ExtraHop is spending this week celebrating International Women's Day (March 8th) by hearing from some of the brilliant, passionate women so integral to this company and the tech industry as a whole. How'd they get into STEM? What advice do they have for other women and girls? Gear up for a whole week of blogs from the women of ExtraHop, from the engineering departments to marketing and everything in between. Happy International Women's Day!
As a woman in technology, I was asked to reflect on what got me started on this path, what I love about technology and my advice to other girls in the field. So I'm going to tackle each of these one by one.
Some of the key personality traits that come to mind while characterizing a quintessential nerd are studious, gets good grades, likes math, science and science fiction, and poor sense of fashion. Barring poor sense of fashion, I think I hit the checkboxes for most of the other traits. Growing up, I enjoyed algebra and solving all types of equations – linear, quadratic, differential, integral, simultaneous, you name it. Having an overachieving older brother also helped as I would have it no other way but to achieve academic success just as he did. Top that up with my love of watching science and space TV shows and I think it becomes pretty clear why I picked STEM as my path. I went on to pursue a bachelor and masters degree in engineering and landed with jobs in the technology space thereafter.
Working in the tech industry has been a fun ride so far. At ExtraHop I have been fortunate to work with some of the smartest people and coolest, most cutting-edge technology. I often find myself thinking 'Wow, that was cool!' when I see work done by our engineering team or by my peers for team contests. This feeling of exhilaration on seeing cool tech is visceral and is the reason I enjoy what I do. As part of my job, I get to solve real-world customer problems, flex my creative muscles and build stuff, learn something new each day and ultimately contribute to the bottom line of the company. In addition to the technical aspect there is also an emotional aspect to the job as it involves being able to connect with people at a personal level. Being an introvert by nature that is one part of my job that I found most challenging. I love working in technology as it is always pushing the envelope of innovation for the betterment of life.
My advice to girls in tech or aspiring to make it in tech is threefold – find a mentor, stop apologizing, and acknowledge your accomplishments. We all need a mentor who can show us the ropes and share their wisdom so that we can benefit from his or her experience. I have always reached out to people who I look up to for career advice and have always found it invaluable. If you don't already have a network you can tap into, build one by joining relevant, local Meetup groups or organizations for women in STEM like SWE, WIT, etc.
The second piece of advice refers to something I am guilty of myself. I find that as women we are hardwired to apologize for everything – "Sorry, but I think we should do this", "Sorry I went on too long", "Sorry, but I want to point out…" I have seen this so many times in my interactions with other women. "Sorry" seems to be a filler word we use between sentences. We need to make a conscientious effort to observe this behavior and only apologize when really needed.
Finally, take a step back and acknowledge all your accomplishments. While balancing professional and personal lives, we tend to be overcritical of our work while not giving due credit for our accomplishments. Remember that the simple response to anyone who appreciates your work is "Thank you."
I have often been in meetings where I'm the only female engineer in a room full of male engineers. As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's be bold and change this equation! Happy International Women's Day!