On International Women’s Day, we spoke to we spoke to Diana Stefanova, R&D Site Director, VMware, EMEA. Diana’s one of our female technology leaders; she runs a large team of technical staff at one of our biggest global R&D functions. Below she talks about why she finds a successful technology career so fulfilling, and why more women should look at entering the profession.
1) Why did you choose to go into technology, and what led you to where you are today?
I actually think that the technology chose me. While my career started in finance, I have always worked for IT companies. Over the years, I went from leading the finances of IT companies through leading the business operations and corporate development at a major software developer, all the way to running the R&D Operations for VMware’s R&D Sites in EMEA. It has been a great journey and I have enjoyed every aspect of it. Working for an IT company that is changing the IT world and the way it does this through a disruptive technology like virtualization and cloud computing is an amazing experience.
2) Why do you find it a fulfilling career?
As I mentioned, working for an IT company that is constantly innovating and is leading its customers on a journey towards the cloud era is hugely rewarding. A fulfilling career for me means being part of something big and innovative, having the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in the world and – last but definitely not least – the ability to give back more than we take. By working at VMware, we have numerous resources supporting our social responsibility efforts through donations, and skill-based service learning. Last year alone, in Bulgaria we organised and sponsored a computer camp for 60 kids from an orphanage home. Our employees in Bulgaria taught the kids some basic computer skills, but we also worked with them on career orientations and placement. This is what fulfils and drives me forward each day.
3) What are technology companies missing out on by failing to employ more women?
The female population represents approximately half of the world’s population. In the IT industry we are always in need for more resources and by not encouraging women to go into technology we are missing on some additional intellectual IT resource. Furthermore, there are multiple research studies already suggesting that better business results are achieved in companies with a more diverse leadership team. Women and men are different and they bring a different perspective towards the way we approach and solve problems. Having the right balance would make a huge difference in the way that companies operate and I definitely believe that would lead to better results.
4) What initiatives are you involved in (inside and outside VMware) to encourage greater equality in the workplace? What needs to be done to get more women working in technology?
I am a part of VMware’s EMEA Diversity Team, which focuses on achieving better diversity through mentorship, dedicated recruiting efforts and overall talent development. I believe that in order to bring more women to the IT profession, we need to start by changing the perception that an engineering job is a man’s job. We are working with high schools and sending female role-models to the high schools to talk about the IT profession and about the impact that everybody can make through innovation in the dynamic IT world. I believe that if more people get involved in initiatives like this, then we would see a huge difference in the diversity in the next IT generation.
5) Who do you see as female role models in business or technology?
People would generally refer to well-known women like Hillary Clinton or Meg Whitman, HP, etc. While women like them do deserve a huge amount of respect, I would like to talk about women that personally have touched me and my career. I have to say that both my first and my current managers are women and they have made an enormous impact on me and my career. My first manager believed in me and helped me become an independent, proactive and well-rounded professional, while my current manager is a great role-model and someone that many people could learn from. I have had the opportunity to work and get inspired by many men and women around me and this made me who I am today.
6) Can you give any practical tips for women in the workplace?
Just be who you are. Believe in yourself and always strive to make a difference. We all struggle to establish the right balance between personal and professional lives. And I do know it is hard – but it is not impossible. Don’t settle for the low-hanging fruit, just go for the best no matter how hard it could be to get it. Good Luck! J
7) What advice would you give to teenage girls looking to get into the industry?
Just follow your dream without being affected by some old perceptions about what might be a girl’s job or not. Women can perform just as well as men in the IT profession; it is all yours to take. All businesses need diverse workforces and IT is not an exception. You can make a difference though innovating and driving the future.
8) Can you tell us more about your personal aspirations?
Personally, I would like to contribute more to the community and to support the development of education. I’ve been involved in is such initiatives for several years and it is my aspiration to continue focusing on this and making an impact. I believe that by contributing to the community, I can help to offer a better world to my two daughters and many other kids in the upcoming generations.