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Women in Tech: Jeanie Gong

ExtraHop Corporate Counsel Jeanie Gong talks inspirational women and diversity in tech.

***In honor of Women's History Month 2018, the women of ExtraHop are sharing their experiences in and around the tech industry. These blogs are in their own words. Read the full series here!***

Jeanie Gong

ExtraHop Corporate Counsel Jeanie Gong

Who is a woman you draw inspiration from?

Throughout my life, I have constantly drawn inspiration from my mother. I moved to the United States from China when I was a young child with my mother; my father had already been in the US for a year at that time, working on his master's degree. The flight over was the first international flight for the both of us. It was also the first flight over five hours either of us had taken, and her first time flying (solo) with a toddler. To say I could have been more cooperative would be putting it much too generously.

My mother grew up in a time of great transition; both on a macro-level, with immense political change happening in China, and on a micro-level, as a young woman trying to figure out her place in life. Throughout her life, she has consistently embraced new and unknown opportunities and adapted quickly to the changes happening around her. When Western music, film and other art forms were becoming increasingly restricted, my mother turned to books and creative writing and collected relics where she could. When computers and IT first expanded in China, she enrolled in computer courses and obtained a job working as a computer graphics lecturer at a university. And when deciding with my father to move to a new country for better opportunities, she embraced the move to a foreign country where she did not know the language or the local customs.

Although my mother did not always immediately relate to and understand American culture, she was always a reliable sounding board for any struggles we faced. My mother encouraged us to express ourselves and to form our own opinions, even if those opinions would largely deviate from her own from time to time. She also pushed my brother and I to pursue all the opportunities available to us. My mother has always been there to help us find the balance between Chinese and American cultures and worked to provide us with all the tools we needed.

What's the biggest challenge facing women in tech today?

One challenge that I have faced is being told how fortunate I am to be a diverse candidate. I do consider myself very fortunate in many aspects, however this is not a perspective that I share. Articles and statistics about women representation in tech would likely also not agree. While I cannot escape the innate traits that classify me as a diverse candidate, this doesn't mean that I am given more opportunities than I deserve, or that I am only given certain opportunities because of these innate traits. To simplify the issue in this manner detracts from real progress and too quickly dismisses the underlying reasons why such efforts are being made to be more inclusive and diverse.

Any advice for young women just starting their careers?

Often when I meet with students, I am asked how I got to where I am today. However, the path I have taken was never something I had planned on or expected, even a few years ago. While there is great value in planning and weighing different options, having too many options can lead to paralysis. At a certain point, taking action is more important than a lengthy pro/con list, even if the result of that action is discovering that you really do not like something. At least with that conclusion, something can be firmly crossed off.

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