Inspirational Woman: Rashi Khurana | Vice President of Engineering, Shutterstock

Rashi Khurana 1Rashi Khurana is Vice President of Engineering at Shutterstock where she oversees the front end E-commerce, Platform and Mobile engineering teams.

Since joining Shutterstock in 2016, Rashi helped lead three teams through a technology transformation, all the while managing day-to-day operations of delivering a quality product to customers. Rashi is passionate about managing teams of engineers to deliver above expectations everyday and building resiliency into all initiatives.

Rashi earned a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Hailing from India, Rashi moved to the United States in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Rashi has also spoken on “Business as Usual While Revamping a Decade of Code” and recently took part on a tech women’s leadership panel.  Her speaking engagements include 2018 Wonder Women Tech, 2018 SXSW, and 2017 DeveloperWeek.

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

I am Vice President of Engineering at Shutterstock, where I oversee the front-end E-commerce, Platform and Mobile engineering teams. Since joining Shutterstock in 2016, I have helped lead three teams through a technology transformation, all the while managing day-to-day operations of delivering a quality product to customers. I am passionate about managing teams of engineers to deliver above expectations every day and building resiliency into all initiatives.

I moved to the United States from India in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, I worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career of choice when I was 12 years old was teaching. I thought about going into politics — I wanted to be an officer at the Indian Administrative Services at one point of my life, but nothing would have come close to the growing and learning that has come my way with the choices I have made.

The Indian education system is largely a rat race to get into the top colleges in India for undergrad, such as the Indian Institute of Technology. I decided that path wasn’t for me, which meant dropping out of my ongoing physics and mathematics preparation courses to get into those colleges. I knew I had to be comfortable with this decision so it would not lead to future regret. And as destiny has it, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, to go to undergrad in a part of the country that did not speak my language.

This was my first experience of being out of my comfort zone. Having schooled at an all-girls school, here was my first exposure to the tech field that was heavily male dominated. In my class of 60-plus students, there were only 6-8 women. I learned operating systems, database designs, algorithms, C, C++, Java and more.

My parents always pushed me to consider life outside of my comfort zone. I had already done three internships at tech companies in different parts of India during my summer breaks. That expanded my horizons into Perl, Tcl/Tk, XMLs and SOAP and Visual Basic. I even played with Amida handheld devices and worked with socket programming for them when tablets were not a big thing.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Because the industry’s so heavily male-dominated, I think the biggest challenge is that women have to put in that extra effort, and the extra onus in proving ourselves; that we deserve it and yes, that we are fit for it or can do it. We put great pressure on ourselves.

One big challenge is the superfluous attitude about women in tech and women in general. I’ve noticed that a woman’s body language is judged very quickly. ‘Does she have confidence, or does she show confidence at the time she’s in a meeting?’ Studies have also shown that women have to use a certain way of communication. For example, when you want to get something and you’re in a negotiation, you may not be able to say, ‘I want this.’ You need to use the word ‘we’ more than ‘I’ to negotiate some of those conversations. If the world was a little more balanced, that extra onus and the self-inflicted demand of always being on top of your game and carrying the burden to prove something would fade away.

Another challenge is we don’t raise our hands. We don’t ask. When I was an engineer fresh out of college, two years into my job and I was coding all day, I received a brief email from my manager at that moment. That email said, ‘Rashi will be going to London with the Head of Product and Head of SEO.’ I jumped out of my chair and I ran to his office. Because I thought it was a mistake, I said, ‘I got this email. I think it’s a mistake.’ My manager said ‘Well, you don’t want to go?’ I replied, ‘No it’s not that I don’t want to go. But you have tech leads on your team. You have senior engineers on the team. Shouldn’t they be going first, before I get that opportunity?’ And he said, ‘End of discussion. You’re going.’

