April 04th, 2022

Women In Technology

The tech industry has grown exponentially in the last twenty years, with more and more opportunities for innovative leaders to find their footing in an increasingly crowded space. Since women make up only 29% of tech leadership, it’s more important than ever to not only make tech a safer, more welcoming space for young women, but to also continue inspiring girls to take the leap into this industry. Mentorship has an amazing effect on professional development; Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations discovered that mentoring initiatives increased promotion and retention rates among minority groups and women more so than any other diversity programs.

For Women’s History Month, Verte wanted to highlight five brilliant women disrupting and leading in the tech industry, focusing on how they began their career trajectory and sought out mentors in such a male-dominated space.

Read on to hear advice from these five women:

Hagar Romach – Software Engineering Manager

What advice would you give your younger self about entering the tech world?

Focus on what matters. Focus on the value you bring and the impact you have on the product you work on and your team. Everything else is noise.

When I shift my attention to solving real problems, I am successful, enjoy my work, and have a great sense of accomplishment.

Spending energy on things like office politics, someone else getting a promotion, and those sorts of non-productive comparisons will not help your career. Instead, they will drag you down.

Focus on what matters. Think long term and have patience! Things are not going to happen to you in a day; there will be hard work and failures. If you worry about why things haven’t happened to you yet, you will not spend enough time on the really important things, like how you can make the best contributions and what you can do to help make a change.

Focus on what matters. Enjoy the journey and focus on the present. Take it all in, because the dots will connect for you and something that you learn today will serve you tomorrow. Make sure you constantly learn from every experience and keep a growth mindset. Be grateful that you learned something new and that you have a new tool to use in the future.

Focus on what matters. Have perspective, know when to push and when to take a pause, when to focus on work and when to take care of yourself. Sometimes taking a pause to breathe and regroup will help you much more than anything else. Billy Joel said it best:  “Slow down, you’re doing fine. You can’t be everything you want to be before your time”.

 What inspired you to enter the tech world? 

I was always intrigued and excited about technology and always knew I wanted to work in computers and study computer science.

I always loved to find a hard problem and was excited to solve it through logic and experimentation. Over time I learned that what I really enjoy is to build new things and create something that was never created before that actually solves a problem for someone.

How do you recommend finding a mentor?

Having great mentors can be incredibly powerful and helpful to navigate your career and life. Over the years I have been able to gather a few mentors from different periods of my life and from different backgrounds. I will often choose a specific mentor to discuss a specific kind of problem; having a diversity of voices and different ways to look at a problem has been very helpful to me. Some of these incredible people are more “official” mentors but some are not. In some cases, those are folks that I had a very strong connection with and we keep in touch. The official mentoring has happened as a result of a need or because I realized that a certain person has something real that they can help me with. People love to mentor others, so my first suggestion would be to ask. Usually the answer would be yes, and if they don’t have the time or energy to be your mentor, they can help to connect you to someone else who can. Get a mentor or mentors; you will be surprised by how impactful this can be and how one’s experience can help you.

Jen Root – Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer
Manifest Commerce

What advice would you give your younger self about entering the tech world?

I would tell myself, Jen, be ready and prepared for anything. The tech industry moves fast so be agile and flexible and ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Entering into tech right out of college, during a high-growth time, I had some “bad luck” out the gate in FinTech. It was 2008 and I was working in the mortgage industry. Within six months I experienced my first layoff and was disappointed as a young professional. I took a step back and reassessed and eventually went into HR Tech, an industry rarely affected by the economy. It’s important to be flexible and ready for failure and wins around every corner.

What inspired you to enter the tech world? 

Tech is ever changing and always evolving. I enjoy a fast-paced environment where I can grow and thrive and this is what inspired me to enter the tech world. Technology keeps us connected and the evolution of tech creates efficiencies in professional environments. To me, tech means progress, and I love being in an environment that is constantly evolving for the better.

 How do you recommend finding a mentor?

The best way to find a mentor is to seek out individuals that inspire, motivate, and lead by example. Do you see a quality or attribute in a person that you aspire to possess? Seek out that individual and learn from them, with an open heart and mind. 

Ronit Bohner Hillel – VP of Engineering

What advice would you give your younger self about entering the tech world?

Say ‘yes,’ you will figure things out later. We always have the thought that we are not ready, we don’t have the skill sets, someone else can do that better, maybe we will fail. Those thoughts become reality when we give in to them, when we hesitate to take the opportunities that land in our way and allow those hesitations to start defining us. When we say ‘yes,’ the options are endless and the opportunities take us on a path we only dreamed possible. My grandmother used to tell me that story about a person who prayed for luck to win the lottery for years. When Luck was asked if they could grant that wish just once, Luck responded “Happy to, but they never filled a lottery slip”. If we want things to happen to us we need to be the first ones that take the leap and say ‘yes.’ That would be the advice I would give my younger self.

What inspired you to enter the tech world? 

