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LOVE/HATE HER? Defining Your Leadership Style In Tech

What you missed at our last Meetup…

May 19th may have been the hottest day in Berlin this year so far. But that didn’t stop our Community from attending our much-anticipated LOVE/HATE HER? Defining Your Leadership Style In Tech Meetup in partnership with Native Instruments. 

Hosted in Native Instruments HQ, there was food, drinks, tunes and of course, hot topics ready to be dissected by our leadership panel. Not only did our panel come ready to dish out the hard-cold realities of being a leader, but they also stuck around for what seemed to be the most important Q&A at our Meetups to date. Our panel included:

Füsun Wehrmann

Füsun Wehrmann |

GM Global Transportation Engineering and Product |


Sherry Parvaneh

Sherry Parvaneh |

Chief Information Officer (CIO) |

Native Instruments, a Soundwide brand

Chiedza Muguti

Chiedza Muguti |

Product Leader |


Marta Michniewicz

Marta Michniewicz |

Founder & Coach |


Didn’t make it on the night? Not to worry because we made notes so we can share the key highlights from this truly inspiring event. 

Füsun Wehrmann speaking at Xena Meetup


Kicking off the panel discussion was Sherry Parvanel. She reminded the audience that the number of women in technology is still scarce despite 18% of bachelor’s earned by women. For Sherry, being a “resilient, adaptable, and persistent” leader is what helped overcome challenges that came her way. Even with her impressive CV and experience, she too has experienced rejection. Having sent out “200 applications and being rejected from every single one”. A subtle reminder of when the going gets tough, just keep going… 

One often-overlooked challenge of becoming a leader is the responsibility you adopt which may come as a surprise. The one thing that Sherry wished someone would have told her before she became a leader is, “you’re truly responsible for others and their lives depend on you.” 

You might have found yourself in a leadership position because of your star-studded performance on the team. But ‘“if you’re going to be a good manager, you’re not going to be the best engineer”. This is what Füsun Wehrmann struggled to accept when she became a leader. Broadening your scope will cause chaos, and it’s never going to be perfect. So strap yourself in and embrace it.

Chiedza Muguti speaking at Xena Meetup

Developing your leadership style 

As you can imagine, becoming a junior manager to a seasoned leader involves a consistent cycle of evolution. At first, you might be afraid to be the leader of a team that makes mistakes. You might even feel that “you need to be flawless”. This is what Chiedza Muguti experienced before she quickly realised that being a leader is “about enabling people and empowering people to do their job”. Her biggest evolution was to stop trying to please everyone and to become more decisive. 

Your leadership style will evolve over time taking into consideration your environment, team, and company. This is what changes you as a manager and defines you as an individual. For Sherry, being likable and being respected is the same journey. You need to be firm, but you can also have empathy. For what seemed like the most important piece of advice during the whole event was when Sherry reminded everyone that,

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

Leaders will realise this over time. Well, at least we hope they do.

Marta Michniewicz speaking at Xena Meetup


It’s no surprise that the typical stereotypes women in tech encounter were up for debate. Obstacles the panel come up against included being interrupted, not being taken seriously in meetings, not having their work celebrated, and even sexist remarks. As Marta notes,  “Stereotypes are there. You can ignore them but it’s your choice in how you respond to them.” 

Everyone has a responsibility to challenge and deal with stereotypes as they arise. Without doing so, they will continue and the next woman sitting in your seat will have the same experience. So speak up, and speak out. We need more allies to address these matters immediately. 

Success VS Likeability 

The need to be liked is part of our human nature. It’s actually a fundamental human need. We want to help people and we want them to like us for it. When you’re a leader you need to make peace with the fact that the responsibility of the company’s deliverables depends on you. And if being liked gets in the way of that then the sooner you unlearn your need to be liked the better. 

You should feel successful as a leader if…
→ Your team functions when you’re not there

→ Your team doesn’t need you 24/7 

→Your not the center of everything 

→ Your team has everything they need to be successful 

→ The team you managed has gone through to the next level in their careers

Whether you have an organisation that is 5 or 500 people, the most important thing is their “psychological safety, their value and their autonomy.” Thank you Sherry. We hope others take this advance on board. 

Future Leaders  

To round things off, our discussion turned to the people who matter the most – your team. As the saying goes, how do you “Leave the door open and the ladder down?”. And that is exactly what we asked our panel. 

You have to give feedback and reward them fairly. If you believe in karma, as Füsun does, you’ll take advantage of getting sponsored, and then you’ll give back your experience and learnings to the next person in your ranks. As a leader, you can always spot the few people on your team that shows potential. You push them forward in the hope that they will become future leaders. 

As Chiedza notes,

“Stop asking people where they want to be in 5 years and start asking them where they want to be now.”

Provide them with the ownership they need, and let them succeed. 

And that brings us to the end of the panel and our first Berlin Meetup of 2022. If you missed this one, make sure you sign up to the Xena Community for information about our next event. 

Photography by: giovannidominice

Music by @niki_k____


About our partner

For more than 20 years, Native Instruments has been at the heart of musical innovation. Our audio technology has revolutionized how people make music, opening new creative horizons for amateurs and professionals alike and giving rise to thriving creative communities.

Today, it is part of Soundwide. Soundwide’s mission is to make music and audio creation a more joyful and inspiring experience for creators everywhere by helping them to find, and stay in, their creative flow.

Sign up for the Xena Meetup group to be the first to know about our next event. 

Work with Xena

The market is calling out for diversity and we’re listening. We hire women in Engineering and Product for companies who are serious about closing the gender gap on their tech team. Work with us and gain access to our gender-diverse talent pool including Senior Engineering, Product and Leadership talent. Want to work with us to close the gender gap in tech?

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