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Article by Claudia Gallo – VP, Human Resources at Align Technology

Twenty years ago, I joined Align Technology – at that point it was an up-and-coming technology start-up in digital orthodontics that pioneered the clear aligner market with the Invisalign system.

Today, Align is a global medical device company, a Fortune 500 company with more than 25 thousand employees, supporting over 250 thousand doctors and labs worldwide and nearly 13 million patients treated with the Invisalign clear aligner system. Our global teams share a passion for technology and innovation that is purpose-driven and helps doctors transform smiles and change lives for millions of people worldwide.

As I look back on my career at Align and how we have changed over the years, in an industry that has not historically had as many women in a variety of roles, I am incredibly proud of the ways I have helped increase awareness and create more opportunities for women in technology. As someone who helped build Align’s human resources (HR) organisation in the region, I have consistently focused on ensuring that we create career opportunities for all people and help them excel professionally. By creating an environment where everyone can flourish and expand their roles and responsibilities, we also foster a culture where women feel supported in their careers, learn new skills, and continue to grow through increasing opportunities.

Demonstrating the value of IQ and EQ

As we know, technology is integral to our daily lives and impacts many aspects of how we live and work. Today, there are many women in tech in leadership positions influencing the industry.  I believe that the unifier amongst many of the trailblazers is recognising specific skills of each employee, while at the same time, championing diversity and inclusion, education, and creating opportunities within the broader team. By employing and advancing more women at all levels, leaders become more attuned to the needs of all their employees. And of course, greater diversity leads to improved workplace culture, development of more innovative solutions, and company growth.

That being said, technical knowledge and skills are increasingly becoming opportunity equalizers because technology careers often don’t involve the same physical limitations that can exist in other male dominated fields, and qualifications are measured by intellect, education, and experience. Some people may worry about how the future will look with this rise in technological advancements. However, this is where I believe women can make a real impact – by being a driving force behind how technology can shape the future for the better by blending IQ and EQ. Here, I mean demonstrating the importance of understanding and managing emotional intelligence in parallel with professional skills. Women offer a range of valuable skills, including but certainly not limited to analytical, creative, open-minded, communicative, problem-solving, and more. Often, women bring an additional layer of emotional understanding to a situation. I think embracing diversity and appreciating individual strengths in women can really transform opportunities for others in the tech industry.

Support each other to grow together

There is no doubt that being a woman in tech can sometimes be challenging. And often the best resource that can help navigate through challenges may be other women who can share their own experiences or offer advice.

At Align Technology, we launched a Talent Management programme in 2021 which includes a “Women in Leadership” online course from Yale University. This programme allowed us to create a space where we could talk about our aspirations, career goals, but also doubts and setbacks, and to share that experience.

Following the completion of the course, participants continued to meet regularly and created a trusted network, which led to the formation of the “Women at Align” employee resource group. This programme provides opportunities for women in senior leadership roles to receive coaching and to mentor early career colleagues who are looking to progress their careers.

It’s incredibly valuable to be able to ask questions, seek advice and listen to real-life stories to help you face possible challenges head-on in your professional journey. Building a good relationship with your manager will be critical to progressing your career and navigating this growing and demanding industry.

You can also look to extend your presence within your company and engage with other women to build a community in which you can support each other. If your company doesn’t already have an association or group, why not use this opportunity to take initiative and help set one up? This will surely be a way to make yourself stand out amongst the crowd.

Prioritize your health and wellbeing

Working in tech can be full of excitement and the unexpected, but it’s important that you’re able to enjoy it and not burn yourself out. The past couple of years especially has put a spotlight on the importance of mental health in the workplace. Many have dealt with personal issues combined with having to work remotely and it has put a strain on maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Functioning well is important to enjoy the work that you do and to achieve your goals to the best of your ability. More and more companies are developing tools or programs to help employees feel less overwhelmed, allowing them to organize their workload as it suits them better with flexible schedules. Protecting your well-being is paramount to becoming a strong, innovative leader, which is a must in this ever-moving industry.

Go for it

I believe women have a lot to offer to the tech sector, and the tech sector itself has a lot to offer as well, so it’s important that you open yourself up and allow yourself to evolve. Your professional journey will be full of ups and downs, so to tackle any challenges that come your way, it’s important to seize every opportunity, be flexible, and adapt to changing times.

About the author

Claudia GalloClaudia joined Align Technology in Italy back in 2002 and shortly after took over the Business Operations Organization of the newly created European HQ in Amsterdam. In 2009, she was appointed Human Resources Director of EMEA, to direct and execute all HR processes and management tools across the region and working with the corporate HR team to create effective and consistent HR policies and procedures in EMEA.

From 2012 to 2015 the scope of her responsibility expanded to the APAC Region, becoming a credible business partner to the International Leadership team in supporting the growth and management of the EMEA & APAC regions.

With the continuous growth and expansion across the EMEA and APAC regions, Claudia’s scope of responsibility has been refocused to EMEA. In 2020, she was appointed Vice President of Human Resources, EMEA. Today the Region is growing extensively with the expansion of Manufacturing Operations sites and the setup of additional Technology hubs which pose new exciting opportunities to the Human Capital agenda.

Prior to Align, Claudia, an Italian citizen, has spent several years in various positions in G&A and Marketing in Wesley-Jessen, Novartis Ciba Vision. Claudia holds a bachelor’s degree in Languages & Literature and a postgraduate in Human Resource Management from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business (University of Michigan).