Top women leaders at Insider Inc. provide the tips and insights they used to get ahead and reach the top

Caitlin Harper


Twice a year, our Women’s Group hosts an Insider Women Inspiring Lifelong Leadership (I WILL) panel that highlights women at Insider Inc. who are blazing trails, leading great teams, and making us work as effectively as possible.

Our Executive Director of Content Strategy and Analytics for Insider Studios, Patricia Chui, our VP of Media Strategy & Client Success at Insider Inc., Melanie Winer, and our Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider, Alyson Shontell, appeared on our most recent panel, moderated by Growth Editor and Women's Group leader, Navah Maynard.

From left: Alyson Shontell, Patricia Chui, Melanie Winer, Navah Maynard

From left: Alyson Shontell, Patricia Chui, Melanie Winer, Navah Maynard

The panelists talked about our company culture, tips for finding and nurturing a mentoring relationship, and what characteristics make leaders successful. Here was their best advice.

1. When asked what it takes to be a successful leader, the panelists identified a number of key qualities and traits like empathy, confidence, and self-awareness. 

In Women’s Group, we often talk about how important emotional intelligence, empathy, and communication skills can be in the workplace, so we asked our panelists what other qualities or characteristics make leaders successful.

“Everyone has a different perception of what a leader is, and it’s good to figure out what it means to you,” Patricia said. She likes to lead by example. Alyson listed empathy, confidence, listening, being human, and being able to admit mistakes. Melanie added self awareness to the list. “No one is perfect!”

2. When it comes to mentorship, organic relationship-building and an emphasis on ensuring the relationship is truly a two-way street were key.

Melanie tried to figure out a mentorship strategy for a while, but found far more success when the relationship grew organically. She encouraged the audience to reach out to someone and offer them something. Alyson agreed and pointed out that relationships work two ways and if you make your boss look good through hard, effective work, they’ll likely turn around and be a sponsor for you. Patricia added that her mentor pushed her but still gave her plenty of space to learn and lead on her own, so an organic relationship is key.

3. As far as advocating for yourself when you feel like your good work is going unnoticed, the panelists all agreed that it’s your responsibility to make sure your boss or manager knows what you’re doing — and don’t be afraid to brag.

Alyson stressed that managing up is a very important skill. Have people who know your work and your worth and are willing to go to bat for you. Melanie agreed, reminding us that everyone — including your boss — can be working so hard that they don’t see what’s going on around them. Make sure your manager knows what you’re doing. “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want,” Patricia said. “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.”

4. Insider Inc. encourages its employees to take risks and embrace rapid recovery, and sometimes moving at the speed of digital means that mistakes will happen. All three panelists agreed that if you make a mistake, fix it.

Patricia’s advice was to be self-aware and have humility. If you can figure out where the mistakes came from and what the systems in place were that allowed the mistakes to happen, you can fix those systems. She added that her team does post-mortems after projects and it has really helped. Both Melanie and Alyson agreed that ownership of mistakes is important. While you can lean on your team and on your resources, “don’t throw anyone else under the bus,” Melanie said. Alyson added that results-oriented approaches to fixing mistakes are best. “Come with a solution,” she said.

5. The panelists agreed that when figuring out what path to pursue for your career, you should crush it in your current job no matter what.

Patricia advised the audience to separate the skills from the job. “What skills do I have that the person next to me does not?” Alyson said to figure out what you want to do, do it as quickly as you can, and dominate. And if you don’t know what you want? Melanie said, “Start understanding what else is interesting to you while you’re crushing your current job. Network with coworkers. You’re in the driver’s seat.”

6. Their parting words of advice? Don’t be afraid to jump in, trust your instincts, and understand exactly how your role fits into your company’s business model. 

Patricia jumped right in to say that if something’s wrong, you say, “I’ll fix it.” And then you can figure it out. There’s nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. Melanie advocated for being a resource and being helpful. “Trust your instinct,” she added, “and use your best judgement.” Alyson recommended getting a deep understanding of your company’s business model and how your role fits into the big picture. And to go where the jobs are — in our case, digital.