Can you really develop and maintain virtual relationships?

Developing virtual relationships has become the new norm, and Tina Gravel says the world best get used to it.

Tina Gravel, SVP Global Channels and Alliances, Appgate has worked remotely for years and says that workers around the world are going to have to get used to doing the same.

Speaking ahead of her panel session on ‘Human in Digital’ at the Women in IT Virtual Summit Silicon Valley, she shares with DiversityQ, how building virtual relationships is a skill that everyone already has, but just needs to tap into.

How does the female tech community in Silicon Valley support each other?

The female community I’m a part of is very close and supportive. I’ve also made it my business to be part of affinity groups who work hard to support other women, and I love it.

Women need to promote each other, so aside from the groups that I’m a part of, I also follow informal groups on Twitter, or LinkedIn. I make sure to share what the women in these groups are posting, whether it’s their daughter’s ballet class or getting an award at work.

For years men have been celebrated for the tiniest of accolades, so I make sure to always do the same for my female counterparts, who may not have a lot of confidence or may have held back from sharing their achievements. I want my peers’ achievements to get the same level of attention that men’s accolades have always had.

Is the Women in IT Summit the best place to do that?

Absolutely. First, I have to commend the group that is putting on this event. It’s a challenging time for events right now, but this event is so important. We’ve made strides for women in the IT scene, and we cannot let ourselves go backwards.

The WIT Summit is full of topics related to challenges that we still have as women working in technology. If we want to solve them, we have put our collective brains together to address some of the challenges we face.

Could you tell me about your panel?

It is called ‘The Human in Digital’, and we have an excellent panel of incredible speakers, including Helen Yu, Founder & CEO, Tigon Advisory Corp; Eileen Mahoney, Chief Information Officer, PVH Corp; Ioana Bazavan, Security Managing Director, Accenture; Kathryn Ullrich, Technology Partner & Head of US Diversity, Odgers Berndtson; Early Boykins, Venture Partner, Start Zero and Varsha Makharia, Business Relationship Manager, Tata Consultancy Services.

Each speaker brings their unique area of experience and expertise; we all have different ideas of navigating working remotely and cultivating relationships in that space. Most importantly, the one thing that we all have in common is that we are human. Right now, it’s more important than ever to make sure that our people skills are continuing to be assessed.

One of the things we will be talking about is how to use the skills that we learned when we were children, accessing them and making them more applicable in this new remote working world. What we need to successfully build virtual relationships is already there, but we need to unlock it.

Do we need to get used to making connections and relationships virtually?

I think as with anything, there will be some level of what we are calling temporary that will continue, whether it be social distancing or working from home. Although I have been working remotely for about 20 years now, many people and departments have only just started working remotely and are finding that employees are just as productive.

I believe that there will be far more flexibility in working remotely and more of it in the future. I don’t necessarily think that this means that we will never need office spaces again, but nevertheless, remote working has proven to be effective. That will continue.

Do we need face-to-face interaction to succeed?

Well right now we don’t have any, but we’re still succeeding. Still, these are special times. Everyone understands that we can’t be together. In the future, if I’m the person that is face-to-face, and I’m competing with someone who is not, yes, I think I will have an advantage. We will see if we return to that situation what will happen, but I do think some level of face to face engagement is important.

At the same time, it’s not essential. We can’t help that we can’t see everybody face-to-face, and so we have found how to be successful without it. This period has taught us something, which is when we are forced to do things differently, we can do it and do it well. And that’s what we’ve done, we have been forced to communicate exclusively virtually, and we have learnt to do it better than we ever thought was possible to do.

Hear more from Tina at the Women in IT Virtual Summit Silicon Valley. You can register your place here.
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