"Every Female Leader Should Try to Mentor an Aspiring Young Professional"
10 Mar 2020
For Women’s History Month, we took the opportunity to interview Galina Husikyan, an experienced Business Analyst/Product Owner at VOLO, to get her perspectives and insight into IT and the role women play in this industry.
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey in tech.
I am an alumna of YSEU, with a major in Cybernetics. I started my career in tech while I was still a student, following the advice of one of my professors. Throughout the years, I worked in both the public as well as private sectors on projects from different fields: statistics, telecommunications, gaming, insurance and logistics.
What has been your most empowering/career-defining moment?
The first career-defining moment of my life was also the scariest one. I was at a point in my career where I had reached a comfort zone – comfortable with the work I do, happy in the team that I work with, but, unfortunately, not really challenging myself or learning and developing further. I decided to resign without having a back-up solution – a decision that I regretted in the first 4 weeks, but I was proud of in the long run.
The second empowering moment came later in my career, as I decided to change my position from a QA to a BA/PO, pursuing my interest in business development, building on my tech knowledge to make the shift.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges for women who want to enter the IT sector?
Although the women to men ratio in the IT sector in Armenia is much higher than that of many developed countries, the IT industry is still largely dominated by men. As a result, women often face gender stereotypes, gender bias, and exclusion. Furthermore, unlike in most of the developed countries, our women still take on most of the household chores sand responsibilities along with duties. Paternity leave is something that could help advance the equality of the sexes, if accepted both legally and socially.
What steps should be taken to attract more women in tech?
Every company should fight against gender discrimination and every female leader should try to mentor an aspiring young professional. It's important that the younger generation have role models to look up to.
Have you come across any gender-related stereotypes in the workplace?
Having joined the IT industry 13 years ago, I have unfortunately come across many gender-related stereotypes. One of the first job rejections I have received as an aspiring tech professional was due to the fact I was a young woman “likely to marry and go on maternity leave soon”. The interviewer, who was the head of one of the leading banks in Armenia, tried to elicit comprehensive answers to all of the questions, so it's nothing personal, I shouldn't be upset about it, right?
Of course, I got married 10 years after that interview, yet that didn't stop the stereotype from robbing me of an opportunity.
What is your message to women who want to get into the field?
In Armenia, I often came across the stereotype that men are better than women when it comes to the technical fields. Don't let anyone convince you it's true. Please do not let your loved ones sway you into thinking that your only focus should be your future family or that you necessarily have to make a choice between a career and having a family, because it simply isn't true. I am surrounded by many accomplished women in IT that are independent, successful in their careers, and happily married.
What perks/benefits/advantages do you think tech has given you as compared to other industries? In what ways does it empower women?
To me, the IT industry is without borders or limits. You work, collaborate, and compete with people from all over the world on projects with local as well as global impact. It has helped me become financially independent, follow my dreams without the need for approval and help from anyone else.
How do you walk the fine line between being assertive and seeming aggressive?
Unfortunately, women are often judged as aggressive for assertive behavior often celebrated in men. It is important to persevere – be empathetic, honest and competent towards your team , and the misconceptions will eventually fade away.
What influenced you to pursue a career in this industry?
When I was young, the IT industry was still emerging in Armenia. My school just opened its first computer lab and my sister and I (15 and 13 years old respectively) could not stop talking about it. Seeing our enthusiasm, my parents reached out to one young couple, both programmers, and organized a date for us to talk about the profession and what they do in their daily life. My sister and I were super impressed, especially by the young, smart woman, who we could one day become if we tried hard enough. I'm sure they will not remember us, but meeting this couple was the catalyst behind getting both my sister and me into the industry. Seeing our motivation and the opportunities the tech industry could provide, my dad decided to sell his car and buy us our first computer in 1999.
Given that women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority, why did you decide to pursue a career in tech?
My parents took pride in raising their daughters to be strong and independent. My whole life I was taught about the importance of equality between men and women and that I can achieve everything I put my mind to. As a teenager choosing a profession, I simply followed my interests – it did not even cross my mind that I may have been at a disadvantage.
Who are your role models for women in tech?
My role model is my older sister, who currently works at Ethereum – an open source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract functionality. She is a brilliant programmer who always strives to recruit more youngsters into the IT sector.
How has your unique background prepared you for success in the industry?
I have specialized in different areas of tech (Quality Assurance, Business Analysis, Product Management), which gave me a better, more holistic understanding of the industry overall.
How has Volo facilitated your role as a woman in tech?
Volo has always supported my career aspirations, listened to my ideas, and encouraged my initiatives. As an employee, I always feel heard, important, and supported.
Do you think women bring anything special to the table in the tech world?
Women bring empathy and compassion to the world of tech. The more diverse we are the more creative our solutions will be.
We're all aware of the challenges of working mothers. Do you feel that VOLO has supported and accommodated you as a working mom-to-be?
The news of my pregnancy has been celebrated among my friends just as much as it has among my colleagues and senior management! Throughout the course of my pregnancy, I felt their constant support, care, and attention. We are now discussing the plan for me to come back after my maternity leave, making it flexible and personally tailored to my needs.
Read also: Non-Tech Tech Insiders