International Women's Day 2022: An interview with Rafa

International Women’s Day – what’s the deal? Celebrated since 1911, it’s all about gender diversity. It has a dual purpose: it’s a day of celebration of women from across the globe as well as a call to recognize women as equals. International Women’s Day aims to push us towards a gender equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discriminations. This is something that we all can do if we work together – men, women and everyone in between.

To do our bit, we’ve sat down with a handful of our female workforce to get to know them a bit better and to explore their journeys so far. 

Today, we get better acquainted with Rafa, our Account Executive. 

 

Rafa, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an immigrant, originally from Brazil, where I used to run an ad agency. I live in Canada, with my husband and daughter.

I’d always wanted to live abroad and see what other countries had to offer. Five years ago, my husband and I decided to move to Canada, which is when I started my career as an account manager for a media company, eventually making my way into my current role as an Account Executive for Tutela.

What attracted you to sales specifically?

I really love people and relationships – it’s at the heart of everything I do. Running the ad agency gave me a lot of experience in engaging in relationships to get the best results for clients. This approach has translated very well into the tech industry. 

Sales, especially in the B2B context, can be quite male-dominated. Has that been your experience going into sales?

Yes, definitely – lots of men! Sometimes, it can be an advantage and sometimes, not. My clients are mainly engineers and tend to be very experienced male professionals in their 50s and 60s, who really know their stuff. I’m a woman and considerably younger! Sometimes, they have a lot of knowledge to share but they assume, ‘Oh, she’s a woman – she won’t know’ – but I do!

Being the only woman in the room can be intimidating, but at the same time, you’ve got to push past that and not be scared of holding your own.

You mentioned asking the obvious questions. Did you feel you had  to ask them? 

In a way, yes. But it’s an issue I face regardless of gender although I happen to have experienced it more with men than women. In the past, I’ve accepted this gracefully but now, especially after coming back from maternity leave, I’ve realized I can and should push back and show them that I do know what I’m talking about!

Did you expect to face these sorts of bias in your professional life?

No. When I was growing up my family always had the attitude of ‘You can do everything’ and bias was something we never really understood. I remember first facing it when I was running the ad agency. I was in a client meeting with a (male) business partner and I realized that they were directing all the questions to him. I didn’t understand why – I  did the entire campaign. It was a very frustrating experience. 

You’re a mother. Did you feel nervous about how having a family may affect your career?

Yes. When you’re a global account manager in a media company, it can be hard to balance work and life so I already knew I’d have to make some changes to find a better balance.

Luckily, it wasn’t something that I needed to be nervous about when I moved to Tutela. I was expecting when I joined the company. I was completely open about it and I told them during the interview process. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but, hey, I got the job! That was amazing. Back in Brazil, this would never happen. 

Why do you think it's important to celebrate International Women's Day?

International Women's Day is about really connecting and trying to increase awareness of ­­­the issues and biases that exist. It’s all about helping to educate people and I think that's huge and very important.

Do you have any thoughts on how we can encourage more women into tech? What do you think we can do?

That’s a great question. We need to think more about the words we use, especially when hiring. We don’t even realize it sometimes, but even the wording in an advert can often be male-oriented. This might make women more reluctant to apply if they don’t see it as relevant to them.

We should also provide more information about how we deal with maternity leave and support. Not all women will be moms but we do need more access to that information, particularly in countries like the United States where it can be tough for mothers. Sometimes, they go back to work within a month and their bodies are just not ready. 

Also, companies could have workshops and informational interviews with women to hear more about what they’d like and need.  Bring women to the table and ask them what is needed at the start of the conversation. 

Some women may feel that you either have a career or a family – not both. Did you feel that way as you progressed? 

Yes, in some ways I did. You are essentially putting your career on pause. When you return from maternity leave, you get that sense you’re restarting but you’re not, you’re just continuing. Sometimes, I still feel like I’m restarting. We need to talk more about this because I know other women feel the same way and it can be overwhelming. I’m not sure what the fix is but I know that we should be more vocal about it otherwise things will never change. 

We need to keep talking. How can we include women coming back from maternity leave? How can we help them to maintain a focus on their career alongside raising a family? What can we do to make sure they’re still on track for when they return?  Too many companies don’t have a policy to support that.

What advice can you share with women trying to plan their careers right now?

I think confidence is crucial, particularly, when you're in a very male-oriented group. It’s easier for some than others but, hey, I'm talking as an immigrant, as a woman, and as someone for whom English is a second language! It's hard to build up that confidence, but it’s important to do it. You know what you're doing - just be very sure and assertive. Don't be scared and don't be afraid of talking; you're sharing your opinions and telling your truth. Just be very vocal and own it. 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Let’s talk more. Sometimes there's an idea that women don't help other women. Absolutely, not true. We should be helping each other more. Sometimes we've gone through the same stuff, experienced the same things. So, if all of us talk and share our experiences with those around us, there's a better chance for all of us to succeed. It can be very useful. 

 

Opensignal, Tutela and Comlinkdata, the industry’s three most disruptive players in telecommunications performance measurement, are now part of the same company. They have come together to create data and analytics solutions that will enable communications providers to constantly optimize both their network and market performance, advancing connectivity for all.