Alana Karen Fireside Chat

Video Transcription

Hello, everyone and welcome to the series of Fireside Chats by Women Tech Network. We are inviting phenomenal and outstanding women to inspire you and empower you to grow professionally. Today, we have a special guest. Her name is Elana Karen.She is Google's veteran award-winning leader, tech leader and author of the book, The Adventures of Women In Tech. How we got there and why we stay. She's also a working mom of three. She has spoken at conference and Summit on Technology, leadership, diversity, equity, inclusion, talent and innovation.

She was also one of our speakers at Women Tech Global Conference 2020. Hi, Alana and welcome. Hello, great to have you with us. Great to be here. Thanks for making time for us and for everyone who is tuning in, feel free to ask your questions in the chat or comments depending on where you're joining us from hopping or uh youtube or Facebook. Uh And whenever you hear something that resonates with you, please do let us know in the comments. So let's get started. Um Elana Elana. Uh So my first question is like what provoked you to write the adventures of human and tech how we got there and why we stay, how long did it take this writing journey and may share with us some expectations versus reality moments would be interesting to get to know. Ok. Um

That's an interesting add on. I was so I've been at Google 19 years, but at the time that I was, I was having this sort of moment a couple years ago where I had just had my 17th anniversary at Google and that it all happened rather organically. I'd had, you know, I was on my fourth different job at Google. It had made sense at the time to keep staying. There were great opportunities I loved working there. And, but then I was at 17 and I was like, what am I doing with my life? Like, what's next? Where, what are we, what's uh what haven't I done that I've really wanted to do? And one of those things was writing, which is something that I'd really love doing when I was young. But as work took over, I hadn't really had time for it. So I started to just write some articles on linkedin about my experience at Google, what I'd learned along the way and the reactions to those were very encouraging. But it also made me think about how there wasn't a lot of content out there for essentially all of us in the middle, right? A lot of the times what is out there is about the people who've gotten to the tippy top CEO S coo s which is awesome, but also not always relatable is at least that's what I was feeling and what I was hearing from other women.

And then there's also the people who are having terrible experiences in tech, which I feel really badly for. But also wasn't the experience of, of me for the most part over the years and a lot of the women that I spoke with, so I was really interested about that middle and how we were navigating, having meaningful careers in tech. So that's, that's what I, you know, and in this, like, because I'd always wanted to write and I'd always fancied writing a book once I had the idea, I was like, I know women, I'll just go do it. Um And so I think that, like in, in this sort of reality versus expectations area, ok, it's totally doable. If you're thinking about writing a book, it is an intense amount of work. And I think that I was foolish enough and brave and, you know, they say like, you know, CEO S basically have to be, or like, founders have to be sort of foolish too, like brave and foolish. Um Same thing because it was just, you know, I went off and I interviewed 80 plus women. I spent all summer doing that.

Um It's been a lot of holidays I worked through and of course I couldn't have anticipated COVID Um But on the other side of it, I will say that it was also very easy in some ways. Um The, by the way, my son is making some kind of like creep if you can hear like beeping behind me,

like I can

elaborate deal he's ever made beeping. And anyways, he's go for it.

Let him go ahead. Yeah, no worries. Please continue. So you started sharing the whole summer right?

There was so much support, you know, I didn't know anything about the publishing industry. I had to ask a lot, just go to a lot of people in very loose contacts and say, I don't know, you wrote a book, like, tell me what I should know. Um And, and there was just a ton of support for that. So that was really amazing to see. And there's just a lot of online resources now and a lot of free ways to do stuff, you know, I wrote the whole book in Google Docs. I didn't do it in special software. Um So there's a lot of things out there that kind of support this journey.

Yeah. Interesting. You know what? Sometimes we have this image that you need to take some time off or quit your job and then start writing a book and like otherwise when, when do you will you find time? Right. Well, that for you, did you think like that in the beginning or you knew that? Hey, I don't have that much time. So this is the time that I have and that's how I want to spend it to write my book.

It was kind of a mixture. I was deciding that a lot of the work that I put into Google in my evening hours that I would cut that somewhat. Right? And I would red devote that to this purpose, which was both something meaningful to me but also meaningful to the world. And I thought it was also further, of course, women at Google. So there was this holistic win, win, win kind of thing that I was thinking about and that I thought this is the most important use of this extra time that I've always spent. Um, so it wasn't exactly, oh, I'm giving up my evenings. I'd always been kind of one of these people to, like, catch up in the evening on work or do things that I hadn't been doing. And so this was sort of saying like, ok, after the kids go to bed, what's that time? And reallocating it? Um, and that worked pretty well in 2019 when I had my job in a place where it was, it was working out for the most part, there's a two times a year where we do performance reviews and then nothing works during that period of time. But for the most part, the greater part of the year it was working out well and I would do interviews on the evenings or weekends and I would, um, write in the evenings and weekends and it was just chugging along beautifully.

And then 2020 happened and it's just been, um, special. But, but I will say that I'd already gotten enough writing done that the timing worked out very well. And I've had to cram the end parts of the, of the writing process, um, into very scarce time this year. But I was lucky enough that I done the majority of the writing. So I think there's a certain timing to all of this is my long, this is to, to round up this into an actual answer because I wouldn't have done it when all my Children were younger. I don't think I would have had the mental space and time for it. Um And, and it's just so physically fatiguing when they were younger. Um It wasn't a coincidence, I think that my youngest was, um, you know, 34 and kind of like sleeping through the night and coming through all of the intensity of those younger years. Um So I think kind of looking at it and looking at it strategically, like how is your job right now? How is your home burden all of those types of things come together. Um But make it workable. And I think also you can take as long as you want on this, you can write articles first if you want, right? Like there's no rule to it. Um, and I think sometimes we get kind of really stuck thinking it should be a certain way.

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that sometimes stops us from doing it. Um, coming to the topic that you briefly mentioned that you're actually a mom of three, as a working one myself. I find it super difficult at some moments to get through challenging situations. How do you manage?

Uh, did you manage and still manage and to be a good mom and to be a good professional and actually write in a book. Oh, you're old already. You both like,

yeah, I'm giving you a like, I don't know, did I um I mean, I think that's the thing. You're never going to know exactly what your grade is and that's both the, the frustrating thing. But I think that's also the thing to acknowledge, right? Like there is no thing that's going to come down and give you an a plus on this. Like you're going to have to figure out day by day, how are you going through the, the various issues? And what are you dropping to make things work today? What will you pick up next week? Right. There's a lot about this, that's prioritization related um that I will prioritize right now parenting because it's 2020 they are home and I will fit these things on, in, on the side and in a year or two, I will, you know, accelerate my trajectory on my career or same thing because my kids are young or, you know what?

Now they're in middle school and they're off to the races. And so now I'm gonna turn my gaze back to these hobbies that I never had. Right. To me, it's very about, it's very much about phases, not about having it all at once. But how are you, um, nurturing yourself over time and then there's a lot of self care, right? Otherwise I get very frustrated and I yell at the kids, right? Like I need my, I personally need my quiet time. I need to do yoga at least a few, you know, a few times a week. Um It was hard during the fires because I couldn't get outside, which is another important thing like I was not in or do something to get um quiet. And so I think there's really thinking through all of that, but I also just think there's times where it's not gonna be possible where you're gonna have two under two and, and you're frankly surviving for the most part. Um And I think that that's ok and I think we should stop putting pressure on each other for like Pinterest, perfect birthday parties or, you know, organic, homemade and baby food or whatever it is that over time added

on. Yeah, I think social media really can create this perfect picture of everything that everyone is doing so perfectly well, except you Right? And, and sometimes when especially your energy level is super low and you're not performing your best. So, yeah, I do agree with you that it's, it's about phases. And um you know, one of the women in t you interviewed shared that it felt like they expected me to work. Like I don't, I didn't have a baby and to raise my baby, like I didn't have to work. Did you feel like that at a certain point of your career? And how did you cope with the workload and family duties when things get hard? Like in the case with COVID, for example, well, it's still of course, ongoing process.

Yeah, I, you know, I think it's a real mixed. Um I think it's a real, it's really gonna vary, I guess is what I'm trying to say by where you are and what I found was if I was an environment, a culture at work with lots of parents, there was an organic understanding that there would be adjustments and that, you know, for instance, there would be daycare drop offs or daycare pickups or things I had to get home for or doctor's appointments or whatever it was and that it was harder in environments where there was less of that, maybe, maybe because of choice.

But a lot of times just because the environment on the whole was younger and they hadn't reached that milestone yet. Um And so I think it's really gonna vary across check how you, how you feel about that. Um But there's always going to have to be a decision on boundaries and where you set them, what time you hold precious, what time you carve out? I think that's something another woman speaks about that, that I do think women find it difficult to do that, but it's very critical to do that, to say, you know, from this hour to this hour is time I spend with my Children and I will catch up in one hour at night on emails that you send me or whatever it is.

I think it's easier for senior women to do certainly than junior women. But I still think it's very important that we try to set those boundaries and then we see how the culture we're, we're within, reacts to them. And if it doesn't work well, then we think about what that is like, how long do we give that culture before we move on from it? Are we willing to bend our boundaries for that culture? But to make it very decisive because if we just go year after year, giving extra time and, and cranking it in, it does no service to anybody, right? We're, we're, we can't sustain it. We get really fatigued and don't turn in our best work. But also it continues this belief that you could pull off these herculean tasks and be a mother, right? And, and invisibly um or do it and be a father, same thing can apply to men, right? So I think that we owe it all to each other to be very clear about those boundaries. Um And yeah, and if it's not working in the culture that you're in, those are some thoughtful questions about, you know, how important is it then to stay there or stay in that job, stay in that team. Is there a more supportive environment for you as a parent?

Yeah, that's a really good point because sometimes people feel like that's normal, right? To do to work over time or to spend more time just to prove that you are good enough, just to prove that you are enough, you're a good specialist. And that's what you're telling when it comes to, when it comes to junior women who are like maybe earning the, the reputation in a company. So it's a good question to ask yourself. Is it the right culture for me? Am I growing here? Am I feeling good? Am I feeling that I have some um some personal life as well? Not just my work all the time, right? Um You interviewed 80 plus diverse women who build successful careers in all niches of the industry. How did you find them? And what have you personally learned from all these interviews?

Yeah. And I started with um I didn't want to interview just people I knew, but I started with a core set of women who I had encountered in my career that I already knew were a good seed for diverse backgrounds, diverse races, um, different ambitions, different paths. They took different fields, right? You know, not just engineering but also non technical roles from a various various fields and also other technical roles. So just trying to really distribute, um, and, and get a good base and then I asked all of those women who should I talk to and in particular, I was interested in trying to find um women who just point blank hadn't, hadn't worked at Google or weren't at Google because I wanted to make sure it wasn't just like a book about Googlers.

And so, um over time I really branched out through that, right? Like every woman I met, it was like a Kevin bacon game kind of would introduce me to another woman. And, and I branched out through that. I also did some, I, you know, I don't know, I wouldn't call it random, but because I've been posting articles on linkedin, I had engagement there. And so I reached out to some women through that, I posted some questions on linkedin, which was a really great way to get some feedback from. Again, it felt kind of random, right? Like, you know, tell me what your experience is. Have you ever considered leaving tech? Um And, and just kind of seeing organically how that came in. Um And so it ended up working out there were a couple times where I had to very specifically say, for instance, let me go find women who have left tech. Um, because one of the things I learned along the way was that, that, you know, there's all these articles about women leaving tech, this, this risk of women leaving tech. But when I spoke with, you know, I was probably through 60 some women, most of them weren't le like they weren't gonna immediately leave, they weren't thinking about walking out of the door.

Um And so I had to specifically go find some because I wanted to represent that why we left in the book. Um And so I think that overall and, and I, I mean, you read the book, I think that for the most part, I was trying to really get into like the stories of the women and how they experienced it. So we had more examples and we all felt like, ok, then it's ok that we're different and we do belong. So there wasn't necessarily a major, aha that I was, um or a major thesis that I was trying to prove or not prove in the book. It was really very much this belief that we weren't seeing a diverse set of stories and wanting to fill that gap. But I did over time, I feel like debunk a little bit why women leave tech. Um Because the, the initial observation I made was, oh, how interesting it is that when I asked people why they join tech almost as if they rehearse it, they say the exact same thing um or the exact same set of things. Um They talk about wanting to change the world by being inspired by the technology and what it could do. Um Loving the people, loving the flexibility that it afforded um and wanting to change the world.

Um very much like dope, dope, dope, dope, dope, um check, check, check, check, check. Um And so it was interesting as I interviewed women and talked to them then about why they would leave tech or why they did leave tech that it was very much the inverse, right? If we're not inspired, we leave. If we don't feel like we can change the world anymore, we leave if we get trapped in a situation where we don't have a supportive manager that we don't like the team, right? We leave and maybe we don't leave tech, but we leave that situation for sure. And so I, I felt like the articles often are kind of like, oh why is this happening or, or they talk about more brutal environments? Um And to me, it was actually this more insidious, quiet thing. What happens when we get in these environments that don't inspire us um or that we don't feel supported or we feel stuck and, and how do we move on and, and, and restart our career or go in a different direction. And that was, I mean, I, I think it wasn't a major, I mean, it doesn't, it didn't surprise me, I wouldn't say, but it, in some ways calms me down. I was like, oh, isn't this mysterious reason? Women leave?

It's formulaic and we in fact could do something about that.

Yeah. Right. Yeah. I, I like diversity of perspectives in the book because women came from different countries, nationalities, backgrounds. It's not just engineers, for example, the all kinds of, of women working in tech. I especially recall now one moment and uh one woman said I am, I it was hard for me to get used to consider myself to be a woman in tech because I'm not coding. But actually I'm a woman and I'm working in tech and that's why I am a woman in tech and like, you know, sometimes it takes us a moment to actually realize who we are and that we actually belong in tech, right? And that was kind of an interesting moment for me to,

it happens to all of us. I, my, I have a friend who was helping me throughout this process, write my, my personal bio that I send to people, et cetera. And it was very hard for me to say I'm a veteran leader in tech, right? Like, and then I've been at Google for how long? And I've been a director for how long, but I have a B A in history, I never thought I would go down this path. I started off in customer service and I built a career in operations throughout my career. And now I'm in program management, which is very much within the technical space. But the way that it happened, like to me, there was always this like person that I thought of as that woman tech leader and it wasn't me. And so I, I think that it is really interesting. When do we, when do we go through that journey? And could we speed that up? Could we all feel like we belong in the room earlier um that we belong in the company that we are a fact tech leader earlier? Because then I think it would really um speed up all of these things that we ultimately do and really change the spaces that we're in if, if we can recognize that and see that earlier.

