In a world where women still face inequities in the workplace, it’s incredibly important for companies to prioritize equality from within. The companies that prioritize supporting their female employees and harnessing the power of women in the workforce ultimately achieve incredible things. At Unitas Global, we value diversity and proudly employ women across our organization, from co-founders to executives to boots on the ground, from marketing to engineering and operations.
We sat down with three such women of Unitas to get their take on what it’s like to be a woman in technology. A quick introduction to our interviewees:
- Farrah Kashef, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development
- Adi Aderhold, VP of Client Success Operations Management
- Ali Kassoff, Director of Business Development
What was it like to be a female founder of a technology company?
Kashef: I immigrated to the US from Iran when I was 18 years old. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems, I worked at several international tech companies. I realized that women make up more than half of the world’s population and workforce, but less than 20% of them hold a decision-making position (C-level or board of director seats) globally, especially in the technology industry, and startup companies. This always intrigued me and I thought that, as a women leader, I should be the one making the change and launch a startup company. So when the opportunity arrived, I grabbed it. It was very challenging at first. Starting any business is hard but starting one where it is mostly dominated by men is even more difficult. It was the only way I could grow in my career, so I had to find the courage to do it.
What have you experienced while working at Unitas? In tech in general?
Aderhold: At Unitas, I’ve been given leadership opportunities that I don’t believe I would have received in my past companies. Unitas values diversity and treats both men and women as equals. The management style is highly collaborative, respectful, empowering, and appreciative. I know it sounds cliché, but we are successfully able to make gigantic strides when we work together and unite in common goals.
Just like anything else in life, when it comes to men and women in the workplace, balance is best. Both men and women bring skills and attributes, positives and negatives; and when equally matched, it results in a more holistic, balanced leadership. And, it’s not just about men and women – but our core values as a company. Unitas’ core values are based on fellowship, enthusiasm and commitment, and being an entrepreneur. These values are highly regarded, especially when it comes to our customers. When we make mistakes, we thoughtfully discuss lessons learned and put steps in place to address them. There is team collaboration and ownership to come up with creative ways to better support our customers.
A key factor to our success has been respect. Respect when we communicate with each other and respect when we communicate with our customers. A company culture can be changed based on respect, especially when supported from the top and endorsed throughout the organization. Considering the lack of leadership opportunity that I’ve been exposed to in other tech organizations, the number of women in leadership at Unitas is refreshing and empowering. I am very proud of the Unitas team and thankful to work with such great people.
What interested you in working at Unitas?
Kassoff: All my post-college career experience has been in technology. What attracted me to Unitas was seeing more than a handful of women in the LA office and speaking with Farrah. Women have different strengths that we bring to the table.
What other women in tech organizations are you involved with?
Kashef: I am humbled to be a part of Alliance of Channel Women for many years. [The Alliance’s] purpose is to empower women and offer unique opportunities for them to easily and effectively contribute to their organizations through volunteerism, networking, and collaboration. They encourage women to speak up and stand out to advance their personal growth and career goals. I was lucky enough to meet a lot powerful and talented women from different tech industries that I love and respect tremendously through this organization. This is a great support system. We have been able to help each other while mentoring the next generation of young professional women. The group provides a confidential place to share success, failure, best practices, ideas, and tools that can help us grow and face business challenges.
Kassoff: I’m part of a few organizations: Association for Corporate Growth (an M&A association); I sit on the board for YP [Young Professionals].
Women Leading Technology is an organization in town with exciting events and initiatives. For example, we’re having an event to fund six girls who submitted applications to be a part of Girl Scouts STEAM. All proceeds from this event go to them. The speaker is a former Googler.
Women in Tech Golf Club encourages women to get on the golf course and do business. There’s a lot of business being done out there; we should be there and not be worried that we’re going to hold the game up.
What advice do you have for other women working in or aspiring to work in tech?
Aderhold: My advice to women–or anyone–aspiring to grow in technology, “Don’t sell yourself short.” Often, we look at others as having more experience, more skills, more understanding. But with all the changes in technology, half the time everyone is figuring it out as they go. Don’t hesitate to speak up, ask the questions that no one else is asking, share your opinions, and help drive success. Instead of asking, “is this really my job?” consider if you have the capabilities to bring the right people together to collaborate and achieve common goals. Ask for advice–don’t forget that there’s a community of mentors out there, willing to support your goals. Life is short; be your authentic self, step out of your comfort zone, and don’t take it all too seriously.
Kashef: Have mentors and a good support group. I wanted to work with other empowered, strong entrepreneur women leaders so I can learn and grow. They can help you with your plan, vision, strategy, and how to balance life. They are also excited about learning about your business and give insights on what to do and how to solve problems. It’s nice to get a different perspective of things. Being in technology, I also feel like I need to learn fast. Technology is always changing, so if I am not learning fast enough we won’t grow, scale, or be efficient, and will always be racing against time.
I also find that women are better networkers. We know how to build relationships and nurture them. I network like crazy, and I always do the follow ups with action items. I care about my customers and partners and I put my heart and soul into my relationships so I can become their trusted advisor.
Kassoff: Find a mentor, someone in a position you aspire to be in. Drop your wall and ask someone if they’d be willing to mentor you or spend a little time to help encourage you. People don’t ask for help often enough, not just women, I’m sure men too. You can get a lot further if you vocalize what your goals are. Having a person who’s a confidante and someone who can help you navigate the sometimes muddy waters of our careers can help you get further faster. My advice is to ask for support.