Money & Career

Twitter’s Kirstine Stewart answers our career conundrums

Anxious about your job? Us too. So we took our work problems to one of Canada’s coolest execs and asked her to solve them.

Kirstine Stewart. Credit, Twitter.

Photo, Twitter.

Are women cut out to be CEOs? Are women really able to have it all? Aren’t you tired of being asked these questions?

In her new book, Our Turn, Kirstine Stewart — Twitter’s VP of Media — answers all of those nagging, unambiguously sexist inquiries with a resounding “yes!” As the youngest person (and first woman!) ever to have run the CBC, Stewart knows a thing or two about being a total BO$$ (correct spelling). So the Chatelaine staff anonymously submitted our own career questions for Stewart to answer. Here’s her advice.

I feel like my distaste for networking is handicapping my career. How do I get over this? 

I don’t like networking either. I go to industry events to say hello and be friendly, but I’ve never gone networking for the sake of it. I don’t think networking has to happen at a bar or on a golf course; it happens in everyday life — your conversations with contacts, enriching the conversation, giving advice and being helpful in that moment. My first boss’s rule of thumb was go around the room once, go around the room twice and then leave. I loved that because it gives you a goal. If you find someone interesting to talk to, then you can throw that rule out the window.

I am a working mom with a great, fulfilling and, dare I say, “high-powered” job, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m messing up my kid somehow by indulging my ambitions. The guilt! I’m financially stable enough to work part-time, but I don’t want to halve my career and end up resenting my choice — or my family. Help.

Take it easy on yourself. Sometimes I wonder if we feel guilty because we feel like we should feel guilty as opposed to it coming from within. The one piece of advice I’m trying to get across in Our Turn is that we can be our own worst enemies, but we collectively need to be more supportive of each other. Everybody’s just trying to do the best they can. You have to lay off the pressure to find your own balance. I say you can have it all, but you have to decide what it is for you. Say, “Everybody’s just doing the best they can, and so am I.”

Am I talking too much in the boardroom? I’m often worried about speaking over someone or monopolizing the meeting. How do you get your ideas across without being a blowhard?

Think about what you’re trying to contribute in the moment. Are you trying to join the table to make sure your voice is heard, or to make sure your thought is heard? You should always be adding value to the conversation — not repeating, not saying “I agree with….”  That’s a plus-one mentality, a bit redundant. We need to be efficient with our time and our voices.

I start every other sentence with “I feel” and I apologize a lot. How can I get around this, or at least sound authoritative while not compromising my humanity?

There is a difference between the qualifiers that women seem to put on conversations (like, “I hope I’m not disturbing”) and having a conversation. Make sure you edit your words so they have the most impact. Take two seconds before you speak to self-edit or better construct a sentence for impact and communication; it’s not noticed by the other person. That moment may seem like an eternity for you, but not to the other person. That doesn’t mean editing out politeness or niceties; respect is a good thing to be given. One phrase that’s underused a lot is “to give [so and so] credit.”

I hate thinking about clothes but want to look put-together for work. Do you have a strategy for looking great without spending time obsessed with your appearance? 

Fashion is a great expression of your individuality. It’s not even just the time in the morning, but the time shopping, preparing and maintaining [a look]. It’s about knowing what you feel good in. Whatever makes you feel confident, so you’re not fidgeting. Some women find a pair of heels makes them feel incredibly confident; some find it makes them unable to walk as fast as they want to. I buy 10 things in the same style. My daughter says, “Mom, you have way too many jumpsuits,” but it’s just easy.

How do you stay organized? A notebook? One of those elaborate binders from Staples? Or are you all-digital all the time? 

I am digital with some human curation (by a fantastic assistant named Kristen). Now that everything is electronic, you can be pretty self-sufficient. But I don’t do anything incredibly high-tech: calendaring, I type [notes] under the table while in a meeting, ping people on video conference calls. And I’m not a laptop note-taker; I’m still a handwritten one.

Our Turn high res jacket JPG

Our Turn, Kirstine Stewart (Penguin Random House), $30.

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