Shelly Hershkovitz, Product Manager, Research and Innovation at Imperva talks about being a women in technology, on International Women's Day, what it means to her, and what needs to change to further empower more females to follow in her footsteps.
How did you get your start in technology?
I’d say the biggest influence on my journey is my older brother. He studied Computer Science in University and went on to become an engineer at Google. Watching him show so much passion towards tech was one of the main things that prompted me to consider a career in the industry.
Were there any challenges that you faced?
I started off in a research role and gradually moved towards product management. That move was definitely a tricky period for me.
One reason was to do with how male-dominated the product management team was. I was the only woman to join a team of 20 men. The all-male environment was unfamiliar with lots of dominant personalities looking to take the lead. It was hard for me to make sure my voice was head above it all!
It was an uphill task that required me to focus on my soft skills – listening to peers, understanding their challenges and empowering fellow team mates by giving everyone a chance to be heard.
What advice would you give women starting their careers in tech?
Be confident in yourself. It can be a daunting task being a woman in a male-dominated team, but always stand up for yourself.
If anyone is acting prejudiced, never be too afraid to call them out. No matter what situation you find yourself in, listen to your inner values and beliefs – that way you can always rest assured that you are doing the right thing.
Why do you think there are not enough women pursuing tech careers?
One of the key reasons is definitely a lack of female role models to look up to.
When I was growing up, there were never any female role models pursuing tech careers, it was only men.
Having more inspirational women doing amazing things in the tech industry would be a good way to motivate young girls to follow in their footsteps.
What do you love about working in tech?
I love how creative I get to be.
Many people assume that the tech industry is quite boring, but the opposite is true!
It takes a lot of creativity and imagination to create products that provide solutions to the day-to-day frustrations that customers face.
I also love talking to customers. I take great pride in being able to develop good relationships with my customers. It is refreshing to look at things from their point of view and understand their pain-points by putting yourself in their shoes!
How do you think businesses should approach diversity and inclusion?
Recent times have seen lots of conversations around this topic, yet we are not seeing too many tangible differences to showcase that businesses are indeed embracing diversity and inclusion.
The first step is to reach out to women within the organisation. It is important that female employees feel there are no restrictions on any roles and that they can offer themselves to positions that may typically be considered male-dominant. When I was a researcher thinking of moving into the male dominated product development team, it wasn’t clear to me that a female would be considered for open positions on that team.
What would you say is your biggest achievement to date in your career journey?
I’m excited to be working at Imperva and the opportunity to be a part of building innovative technology that solves some of the biggest cybersecurity challenges. And as such, I’m a contributor on three patents dealing with a community-based platform we build for spreading attack reputation between our customers. In addition, there is a patent pending for the design system to find attack patterns within Web Application Firewall alerts that is used in our Attack Analytics solution, launched in May 2018.
Last but not least, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
The true meaning of the day is realised when I look at my daughter. I want her to know that she can do absolutely anything she sets her mind to, and I want to give her the confidence to feel that way.
When I was younger, it was normal for young girls to look up to Disney princesses. Nowadays, we see strong female leads in Disney movies showing girls that they don’t have to wait for a prince to save them!
To me, it all comes down to leading by example, and that is what I hope to do for my daughter. Days like this serve as a reminder of how important it is to provide the right foundation and education for the next generation.