Non-Tech Tech Insiders

20 Mar 2020

We Empower Women in Tech

Not all women in tech are techies. The industry provides ample opportunities for professionals of all kinds of backgrounds, from finance to teaching. Today’s insight comes from Haykuhi Tangyan, our Director of Business Development and Marketing, and Hasmik Kocharyan, the long-time beloved English Instructor to our employees, who has watched VOLO transform over the years.

As a long time insiders, can you please share your insight into the IT industry?

Hasmik: My main concern for both men and women in this industry is whether they are passionate about what they do. I love teaching, it is my vocation, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. But having observed many people in this industry I often wonder whether this is truly what they really love it, or are they in it because IT is one of the few industries in our country that provides great opportunities, financial and otherwise. I don’t know.

Haykuhi: I have to agree with Hasmik on this. I always urge people to come to tech only if they are really interested and passionate about it. Don’t come for salaries and sound titles if you are lacking passion. You’ll end up wasting your time and adding little value to the industry, your work, and your life. Maybe if you do something else, but with love, you’ll be more successful and more satisfied.

How has your unique background prepared you for success?

Hasmik: I was often criticized by some friends and family for choosing a profession in teaching – many of them wanted me to pursue something more serious. But teaching is what I really wanted. During an internship, one of my mentors gave me the key to teaching – she said that I should never tell a student “you’re wrong” and instead try to make them feel safe and comfortable enough to express themselves.

I love my students. I love challenging them with controversial topics and opinions, getting them riled up so that they have no choice but to speak in English. Sometimes they get worked up and angry, but that’s ok. Getting them emotionally involved is the key to their success in learning English. And my students love me back because they know there is no malintent on my part. That’s the key to my success.

Haykuhi: My name and volunteering experience have helped me a lot to succeed. Let me explain.

I joined Volo in a full-on “Volunteer Mode.” For years, I’d been very involved in various NGO projects and volunteering initiatives – I was the Vice-President of AEGEE-Yerevan at the time. In that line of work, I was always surrounded by likeminded ambitious, motivated, and motivating young people. During that time, I was led by the idea that everything is possible if I work hard enough for it. Age, gender, money – all of that didn’t matter if there was a goal you wanted to achieve and inner motivation. No one ever said to me, “You’re too young! What do you know?” or “You’re a girl, you don’t know.” Now I remember these emotions and miss myself back in 2012.

Through my involvement in a number of NGO projects and trainings, I had the chance to meet and work with people from almost every industry and profession (politicians, trainers, students, athletes, artists, circus and puppet theater actors, people with physical and mental disabilities - to name a few). This experience made me more sociable, flexible and quick to adapt to change, which I think is a large part of achieving success.

We Empower Women in Tech

Haykuhi, and what was it about your name? You said your name has also helped you succeed.

People call me Hayk for short, which is a traditional male name here in Armenia. I vividly remember the disappointment on a local client’s face before a business meeting, when he learned that the Hayk he was expecting to see was not a man, but a small-framed young lady.

I can’t lie – I enjoyed seeing men underestimate me, and it doubly motivated me to prove them wrong.

What helps women succeed in this industry?

Haykuhi: Fully realizing the hardships women face in this or any other industry, the best thing you can do for yourself is to never make any excuses for being a woman and being the “weaker” gender.  You decide how strong, ambitious and hard-working you want to be at work and in life. And just be! Don’t wait for others to cheer you on, help you be stronger or motivate you to work harder. 

Also, don’t be afraid to have a voice. When working with various C-level executives, I was always vocal with my opinions when I didn’t agree with them, instead of remaining silent just to please them. I could see that they appreciated this and trusted me more as a result.

Hasmik: I think, regardless of the industry, women are able to achieve more success if their partners are supportive. This bears positive ramifications for both work and personal life. If your partner is a true 50/50 partner when it comes to sharing household chores, childcare responsibilities, and bringing in the income, it certainly leads to not only greater satisfaction in personal life, but also bigger successes at work.

We Empower Women in Tech
How can we encourage more girls to pursue careers in tech?

Hasmik: For starters, we should stop calling girls princesses. What is a princess? It’s someone who grows up to believe she is better than others for no reason other than birthright, someone who is used to others doing things for her, and is perpetually waiting to be rescued. When adults place such labels on children, they are doing them a gross disservice. These labels become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, which is very dangerous. When these princesses grow up and enter real life, they find themselves completely unprepared.

Thankfully, nowadays, things are changing. More and more girls are striving for independence, are ready to fight for their goals, and take responsibility for their lives. It’s encouraging to observe.

Haykuhi: I remember, when I was little, I always dreamed of having “Career Days”, during which people of different professions from different sectors could speak about their work and the required skills. This would be such an effective way of helping young people have a better understanding of what they want and choose the right college majors to pursue their careers.

I would also like to stress the importance of mentors. I was lucky to have a great mentor from Volo’s senior management. He made me part of his team and continuously supported my professional growth. It felt empowering to be appreciated for my skills and work ethic. I got the trust and respect that I worked so hard to earn and was doubly motivated to reciprocate by putting in even more dedication and hard work.

Do you think women bring anything special to the table in the tech world?

Haykuhi: Women bring care, careful planning, more colors, and positive vibes.  In many tech companies women brought with them traditions like Happy Fridays, teambuilding activities, family atmosphere, and 4pm coffee breaks with homemade sweets and fruit.  Office life would be boring without women, but sometimes it can also get really loud and crazy with them. 

Hasmik: In its formative years, Volo was an all-male company. I remember when Inessa (now one of our senior .NET developers) joined the team as the first woman programmer, the entire team dynamic changed in a positive way.  I don’t know whether it was her feminine touch, the added energy and optimism, or her unique viewpoints. And those positive changes were only amplified by more and more women joining the team.

Haykuhi, and to wrap up, as a marketing and business development professional, what recent trends have you noticed regarding female participation in tech?

Haykuhi: Funny enough, one of the things that I notice is that many roles in tech (like SMM, Digital Marketing, QA, PM…) are becoming increasingly female dominated in Armenia. I don’t like that either. I would like to see a more balanced gender distribution across all professions.

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