Leadership Q&A: Javiera Soto

Post by: Abbey Baldacchino
Published: 21 September 2023

Tell us about your career so far. 

I am a seasoned female leader with a dynamic background spanning over 19 years across diverse industries, including Technology, Defence, Government, and Enterprise. Specialising in consulting, I am passionate about driving transformative change in the realms of health and well-being, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), leadership development, business growth, customer relationships, and sales optimisation. 

Through my career, I have honed my expertise in implementing programs that elevate organisations to new heights.   My multidimensional experience across various sectors, often in a male dominated environment has granted me a unique perspective on the complex challenges and opportunities faced by businesses today. I have a talent for identifying strategic growth opportunities and driving revenue streams which primarily come down to my ability to build lasting customer relationships that achieve exceptional results.   

My dedication to fostering a culture of well-being within organisations has empowered individuals to thrive both personally and professionally. I believe that investing in employee health and happiness yields remarkable returns, not only in productivity but also in building a more compassionate and cohesive work environment. Embracing diversity and promoting inclusion is at the core of my leadership philosophy. I have spearheaded transformative initiatives that promote equitable workplaces, breaking down barriers, and creating environments where every voice is valued and heard. 

As we all know, our lives are intertwined with our professional careers.  As a military spouse (20+years), I understand the unique challenges faced by military families. So in my spare time, I actively volunteer and advocate for initiatives that support and uplift military spouses. Through mentorship programs and community outreach, I aim to provide resources and opportunities that contribute to their personal and professional growth, helping them thrive despite the frequent transitions and demands of military life. 

The majority of your career has taken place in male-dominated spaces, including an intersection of providing services to the military and sales. How have you maintained confidence while being sometimes the only woman in a workplace? 

Like many other women who have been in similar positions, the challenges of imposter syndrome can seem overwhelming, especially when you literally are sometimes the only woman in the room.  There have been many times especially when I did something for the first time where I felt like gosh, I hope I did that right.  However, as we know doing something for the first time, if you break it up into small accomplishable steps you soon realise that you’ve got this!  To support my confidence, I always ensured that I was prepared, I sought guidance from a range of people that I knew had accomplished similar things like this before.  I made a point to establish a support network of trusted professionals as I grew in my professional career (from a range of different disciplines, ages, cultures, backgrounds) that way I was able to ask for advice, consult them about how I was thinking about the problem and the solution that I came up with. Above all, I used this mentorship to listen, learn and act with information that was shared.  

Now this wasn’t a fool proof way of doing things, so I also learnt by making mistakes (and many of them).  One thing I would do is ask for feedback from my colleagues (most of them being men) and they were always willing to give their feedback J.  I used the feedback as an opportunity to seek to understand how to ensure that I got my point across, clearly and concisely, essentially I learnt to implement the practice of reflection.  This exercise of asking for feedback actually assisted me in building my network as many of them are still mentors of mine to this very day, champions of change willing to support me in my professional and personal life. 

As time passed, my talents grew (even with several career changes) and so too my confidence.  I was able to use my multidimensional abilities from a diversity of sectors, to build and maintain meaningful relationships with people, this was the key (in my opinion) to achieve the outcomes I set out to deliver.   

You’ve worked in organisations that seek to address veteran & family underemployment. What are the current barriers you’ve identified through your work for those wanting to begin a career in tech? 

In my experience, barriers are on the side of the employer.  Many of the brave men and women of the Defence forces transition from service fit and ready for a new career and its often the barriers that employers have during their hiring processes that prevent the employer from benefiting from the talents that the veteran community bring into industry.   

This can include, using CV’s that are run through an automated system (lets face it this is not only a barrier to the veteran community but many diverse groups).  Hiring managers imposing that you must have years of experience for an entry level role and numerous tech certifications to do the job, rather than adopting or using a framework to measure competency of skills.   

A majority of the work that I have done has been consulting to support business to implement a program that supports diverse hiring practices, to recognise that the skills especially in tech can be learnt, your ability to demonstrate competency needs to be measured against a framework and that an increase in your ability is achieved over time.   

What do you think workplaces you’ve worked in and observed could do better to enhance diversity and inclusion?   

Organisations that I have observed doing this well don’t have grandiose change the world in a day goals, but specific and measurable ones that have a clear change management plan.  I think organisations would be well to remember the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Silly. What I mean buy that is, organisations that want to improve upon (existing programs) or implement (new programs) need to clearly define what their DE&I goals are and start small (think pilot).  Something that they can monitor and ensure that lessons learned are implemented into a process that is repeatable but can be adjusted to support the unique cultural or diversity differences. 

Workplaces that have done this well also have a change champion that supports the entire process, someone that is accessible (for questions, guidance) to the managers who will be onboarding these individuals into their business units.  Another way to enhance the outcomes is for organisations to set up Employee Resource Groups (ERG) which are an effective means for diverse individuals joining the organisation to seek support from that will meet their specific cultural or diversity needs.  Again, they don’t have to be large scale, but can complement the outcomes of the overall strategy that is built upon for the DE&I goals that the organisation is trying to achieve.  

You dedicate some of your off time to coaching more junior women in tech sales – What advice do you have for those who are trying to find the right coach/mentor?

Guiding and nurturing emerging leaders is a passion of mine. I dedicate my personal time to mentoring other women wanting to break into sales.  My advice is establishing a network of people who you can seek guidance from that are willing to give you objective advice.  This can be through people you meet throughout your career journey (doesn’t have to be in sales directly), friends of family, even seeking mentors through networking events.  I highly recommend thinking about establishing a group of people that have different personas, can give you different and diverse opinions (doesn’t have to be huge numbers this comes as your career grows).  You then work this advice into your plan to attain the outcomes you are trying to accomplish.  Remember coaches/mentors give you guidance, what you do and how you use this information is ultimately up to you.  You might implement something they said, and it doesn’t work out, that’s ok, reflect, what happened, what did you learn, what could you have done differently, what will you do next time and then make sure you follow through.   

Your journey is about building your tool kit, developing your brand, that is how you will learn and what eventually will make you unique in your career. So think, build a network of diverse people that you can obtain guidance from (allow this group to evolve as you grow) and enjoy the experiences that you acquire.   

What advice would you give other female sales professionals wanting to progress into leadership?  

My initial advise would be to make a plan, set yourself goals and then set stretch targets, you don’t need to have all the answers or the skills to progress into a leadership opportunity.  Women are known to only put themselves forward for opportunities when they believe that they have all the things they need to succeed, to have worked on their weaknesses.  Leadership is not about doing everything – my humble opinion is double down on your strengths queens and delegate to others who have those skills, that can make up for your weaknesses (gaps).  It takes a team of people to build an organisation, achieve goals not just one person.   

Leadership skills are developed over time and the experiences that you gain.  Leadership isn’t for everyone, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a go.  It’s important in any sales role, whether its individual contributor or dabbling in leadership opportunities to live by a set of values and principles, think of them as your guiding compass to always do the right thing.  My leadership principles emphasise integrity, empathy, passion, innovation, and continuous learning.  I have lived by these principles throughout my career, and they have never let me down, if I didn’t know something – I learnt it if I really needed too or I found someone who wanted to do it.  But I always did the right thing by my values, and that sometimes meant having the courage to make tough decisions and even leave a position that didn’t align to my values anymore.   Ladies, you have everything that you need to reach your goals, so go for it, stay true to yourself, and remember you do not have to compromise your values to get to the top.