Inspirational Woman: Rebecca Bivona-Guttadauro | Manager, Market Research & Global Chair for Women in Tech, Xperi

Rebecca Bivona-GuttadauroBecca Guttadauro was born and raised in Southern California and moved to the Bay Area in the fall of 2006, to attend Santa Clara University.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and went on to earn her Master’s degree from San Jose State University. As an advocate for research and data, Becca strives to execute high-quality, unbiased research to help Xperi’s teams make smart business decisions. She joined TiVo (now Xperi) in February 2015 and is grateful every day for the opportunity. Becca serves as the Global Chair of Women in Tech at Xperi Employee Resource Group. She values the networking and connection with women she has found within this role. She also serves on Xperi’s Diversity & Inclusion Council.

When Becca is not researching or organising programs for Women in Tech, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters – Penelope (6) and Julia (3). She is an avid reader, aiming to read 85 books by the end of this year. She loves cooking and baking with her daughters and can often be found dancing around the house and teaching her girls about Classic Rock.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I studied sociology at Santa Clara University in California, as I was interested in social justice and wanted to be of service to others. After getting my master’s degree in sociology from San Jose State University, I took a job working for a syndicated research organisation in the digital consumer field, which was what initially introduced me into the tech industry.

In 2015, TiVo reached out to me and offered me the role of market researcher, which has now led to my current role as manager of market research. In between my roles at TiVo (now Xperi), I was constantly looking for ways to advocate for myself and other women, and the Employee Response Group (ERG) seemed like the perfect opportunity to help me achieve this.

I volunteered to be a part of the women in tech initiative, which not only gave me the platform to carry out intersectional work, but also enabled me to talk to other tech leaders about the lack of female visibility in the tech industry and what more could be done. As the Global Chair, it is important that I am looking for opportunities where we can have open conversations to make Xperi better for its female employees and to make sure they feel included and considered for new roles.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I planned my career or planned to work in the tech industry. I was originally interested in politics and wanted to work with the United Nations in some capacity. I remember having a TiVo DVR growing up, but apart from that, I was not too interested in technology. After graduate school, I knew I wanted to do research for a living, and while I envisioned doing non-profit work, I landed at an organisation focused on the digital consumer space.

Following that, I became well versed in analysing how consumers consume technology through different services and devices, and how new services were expanding. I am currently not in a tech-facing role at Xperi, but it has helped me to identify the lack of women in tech roles, which fulfils my desire to work towards social justice and gender equity.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Earlier on in my career, I had a manager who was quite inappropriate with some of the comments he made, which he got away with, as I did not understand that they were unacceptable. I have also felt, at times, there were instances where I did not feel heard or given the appropriate credit when due.

I think many women experience this unconscious bias that comes into play, especially at work, but being able to identify the microaggressions is important. Through identifying these problematic behaviours, I believe there has been a shift in attitude and, whilst gender bias still happens, having a platform where women can speak freely about their experiences can help tackle the issue.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

For myself, becoming a manager was a big step for me and, although I felt a certain level of imposter syndrome at first, I soon learnt to look forward to my promotion and leading the team. From a woman in tech perspective, receiving testimonies where someone expresses how they stood up for themselves, or had that difficult conversation, feels like a win for me as well.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

By choosing to believe in myself, rather than doubt my abilities, I have been able to put myself out there more and open myself up to new opportunities.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I would say something as simple as changing how you word emails is a big step for advocating for yourself, especially in a male-dominated industry, such as tech. It is important to communicate in a way that shows you are an expert.

Finding a community of other women where you feel comfortable sharing your experiences and learning from one another is also important, as it gives you that sense of support and helps you to not withhold how you may feel about certain situations. Uplifting other women and maintaining a pay it forward mentality I find very important too.

Lastly, try to catch yourself when you are being critical about yourself! Instead, it’s important to think about what you have already accomplished and challenge the inner critic that is in all of us – but that is a lot louder in women.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I believe there are still barriers in the sense that women need to constantly come in and advocate for themselves if they want to be considered for a certain role. We still have to make ourselves seen in the industry, in comparison to men, because we are not part of the male dominated conversation.

I think these barriers are slowly being broken down in the Western world, but we still have strides to make in different global regions.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

From a cultural perspective, we need to do better to support women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). From a young age, men are encouraged into these fields, whereas women are often trapped in fields that are not as technical, and these stereotypes are still being perpetuated today.

Investing in programmes that propel women forward, as well as give them the chance to see if they like engineering, for example, directly impacts the presence of women in the tech industry alone. Investing in education is also important, because if we keep looking in the same pools, we will not be investing in women. It is important to note that working in tech is not just working with software and coding – there are a lot of hybrid tech roles and if we broaden people’s experience, we might attract a wider range of people.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would increase representation of women in leadership roles at tech companies, primarily in the C-suite. There is a serious lack of diversity for many tech companies and, while strides are being made, we need more female representation on boards and executive teams. As a woman, it is important that I see women at the top – this shows me that the organisation I am working for values women at the top. We believe what we see and if we see more representation of women, diverse women, I think it will help inspire more women in the tech field.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Anything by Brene Brown is great for learning how to be a great leader, especially her book Dare to Lead. She talks about vulnerability and the importance of bringing your authentic self to work every day. She also has a podcast on Spotify that is great to listen to, as it carries her work forward into conversations with thought leaders across industries.

I recently read Radical Candor by Kim Scott, which is another example of how, as women, we need to understand the importance of giving and receiving feedback in a way that shows that you care for and respect others.

AnitaB.org, the organisation that puts on the Grace Hopper conference, is a great resource for women in tech. Their mission is to connect, inspire, and guide women in computing, and organisations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative.