AVAST Software is officially a great place to work. One of the reasons it’s so enjoyable here is because of the women we work with. Like most technology companies, AVAST is male-dominated. Our male colleagues are the best at what they do, but since International Women’s Day is on Saturday, March 8, some of the women of AVAST sat down together to have a chat about women in technology, careers, daily challenges, and who inspires us. This is part 1 of that conversation.
Coffee and conversation
DEBORAH Thanks for joining in on the Women's Day conversation. Most of us had a winding career path that lead us to work for this great technology company. What were some early experiences with technology that influenced your career?
CAROLINE I've always been proud that I'm one of the first people to try new technologies. I remember when I was working for a subsidiary company of recruitment juggernaut, Monster.com, that I was one of a handful in our 200+ employee office to jump right on email when it was being introduced. And some 17 years later, look where email has us now? Everyone uses it – a business mainstay.
MAGDA I worked at Cisco in the past, and I was really amazed by the media which allows you to communicate. My first interview was done via Telepresence, and I was really excited about how easy it was to just connect anytime without spending hours on a plane.
CAROLINE As well, during my time at Porter Novelli - a global public relations firm - I was part of the team that championed and recognized the power of the web (the Internet had only come about in the mid-90s). Websites were big business for PR firms back in the day – we wrote copy, designed the look and feel, advised on messaging, etc.
MARCELA My background is pure social, and when I was offered a role in an IT Company 8 years ago, I worried about how I can learn and understand an IT technical world. It took a few years of listening, Googling, and studying to catch up on core technical things to be able to understand and see the whole picture but it was definitely worth it.
MAGDA Working in technology gives you a lot of useful and interesting skills, which you can apply in your private life as well.
DEBORAH The curiosity and creativity you describe seem to be a trait among pioneers, women and men, in any field. What technologies do you ladies use today that allows you to express who you really are?
DOMINIKA It is hard to admit, but I think I am a social media addict.
JULIA Me too.
STEFANIE And me.
DOMINIKA I would never be able to delete my FB account or other profiles! I find these social networks useful for staying in touch with my closest friends and colleagues.
CAROLINE I agree. Facebook has brought so many of my friends together from across the world in the one place, and it's a fantastic forum to express myself, chat and keep up-to-date with people.
MAGDA I am using Facebook, of course, but I found two very interesting applications lately: Pinterest, where you can mark and view whatever your areas of interests are and Instagram. I love it. You can express whatever you feel, think, enjoy at this moment by simply uploading a picture, and I really find their photo editing tool useful.
DOMINIKA I enjoy taking pictures too and sharing them with others, so my most favorite apps are the ones focused on editing images, like Instagram, VSCOCAM, FastCamera, Lightroom, etc.
ANTJE I use my iPhone for taking pictures and then Instagram them, but I also have a Canon Reflex camera for taking pictures. I edit them on the iMac and share them with family and friends via the internet.
SELMA Photography is one of my hobbies too, so I use SLR / DSLR cameras to shoot nature, food and portraits and use digital editing software that helps me to edit my photos.
JULIA Hardware and software such as mobile devices, social media and other apps which allow me to create, edit and eventually share content, are perfect for me.
CAROLINE I also rely on Skype and have weekly Skype calls back home to my dad and friends, which is so nourishing and makes it easier not to miss Australia.
JANA I always like reading books and since I got my e-book reader, I have done nothing else than read books on my e-reader on my way to or from work in public transport.
MAGDA My top device I use is a Kindle, since I am addicted to reading books. It made my life so much simpler as it fits perfectly even in my small purse and is so light.
JANA My netbook and e-book reader are both white, small, light and suitable to every handbag, perfect for everyday usage!
DEBORAH Before this conversation turns towards technology as a fashion accessory, let me ask you about any challenges you've faced being a woman in technology? How did you overcome them?
STEFANIE I think many women in technology face the challenge of having to prove their knowledge in the tech community. In order to overcome this, we have to always be on top of our game to show others that we know what we are talking about when it comes to technology and can be just as interested, if not more, in technology than men.
JANA Malware analyst and data analyst are still not typical job titles for women. I share an office with ten smart guys, and I have to admit I enjoy working with them. Did I have to persuade them at the beginning that I was not 'just a woman'? Maybe a little at the beginning. [Laughs] Being the only woman on the team has both advantage and disadvantage.
SELMA Actually I don’t think there is any challenge in being a woman in technology. It is about being interested in that particular area of technology.
PAVLA My father has a special theory that there is some spot in your ear with technology-related “circuits.” And women have this damaged by having earring holes. [Everyone laughs]
DEBORAH Besides the obvious disadvantage we have from the extra holes in our ears, why do you think there is an imbalance between the number of men and women working in technology?