This was a long time ago. But it was a turning point for me, for my career, for my life. I realised he had confidence in me that I didn’t have in myself. I didn’t know what confidence meant until that moment, because I’d never thought about it. And that was a turning point. So, I think the first, most important reason for women not being successful is that we are conditioned to put ourselves second. So, when an opportunity even comes to us to lead, we sometimes shy away.

To be successful in STEM, we need to understand that success is not built alone. You could put in your hard work. You could believe in yourself and have the confidence in yourself, but until you have the right advocates who believe in you, it’s still hard to be successful. As you grow further in your career and you really want to be successful, sponsorship comes into the picture more.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am most proud of the network of people I have built. One of my managers once told me, “No matter what code you write, it will be out of the window in less than five years. What stays with you is the network you build, the people you meet.” This has definitely struck a chord with me. When I think about my career and consider new opportunities, I think first about the people I am working with.

The products we build are heavily influenced by the people in charge and the camaraderie we create. People matter the most in any industry and if we can embrace the goodness of the people, we can deliver anything we wish for. I am very proud of and connected to the teams I manage, and that enables me to do a better job at work, too.

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

We need to embrace the fact that we’re women. Even to be at the table, we have to be ourselves. So, my biggest factor for achieving success is being myself. If you are trying to fake it, or if you’re trying to mimic somebody else, you can only do it for a short period of time. Don’t try to be the man. We bring different things to technology, our way of thinking, our problem solving is different. Instead of trying to be a man, we must discover our own way of being heard. When a man wants to get attention, he may pound his fist on the table and get attention. And we may not be cool with pounding our fist. That’s okay. We can use our voice to be assertive and still get attention. There may be one or two meetings where you do not get your eye contact, or your voice is not heard the way you would have wanted. But then, be yourself and be persistent about it and keep speaking up. Keep saying what you want to say, because if you don’t say it, how will anybody hear it? And once they hear it, they will know you have information to offer. You have something to say which nobody else thought about.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have a very different take on mentoring. I don’t think you can have one mentor who can fill all the gaps – you have different people with expertise in different areas, so you need to have a network of mentors rather than just one. I always make myself available for anyone that wants a chat and I like to make them feel comfortable that they can pull me aside. At Shutterstock, we have a Women in Tech group where we can talk about our industry and work out how we can inspire each other, have each other’s backs and recognise our skills. We also bring in inspirational women to talk about their story and give advice e.g. Deirdre Bigley, Chief Marketing Officer at Bloomberg.

For me, I was very lucky that I had that support system at home – I didn’t have to look outside for mentors when I was growing up. My mother has a science background and my father has a mathematics background, which inspired me to follow in their footsteps. My parents did a lot of shaping of my mind when I was young and when I needed that support.

Similar to mentoring, I was sponsored by my previous boss. That’s where I first understood what it meant. He would not shy away being in a room with people of different levels saying that, ‘Hey, I believe in her. And I’m going to let her lead it her way.’ Just being able hear that said aloud vocally, it does wonders to you as somebody is putting their trust in you and you don’t want to violate that.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I once attended a session where my former CTO was speaking to 400 women in tech. The title of that forum was “Women in Tech: The male perspective.” He described this scenario where he asked a woman he managed to lead a part of his organisation and she politely refused, saying she didn’t think she was ready. He told her that if she wasn’t ready, he wouldn’t risk his organisation under her leadership. We need to learn to have confidence that we’re ready and trust that when someone calls upon us to lead, we’re capable of doing it.

We are moving forward, but we hit some setbacks and obstacles along the way. I believe people want to be fair, but to favour individualism and moralism over tribalism will require a shift in mindset. The good news is that people are talking about it. The difficulties arise when the discussion sometimes is not rooted in the right ideals.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I’d make sure I don’t hold myself hostage to my thoughts of not being able to do something. If you have a good support, there are many touchpoints that you have with people, especially the one-on-ones you have with your manager or your skip-levels and colleagues. First, I’d make sure the direction I want my career to go in is clear. Know that ‘This is my career and I’m driving it. Nobody else is going to drive my career for me.’

