The COVID-19 crisis has brought to light the often disproportionate burden that women across the world carry. In addition to balancing the responsibilities of work and home life, many women have taken on additional roles as caregivers and teachers, all with little external support. If we are to move forward from the impacts of the pandemic, the path towards recovery needs to be aligned with an equal future for women.
We interviewed ten women leaders at VDX.tv from our offices across the world to learn about what inspires them, the challenges they’ve faced throughout their journeys, their advice for women in tech and their hopes for the future. Read on below.
What keeps you motivated and inspired?
I relish working with different people across borders, teams and cultures. I take pride in the work I do, and it is humbling whenever I see a project/service being used in the real world that I was a part of. My own need to continuously becoming a better version of myself, in whatever I do, keeps me going. -Ek Roohi Kaur Advani, Senior Manager – Customer Success, Noida
I have a great appreciation for life, this alone gives me plenty of motivation. Of course, I have off days but I try to insert joy into every day. That might be to get up early and go for a walk or catch up with a friend. This way, even if I have a tough day, I can look back at something positive and know that the next day will be the same. -Melissa Mehmet, Director – Customer Success, London
I am highly motivated to work towards becoming the best version of myself. I have consistent long-term goals in mind (career or otherwise) and ensure my short- and mid-term goals will help me achieve them. My daughter inspires me to pave the way for women leaders of the next generation. -Marly Sohr, Performance Strategy Manager, Baltimore
My family will always motivate me to hold what’s important in sight. In terms of inspiration it would come from seeing other women succeed around me and in particular, the mums out there juggling a career as well as being a mother. Once the office hours are over, there’s no time off between starting your second job of being a parent. -Sarah O’Carroll, Director – Sales, Auckland
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced professionally, and what lessons can you take away from them?
Nothing prepares you for that heart sinking feeling of realising you’ve CC”d the wrong person on a confidential email, or over entered a budget line item that’s going to cost the company money. Processes are great and the way forward in safeguarding against mistakes happening again, but first you need to demonstrate accountability. Mistakes don’t stick but how you handle them will be what others remember, and holds far greater importance for your career and growth. -Hayley Dixon, Senior Sales Manager, Melbourne
I have been fortunate to work with some of the most amazing people and organizations where women are treated fairly and equally. However, on those rare occasions where I did face challenges, they were mainly because of self-inflicted limitations on what I could do. All I can say is that the best way to deal with tough situations is to clear our minds of “what’s possible” and “what’s not” and start fresh. -Namita Awasthi, Intranet & Digital Workplace Manager, Noida
Never losing faith in myself as a sales person. To keep on going despite all the “no thank you”s, not to take rejection personally, to keep applying myself on a daily basis because commitment will eventually pay off. In this competitive environment, we must always think strategically but act humbly and truthfully. At the end of day, you need to remember that clients will buy the product but what you are actually selling is a trustworthy business relationship. -Reem Rafeh, Business Director, Dubai
As I’ve worked at different companies over the years, gained confidence and self-belief, challenges have become easier to face. One of my biggest challenges was my first long-term job, after University. I didn’t know the world of business and I was very insecure. Later on I realized that the people you aspire to be like, the successful business people you know of, they all had to be that person at some point. Everyone goes from knowing little to knowing a lot so the lesson I learned is to be kind, be patient and support those around me through the process as much as I can. -Melissa Mehmet, Director – Customer Success, London
How has the “new normal” impacted your approach to work and life over the past year?
