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RBS CIO: Confidence and respect are key ingredients for successful networking

Being a woman is not a limiting factor

Whether you are a man or a woman, all you need is confidence and respect in order to start networking internally, according to RBS CIO Stephen Norman.

Networking can help boost IT professionals' profile in the business, so that they are well-placed for career opportunities, but also to help them understand and achieve their business objectives.

"[Internal networking] is especially important in large organisations because projects and activities tend to span many groups in different departments and regions. Often knowing who to talk to - or who can tell you who to talk to - is a vital part of getting things done. To be successful you have to be successful in your work, but you also have to be seen to be successful," Norman explained.

Norman, who is CIO of RBS's Global Banking and Markets division, told Computerworld UK that IT professionals just need to have the confidence to start engaging with other people in the business.

He added: "The ability to craft an engaging introduction, or to find topics of mutual benefit or interest, while being respectful of other people's time [are key components to successful networking]."

Norman recently spoke on a panel at the WomeninTechnology's "Internal Networking: How to Make it Work" event in London, and his views were supported by co-panellist Rebecca Manuel, global head of sovereign wealth fund coverage at RBS Global Banking and Markets.

"A level of self-confidence in order to ask people for their time, and a level of empathy and respect in order to understand that networking is a two-way process and is as much about giving time as it is asking for it [is important]," said Manuel.

"If you want to get on someone's calendar, don't over-analyse it. The worst that can happen is he or she says no."

Norman does not believe that women are necessarily at a disadvantage because of their sex when it comes to internal networking.

"For example, I went to the launch event of our Leading Edge programme, which is our key management development course for entry-level managers and the most energetic and engaging participants both in the auditorium and informally afterwards were women," said Norman.

Manuel argued that rather than simply being 'better' than women at networking, men are merely more likely to network more frequently, usually at informal and impromptu social events, whereas over time, women tend to move away from the impromptu approach over time.

"[Women] are probably more reliant on formal networking opportunities which require more planning and a much more proactive approach, which is one reason why that gap starts to appear, particularly as women advance in seniority," she said.

"One of the ways that women can get better about networking is to imbed the networking mentality early on in their careers so that it becomes part and parcel of their career management strategy," she suggested.

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