While my first key lesson from Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins is for both men and women, this one is specifically for women.
Yes, we’re watching this trial bring to focus gender discrimination as a core issue in the technology industry. That discussion needs to happen. I am glad it is happening.
Meanwhile, for young, talented, ambitious women out there, I have a few words of wisdom.
Please do me a favor, and do not go have affairs with married colleagues.
In fact, it is best that you do not have affairs with colleagues at all.
If you are truly serious about your career, stay focused on your career.
Do not distract yourself by getting sucked into sordid situations, as Ellen allowed herself to get drawn into:
Ms. Pao, who is expected to testify as early as Friday, began at Kleiner in 2005 as Mr. Doerr’s chief of staff. She had a consensual affair with a married junior partner, Ajit Nazre, that ended badly. Her suit maintains that Mr. Nazre was in a position to retaliate against her, and did so, and that her position at the firm suffered when she complained.
For Ellen, it ended badly.
You can assume, if you go down this path, it will end badly for you too.
It always does.
You can also assume, within reasonable probability ranges, that if you are an attractive woman playing in this male dominated industry, you will be constantly propositioned by men. Married men. Single men. Divorced men. Frustrated men. Bored men, looking for some thrill. Narcissistic men, looking to play. Jerks. Assholes. The entire gamut.
Please learn how to protect yourselves.
Learn how not to give signals to men that you can be messed with.
And trust me, you can do it.
Yes, I am speaking from (vast) experience!
Here’s a wonderful saying that a friend of mine shared recently: “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”
In this case, you cannot afford yourself the luxury of bad judgment and experience to get to good judgment.
You need to leapfrog straight to good judgment, set ground rules, and avoid ending up in a pile of muck!