I’d then ask myself, ‘What do I want out of my career?’ If I want something out of it, I must make sure that other people are aware of it. And then we work together towards it.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to make sure that we are creating more diversity but prevent D&I initiatives turning into box-ticking exercises. Being a woman engineer in NYC looking for a job isn’t too difficult, because many employers are actively looking for you. But does that mean a better candidate loses out? My thought is – it’s the end goal that’s important. We need more women and diversity (I’m just taking women as an example here) so that the products we build are catered to everyone and there is equal room for expression and entitlement. As a society we have stereotypes that have existed for so long, it’s dis-balanced. We are in a hard place where we are desperately trying to fix it, so the future generation does not have to deal with this gap.

One way of fixing this is to correct our education system as I think it is too influenced by the norms of our society. When we hand a barbie doll to a two-year-old girl and a superhero to a two-year-old boy, we are setting the tone for what to expect – there are different places for them in society. That continues in school with the courses that are offered and who studies what. We need to talk to girls about science, the universe, technology, and let them build things with Legos at an early age to pique their interest in science. No more doll houses for them, they need to be playing with transformers!


Lena Reinhard featured

Inspirational Woman: Lena Reinhard | VP, Product Engineering, CircleCI

Lena ReinhardLena Reinhard is VP Product Engineering at CircleCI, the leader in continuous integration and delivery for developer teams.

In her 15+ year career, she’s been building and scaling high-performing engineering organisations and helping distributed teams succeed, starting with her own startup to corporates and NGOs.

Lena is an acclaimed international keynote speaker on topics like leadership, DevOps transformation, and organisational scale, at conferences such as O’Reilly Velocity, The Lead Developer, CTO Summit, and QCon. She is passionate about helping teams increase their effectiveness and business impact, and scaling culture for organisational performance and health. Lena enjoys spending time in books and in nature, and always strives to learn something new, currently focused on how to play the piano and keep houseplants alive.

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

I have a background in Finance, Arts, and Media, but have always gravitated towards leadership. My first tech job was for a small SaaS startup. It was intended as a short-term copywriting gig and turned into a role as Marketing and Key Account Manager. Around a similar time, I started contributing to open source projects, and shortly after co-founded my first software company and became CEO. I started managing distributed, fast-scaling engineering teams, quickly realising that I really enjoyed this work, and that it was a good match with my prior experiences and cross-functional background.

I’ve built and scaled high-performing engineering organisations and helped distributed teams succeed ever since, now as Vice President of Product Engineering at CircleCI. In my current role, I lead our globally distributed and rapidly growing Product Engineering organisation. I am ultimately responsible for accomplishing our business goals and delivering software to our users effectively, timely, and with high quality standards – and for building an thriving organisation to help us achieve these goals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t, and if you had asked me 15 years ago, I would never have expected I’d be where I am today. How many careers really go ‘according to plan’? My first formal leadership role was as CEO of the company I co-founded. I’d been consulting for the founding team with research and assessments towards the founding process and business setup, and one day, on the way back from lunch, they asked me whether I wanted to become a CEO. I thought about it and said yes.

My first formal engineering leadership role was more of a transition than a conscious decision. I’d been brought into the organisation as a consultant to get the team’s delivery into a better state and ended up taking on team leadership and scaling shortly after. Situations like this where the scope of my role and responsibilities rapidly expand almost over night have occurred many times in my career, and have always been exciting.

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

When starting out, I learned a lot of hard lessons. I had to lead largely intuitively and in reactive ways, due to the intense nature of the work and environment I was in. It effectively meant I did not have a good sense of what it takes for others to be effective in this role and work, and what sustainable frameworks and structures I can build to help my teams be successful in the longer run. This put a huge strain on myself, as well as my ability to delegate effectively and build out better structures for the team.