Yeah, that's why we need more stories like in the adventures of women in tech because I think they truly inspiring and more women can find say, hey, well, actually, this is similar to my journey and she's in tech and she feels good about it, right? And, and this, this, this is what what I did really love about the book, one of the one of the aspects. So, so to say, um also in your book, you share the importance of having a sponsor and we recently talked at our t mid Atlantic conference about sponsors and having a sponsor. And that um it was very interesting that you mentioned like two most important sponsors in your life. And one of them was Sheryl Sandberg. And you mentioned that during that time, she was not that famous. She was your boss at Google. And um after she left, were you thinking of uh leaving Google? And what kept you going?

Yeah. Um and, and in general, I talk a lot in the book about finding support and it can come in a lot of me, you know, it can come in lots of ways, not just a sponsor, it could be a mentor, it could be a coach, it could be friends, it could be family, it could be just a group of women that you regularly meet with, it could be online.

So I think that at the time where this happened, it was interesting that I didn't have that many of those things. And so it, it felt very intense when the sponsor left. But at the same time, I was in a, a really successful at the time role I had a lot going on. I was building a team. And so I was still really inspired and interested in what I was doing and it didn't really interest me that much to go somewhere else and start over. So I think that it, it could have hit at a different time and I might have been more interested I think I was also at the time, really interested in, well, who am I when I'm not being sponsored by this, you know, amazing woman who is, you know, very, very pivotal in my career, but also very influential.

And so I was kind of like, ok, well, who am I now? What kind of leader do I wanna become now? I should start sponsoring people. Um And so it was an interesting kind of it, it, it definitely, it wasn't something I didn't think about, but at the time, it wasn't right for me and I ultimately decided to stay and it was in fact difficult. I talk about that in the book kind of starting over, especially because a lot of people who knew my work did leave over the next years. But I found that journey to be very, very interesting and I continued to be really inspired by Google and the work that I did there.

Yeah, I, I like that. And um one of the things that you mentioned in your book also is I like the way you put it that it's been challenging and rewarding. And even if I'm not, if I am complaining, I love it. And um have you like, I know it's been different, right? When you started, it was a start up and now it's a tech giant. One of the, let's say it's not, let's say, but one of the largest companies in the world and one of the most wanted places to work at. You mentioned also that uh some women that you interviewed at certain point, like they worked at Google. Uh So my question is like, what makes Google a good place to work for women? And what do you personally love about it? And what other companies can actually learn and should embrace from the Google's culture?

Yeah, I mean, I, I think it's interesting, we're, we're all a work in progress and we talk a lot about that in the book, lots of quotes from women about like, you know, there's, there's this idea that you come to tech and everything's progressive and it all out and you won't run into these issues that have hampered our culture for hundreds of years.

But that is not true. It is still there. We still function within the society that many of us were raised in mixing in, you know, cultures from all over the world. Um And there's a ton of um just work that remains just a ton of work that remains, I think in, in making it a truly um a a place where everyone of every type could succeed, right? I think there's still more work to be done there. What I found really interesting about at Google and I think other um and, and, and a, and a woman points out that in the book that it tends to be more in larger tech companies that can fund the positions to really think about this and make progress and change hr practices and all of that type of stuff.

But what I find interesting in these environments is how hard we're trying. Um And so when I started at Google, years and years ago, there was already this belief in a very pure democratic meritocracy. Um And it wasn't meant to hold anyone back. We just had no idea that there were um unconscious biases, it was not something talked about. Um And so for years, people thought, oh, we're being entirely fair, right? You know, because it's all your work. Um and, and it's not that you're friends with this person or you're um you know, doing flashy stuff, you know, it's all entirely based on your work and over time we became much more aware of, oh no, there's all these things built in by, by the societies we grew up in that mean that we favor someone who looks like that type of leader that we favor that type of work because we believe it's more impactful that we um react differently to people who speak strongly based on what we expect of them, right?

Like all of these types of things that, that come in. And so that was a huge progress and Google really embraced it and then you see us now embracing a lot about racial injustice and what that means. And so I think that that's really why it makes it a great environment, not because everything's perfect. And in fact, there are stories coming out of tech all the time of places where it's not imperfect, including Google, but that we continue to progress and we continue to try and we continue to evolve our practices in trying to reach that. Um And that means your manager has gone through training courses on unconscious bias and on how to do performance management equitably. Um And so you have that basis, right? You have that expectation, you have that language that you can talk to your manager about and that managers are speaking about with other managers. And that's really important, I think because otherwise it's a little bit of a roulette like who gets the good manager who gets the bad manager. Um And we want to lessen that right?

You want to lessen that by having these programs across the board and, and having leadership, expect certain things all the way up the chain. So, you know, I can't answer for all of Google. And certainly I've heard stories from, you know, pro and con everywhere, including Google.

But I do think it's that effort and it's that spirit of trying and it's the belief that we should get there. And, and that's what um has kept me really interested in Google, not just in issues like this, but just broadly, you know, we may, we may some believe in, in our pursuit of what is good technical solutions, but we continue to try to help the world.

Have you considered like living tech for good and maybe starting your own company? Not ok, not living for good, but actually living and starting your own company and live tech and doing something else. Something maybe more creative, something more in a different direction.

