What women in CA’s product org say about diversity in tech
As part of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating diversity with a particular focus on women in technology.
We wanted to hear the point-of-view on diversity in tech from women in CA’s Product group, so we sat down with three ladies: Dilshad Simons, SVP of Product Management in Agile Management, Malini Leveque, Director of Product Design in Agile Operations, and Tracey Malloy, Senior Director of Software Engineering in Mainframe.
Here’s what they had to say.
What made you want to work in the technology industry?
Dilshad: Since early on in my school years, I loved math and science. I ended up studying industrial engineering, where I discovered that I care about the human side of things as much as the technical side. My older brother was in the math department and he was also into computers, so we worked with computers together. My first job was with the Microsoft and Apple distributor in Turkey 1989, and I have never looked back since. One of the things I learned early on is that I love working on collaborative applications because they are so powerful. It’s where technology and psychology connect, and it helps individuals amplify their power.
Malini: Working in technology was a happy accident. I came to California from India to study Art at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. I was intrigued by the design courses, so moved to the Design department at the end of my first semester. While others were pursuing advertising agencies and careers in branding and marketing, my first internship was at a Game design Software company – Mfactory. I loved everything about it – the creativity, the products, teams and most the fast pace of the industry. I’m so glad I work in technology – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Tracey: I never considered a career in anything other than technology. My interest in computing was sparked by my father back in the 80’s – the VIC-20 home computer hit the market, piqued my father’s interest, and one appeared at home. Writing simple little programs on that computer, like making a ball bounce across the screen, fascinated me. Later, one of my high school teachers started a club to share his interest in computing – we did simple programs in Fortran, printed out on punch cards. My path was set from that point forward!
What does it take to have a successful career in this industry as a woman?
Dilshad: I don’t think what it takes differs by gender. 99% of the time I don’t do my job a certain way because I’m a woman, I just do the best as I know how because that’s what I want to do. At the same time, you need to be aware of how people see and label you. The rest is straight forward. Know your stuff. When you do, you’re ahead by a long shot. Have fun. When you’re having fun, you’ll do your best work. Chances are if you’re having fun, you’re also being true to yourself which is something you cannot and should not fake. Lastly, network. Spend time considering who you need to connect with even if – especially if – you don’t depend on them every day.
Malini: As a person, when I get into the game, I come prepared and play with all my heart set to win, fair and square. What comes naturally to us as women is an instinct for planning ahead, caring about the details, and knowing that great products are made by teams that work well together. As women, we need to climb our own ladder. Especially as mothers we need to confidently set our own priorities – know when it’s time to plow forward in our careers and when to prioritize family and most importantly, believe it’s okay to do so.
Tracey: Honestly, I have never been one to define success in this industry differently between men and women. In my opinion, genuine interest and passion, a desire to succeed, an ability to adapt to change, and confidence to try new things are all keys to success – but, none of those are unique to being male or female. At the end of the day, gender has never been something I have dwelled on in my career – I’m just a person, among other people, in the industry.
What is the best and most interesting lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Dilshad: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not to assume, but ask, research and be open to discovery. Assumptions help us discover patterns and ultimately make decisions faster, but they also result in our biases. When I worked at Sun Microsystems, I traveled to Japan to meet with a large conglomerate enterprise that used the products that my engineers created. In the meeting with them and our local partner, I was the only woman in the room and the highest-level person there. I had a colleague who understood the Japanese culture, and at some point in the conversation, one of the executives asked a question directly addressed to me. My normal response would have been to answer directly, but my colleague suggested that I wait for our business partner to answer it first. After they answered it, I added on, which was the right move – they were testing to see how I respected my partner to handle the question. I remember that moment as a turning point. I had read about the cultural norms and practices ahead of the meeting, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I realized I can’t assume that I do.
Malini: Successful products have people, the user at the heart, not technology. Though my career, I’ve developed a proven respect for the importance of empathy in product development and building strong teams. Although user centered design (UCD) has been at the core of my design education and practice, over the years, I have seen engineering leadership starting to recognize the value of a customer-focused approach to product development. All said and done, there’s a lot of humanity to get things done because you’re working with people on product for people.
Tracey: I can honestly say that the most interesting lesson I have learned is that people have more respect for, and respond better to, a person that is comfortable admitting that they may not have the answer you are looking for. More often than not, people know when you are not confident in what you are saying. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand’ – just be honest, and learn for the next time.