A former colleague once told me - after we moved into different roles - that I didn't understand what made me good at this work, which meant I was not able to bring it out in others either. It hit me hard. I had to learn how to delegate effectively, as well as invest in developing leaders around me to be able to run teams and organisations more effectively. Part of the biggest job of being a leader is to pull people up from all around. Remaining a critical part of a technical system leads to a feeling of importance, but actually is a terrible sign. The thing that tickles our ego the most is the sign that we’re not doing as well as we could; and to me, that’s the essence of what leadership means in a nutshell.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are a lot of achievements that I’m very proud of: My first conference talk, my first keynote, being invited to speak at a conference; co-founding a company and becoming CEO; all the teams I got to build and scale rapidly; getting a job I really wanted and getting promoted. Any of those accomplishments were big leaps for me at the time and thinking about them still fills me with great joy.

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

The foundation of being a good leader relies on building trust-based relationships. Here are a few ways that have always helped me get there:

Ask questions. This is one of the most powerful tools of an effective manager. The basis for managing well is listening, observing, taking note of what motivates your teammates, and digging into the responses to your questions.

I usually gather questions before I meet with my team members one-on-one so I am prepared and can guide the conversation toward understanding them better. Asking questions helps you adjust your leadership style to the individuals on your team. It also ensures that they feel understood and heard, which are important pillars of inclusion and belonging.

Connect to the bigger picture. Creating an impact is an excellent motivator, so make sure the members on your team understand how their work helps users or supports other teams. While goal-setting frameworks like OKRs can help with this, it is also crucial to align initiatives with higher-level goals and connect them clearly with user value.

Give feedback. One of the best things you can do as a manager is to support your team members’ growth. Give feedback regularly to help them understand where they are and how they can grow – by course-correcting where needed and setting new goals in areas in which they excel.

Also, managers need feedback too: Don’t forget to ask your team for feedback regularly, on big and small things, so you can also adjust as needed.

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

Look for role models. Finding people whose career paths you want to take inspiration from can be a really good thing, especially now that there's a more diverse group of people than there used to be in the past. Mentors can also be a crucial source of inspiration, experience, support and knowledge. With remote working, it makes it even harder to find one, so take a look into webinars, virtual events and LinkedIn to scope out mentors. Look for someone who you believe you could learn from, reach out with a specific request and reason why you’d like for them to be your mentor.

Staying curious and constantly learning is also important. The industry is evolving really fast and that can be quite a lot to process sometimes. There've been a lot of critical movements over the last couple of years, especially in the DevOps space, as well as other cultural shifts, and many people are still working to make this industry better, more inclusive, and more diverse every day. Stay curious and stay connected to the broader industry and to developments in the space.

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

The tech industry has come a long way, but it doesn’t exist in isolation: in the same way as our societies aren’t equal to people of all genders, we can always do better. As a white woman, I have a lot of privileges, and I’m especially happy to see more women of colour and non-binary people enter our industry, many of whom have faced many more structural issues than I have. Companies need to treat diversity and inclusion as an ongoing learning process, which means listening and learning; this is true for everyone, and especially all of us who have more privileges. Leaders need to consciously think about how they evaluate applicants during hiring process, as well as their existing staff: think about the tasks they are giving employees i.e. where there are any discrepancies in how they are managed, the diversity and inclusivity of their teams, and whether all individuals have an opportunity to be heard and equal opportunities to succeed and thrive.

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

Hire women; train, mentor and coach women; sponsor women; promote women. After all, it’s about ensuring that all your employees get the same opportunities to succeed. In the UK alone, 90% of women experience imposter syndrome at work. Different people have vastly different experiences in the workplace, and it’s important to understand those and build systems and structures that support everyone in their different experiences. Mentorship programmes that provide support and professional guidance, can help in maturing skills and developing confidence.

There is currently only 17 percent 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?

Increase the number of women in leadership roles.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Brené Brown: Dare to Lead: “Leadership is not about titles, status and power over people. Leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognising the potential in people and ideas, and developing that potential. This is a book for everyone who is ready to choose courage over comfort, make a difference and lead.”

Reply-all podcast: A podcast about tech, the internet, but also on modern life.

HBR’s Women at Work podcast: Expert interviews, and hosts sharing their own experiences, as well as practical advice.

I attended and spoke at LeadDev several times and have gotten a lot of learning out of those events, highly recommended.

HBR guide to managing up and across: It’s a skill that can transform your career, and this guide has a ton of information on managing into all directions, and how to develop the skills to do it well, highly recommend.

Kerry Patterson: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Good on communication when things get tough.

Lara Hogan has a great newsletter, and her blog is a great resource for leadership-related content

Julie Zhuo: The Making of a Manager. Very good primer on management if that’s a path you’re curious about or interested in.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Elie Khatami featured

Inspirational Woman: Elie Khatami | VP, Customer & Product Support, EMEAI, Honeywell Aerospace

Elie Khatami

I am currently the vice president, customer & product support for Honeywell Aerospace covering – Europe, Middle East Africa and India region.

My responsibilities are to keep airplanes flying safely and efficiently by supporting every type of aircraft operator, from airlines to private jet and helicopter owners.

I was hired through a university rotation program in Phoenix, Arizona in 2001. It was entry level at the factory, where I learnt about talent management, planning and purchasing. I have been with Honeywell Aerospace for 18 years and have worked across the U.S. (Phoenix, Arizona), Asia Pacific (Singapore and Shanghai) and EMEAI. I am currently based in Rolle, Switzerland.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, as all I knew was that I wanted to be the best in every job I have. I have always been open enough to learn and embrace the opportunities. I do not believe in saying – No. Therefore, I have built the network that created an opportunity to enhance my capabilities.

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

Yes.  The quest to beat the constant challenges in different subjects is part of our life experience. I have learnt from those experiences to be humble and remain calm.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I had a dream to be a global/international businesswoman. I joined Honeywell Aerospace because I believe in the power of aerospace. Long before the internet, aerospace technology took us to the next “higher level in the clouds”. I joined Honeywell through a university rotation program and today I am proud, privileged and humbled to lead the EMEAI C&PS team at a fortune 100 company. Nothing is impossible, right?

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

I wasn’t afraid to take intelligent risk. I also found the right company, accepted an entry level position and learnt what I am passionate about. My confidence, enthusiasm, courage and excitement enabled me to progress

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

The most important thing is to find a company which stays relevant to the market and continuously invests in technology and ease of doing business. Time and innovation are the greatest commodities which cannot be held.

Lastly, keep an open mind and learn, learn and learn.

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

I have never come to work and thought that, since I am a woman, I will operate differently. In the last decade, the world has made a great progress in inculcation and diversity. Diversity and inclusion are paramount as we globalize. Diversity in my opinion is convergence of the best talents and minds from various individuals, despite their differences.

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

I believe equality, diversity and inclusivity are fair and just drivers of prosperity and innovation. In order to support the career progress of women working in technology, there are couple of things that companies to do:

      • Understand and acknowledge the level of gender diversity across functions and seniority levels
      • Be aware of the drivers and implicit bias that comes into play while hiring for certain roles
      • Consciously make an effort to address the implicit bias and disrupt stereotypes
      • Have a mentoring program that is available and accessible that encourage women to seek guidance in their career progress

At Honeywell, we have built a good momentum and the results are encouraging, however we have to continuously work at it to improve it better.

There is currently only 17% 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?

For hundreds of years, we have been conditioned by certain expectations from society. While there are girls excelling in STEM subjects, the social norm is to set them in a different direction thus while attitudes are changing, these are hard traditions to break or shift the paradigm.

One way to remedy this imbalance is for technology companies to recognize that gender bias can be real and damaging. First and foremost, we must stop the denial and recognize the bias. We also need to understand the barriers women have and enable them to negotiate and provide opportunities to navigate across it (i.e.:  mentorship program/advocacy/ sponsorship). For example, at Honeywell, we have a female sponsorship program which our CEO is involved and is passionate about.

Lastly, recruitment policies should go above and beyond normal and we need to proactively seek a balanced range of applicants. If you haven’t found women that fit the bill for the role you are looking for, you need to continue to look harder.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

While there are ample resources available online, it is vital to work on networking. There is so much we can learn by reaching out to people. I strongly believe that each woman must surround herself with those willing to help her find success and once she does, she should become that mentor: sponsor or advocate to help others and pay it forward.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Sharon Einstein featured

Inspirational Woman: Sharon Einstein | VP (EMEA) Robotic Automation & AI, NICE

 

Sharon EinsteinSharon Einstein is VP (EMEA) Robotic Automation and AI at NICE.

NICE is a billion-dollar technology company – headquartered in New York (office in Israel and London (Blackfriars)) that provides customer experience and employee engagement technology for the likes of BT, PayPal, Thomas Cook and Metro Bank.

Sharon joined NICE in 1997 as a system analyst and during her time at NICE has been on both sides of the fence: CIO – deciding on the technologies to grow and transform the business, and now VP EMEA Robotic Automation and AI – selling and implementing automation solutions to customers embarking on their digital transformation journeys.

Tell us about yourself, your background, your current role

I’m Sharon Einstein, VP EMEA Robotic Automation & AI at NICE. NICE provides customer experience and employee engagement technology for over 25,000 organisations in more than 150 countries, including over 85 of the Fortune 100 companies.

I joined NICE in 1997 in a temporary role as part of the MIS and IT team (Management Information System and Information Technology) and since then have worked in multiple roles. First, as a CIO, deciding on the technologies to grow and transform the business, and now leading our Robotic Automation and AI efforts in EMEA – selling and implementing automation solutions to customers embarking on their digital transformation journeys.

I’m from Israel, married and have two beautiful children – boy (9) and girl (7).

Do you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I was at university, I wanted to be a developer and planned a career in a R&D (research and development) industry. But just before I graduated, I got a temporary position at NICE in MIS & IT and haven’t looked back since.

When I started my career I set myself a clear goal – to become CIO – knowing the impact technology has in business. The path to getting to this point wasn’t mapped out for me – but I knew where I wanted to end up. It helped stoke the fire and drove me to be at the front end of technology development and implementation.

In came NICE. As a company known for its innovation, it led me to the role I have now. This leads me to my first bit of advice - to have a sense of where you want to go but to be flexible with your plans. A calculated risk and a willingness to seize a good opportunity, even if it’s unexpected, can pay large dividends.

Have you faced any challenges along the way, and if so have how you dealt with them?

Challenges make us all stronger. I know they certainly have for me. For me there are two buckets I place those challenges into. One is very much aligned with the business. The other is how I manage out-of-work hours. Fortunately, I have benefited from a strong support system in both of those areas. I have learned that risk is inherent in the DNA of an innovative organisation and to not take risks will inevitably lead to failure. It is also how I approach my personal life. You must be open to where the road leads and sometimes be willing get your hands dirty and chart your own path. My second bit of advice: be daring.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace what would it be?

Women should be able to be their natural selves without apology. We all should be our authentic selves in the workplace and be ok with that.  This goes for men and woman. If you are aggressive by nature, so be it. If you are sensitive and emotional, so be it. We should be able to express ourselves just as we are, instead of being concerned that we’ll validate a stereotype.

