12/03/2014 09:04 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Danielle Sheer, vice president and general counsel, Carbonite

Danielle Sheer manages Carbonite's worldwide corporate development and legal affairs, including technology partnerships, data security and privacy compliance, management of Carbonite's intellectual property portfolio, and advising the Company's management and board of directors on legal, strategic and corporate governance matters. She speaks and writes frequently about the effects of patent trolls in the technology industry. Danielle also co-founded SaaSy, a Carbonite initiative dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of women in the technology industry.

In 2012, Danielle was named to the Boston Business Journal's "40 under 40" list of emerging business leaders; honored by the Massachusetts Bar Association and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as an "Emerging Leader"; and received the "Maverick of the Year" Stevie award for Women in Business. In 2014, the Boston Business Journal honored her as an "Advancing Women" leader.

Prior to joining Carbonite in 2009, Danielle practiced corporate and securities law at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, where she specialized in technology-related corporate matters, private equity financings, public securities offerings and mergers and acquisitions. Danielle received her J.D. from Georgetown University and B.A. with honors from George Washington University. She serves on the board of directors of The Boston Club and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
With every experience, big or small, I get more comfortable in my own skin. When I started speaking in front of large audiences, I acknowledged how nervous I was right from the start. I told the group not to worry if my voice started shaking, if I began pacing back and forth or if all of a sudden I seemed really out of breath. I promised that if I tried to imagine everyone in their underwear it would only be worse for me (and for them). I got a warm reception as a result of that kind of honesty and it relaxed me. I don't have to do that anymore because I'm more comfortable with public speaking, but I'm always honest with the audience - it helps me make that important connection. I have discovered that being authentic is key to being able to lead people.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Carbonite?
I've been working since my teen years and each job has prepared me for the role I'm currently in. Most recently, I received an excellent foundation in business and law at a top-tier law firm. The more junior jobs I had climbing the ranks helped me learn how to work with all different kinds of people and fine-tune the interpersonal skills that make me unique.

Tell us more about SaaSy and how it is empowering women in the technology industry.
SaaSy is a terrific initiative we founded at Carbonite to empower women to take hold of leadership positions in the tech industry. So many women are great #2's - what's holding them back from being great #1's as well? At SaaSy, our goal is to do three things well: (1) Give up-and-comers a chance to learn business ropes in a low-risk environment, like learning how to manage a budget or come up with the vision for a sponsorship opportunity, or execute a training workshop from soup to nuts, (2) Sponsor local tech events which we feel support the mission of SaaSy, and (3) Provide hands-on professional training opportunities, like negotiations or public speaking. We believe that as a result of our efforts, more women are promoting themselves (and getting promoted). We recently added another woman to our executive team, marking three in total. We are not each other's competition; we are each other's assets.

What advice can you offer women who want to follow a similar career path?
Don't wait until you're completely qualified to launch the career you want. Do something you're not ready to do - you'll be challenged, work hard to deserve it and work even harder to keep it.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I'm not sure I have much of a work/life balance. I love my work and so I spend a lot of time doing it. I know it is important to unplug, which I make sure to do a few times a year. Christmas, New Year's Eve and Thanksgiving - I give those to my family. My birthday, that's a day for me even if I spend the entire day in bed binging on bad TV. I also complete one destination vacation per year, usually near the ocean.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Don't let the voice in your head hold you back as she will be your harshest critic. Work hard, produce results, be a team player and ask for what you want. When you slip, forgive yourself and keep going. Be an asset to your team and a source of positive momentum. Write down a positive thought on a slip of paper and wake up and read it every day if you need to, until your perspective naturally evolves.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I'm the type of person who wants to see the formula for how something... anything, gets done. If there's no formula, I'll build it myself. Mentorship has been my cliff notes - it's important to have all different kinds of people, professionally and personally, that you can call up or take out to coffee and ask how they handled a situation. If you ask enough people the same question, you might get similar answers and that opens up an opportunity to learn something in a smarter way.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire all sorts of people as you can learn from anyone. I gravitate toward leaders that are genuine and who are willing to talk about their missteps and explain how those missteps were necessary for their success. A great example is Marissa Mayer. I've never met her personally, but I have a Newsweek article pinned in my office titled, "Marissa Mayer on the day she 'broke' the Internet" and the article describes her "favorite mistake." I find that short write-up motivating and it reminds me to be courageous.

What are your hopes for the future of Carbonite?
Carbonite is comprised of bright, hard-working people and I'm excited every day to get into the office to see what we'll do next.