You may have heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Now more than ever, having a strong professional network is a vital piece in advancing careers and conducting business.

A connection through your network can help you land a new job, find a great employee, offer insight to a challenging business problem, or simply provide advice.

Over more than two years of social distancing and remote work, our networking skills may have become rusty. Our most recent Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) event gathered four expert networkers and female technologists to share insights on retraining our networking muscle.

Joining the panel was Juliet Fox, Account Executive at Harbinger Partners, Natalie Gilliam, Product Operations Manager at Digineer, Jen Simon, Sr. Global Manufacturing Project Specialist at Microsoft, and Rosie Nestigen, Tech Transformation Director at Best Buy. Jade Denson, Sr. Manager of Tech Talent Programs at Target, moderated the panel.


The panel discussion kicked off with a discussion of best practices for effective networking. Jen shared that she relies heavily on LinkedIn as a tool to help her prepare for meetings.

“LinkedIn is Cliff Notes and they can fill in the details,” she said. Looking at someone’s work history and profile ahead of time allows you to get a deeper understanding of their connections and experience so you can spend more time discussing the important elements in a networking meeting.

People often shy away from networking because it can feel transactional and inauthentic. A key theme stressed by each panelist was the importance of bringing your authentic self to each interaction and creating meaningful relationships.

“Traditionally, networking is how you get a job and meaningful relationships are those people in your world that you want to spend time with,” Natalie said. “Realistically, it’s the same thing. You want to make those meaningful connections even when you don’t need a job today.”

Natalie stressed that approaching networking from the mindset of making deeper connections rather than viewing the interaction as a transaction or a tool will go a long way. Fostering deeper relationships with the people in your network will not only make the networking process more enjoyable, but will reap greater professional rewards in the future.

A key element in developing those deeper relationships is authenticity. Rosie commented on the changing nature of hiring and embracing your journey in an authentic way.

“In this moment, as we are thinking about workforce innovation, we’re thinking about flexible work, and so many companies are trying to think differently about how we’re engaging talent, we have to be a little more vulnerable and transparent and what the journey has been for us,” she said.

Rosie suggested being open about gaps in your resume and career journeys can help create that authentic relationship and move beyond a superficial interaction.

Perhaps the most lively topic of the night was on diversifying networks. Jen remarked that when trying to find a Black mentor for a connection, she was hit with the realization that her network was overwhelmingly white like her.


Often, our networks lack diversity because we are most comfortable with people who look and think like us. However, building an equitable technology ecosystem requires technologists to have a diverse connections. Getting started with diversifying your network can be daunting, but several panelists offered suggestions.

To expand her network, Jen regularly attends meetings of the Black Employee Resource Group at Microsoft to make connections with Black coworkers, and to listen and learn. Natalie suggested making a concerted effort to approach those who look different than yourself and to have that conversation, even if it may be uncomfortable. Jade suggested that networkers explore the elements that make up their identity and network based on those, whether that is hobbies such as professional sports, board games, or knitting. People are more complex and have many more identifies than just their race, gender, or sexuality, and making connections with others based on interests, hobbies, and activities can help you tap easily into a more diverse network.

After more than two years of virtual work and meetings, including virtual WLiT sessions, MnTech is grateful to help host a valuable session on networking to help female technologists succeed and grow in the Twin Cities technology industry.

You can view a recording of the panel discussion on MnTech’s Youtube Channel here:

MnTech is grateful for the participation of our panelists, moderator, and the WLiT sponsors. Registration is open for the next event, the annual Summer Happy Hour, taking place on August 11 at Pinstripes in Edina, MN. Learn more and register here.