I have seen it time and time again – women try to be less ‘emotional’ and more aggressive because that’s what we perceive others expect of us. Early in my career, I found myself questioning how emotion impacted my brand. I thought somehow, if I showed my feelings, I would be seen as weak by other colleagues. But in my opinion, showing a bit of emotion in the workplace is not a bad thing at all. It makes you more human and relatable. And my goal is to create an environment for my team where everyone can be their authentic self - regardless of gender.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

First off, I will say loudly that a career in STEM is very rewarding. The fact that you’re a woman shouldn’t hold you back. If you like technology, mathematics and science, then I’d highly recommend a career in STEM. Some might see a glass ceiling but from my perspective I see a lab floor.

I was exposed to IT from a very young age and was able to spend time with many intelligent people who taught me how their systems worked and encouraged me to innovate. I went on to study computer science and then I got the temporary job at NICE that got me started on this journey. It’s been a great career for me and I’d love to see more women in the industry.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I find technology an inspiration. Being a change agent for our MIS and IT teams,  transforming them from back-office/cost-centre functions where their real value recognition fell short, to strong business enablers is one of those moments.

A second achievement is the transformation of our EMEA Services division. As VP of Services and leader of an amazingly talented team of innovators, we delivered a three-year profitable customer loyalty programme. This effort was driven through a shared objective to deploy value at every customer interaction. We exceeded profitability and customer satisfaction targets, resulting in significant impacts to the overall business results in EMEA.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The question I always find myself asking is what’s next. It’s important to always be future thinking. I expect my team to constantly uncover opportunities to influence how technology impacts the way we live and work. I have an expectation that we are each there for each other. I could not be prouder of our team. It is equally important that we constantly seek new talent to disrupt our norms. In that is the next big idea.

As a female and as an executive in an organisation like NICE, I feel a sense of responsibility to find ways to give back. We must spend time in our community, support causes we believe in and pave the way for the next generation. For me, personally, I look forward to what’s next and to mentoring the next woman or man who can step into my shoes.


Sinead Bunting

Inspirational Woman: Sinead Bunting | VP Marketing Europe, Monster

 

Sinead Bunting is the VP of Marketing for Monster in Europe, the global jobs website.

She is responsible for all marketing in Europe, specialising in digital marketing and brand transformation.

Sinead is passionate about encouraging diversity in business which has resulted in a number of initiatives that champion groups, who need an extra helping hand in their career. This has included nationwide ‘Monster Confidence’ tours, working with Stemettes to help female school children and uni students feel confident to achieve in their STEM careers and realise their potential.

She is the author and co-founder of the Tech Talent Charter, an industry-wide collective, whose aim is to deliver a more diverse tech workforce. The charter is supported by the UK government and currently has over 170 signatories such as Monster, Cisco, Vodafone, HP and Global Radio, all working together to move the dial in this critical area.

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

I grew up in Belfast, having arrived in London in 2000 from a year-long stint in New York at my first proper job. My plan was to stay a year, save some money to go to Australia and live and travel for a bit. But save money in London? On an entry-level salary? And being the less than frugal person that I am......tsk, what was I thinking? Needless to say, here I am 17 years later, having never made it down under. But it’s all good, I absolutely love London and think it’s one of the best cities on earth.

I’m the VP of marketing Europe for Monster, the jobs and careers advice website (which happens to be the website on which I found my first job in London in the year 2000).

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I studied law and fancied myself as a human rights lawyer helping folks overcome the injustices they encountered in this world. Unfortunately I didn’t quite fancy putting in the required amount of study to ever make that a reality. Winning a scholarship to study business in an American college for a year only compounded my predilection for hanging out in the student union rather than the law library!

It was here that I did an internship in marketing at the Pittsburgh Civic arena (home to ice hockey team the Pittsburgh Penguins!) and caught the bug for all things creative and marketing. Before graduating from my final year in Law I was lucky enough to secure an NYC marketing job and then my first job in London in 2000 was in digital marketing at an advertising agency. Back then the internet was seen by most clients as a fad that would fade away, and so my raison d’etre was passionately convincing folks internally and externally, that this Internet malarkey was the future and was here to stay. I guess being Irish I like a cause.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve encountered a few dinosaurs in my time but also have been blessed with working with some amazingly supportive and progressive men and women. I recall a male CEO at one of the advertising agencies I worked for hosting an anonymous Q&A for staff circa 2003 to ask whatever they wanted. We were asked to write a question on a piece of paper and deposit it at the front of the gathered group and he would unwrap each one and answer candidly.