My Mother. I see her as an undeclared pioneer. She entered the tech world in the times of the punch cards and large mainframe computers starting from math and statistics to become a senior manager in that space. I grew up in a house that had personal computers from the early Commodore and Atari and went to computer summer camp to learn Basics. I enjoyed the play but I mainly enjoyed the ability to combine problem solving, design, and technology to solve real life problems for people.

That is what inspired me to stay in the tech world.

How do you recommend finding a mentor?

I believe that anyone can be a mentor. Anyone has something they have learned and someone that would benefit from that wisdom. When you are looking for a mentor, consider first what is it that you would like to get better at, learn or grow and find the person who you think has already gone forward in that path. Second, consider if that person would be the one you would feel comfortable to consult with and share, someone you can create a trusting relationship with. That person can be from any part of your life. They can be someone you know well or even someone you have not deeply engaged with before. Knowing your mentor before is not a condition, it is a benefit. In all cases, before you commit, you want to meet and check if they are willing and if the conversation with them helps you in the direction you want to go. And lastly, consider when it is time to part. No need to continue when there is no more real value. You can always stay  tough and get back together when something new requires mentorship relations.

Iulia Ion  – Sr. Engineering Manager

What advice would you give your younger self entering the tech world?

Don’t stay too long in a place where you are not feeling valued. Change is scary, but it will help you grow and most likely move you forward in your career. If your skills and contributions are not being appreciated, take the leap. Don’t let the status quo slowly chip away at your self-confidence. Trust that you are capable. Your next adventure will give you a chance to truly shine.

What inspired you to enter the tech world?

When I decided to study computer science, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t grown up with a computer at home in Romania. I hadn’t even had a single programming class in high school. But tech was the thing to do. After all, my sister was studying IT. It was a no-brainer. And that turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

I sometimes meet female students who hesitate to study tech because they are warned by advisors, peers, and even boyfriends that it would be too hard for them. It infuriates me and breaks my heart every single time. Growing up in Romania, nobody told me that science was hard, or that tech is not for women. In my high school, women were better at math than men. I can’t say this was everyone else’s experience as well, but somehow I never got the memo.

Role models matter. They can help us change the perception that tech is not for women. My role model was my sister. For others, it could be a friend or even a TV character. As I studied computer science in Germany and later entered the workforce, the number of women around me declined. But my sister was always there. We even ended up working for the same company. Occasionally, that confused my manager and teammates who mistook her for me when we were in the same building.  

It’s never too late to enter tech. I’ve worked with people who, unlike me, grew up hacking. Their stories are inspiring and intimidating at the same time. But I’ve also worked with people who got into tech at much later stages than I did, after having studied physics, marine biology, or nothing at all. I am in awe of these people even more. This is the type of diversity of backgrounds and perspectives that tech needs.

How do you recommend finding a mentor?

There is no shortage of extraordinary mentors out there. Most successful people are kind and approachable. They will go out of their way to be responsive and helpful, to make time and give free advice despite their busy schedules. Reach out to people you admire, even if you don’t know them. Be respectful and ask for 30 minutes of their time. Then, keep in touch, build an authentic relationship, and share the joy of your accomplishments. When you find yourself at a crossroads, you’ll have an army of mentors you can turn to. Each person will offer you a unique perspective. Learn who shares your values and who lifts you up. Then be selective about which mentors you keep.

Yifat Baror – Chief Growth Officer

What advice would you give your younger self about entering the tech world? 

The first thing I would say is: listen to your true self, be yourself, and use your voice. As a foreigner in this country, I always questioned myself in terms of my accent at meetings or my way of thinking that might be culturally different. It took me a while to realize that those experiences also bring characteristics and unique traits that actually help me be creative in my roles. I would also recommend not being afraid to ask questions. When I transitioned from retail to the Saas world there were a lot of terms I didn’t know. Remember, you aren’t supposed to know everything; don’t be afraid to ask and learn.

What inspired you to enter the tech world? 

I didn’t envision myself in technology. I was very much focused on physical and digital retail. I’d already set a limitation on myself, without understanding that my background working with retailers and brands, being in their shoes, and understanding their pain points, is exactly what helps my technology company offer better products and solutions. 

I was always curious about new innovations to support brands after working with both smaller sellers and bigger brands. I saw the challenges they were facing with omnichannel and knew that I wanted to be part of solutions that empower brands. 

 How do you recommend finding a mentor? 

There are only about 19% of women in entry or mid-level positions in the tech industry, with as few as 10% of women holding executive positions. To attract more women to the tech field and bring them to the executive level, it’s critical to provide sponsorship and mentorship opportunities for women at all levels. Think of your career goals and look around for who can inspire and support you to get there; it doesn’t necessarily need to be someone from your own company! Be proactive and reach out– find strong mentors, but more importantly, find sponsors who will include you in their professional networks and mentors that will be open and available to give you actionable advice. You must be deliberate, or it will not happen. I personally have a group of strong women friends in the tech space from different companies that advise and support me. We talk about different career opportunities and challenges that come up, etc. It’s my circle of trust and I’m very grateful for these women. 

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The Verte Team

Written by The Verte Team

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