Book Review: "Power Up" by Magdalena Yesil

Review: Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy
by Magdalena Yesil
(Review copy provided courtesy of the publisher)

Magdalena Yesil travelled from Turkey to the United States to go to college and became a pioneering entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Most recently, she’s known for early investment in Salesforce, now a multibillion dollar company and cofounder of Broadway Angels, a group of female investors that invest in start-ups.

Power Up is written for women building careers in tech, but really, it is applicable to anyone building a professional or business career. Yesil offers realistic advice about building a career in male dominated business including guidance on topics that people (but especially women) can struggle with, like sexual dynamics, getting credit for work and pay imbalances among other things.

It’s an effortless book to devour, mostly because Yesil’s voice comes through clear, personal and genuine. Her story is inspiring and you are immediately drawn into the recounting of her early life and her decision to move to America and what happened as she started out in the tech world.

Yesil suggests throughout the book that we be like water, that we be flexible when we come up against things in our paths. This advice is pulled from a Turkish tradition she describes, that when someone starts a journey, the neighbourhood throws buckets of water behind them as they walk or drive away. Yesil describes this as a way to say “May you be like water – easily flowing past any obstacle.” It’s a recurring theme in the book, and it works quite well. Water never gives up and it always seems to find any opening, no matter how small, to succeed in its path. Yesil drives this home.
In the book, Yesil states facts and statistics plainly. Steadfast in her acceptance of the obstacles women face in business she is equally firm in her belief that you can “flow past” anything. 

She easily points out truths for women in male-dominated business, backing these truths up with facts and/or experiences that would easily deflect any naysaying objections (e.g. women tend to underestimate themselves and tend to lack sustaining self-belief) but she never treats these truths as excuses. Yesil simply states them as difficulties - obstacles that can be reflected upon and overcome. She recounts examples of how she has overcome problems and provides actionable advice from her own life, and also the lives of other female tech pioneers.

Yesil discusses sexual harassment. She clearly states sexual harassment is a crime, but she also offers ways to navigate sexual innuendo, sexual dynamics and “boys club” behaviour in a male dominated business world, without taking on guilt or repercussions. She offers ways to include yourself in the boys club, and ways to modify unprofessional behaviour inflicted on you in clever ways that will empower you.

She gives much needed reinforcement to women who have experienced a setback in their careers. She gives the advice to “give ourselves latitude when we screw up” which is important because many women still feel they need to be perfect in spaces that don’t necessarily include them, or where there are very few women working.

Yesil also gives tips such as how to negotiate pay (very important while the gender pay gap still exists). While money is not the be all and end all, and many people (especially women) define job satisfaction by whether we like our jobs, or our colleagues, Yesil very wisely points out that these goals “are not in line with what the business world uses to divvy up success and power”.

Throughout the book, Yesil encourages women to reach out to both to men and women, and build a support network. And once you build it and achieve any success, you should bring others up with you. She seems a great proponent of the idea it’s lonely at the top so you should bring other women with you.

She also hammers home that what you need to succeed is an unrelenting belief in yourself, an awareness and a willingness to think outside the box to find ways around obstacles that hinder your success. Yesil pushes the idea that women take themselves for granted, and we have more power to change and grow, career-wise, than we think we do. What she’s written aims at peeling back layers of socially inflicted self-doubt to allow ourselves a chance to confidently succeed without holding ourselves back.

All in all, it was a very positive and enjoyable read.

Review by Tee Linden.


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