Why role models and encouragement matter for women in tech
CA’s Jin Zhang was named one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Women of Influence for 2017. We asked her a few questions about her career and thoughts on women in tech.
I originally fell in love with technology and computers when I worked as a Research Assistant in grad school. I have BSc degree in International Economics from China and I did my MBA at Iowa State University. I had to learn to write code for the statistical modeling analysis and ended up living in the computer center which is open 24/7. This experience opened up a whole new world for me and made me fall in love with the field. I eventually self-taught myself enough to successfully land a job as a programmer upon my graduation.
I joined CA in 2015, helping to build one of the very first CA Accelerators (an equivalent of a start-up within a large company). I led product management for an Accelerator project called forty2.io, combining machine learning with security analytics. I recently started in a new role, where I’m responsible for improving our customer’s experience with CA’s solutions. I’ve enjoyed working here – CA has a great atmosphere, but more importantly, it has a great desire to keep improving. CEO Mike Gregoire genuinely cares about inclusion and diversity. It’s important for me to have fun at work, and having fun also means allowing the different voices in the company to be heard.
Technology is all about solving problems and women are natural problem solvers. We are good at not only asking questions, but also listening and connecting the dots. These days, the problems our customers are facing are more and more complex. This requires a lot of coordination between multiple teams. Understanding what’s happening with other team members and building bridges between them are natural strengths for many women.
Role models matter for young women. It’s all about what they see you do. Companies need to make sure they’re reaching out to schools and communities. More importantly, we all have family members and young people in our community. Being a good role model for them can be very powerful when they start making career choices.
First, companies need to make sure there’s enough diversity coming through the interviews. At CA, we aim to have a diverse group of candidates for a job opening. The more diversity you have during the recruitment process, the more diversity you’re going to hire. The second thing has to do with promotion and advancement. As leaders, we need to consciously push women forward until we have a more level playing field. Third, we need to make sure the women’s voice gets heard and they get the credit they deserve. We need to make sure we nurture a collaborative environment and allow good ideas to surface, including calling out a team member who has been trying to speak. That will ultimately benefit the business.
I’ve had an exciting career, where I have been able to participate some very key, cutting-edge products and initiatives. However, one thing has been very meaningful for me is to get a couple of my mentees change their mind about quitting STEM career all together. I’ve had a lot of mentees throughout my career, both inside and outside the companies where I’ve worked. Being able to guide people and help them find new solutions to their challenges has been extremely rewarding. Working in this business is all about people; the sense of loyalty we have for each other and the passion we share for the field we’re in. The ability to help others and also learn from that experience has been extremely rewarding for me.
Sometimes women are concerned that they might not know enough about all new technologies out there. But you have to start somewhere! I always emphasize the importance of continued learning. This doesn’t mean you have to do a new degree; these days there are so many learning opportunities available. I myself go to tech meet-ups in the evenings. Technology is changing so fast that pretty much everything that’s useful now has only existed for a few years. We’re all learning all the time, so young women should not be intimidated by the learning curve.
About Jin Zhang
Jin is a technology executive with both enterprise and startup experience. Her customers love her passion and dedication, and her favorite technology area is data. Jin’s latest learning is around machine learning for which she owns several patents. In addition to building cool products that solves real problems for customers, Jin is also a volunteer for Palo Alto Lean In circle, an adjunct faculty at Stanford University, and a proud mother.