Mountain View, California – On September 24, 2015, the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA)-SF led a panel discussion on “Armenian Women in Leadership and Technology”. The event took place at the Symantec Corporation Headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. The audience of over 70 was engaged in thought-provoking discussions that inspired the whole room. The panelists shared heartfelt stories and words of wisdom that created moving energy in the room.
In her opening remarks, AIWA-SF President, Christine Soussa, acknowledged that Armenia had celebrated its 24th birthday just a few days prior to the panel discussion. Much like a 24 year old, Armenia is developing as a country and has unmapped potential. To hear the stories of the women on the panel, who have a high level of both experience and accomplishment professionally and personally was encouraging for the future of our homeland.
The impressive panel was moderated by Paul Agbabian – Vice President, Symantec Fellow, CTO Enterprise Security Business Unit – Symantec and included Lusine Yeghiazaryan – Senior Director – Internal Audit, Risk and Controls – GoPro, Ani Vartanian Boladian – Managing Partner – Rubicon Point Partners, Meleeneh DerHartunian PhD RAC – Senior Regulatory Documentation Scientist – Genentech, Laura Dirtadian – Director, Risk Advisory Services – MUFG Union Bank.
The responses flowed smoothly and responses to one question led others. Below are key questions and summarized answers:
Question 1: How do you address transitions and critical junctures in your life?
Opportunities present themselves at different times, and when an opportunity comes to you, you take it, do your best and turn the opportunity to your advantage. Networks are also a way to utilize transitions in your life- give and receive in turn in your networks. Lastly, failure can be a blessing in disguise, where opportunities can arise.
Question 2: Can you briefly touch on your leadership / communication style?
Be authentic, your genuine self, and empathetic. With teams, be honest and ask for help and advice when necessary.
Question 3: Reflect on the challenges and/or obstacles you have overcome, what was that process like, and what did you learn from it?
The nature of life is that it changes and is dynamic. We’re all granted opportunities; doors open and shut every day. Sometimes decisions you make are incredibly uncomfortable, but you have to pursue certain paths to meet people and gain experiences to propel you forward. Go through those uncomfortable doors- sometimes it doesn’t make sense but if it feels right and you have passion, follow your heart and your gut. Being fearful of what’s on the other side of the door is more detrimental than going through the door.
Each panelist shared personal stories each story was were moving, inspiring, thought provoking and motivating. Stories including: taking risks, feeling like a failure, moving countries, writing manifestos, admitting to expecting parents that they were not going to be Drs. Lawyers, or Architects.
Question 4: If you see the further it’s only because I stand on the shoulder of giants, What message do you hope to instill on the next Armenian generation?
Our hope for next generation is to see the beauty and potential in getting women excited about STEM education (which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Especially in Armenia, there is a strong need to invest in women and in exceptional education.
Believe in yourself, take risks and have faith that if things don’t work out as you journey down a certain path, IT’S OKAY! You will be OKAY, as long as you have your health, support system, and skills.
The panel took some time to discuss the importance of their support system including spouses, family, friends, their network and broader community. As an Armenian panel, the importance of family, friends and the strength of the Armenian network and community was highlighted.
Question 5: How do you think we can promote the advancement of the next generation of Armenian Leaders?
It’s important to capitalize on serendipitous opportunities, promote excellent education, and use the support and strength of families. You need to have grit and perseverance; even if one choice doesn’t work out, know that you will figure it out.
Question 6: How do you leverage technology in your life?
Technology is an accelerator. It can’t replaces human interaction, but rather integrate and accelerate out communications. Technology can be used to make lives at home easier: to deliver food, diapers, supplies, and to allow us to keep in touch with friends and do our professional jobs.
Question 7: What were the trigger points in your journey that got you to where you are at today, working as a distinguished female in instances that is still dominated primarily by men?
One panelist described her path to being a research scientist:
I was going to be an orthodontist; that was my dream. During college I joined the Orthodontist group and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. When I was in college, my maternal Grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer, I was the only family member in Los Angeles and would spend a lot of time with her and took care of her. If that’s not motivation enough I don’t know what it. I wanted to understand why people got sick. Diagnosing and treating the illness wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to dig deeper and understand WHY sickness happens. This is what led me to pursue a PhD and take on the work I do today in research.
One of many notable questions from the audience that sparked much discussion was:
On a scale of 0-10 what cards do you think you were dealt? Follow up to that, on a scale of 1-10 how do you think you played those cards?
The panelists answers varied—one who grew up in the United States shared she received an 8 on the cards and played them as a 6, whereas another panelist who grew up in Armenia shared that she was dealt a 3 but executed them at an 8. These responses resonated strongly with the audience and lead to must post panel discussion.
Another memorable question that prompted much conversation came from a young professional, who landed a dream job after graduating and realized the job was different than expected and the attendee asked What if it isn’t enough? This stimulated fantastic conversation around things like the dynamic meaning of enoughness, the perception of life, and its concept in other parts of the world when compared to America.
The attendees and panelists alike had overwhelming positive feedback and called for similar sessions. Topics for future discussions include: “Armenian Men in Leadership and Technology,” coaching sessions for women starting their careers or looking to make a career shift.
If you have any comments, questions, or ideas for future events, please contact AIWA SF at: firstname.lastname@example.org
– AIWA SF President and Vice President, Christine Soussa and Sophie Moradian