MARINA In my opinion, the imbalance starts with the cliché that's unfortunately still part of Western societies that boys are supposed to be good at math and girls are good at languages.
STEFANIE It’s societal gender roles. Starting from a very young age girls are taught to wear, like, and play with things that are pink and delicate. Pretty dolls teach girls to focus on their appearance, easy-bake-ovens and doll houses - that they should take care of the household.
MARINA Yes, and if teachers and parents don't expect their girls to bring great results in math, physics and computing, girls may not be supported in the same way as boys in these fields.
STEFANIE Boys play with toy cars, build things with Legos and play video games, all of these activities provide them with early contact to various forms of technology. Categorizing activities and toys into things for boys and girls stays with children, following them as they grow up, making many people, unfortunately, think that technology is something more for men.
JANA Some jobs are perceived to be more suitable for men than for women, and jobs in the technology industry are among them. Moreover, some girls and women find everything which is connected with IT and technologies too difficult to deal with it and never give the field a try.
MARINA The same is the case for men and languages - for example the field of public relations where language and communication are key, is dominated by women.
CAROLINE It’s just one of those things that’s universal. Diversity is a great thing so as a woman, I enjoy being a PR person in a male-dominated industry.
PETRA From my point of view this imbalance only reflects the general fact that in some professions women are more successful than men and vice versa. Generally speaking, men have more technological knowledge and skills and really technical positions are occupied by men. On the other hand, we can see an opposite imbalance in other professions, for example, accounting.
SELMA It is true that there is imbalance between men and women working in technology. Unfortunately the sector has been dominated by a collection of semi-obsessive, socially-incapable men. This has discouraged women entering the field.
MARINA We all need to change the way we think about role models in our society and educate our children without any prejudices in our mind. Everything is possible for everyone!
DEBORAH As we wrap up our first conversation, describe your “dream day” out of office.
JANA My dream day out of office is a sunny spring day that I can spend with my husband biking, hiking or traveling.
STEFANIE My perfect day out of the office would include spending time with good friends, playing tennis, lying in the sun near water, eating delicious meals with some tasty drinks.
DOMINIKA I would wake up to a sunny day somewhere with an ocean view, then I would take my bike and go grocery shopping, then later I would cook my favorite aglio-olio-pepperoncino for my family and friends. In the afternoon we would go to town for great ice cream and we would spend the rest of the day having a picnic, taking pictures, and playing games on the beach.
SELMA My dream day would include traveling to somewhere which has sun and sea. I could go to Olympos or The Lycian Way in Turkey.
JULIA For me it’s clear it would be a day in Tel Aviv: A city of unlimited options, great beaches, and atmosphere, very friendly, open for discussion and innovative people.
PAVLA Just one day? All my dream activities would not fit in one day. Maybe if it is inflatable. I would definitely include mountains!
ANTJE Beach, sound of waves, sunshine, blue sky, no phone, no computer, no internet – just lovely friends, delicious homemade food, and the awesome feeling of happiness and peace of mind.
DEBORAH Thanks, friends. Let’s meet again in a day or so and keep talking.
Check back tomorrow as we continue the conversation with AVAST women – Part 2. Happy International Women's Day!
WHO ARE WE? Our group is international – Czech, Polish, German, Australian, American, and Turkish. Deborah Salmi, U.S. Marketing and Social Media manager leads the conversation. My colleagues are Jana Medkova, who started as a junior malware analyst and is now working on a new project in the R&D department as a data analyst; Marcela Římalová, AVAST’s first recruiter responsible for matching the right job with the right employee; Pavla Kholová who works for the Free for Education project which provides free business-grade antivirus for educational institutions in the U.S.; Petra Němečková, a Marketing Project Manager who recently prepared for AVAST's participation at Mobile World Congress; Magdalena Kuberacka, originally from Poland now responsible for channel partners communication, training and certification process; Julia Szymanska, also from Poland working as the European Social Media community manager; Dominika Kalašová, Public Relations specialist and Czech Social Media community manager; and Selma McArtain who works as Sales and Support Specialist for both Turkish and English language customers. Talking to us long-distance from Munich, Germany is Antje Wolf, assistant to the management of AVAST Software Deutschland; and members of the Communications team, Marina Ziegler, Sr. Global Communications manager, along with her colleagues Stefanie Smith, an American living in Munich specializing in public relations; and from the west coast of the United States, Caroline James, an Australian living her dream in Redwood City, CA as the U.S. PR manager.
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