What better way to start off a Women at Zendesk blog than speaking about International Women’s Day?
First let me introduce myself. My name is Catarina and I work for the recruitment team at Zendesk. I decided to start this blog not only because diversity is such a hot topic these days but also because I felt the urge to highlight all the amazing female colleagues I have at Zendesk. I am going to dedicate this first post to the event we hosted on the 8th of March in our Dublin office.
We started welcoming people with some prosecco and canapes and while people where trying to find space to sit, Rachel Delacour, our guest of honour, was making her way to the stage to start the event. You might be asking: “who is Rachel Delacour?!” but if you continue reading you will understand why she is under our spotlight.
Without further ado let me introduce Rachel! Rachel is a serial entrepreneur that help co-found a SaaS product called Bime Analytics. Bime was acquired by Zendesk in 2015 and is now one of our suite of CRM products — helping data-driven organizations integrate, visualize, and share data that matters most. She quit a secure job in Paris as a financial controller at the age of 28, moved to her parents house and built the product of her dreams with her co-founder (“#husband” as she said) in Montpellier, a city where you are more likely to see beautiful beaches than modern tech companies. Listening to Rachel speak really resonated with me. I was in awe and inspired by all the sacrifices she had to make to get to where she is now… Bime wasn’t created overnight. Rachel had to work really hard for this — “I didn’t have time to think about being a woman”, she said. She had to make big sacrifices like spending less time with friends and even family. Rachel also said something that caught my attention: “There’s no gender for silly people” — and as I was thinking about this it started to make more sense to me… Her and her husband were two frustrated people that decided to go mad and follow their silly dream and at the end it turned out to be quite a dream.
Rachel used her gender to differentiate herself from the crowd and why shouldn’t we all do that as well? That’s the beauty of diversity… we are all different so we must use what makes us different to stand out!
Later that evening, and with a few proseccos in us, we introduced Laura Erangey — our moderator for the panel. Laura is our Senior Sales Enablement Trainer and has quite a story to share as well. She started as a software developer then managed a graduate leadership program before moving to her current role at Zendesk. She has the awesome job to make sure our Sales people have the skills, tools, product & process knowledge to sell successfully. Let’s meet the rest of the panel then:
Sarah Manning is HR Director for Zendesk’s EMEA region and has responsibility for employees across 8 different countries. With over 15 years experience working across all facets of HR in the Engineering, Telecoms, ICT and Software industries, Sarah is particularly passionate about Leadership and Diversity & Inclusion.
Prelini Udayan-Chiechi joined Zendesk in August 2017 and serves as VP of Marketing for EMEA. She oversees the regional marketing strategy and execution including digital, web, public relations, channel/alliances and social media efforts. Prelini is an accomplished public speaker and thought leader on customer experience, social and marketing.
Angelique Bunel is Senior Advocate Manager at Zendesk. She looks after the team of customer support in EMEA. She is passionate about working in a melting pot environment, with a mix of people from different cultures and backgrounds. Angelique is from France and moved to Dublin 13 years ago to start working in her area of expertise.
Elaine O’Carroll joined the Zendesk family in 2014 as a Software Engineer. She now leads a newly created team responsible for the customer and agent experience within the Zendesk Talk product. Elaine began her career in Pobal, learning Ruby on Rails, while providing an online framework for staff and communities interacting with Pobal. Elaine is also interested in diversity in tech and she was a co-organizer of Rails Girls Dublin 2017.
Laura kicked off the discussion by broaching the topic of maternity leave. Sarah, being a mother of three, was able to give amazing insight. On her last job Sarah had just returned from maternity leave and was surprised with a huge proposal of stepping up to a Director role to which her first reaction was “How can I manage all this?”. This is a question a lot of women ask themselves. Our first instinct is to doubt ourselves without even trying. The key message I was getting from this discussion was that we need to trust more in our capabilities and just GO FOR IT!
The second question was to Prelini. As one can imagine finding the right work/life balance can be really tough sometimes, especially for someone in a leadership role. Prelini shared with us that for her it is really important to have personal goals. Herself and her husband have a list of things that they have accomplished and a list of things that they want to do. Thankfully this is something I share with Prelini. I too write down my goals but am guilty of not writing down my successes. We should all be mindful of the little wins we have on a weekly basis and celebrate them.
The next question was about how difficult it was for Rachel to stand out as an entrepreneur and she explained how her journey was a stressful one. She shared that only 30% of entrepreneurs are women and how she believes that there is a need for more successful examples of women in technology to guide us, and I totally agree. There is still so many voices unheard, so many successful examples that need visibility so we need to keep encouraging females to share their story in order to inspire others.
Speaking about voices unheard, this lead us to our next topic — giving a voice to women inside the workplace. Prelini recently did a course called “Women in Leadership” in which she learned that, despite it feeling like it is not acceptable, it’s ok to express emotions. She even confided about an occasion where she had to go into the office bathroom and cry. It is normal for us to feel the need to express certain emotions, and there’s nothing wrong about that, we just need to learn how to deal with those emotions in a way that will actually benefit the workplace environment.
This provided a nice segway to our next topic where we discussed women in STEM! It has been well documented that there is a big gender imbalance in technology and now there is an urgency to change this. Elaine discussed the male/female ratio in the workplace, and while it has improved, there is a a lot more to be done, and this starts at grassroots level. She thinks that the most important thing to change is the image or stereotype surrounding IT and Science. The public tend to think engineering is a “white coat” job, but it’s actually the complete opposite. Elaine explained that it’s actually a very supportive and positive environment. There’s events such as iWish (http://www.iwish.ie/) that are really good for debunking those stereotypes and peaking young girls interests in STEM.
The evening was drawing to a close and one of the last topics we discussed was how to attract people from outside of Ireland! Given the composition of Angelique’s team (16 nationalities on the team) it was no surprise that she jumped at this question and explained how having a multicultural team makes for a great working environment! I was surprised and impressed to hear about the gender breakdown of Angelique’s team — 49 advocates, 25 are male and 24 female. With 80% of the world’s global tech companies based in Dublin we need to keep convincing people that relocation is the best option! Angelique relocated herself from France and she did it to find better job opportunities.
At the end of the night when the processo bottles were all dry and the food was all consumed, the atmosphere was still buzzing with positive energy and I reflected on the massive impact those speeches had made on me. It was so good to be able to listen to how they overcame obstacles not only professionally but also personally. How they dealt with frustration and stress, how they managed the failures but also the successes. Most importantly, the key message that I took from the talks was that being a woman is not a limitation… it is something that we need to embrace and use to our advantage. I’m a young woman just starting my career so it was vitally important to realize how we need to start believing in ourselves and supporting one another. When women support each other, incredible things can happen.
It was indeed a great night!! A big thank you to our panelists who volunteered to share their own experiences, to all the people that helped organize this amazing event and also to everyone that joined us that evening! Let me also give a massive shout out to Katie Glendon, my partner in crime, the woman I’m proud to call more than a colleague, a friend and the woman that organised this event with such passion and dedication.
I will end my first publication with a quote said by Laura that really struck a chord with me:
When you get, give and when you learn, teach.
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