Ana Pinczuk, AnitaB.org trustee and chief product officer at Veritas, will emcee the 2016 Women of Vision Awards Banquet in May. We caught up with Ana before the event to learn more about her career path and her perspective on how the tech industry has evolved in terms of diversity and inclusion.
When did you first realize you wanted to enter tech? Can you remember a moment that propelled you toward the path you’re on now?
My parents are scientists —physics and biology — so there was never any question that I would be in a STEM field. That said, I went to university to be a math and French double major, and I graduated as a mechanical engineer. During my freshman year at Cornell, I happened to have a really great friend who decided to pursue chemical engineering, and she’s the one that convinced me to go into engineering as well — she wanted someone else on the journey. She took me one day to do a solidarity march with her in front of the main engineering hall – I clearly remember marching back and forth with her, making a commitment that we would be accepted as transfer students from the arts and sciences. Having someone else on this same path with such conviction made me feel that I could do it as well, and so I did.
As an AnitaB.org board member, what do you look for an organization like AnitaB.org to do to move the needle and increase representation of women technologists? What do you think works, and what doesn’t?
I look to AnitaB.org to provide its audience with a venue to do three things. First, we are an amazing set of powerful companies and each one of us can make a difference. But together, we can really influence how the industry focuses on women in computing. To this end, the board can set an example within each of our companies and create an environment where a new bar and standard of performance is expected. Secondly, I look to AnitaB.org to provide practical advice. I feel fortunate that I can share successes and learn from collective failures. Finally, I also look for AnitaB.org to make a difference for individual women technologists by providing an environment where like-minded people can collaborate and learn from each other. In terms of what works, we have to think about this as a short and long game. We have to celebrate small steps around maintaining and growing women in computing, showcasing women’s progress, and creating environments that allow our employees to succeed. In the long term, we have to see the numbers change and create environments that propel other women to want to enter and remain in our fields.
How is the tech industry different now than when you first started when it comes to diversity and inclusion, especially for women technologists?
I remember starting at AT&T Bell Laboratories and there were just a few other young female engineers. We were working on factory automation systems at that time, going to factories where men had blatant displays of inappropriate signage and there were no females around. That was 30 years ago, and I do feel that things are different now. There is more of a collective consciousness around creating environments that cater to both men and women, and there is much more emphasis on diversity and inclusion as opposed to just equal opportunity employment. We have made progress in many areas in terms of awareness, such as ensuring that we have diverse interview panels, promoting more flexibility in terms of work location and schedules, offering better maternity and paternity leave options, building talent pipelines, providing sponsorship and being more inclusive in the environments that we create. There’s still a long way to go but I believe the environment today is much more open and inclusive.
What advice do you have for younger women entering tech today? What about mid-senior level women who are some years into their career – how do you get them to stay and succeed?
My advice for younger women is three-fold: first, pursue your passion because if you enjoy what you do and you do it well, that will generally be noticed. Second, in case you’re not noticed, ensure that you have advocates — bosses, mentors, sponsors — to guide you through your career. Seek advice from others to help you navigate your career. Third, continue to educate yourself and take risks. Ask for those opportunities that make you uncomfortable and raise your hand to take on something new. The worst outcome is an opportunity not taken, not failure. Failure is just an obstacle on your way to learning and eventual success. For mid-senior level women, I also have three pieces of advice. First, seek honest advice from someone that can hold a mirror up to you and tell it to you like it is. Second, seek out a mentor or sponsor, if you haven’t already. If you want a certain career outcome and you don’t have a sponsor, figure out why or what it takes for someone to know you well enough to be your advocate. And finally, be open-minded. Career journeys are not always a straight line, so think about the things you can learn by pursuing various options.
Hear Ana speak at the 2016 Women of Vision Awards Banquet on May 5, 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Reserve your seats today!