ExtraHop is spending this week celebrating International Women's Day (March 8th) by hearing from some of the brilliant, passionate women so integral to this company and the tech industry as a whole. How'd they get into STEM? What advice do they have for other women and girls? Gear up for a whole week of blogs from the women of ExtraHop, from the engineering departments to marketing and everything in between. Happy International Women's Day!
The thrill of solving puzzles and the exhilaration of attaching even the tiniest bit of logic and sense to the wondrous nature of our very existence, is truly remarkable. As a curious girl growing up in a traditional Indian family in the Middle East, I realized there were many cultural notions I had always been exposed to and grown accustomed to without knowing the reason for their practice. This pushed me to spend hours reading books and surfing the web trying to answer the why and the how behind these puzzling things. I think that is what still drives me even today: The never-ending thirst to learn and try to understand the phenomena around us.
I followed a very traditional path towards becoming a Sales Engineer at ExtraHop Networks today by obtaining my Bachelors and Masters in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Computer Networks. Through my experience as a Research Assistant in Grad School I realized that I felt most excited when I presented my work to eventual users of my project and could see the impact of my projects in action. That's how I ended up getting hired on-campus for a Sales Engineer position instead of the Network Engineering role I had originally applied for. 5 years doing this and there hasn't been a single day when I haven't loved my job or learned something new.
At ExtraHop Networks, every interaction with every peer has taught me something new and innovative that keeps exciting my little brain cells. And that's the beauty of both ExtraHop and technology in general—it's an extremely fast-changing and growing field so you really need to be on your toes and keep learning and adapting.
To that end, my advice to all of you reading this is you can't and will never know everything. Always try to stay on top of your knowledge base but realize that no education can fully prepare you for everything. It is totally fine to be honest and say that you will do your research and get back on something. I personally struggled with blaming myself for not knowing enough early on.
Secondly, it's a known fact that the ratio of women to men in technology is still quite low. Focused conferences and communities help improve that ratio, but it is still a frustrating reality that once in awhile we have to deal with misogynist comments and prove our capability more than others. What has personally helped me through such experiences is mentorship and networking.
I have been extremely fortunate to have really wonderful mentors throughout my school and professional years and being actively involved with SWE, LeanIn, WISC, Women Tech Alumni and other such groups has nurtured me lot both personally and professionally. It gives us a medium to discuss the challenges and opportunities in front of us "women in tech" and know that you are not alone. I have known people to use networking/ mentorship as a recruiting opportunity alone but especially for women it is so much more. Happy International Women's day, everyone!
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.extrahop.com/company/blog/2017/women-in-tech-sonal-shetkar/