Yeah. Well, I, I should, um, I should have prefaced my previous answer by saying I'm not answering on behalf of Google. That is just my personal

answer. Yeah, I mean, I was different than your personal, my personal point of view. I mean, we are talking, we are having this conversation with you and I'm interested in, in your experience and your perspective. And for me, it's for our community, it's, it's important to, to understand that uh how can you grow professionally, for example, having 20 years of, of, of uh 20 years in one company because right now, for example, I feel like many people switch jobs just because they want different experiences.

But what if you can have this experience? This is one company, right? You don't really need to change, change companies, you can take different roles in one company, right? So for me, it was important to get to know the culture and, and you know, it feels pretty well,

right? And I will, yeah, I will add that I was and I'll segue into the answer of your next question at, at various moments where I was ripe for change I looked around and I was able to find an interesting opportunity in Google. But what if I hadn't? Well, then I might have left Google. Um, and maybe I would have left tech, but a lot of my background is in tech. So likely I would have ended up in another company in tech, or at least in a, um, a technical subset of a non technical company. Right? Because of my experience. So, so I've never seriously considered it. I will say I've had utopian fantasies on days when I'm stuck in a room all day debating something, I'll be like, I just want to move to a farm and raise animals that don't smell and, you know, just, you know, have something totally different. Um But I think that when push has come to shove on my career development and what I want to spend my time on where I think I can do meaningful work, I've time and time again at, at decision moments focused on tech, returned to tech. Um And you know, because Google has been a large company and I've been able to navigate it and find opportunities, stay at Google. Uh And so I don't know what's in the future. Honestly, I've never known what I wanted to be when I grow up.

Um But I think that it was interesting, even when I started the book journey, I thought, well, maybe this is gonna take me out of tech and instead I feel like I've, like, navigated even deeper into tech, into the underbelly of what's going on and talking to all of these women and hearing their stories and, and now having this expertise, it's, it's taken me even deeper.

So, yeah, I don't know. Um, I, I think there's always a time in my life where I might like to not have the intensity of the work that I do now, but I don't think that's yet. And so what that would mean would I just dial back hours? You know what it, what would it mean is still a big question for me. I don't know. Um But yeah, I have been able to stay and that's been very special. Um And I, I feel very privileged that I've been able to do that.

Here comes a question from Teja Shri. Uh she asks, uh because it's connected to what we are discussing. She asked, um how have you discovered and utilized unique opportunities to climb higher and higher? And how has your background, which is a B A in history helped you be where you are today? Yeah, I

think that um a lot of my career moves, I will say have been a little bit more like lateral and then I go up a little bit later and then I go up a little right, like it hasn't necessarily, there were early years where I kind of went from junior to senior manager very quickly, but then there's been a bit of a plateau and, and I think it makes sense to some degree.

I'm not angry about it or anything. I grew so quickly in those years, it to director and then um have had some like growth within that, but there was a lot of catch up to do, let's put it that way. Um And so a lot of the reason I say that is because I had one job, the early years that I grew very straight up in, got to do a lot of stuff along the way. And because Google was so growing so quickly, it was like writing a rocket ship. Um And I didn't have to work very hard for those that growth because frankly, I was always somewhat behind, right? Like I was put in a manager job. I didn't know how to be a manager yet. I was a director and I was still catching up on like a strategy that I probably should have made for my team before I served to grow five years earlier, right? So there was, there was a lot to do within those years. Um And I talk about it in articles on linkedin. I didn't always do it. Well, a lot of what I was trying to figure out was how do you do that and not be an entirely grumpy mean person. How do you give space to your reports to grow? Um How do you become an excellent leader and manager.

So a lot of that stuff that we think is, um I think hidden the key to our career success down the road was a lot of what I was doing in those years. And then I looked for at my 10 year mark at Google, I looked for something that would really just stretch me and move me into something totally different. And I joined Google Fiber to build out customers support and installs. And that was one of those things that had the duplicative effect of helping me both go upward in my career, but also um really mature my skill set in those areas and, and, and prove out that I could do something totally different. Um And so along the way, I've basically always been looking for those things and to go back to your b your my history question, I'll say generally that I'm always trying to think about my translatable skills. And when I go to look for those opportunities and I go to talk to people, I'm very much emphasizing that, right? Like, no, I've never been in search infrastructure leading program management before, but here's my translatable skills. Like here's my stuff that works. And I will say that a history degree has led to um I think it always a certain attention to bias. Like what are people saying? What are they not saying? Who's dictating this story? That's a lot of what by it, what, what history, uh majors get into.

But I think also just a real attention to what's happening, what leads the system, it's, it's, it's some systems thinking, right? Like what is this that leads to this? And can you see patterns? Right? And history tends to repeat. And so I think there, there's been very much an influence in how I tend to think about that. Think about humans, even though I didn't take psychology, think about humans and our tendencies. A lot of that's within history too. And so I think that's really influenced a lot of how I tend to be people focused in my career and try to motivate the people to do great things and figure out what are, what's the environment that either causes people to not do great things or the environment that helps them do great things.

Oh I like that. Um Coming back to your question, right? The the main idea of the book, uh you said that it's to make you person who is reading, right? The woman who is in t to feel that they belong in tech. Uh The topic of belonging is the way I see it. It's in a company, it is relatively new, new diversity inclusion. Well, how many years we are talking about it? It's not enough yet if we are not fully embraced the the concept and the need of diversity. And um do you believe that if companies will strive to create a culture of belonging, let's say all the company when they start a company, when they figure out they need it like the earlier, of course, the data that we could have a more diverse and inclusive culture in tech.

Yeah, I think so. I think so. I mean, I will say that this is really hard for humans. Humans are instinctually tribal. Um We are attracted to the things we understand more. Um And, and so I don't think this is going to be easy. Um And I don't, I'm not surprised that we are in the climate that we're in where we're struggling um as a society to accept and understand that there are these um differences and inequalities that and, and structural biases that, that we haven't fully reckoned with. Um But I do think that if we can focus on the inclusion elements a lot, not just on the hiring element of who we hire, but how then they get here and they feel that they are empowered to succeed and that um when they're in a room, they could speak up just as much as anyone else um that their ideas are valued when they offer a different perspective that in fact, those different perspectives are crucial to our products and our success.

I think all of that will add up to a more diverse and inclusive environment because if you watch, we do have a problem with retention of minorities even when we hire them. Um and having seen data that even sort of puts your risks across there is still an environment where um women and other minorities are experiencing companies different than the majority. So lots to do there. And again, I'm not necessarily saying, I think it will be very hard for us to get perfect and live in a utopian society. I think there will always be stories where there will

always be something, right, always

be something. But I think the pursuit of it um will get us very far.

Yeah, it's, it's about the journey and striving to get there, right? Um You know, when it, when it, when it comes to speaking up and asking questions, um uh when, when Mullen overs the advice to younger self, he shared in the book that uh you would tell your younger self, just ask, what were some of the questions you didn't ask because you were afraid maybe you cannot recall them right now, but maybe something comes to your mind where you thought this problem super like you just were quiet but actually that wasn't maybe,

yeah, I mean, I don't remember like, you know, I think there's tons of times in meetings where we don't speak up and then someone says the thing we were thinking, let's send that. Um So I don't remember those, those definitely happened to me. Um over the years I've become quite more outspoken. So they happen less and less. I tend to now be the person in the room who just embraces that. I'm the person that brings different perspective and speak up. But that took me years. Um And I'm hoping that we can start to speed that up because I think that we all could offer much more if we felt like we could do that earlier. Uh But what I do remember are moments in my career where I was wondering why I wasn't, why I wasn't being, you know, someone wasn't offering me an expanded role or considering me for something and I didn't ask. So I remember that I was reading a, a successful effort already and there was a similar effort, different, different function if you will, but still a similar type of thing that you would manage to a similar type of team. And I was like, you know, what kind of, why aren't they thinking about me? Like, how does one, how does one get on their radar?

And I was sitting around like, and I just didn't know um and I talk about in the book, like having a hangover of complacency in my life um because I was raised without a lot of money and I just didn't know how to navigate these things, right? It all seemed so unachievable and unobtainable that I think I didn't learn a basic tool set that maybe people who believed they could get things would have formed earlier in their life, right? Like, oh, just this boldness to

ask, I can do that. I can, I can, I can become, of course, this person I can take this role. Right.

Right. I could sit there. That's right. Right. So for someone to crown me, not knowing that other people were asking, other people were saying, hey, I would be interested in that or have you thought about me for this or whatever it is? And there was the secret that I didn't know. And, and so yeah, so I just, I really encourage people to ask. Now you, you will get no, but even those nos could be no, but good that you're on my radar for or no. But here's something you should know that would help you get there or no, but you should know this about you, right? Like some developmental feedback that is holding you back from getting there and you should know that earlier. Um And so I, I just, I can't emphasize it enough. It's a whole part. It's a whole chunk in the book.

Yeah. Yeah. Like, like, well, but you're not asking you don't know what the reason might be. But what if they say yes, actually, why not you? Right. Why

not? And they just didn't know you were interested, they didn't know

exactly like, like people don't read minds, right? Like, just because someone asked and they got it. That, that's true. And I like the point that, that you added this in the book in general. Uh we have many questions. I will select the most interesting ones. Um Before we go there, maybe let's talk about success a bit. And what does success mean for you? And do you consider yourself to be a successful person?

Ok. I do consider myself to be a successful person. Um I, in part, I considered my success myself successful for years because I was a, I'd grown up without a lot of money. I got a B A in history and I spent a lot of time in school, like doing creative writing. I did not think I would make any money. Um And I was not on a career, a career path of any kind. And so that I became interested in technology and made this path for myself. I considered my success myself successful for years. I will say the bar was very low. And so I talk in the book about some issues I had later with ambition and where I would go from there. But I've, I've felt very successful um reaching a standard of life that I did not think I would have based on where I started. And I think that that has fueled a lot of contentment in my life. Um I have II I clearly need security based on how I grew up. Like I clearly need to feel secure. Like there's definitely times where my husband has to work really hard to convince me to spend money on something because I'm still like, no, let's just hoard it. It's great like you did on it. It's awesome.

Um, and so like, every time he's like, we're, you know, like we have three kids, we're outgrowing the house or whatever. Like, it has to be like a gentle conversation with me or whatever it is. So, I, I think there are some cons underneath that, but I have felt generally successful and I do think that it's, it's our definition, right? If we, if at different times, I decided to believe in other people's definition that I should be a coo or I should be a CEO by now or I should follow that specific path or, you know, I should have made X money by X age or whatever it is, then I wouldn't feel successful. And I do think we have to, to gut check that, right? What do we really want? What is our definition of success and how are we focused on that? And I have to continually recommit to that. Like there will be times where I see someone else get this job or someone else get that promotion or someone else, you know, now get that leadership position in the company. And then I have to say to my, wait, did you even want that? Why do you, why are you jealous? Like what is, why are you reflecting this back on yourself at all? Like what is that? You don't even want that job.

Um And so it's not something that I think anyway, at least with me, I haven't been able to just have this golden moment and never revisit it. It's a continual revisiting of what do I want? What do I want to pursue? And that led me down this path of a true journey for me, of writing this book. And I think if I'd been distracted by other things, I might have gone down a very different path and been less fulfilled, potentially. I mean, who knows? Um following other people's definitions of success, not my own.

Can you start off of uh quitting writing the book at any moment or you were just 100% on like I'm going to get this done.

I was once I had the idea, I was just like this is so needed. Um for context, there are so few books about women in tech that I'm already on the first page of results on Amazon, right? And I've like not sold that many copies yet. So like it's, it's that needed of an area. And once I had the idea I was, was totally into it. Um there were times I struggled absolutely. And for instance, I would get tired of transcribing the interviews which I did through. There's great technology to automate transcribing them, but you still have to go back and fix them and decide what you're going to take from them. And I would get burnt out on that. So then I would just let myself write whatever I wanted to write and then eventually I would go back to the transcriptions. And so you do have to figure out how to pace yourself for sure. Um But no, once I, once I felt the value of it, I just was Gangbusters on it.

Yeah. Good, good that you did. I think the book is really cool and I think people who are listening to us should read it and I think everyone can find something that will resonate with them and the book is already available for preorder. So we'll share also the link and I'd like to and the

E book releases tomorrow, right? Like the

Yeah. OK. Cool. Super excited about that. Um Let's take some questions that here people asked. So here's a question from Aisha how to deal with the situation where someone tries to demotivate you on every small step of your job when they try to insult you and your work, especially when the demotivated is a woman.

Yeah. Yeah. It's very interesting. I have a whole chapter in the book about what is this dynamic with women um and why women might not help women and how do we think about that? And, and why is that happening? And of course, how frankly we should help each other because that's the only way we get out of a zero sum game where it feels like we're competitors. Um listen, people have issues. I mean, who knows why this person is doing this? Um But the question for you is a, is there anything you can do about it? Right. Like, do you want to try things? Have you already tried a series of things to try to change that situation? And how long will you do it for? So, you know, a lot of times we don't want to quit, we feel like we owe it to ourselves or the culture or other people to stick it out. And I think that that is true, but it's true for a period of time. Right? It's true. For three months. It's true for six months. It, you know, it's true because maybe you want to get that next promotion. Um But it's not true forever, right? We have value and we are worth more than staying in that kind of situation. So I think there are things you try talking to the person directly, talking to others to try to understand what might be going on. Um, getting advice from a coach on, you know, I'm getting feedback on this, you know, how would I pursue it? Right.

Um Telling a manager and discussing it with a manager, um, just telling the person it's not cool. Right. Not even trying to have a discussion, be like, hey, lay off. That's not cool. Um There's different things you can try, but again, how long and I would put a timeline on it and if it's not better, I would then think, am I switching teams. Am I reporting this person to hr am I leaving the company because the company has this going on? That's why it's acceptable and why this person is allowed to continue to do it. Um, because then you feel in control is the important thing. I think when we stay and we put up with it, we feel smaller and smaller. We don't feel in control and it hurts our careers. But when you say, OK, three months, I'm gonna try these three. OK. Two because that's what I hold up. I'm gonna try these two things. If that doesn't work, then I'm gonna do X or Y you're in control and you can leave or whatever you do next with your head held high because you know, you did what you had to do.

Thank you. Uh What advice would you give to women who have had to take a career break due to personal reasons and are looking to rejoin the tech industry?