As we sat there a few of my colleagues (females) were saying, ‘we should ask him why there’s no women on the management team!’ None had the confidence to go up to the front and submit a question for fear of being identified, even under the auspices of supposed anonymity. I thought sod it, l’ll do it, it’s a bloody good question that deserves an answer! So off I trotted to front to deposit my piece of paper with the question on it. We waited patiently in the audience for him to unwrap the question. Eventually he read it out and the first thing he did was to look straight at me in the audience and demand pointedly ‘did you write this question’ (so much for anonymity!). I shrugged my shoulders and pleaded ignorance. His answer to the question was he promoted people purely on merit and there had been no women who made the grade.

After the stress and worry of realising I had marked my card in his eyes, by challenging the status quo, I digested what he said and realised what a load of utter tosh! I knew lots of women in that agency who were great and his was just the boys club in action.

Countering that was a year or so later the agency M.D., Phil, taking the time to mentor me each week and giving me the confidence and tools to believe in my own abilities. To him I will be eternally grateful.

I have found that women tend to be overlooked and have to work twice as hard to get ahead. I do believe there is a tendency for men get promoted on potential (and confidence) whist women tend to get promoted only on evidence. However, I love the quote by the comedian Steve Martin “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. With lots of hard work, tenacity, a sense of humour and support of amazing colleagues and of course a bit of luck, I’ve managed to overcome any issues and challenges I have faced.

How would you encourage women and girls into a career in STEM?

For young girls, have the confidence in your abilities to study STEM subjects, don’t rule yourself out and listen to the myth that we are all destined to remain in the arts and languages arena. As part of our Monster Confidence programme which we created with Stemettes, we have visited various cities across the UK & Ireland for the last two years, encouraging young female students to have the confidence to study STEM and believe in themselves and know that their voice matters. We have had some amazing STEM female speakers and role models join us (including of course Dr Anne Marie Amafidon, CEO & Founder of Stemettes) who have been the inspiration that the girls need to see. If they can do, then the girls can do it too.

For women, know that you have so much to offer employers and organisations. Your skills and talent bring a way of working that makes organisations have you across all levels (including senior level of course) much more commercially successful. You deliver the competitive edge and diversity of ideas and approach that makes companies successful. Never forget that and have the confidence to know that you will and you do make amazing things happen.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

So many things, but if I were to choose one that would really move the dial, perhaps it would be for shared parental leave to be fully embraced by organisations so that both genders get a fair crack at the whip in the workplace and at home being a parent.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It would be the Tech Talent Charter, which I wrote and brought to life in collaboration with a number of amazing inspirational women in the world of tech. Women like Amali de Alwis, Debbie Forster and Susan Bowen. It’s funny, for many years I had heard of this Queen Bee phenomenon, yet when I reached out to all these women in the world of tech to help do something to address the lack of females in the tech workforce and later to launch the Tech Talent Charter, every single women I spoke to, bent over backwards to help and to make it happen. It was incredible and showed me what women (and of course, the much needed supportive men) could achieve working together. As a collective, the Tech Talent Charter has secured the support of the UK government and over 170 organisations such as Monster, Cisco, Codego Peer1, HP and Global Radio but we have a long way to go still, but I’m confident we’ll make it happen and effect real change, especially with Debbie Forster at the helm as our CEO.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’d like to widen our Monster Confidence programme to women in business/work and to help to tackle specifically the issue of unequal pay. Money is the currency of power and until we have equal pay, women will not be on an equal footing and it will be incredibly challenging for the genders to achieve true equality.