Microsoft Group Business Program Manager Petya Vidolova’s star is still rising as a leader in the business world, but her success to date is built on a foundation of perseverance and forward thinking. Vidolova was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States some 17 years ago, starting her career from the ground up, including learning the English language.
Today at Microsoft she leads a team of 80 people, including consultants and company in the tech giant’s One Commercial Partner - Partner Digital Engines & Programs unit. She started her career at Microsoft in 2006 with the Corporate Market Research and Insights team.
Vidolova also is dedicated to helping other women find a path to success in the tech industry through her mentoring and coaching work. She serves as a tech ambassador for Bulgarian Women in Tech, a nonprofit group launched last year in Seattle that is working to develop local chapters around the globe as part of its mission to create a strong network of women working in technology.
What are the most important characteristics of a good leader and what leadership traits are overrated? Good leaders are the ones who have empathy, vision and are seen as role models. As a leader, it is important to know how to motivate people and be able to create a work environment where everybody wants to be part of it. I believe that the most overrated leadership characteristic is being loud. Many people used to believe that to be a leader you need to have a loud voice and that the loud voices are the ones that are heard. There are so many other ways to achieve your goals, to engage the audience and to make people follow you. Some of the best contributors I have experienced are people who are quiet, do a lot of research before they speak up and have strong ideas.
As a woman, what is the most significant barrier to becoming a leader? Becoming a leader involves much more than being put in a leadership role. Leadership skills can be acquired at any level. Often, before applying for leadership roles or asking for a promotion, most women try to meet every single requirement, which can be an impossible task. Many of these skills can be acquired on the job. Once in a leadership role, some women (especially the more successful ones) have a strong imposter syndrome, where they think that everybody else is doing a better job than them. It also requires companies to be able to recognize and encourage the process of more women becoming leaders. Other reasons, such as family responsibilities, are seen as a barrier in some cases ― where balancing between raising a family and navigating a demanding career can be very challenging.
How can women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations? Women need to surround themselves with people who are willing to invest in their careers once they have proven their value. They need to build the right relationships and actively seek high visibility and high impact opportunities. It is important to proactively drive your career ― and not wait for somebody else to do it ― by defining very clear career goals and the steps to get you there. There is research that shows that people spend more time planning their vacations than their careers and that having a well-defined career plan is one of the first steps to get there. So, spend some time mapping what is next for you.
What key lessons did you learn from a woman who has inspired, mentored or sponsored you? I am lucky to work in a company where I am surrounded by many inspiring women who have very bold goals. This environment has played a crucial role in my personal and career success. I always have dedicated some time of my busy schedule to meet/work with mentors. It is not uncommon to have multiple mentors at times, for different reasons like networking, learning a specific skill, exploring new opportunities.
Some of the best advice I have received:
- * Whatever you do, be present. (If you are at work, focus on work; if you are with your family, give your full attention to your family).
* Surround yourself with people who invest in your success.
* Act like you deserve your success, because you do.
* Constantly challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders? Be yourself. Don't try to act like somebody else. Don't try to change yourself. Know your strong sides. Be aware of your weaknesses and invest more time in developing your strengths. Also, be open to new opportunities because if you never dare to try new things, you will never know how successful you can be there.
What would you do differently in your career? Early in my career I didn't have very well-defined goals. Now, I know that this is a crucial part of achieving success. And remember that if you don't set your own goals, somebody else will do this for you. In the past, I also tried to complete everything by myself, but I realized very quickly that learning to delegate is the only way to achieve scale.
Where will we find you on a Saturday afternoon? Walking/running around Lake Washington, at the Pro Club [gym] or reading at home.
What would be the title of your autobiography? “How to Move to a New Country and Start Your Life from ZERO.”