- Changes the narrative from just “doing the job” to acknowledging your accomplishments.
- Allows you to regularly communicate your value, which boosts confidence and decreases imposter syndrome.
Use this section to report on items such as:
- Remediation, etc.
Use this section to communicate business and technical problems such as:
- Anything that could impact system availability.
- Technical limitations that could impact project deadlines.
- Resource constraints negatively affecting performance.
- Vendor disputes, product vulnerabilities, and capability issues.
- Product deprecations, contract expirations, etc.
If you are not tracking your projects, even the mini projects, you need to start today.
- This provides clear visibility into your current workload.
- You can validate if your projects are aligned with the business.
- If you’re in a lead role (like I am), it provides insight into resource allocation for your team.
- You can determine whether your career goals are being met or growth assignments are needed.
- When priorities need to shift, your boss (not you) can determine what needs to move down or off the list.
To summarize, you can improve communication with your manager, reach your goals, and make your accomplishments visible with this weekly report to your boss. Note that managers are busy, so it is important to communicate in easily digestible bullet points.
You can keep detailed notes in a separate report for yourself for easy reference if needed, but start with bullet points and let your manager decide if more info is warranted.
Here’s what it should look like:
- Bullet list of your (or your team’s) accomplishments and/or metrics (managers love metrics)
- Bullet list of upcoming activities
- Bullet list of issues that could impact deliverables, system availability, etc.
Format this section in a table so that it is easy to read using the following table headers:
Use this template as a starting point and ask your manager for feedback. Some ideas for questions to ask:
- Is more or less information is needed?
- Should another main header be added to report other data or metrics that he/she deems important?
- How can you improve the report?
- How can you add more value to the team?
Ask these questions AT LEAST once a month. The only section that I’ll advise you not to compromise on is the accomplishments section. Leave it first and do not remove it!
You should be having regular meetings with your manager. If you are not, raise your hand and ask for them! You can use these reports to guide your conversations and proactively manage your career growth.
I began this post with a reference to my May 2018 article about earning certs and expecting an automatic pay increase. You should be regularly communicating your contributions to your boss and consistently demonstrating value prior to getting credentials.
That way, acquiring the credential is just part of a larger conversation about how much value you are bringing to the team and why earning a certification warrants a pay increase if appropriate.
Whether a pay increase is appropriate or warranted varies, so do your research and know your worth. All credentials are not created equal and earning a piece of paper does not always mean that a promotion or pay increase will automatically follow. However, the money should follow if you are demonstrating value.
Conversely, some of these roles are just a chapter in your career. You have to learn to be okay with that and be prepared to write new chapters, especially if your skills are in high demand and you are better informed about negotiating total compensation packages.
Finally, tech skills are important. But as you continue your journey, remember that communication and report writing are essential skills to Secure The Info$ec Bag.
Keirsten Brager is a Lead Security Engineer at a Fortune 500 power utility company and was recently named one of Dark Reading’s top women in security quietly changing the game. She is also the author Secure The InfoSec Bag: Six Figure Career Guide for Women in Security. She produced this digital book to help women strategically plan their careers, diversify their incomes, and fire bad bosses. Keirsten holds a M.S. in Cybersecurity and several industry certifications, including Splunk, CISSP and CASP. As an active member of the Houston security community, Mrs. Brager has participated in a number of panels and public speaking engagements promoting strategies for success. In her free time, she loves sharing career advice, cooking New Orleans food and convincing women not to quit the industry.