Yeah, we talk about this a little bit in the book too, although it's just, it's through stories more than like huge advice or anything. I think that um it can be difficult to come back because I think sometimes the there is some, you know, critiquing of that break. Um I find what tends to help is that people start to take on things, whether it's projects, whether it's freelance work in the area that they're doing, um, a little bit of contract work, um, that helps them. So now it's band class for my, the last few minutes we're gonna hear band, um, to, to start to rebuild up that resume and to have some recent things on there, whether they're paid or not, sometimes people have been doing by the way, very relevant things during their break. Right. Whether it was volunteer work with the school or coaching on the side or whatever it was. And so for, again, for those things, I would think about what are the translatable skills and how can you still show those on your resume? I think cast a wide net in looking for an environment. You want to find an environment that would be supportive of that. That's like that's cool that you took a break and, you know, let's get you back in, right? Um And so that may take a little bit of time to do that. Um And trying sort of different levels of jobs, different kinds of things, right? You know, if you left and you were a manager, you may have to first start back as an IC individual contributor.

Sorry, that's Google language. I have no idea if it translates. Um so individual contributor, right? Like someone who is reporting to someone not managing people yet, um We'll have to try some different things, but I definitely suggest some things to kind of get you back in there, um and start to rebuild out, you know, that, that resume and show some recency in whatever field it is, right?

So if you're doing program management, do some volunteer program management be to say that you were doing program management, for example, web development, you can do it for an organization, a non profit, right? And get that back on there. Um And so that, I think that just starts to like get you in front of recruiters more easily get staffing back because they see that recent work and it, and it gets you going. There's also classes, by the way, that's totally up to you. If you wanna refresh your skill set, tons of online classes at this point, tons of um different environments. You can do that whether it's like an actual college environment versus one of these sort of tech um tech focused training courses. Um And often even if you can't afford them, there's scholarships for them. So lots of avenues there.

Cool, thanks. Um There are more questions, what would be the best way to connect with you? Is it on linkedin, Twitter if people want to ask them, linkedin

is great. Um You can find more about the book at Adventures of Women in tech dot

com. We will share the link.

It also has a Gmail address, Adventures of Women in Tech at So very easy to remember. Um So any of those ways linkedin is Great. I'm there, Twitter. I'm there. Right. Like I'll see anything.

Yeah, cool. Thanks. Um One last question from me before we go is um I know you asked this question to women that you interviewed and I liked it so much. So I decided to ask you if you could change one thing about working in tech mag magic wand style. Like uh what that would be. I know it's your body already changing.

I know and, and the whole time it's so funny the whole time I was asking that question, I was like, I really better think about this and have a good answer. Um I think the best one that I've come up with and I, I say it in the book a little bit but I would love um women and other minorities to be able to own their awesome earlier and feel like at, you know, 2020 25 they can speak up in the room at 2530 they could manage people that they could be that leader 5, 10 years earlier than they think that they can.

Um because I think that will really change the dynamic in tech as well as other fields. And I'm really interested in how do we get there right? In a society that often has trained us the opposite. How can we flip that and get more of us in the room, get more of us speaking up. Um That that would be if I had a magic wand. I would just instantly change that.

That's wonderful. Thank you very much for everyone who is listening to us. We shared in on, on hopping, we shared here um the link to uh preorder the book and um more information we'll be sharing. Also, we have an article where uh you can find also about Elana's book, Elana. Thank you very much for this super interesting chat. I did really enjoy it and as well as I did enjoy reading your book, as I told you, it was, I just like, couldn't put it down. It was so interesting and I learned a lot and I think every woman can find something new, something that she would say, hey, now I know the answer and I think I would highly recommend everyone who is listening to us and especially if you are a woman in tech to read it and, and now the networking area is already on Elana if you have time, stay with us.

Uh Everyone who is unhappy and you can go and do one on one networking and connect with people who are here. People are thanking us telling great advice and lots of inspiration. Thank you, Magda. Thank you very much, everyone who joined us and um wishing you a great day, Elana. Thank you very much and wishing you a great day success with the book. Uh Looking forward to seeing you at our events, speaking at our events. And uh I know that you have on your uh personal website. You have many events planned, super excited for you. Um Thank you very much for your time and um see you. Thank you. Bye bye. So thank you very much everyone. Uh I just wrote that she has to run, but I encourage you to take um time if you have and to go to do one on one network and to connect with like-minded people from our community. And I'd like also to take a moment to announce that we are going to have women tag global awards on December 3rd. In case you didn't see our update on linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my personal page. Uh It's, I'm super excited about that. The nominations already open.

We have many cool categories that you can find um a spot. Uh maybe for yourself or the woman that you admire that they will be open until 29th of October. So feel free to nominate an exceptional woman you look up to if you think she's awesome. And uh because I know that many women probably will be also shy to nominate themselves. On one hand, you should nominate yourself. If you feel like you deserve the award. On another hand, you need, it's good to put people forward who maybe are too busy working and don't always have no time to notice how cool they are and to empower each other. So take this moment, we'll be back uh in the, we'll be back um in two weeks, right? With another cool file side chat and uh more updates are coming. You can also check out we post regular content on our blog, new tag blog, um including the list of the books to read. This fall, cold days, cold nights are coming and it's good really to have something to uh warm to read and to inspire yourself and to empower yourself to grow professionally. Thank you very much for your attention. Let us know in the comments how you enjoyed this chat.

What was your favorite moment? What have you learned? Super excited to hear that and goodbye. See you online.