Tell us your story.
I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon during the worst times of the Civil War. Think no electricity, no computers, and barely any technology growing up. Yet, driven by curiosity and a good challenge, when it came time to select a major at the university in the early nineties, I picked the one that I knew little about: Computer Engineering. And as expected, I was one of a couple women in the entire graduating class ☹ I would have loved to say that the environment was supportive of Women in Technology and Computing, but that would not be a true statement. Computers though made a lot of sense to me: you can program them the way you want, you can create things much bigger than yourself, and most importantly you can apply that knowledge in literally any market or domain. Super cool!
Later, I won a scholarship to study at MIT and learn about Geographic Information Systems. Going to MIT was like going to Disneyland for me. What an amazing and inspiring place. Yet, once again, I was in the company of very few women in the Engineering domain, especially at the Graduate level. Luckily, that didn’t matter, and I feel that I have received the same level of support and encouragement as my male peers.
Since graduating, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside the best people in the GIS industry, and receive great mentoring along the way. I’m even more fortunate now to be on the giving side of mentoring in my new position as CEO of Snowflake Software Inc, working with an amazingly talented and incredibly motivated group of young developers. Now that’s inspiring!
What advice to you have to share with other women and young girls?
I can't say that it's easy being a women in the Technology field, especially at senior levels when business deals are unfortunately still being done in “old boy networks”.
So, if you find yourself being the only woman in the room, you definitely deserve to be proud of yourself. Overcome the discomfort: you are there because you are as good as everyone in that room (if not better!).
My advice to young girls and women is to be passionate, to not hesitate to take risks and seize opportunities that may seem bigger than you. I would say keep learning and don’t take things for granted. And if things don’t quite work out, don’t be afraid to question the status-quo, and definitely don’t be afraid of moving on to the next challenge. You are much stronger than you think you are!
Last but definitely not least, be confident and proud, and please try to help other women get up to speed and excel in the digital world. We are a bit lacking in that arena.