Emerging Leader Spotlight: Megan Upp

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing to take the lead in her career. We invite her to share how she achieved her current position, what obstacles she encountered on her climb, as well as tips for how to be a rising woman of influence.

This month we shine the Emerging Leader Spotlight on Megan Upp, Software Engineer with Neustar. Megan also founded the Women in Technology group at her office.

Megan Upp
Megan Upp

Favorite leadership quote: “Great leaders don’t set out to be leaders. They set out to make a difference.” — Jeremy Bravo.

Why did you choose your current career path?
I chose my current career path because I have always enjoyed solving difficult problems. While working with technology is great, my real passion is the logic needed to be successful as an engineer. Through my variety of professional experiences at Neustar, I have found that this logical thinking, whether applied to software or business problems, is what invigorates me.

What is the most important thing you have learned that has been critical to your career success?
I have found that transparency in my ambition has helped me the most. I started by clearly communicating my career path and getting advice about the best way to position myself to get there. By asking for what I wanted, I was able to accomplish the necessary steps to achieve it in a short timeframe.

I have found that many people sit back and wait for opportunities to come their way—or even get upset that they are not getting the recognition they deserve. I prevented this frustration by making my ambitions clear upfront.

What key steps did you take to get to the role you are in today?
To get to my current role, I established myself as an expert in my entry-level position, so that my coworkers knew I could be trusted to get the job done well.

Then, when I was offered a promotion that would take my career in a different direction, I initially hesitated to take it.

Eventually I decided that at this early stage in my career, learning was the most important thing. This step proved integral to my career path, because it put me into an even better position to excel as an engineer. It put me on the front lines with the clients, so I now understand the business problems they are trying to solve with the tools my team creates.

What is your leadership style
It might be too soon to say! It’s no secret that I’m young, and it’s no secret that I have never led a professional group of people before. Sure, I’ve been the captain of some volleyball teams and the president of some clubs, but I have never led more tenured colleagues.

With this being the case, I’ve molded my innate personality traits into a leadership style–collaboration, experimentation, and transparency. This leadership style developed over the course of starting a Women in Technology group at my office.

What steps are you currently taking to improve yourself, professionally?
Starting the Women in Technology group in my office was not a conscious “professional improvement” step in my career, but rather a passion project that turned into career development.

Where my leadership used to be limited to a knowledge-leader within my team, I am now a leader in the more traditional sense for a group of women in my office. This has opened more professional doors for me than any of the steps that I’ve taken so far.

The best part? I’m doing it because I enjoy it, and because I am passionate about women having a forum for sharing successes and challenges, for pushing each other, and most importantly, for pulling each other up.

When we have personal relationships with the other exceptional women in the office, it’s much easier to say “hey, I want to give her this opportunity with me because I know how amazing she is at her job.” Forming this group has pushed me as a leader. It has enabled me to form a leadership style, and to try things out when the stakes are relatively low.

What professional accomplishment or result have you achieved in the past year that you are proud of?
I am proud of the way the Women in Technology organization has developed. With the help of leaders in the San Francisco office, and key contributors in the group in San Diego, we have developed a brand for ourselves.

What tools or resources have you used that have been crucial to your success?
I found mentors. This wasn’t just when I started my career; this has been the case my entire life. Each school I attended provided many mentors—people whose life experiences and knowledge I could soak up and take with me.

Neustar has provided me unparalleled mentors. I am comfortable walking into their offices and just asking them simple questions. Whenever I’m faced with a tough career choice, I am able to bounce ideas off of people who have been through many more than me.

What are some top tips you can recommend to other women who want to be recognized as high potential emerging leaders?
I have found that just keeping my head up, staying approachable, and networking have been crucial. People know me because I make a point to converse with everyone. That way, when a coworker is looking for someone with my skillset, they come directly to me because they are comfortable talking to me. The more people I help, the more I become known as a knowledge leader.

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Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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