HCMx Radio 70: What Makes a Great Woman Leader

Guest: Sandi Lin, CEO and Co-Founder, Skilljar

Host: Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

In this episode of HCMx Radio, we interview Sandi Lin, the CEO and Co-Founder of Skilljar. It is a customer training and certification platform used by companies like Zendesk, Cisco, and Spotify to accelerate product adoption, deepen customer engagement, and increase retention. Before Skilljar, she was a senior manager at Amazon.com.

Sandi offers excellent advice on what makes a great leader regardless of your gender. She attributes some of her leadership styles to a male boss early in her career who was very supportive and encouraging.  His framework has stuck with her, and some of the components include:


  • Authentic – be true to your style.
  • Protection – shield the team from noise to keep them focused.
  • Direction – what is the North Star – the audacious goal.
  • Order – what are the priorities that will get you to the North Star.

During our discussion, Sandi shared critical factors that she sees in the workplace that continue to hold women back from advancing. They include:

  • Lack of confidence. Shari often has to convince highly qualified women that they can do the job. Only 1% of women candidates show their confidence.
  • Reluctance of women to market themselves. It’s okay for women to be ambitious, but women spend a lot of their lives downplaying their strengths and intellect because they want to be liked and accepted.
  • Difficulty in finding sponsors/mentors. It is important for all employees to have the support of both men and women in the workplace. Women need sponsors to speak up and advocate for them. There are not a lot of women leaders at the top, so it can be more difficult for women to find those sponsors.

Sandi offers great advice to new generations coming into the workplace: “Find a place you can work for people you admire – with integrity – don’t worry about the title or industry.  If your career is like mine, it may take you into many different directions, so make sure you choose wisely the people you work with and surround yourself with.”

To listen to the Sandi Lin interview, you can download or stream the podcast anytime at the HCMx Radio site.

Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

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