I’ve become a mum during the pandemic, so the “new normal” has impacted me double! Of course, working from home during the lockdown made me realize the importance of having a work-life balance. Now, making quality time truly is my priority between work and life. -Monica Prior, Associate Account Director, Madrid
Often the biggest hurdles show us how important the little things can be. It’s so easy to build that relationship personally or professionally through small acts of kindness and connection regularly. 2020 threw us all a curveball and we needed to adjust and make the most of a new working environment. Take control of the areas in your life that you can; move, get a pet, nourish your family and friends, exercise, learn a new skill and find creativity. -Hayley Dixon, Senior Sales Manager, Melbourne
Adaptation is key. This past year I have learned to adapt to different environments, different interactions, different spaces, different emotions, but these are the times that reveal the kind of person you are both personally and professionally. Challenges are there to challenge you to become better. We grow through what we go through. -Reem Rafeh, Business Director, Dubai
When I look back, I feel amazed at the way we all adapted over the last year. What looked impossible then has become the new normal. I can say with confidence is that despite the individual challenges we faced, work was not impacted. In fact, I saw more collaboration, greater efficiency, and stronger bonding. Personally, for me, it was like a wakeup call. I switched to a “giving” and “appreciating the little things in life” mode. -Namita Awasthi, Intranet & Digital Workplace Manager, Noida
The cons of the pandemic aside, the pros have been great to put perspective on life. We have been relatively lucky in New Zealand with lockdowns being short and we’ve enjoyed long stretches of “normality” between them. I’ve appreciated the days of not commuting to have more time to take a long walk with the dog as well as sitting as a family to have pancakes for breakfast on a weekday. Something that could have never happened before the pandemic with the rush to all get out the door on time. -Sarah O’Carroll, Director – Sales, Auckland
What advice would you give to young professionals looking to grow their career in the tech industry?
Ask questions, speak up and be heard. Recognize early on that technology will forever be evolving and that knowledge is power. -Tarah McEwen, Senior Sales Executive, Toronto
Being passionate and liking what you do goes a long way. It sparks excitement and curiosity, and it’s evident to everyone around you. There are so many different areas of tech and careers within tech that you can find the path you’re passionate about, even if you don’t start off in an area you feel excited about. -Jennifer Lieberman, Global Director – Solutions Marketing & Planning, New York
Have a purpose, big or small, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you have one. After all, your direction is more important than your speed. -Reem Rafeh, Business Director, Dubai
Be passionate about what you do. The good thing about this industry is that you’ve got so many paths to accommodate you…you can find the one that inspires you the most. Finding it is the first step to success. -Monica Prior, Associate Account Director, Madrid
There are many paths to go down within the tech industry, whether it be creative, engineering or sales etc. There’s the opportunity to move around, learn new skills and gain a broad range of transferable skills. It’s a never-ending learning curve and this industry caters to that well. -Melissa Mehmet, Director – Customer Success, London
Do you have any wishes or hopes for the future (or present) of women in the workplace?
I would definitely like to see a lot more women leaders in the workplace, along with a stronger support system in place at the corporate level to enable them to grow and lead a flexible & stress-free work-life-family balance. -Ek Roohi Kaur Advani, Senior Manager – Customer Success, Noida
I hope the future has additional opportunities for women leaders and managers, particularly in the STEM industries. Women should be encouraged to pursue any education and field. -Marly Sohr, Performance Strategy Manager, Baltimore
Women have an inherent capacity to multitask and handle challenges, which makes them natural leaders. We have seen great transformations in the workplace over the last 20 years and I hope to see more women in leadership roles in the future. -Namita Awasthi, Intranet & Digital Workplace Manager, Noida
My hope is that women feel like they can accomplish anything and don’t feel intimidated. Set the goals that you want and go after them, rather than following what someone else defines for you. -Jennifer Lieberman, Global Director – Solutions Marketing & Planning, New York
I hope women and society will truly come to know their worth in the workplace. I would like to see the gender pay gap and “impostor syndrome” truly abolished through sustainable, fair, and supportive workplace environments brought on by systemic change. I’d love to see more women in CEO and leadership roles, especially in the tech industry. -Hayley Dixon, Senior Sales Manager, Melbourne
My hopes would be to see more equity between women in more senior levels, not only in tech but across all industries. I currently sit on an industry council and am one of only two women out of 12+ men involved. I’d like the numbers to be more balanced and I hope that I can contribute to this by being an example as a woman contributing in a male-dominated environment. -Sarah O’Carroll, Director – Sales, Auckland
I hope that all women in the workplace are comfortable enough to advocate for themselves and feel confident in asking for what they deserve. -Tarah McEwen, Senior Sales Executive, Toronto
Many thanks to all the VDX.tv team members who participated in this interview!