For Salt’s latest Women in Tech interview, we caught up with Kate Levchuk, Relationship Manager at Infosys to talk diversity and advice on creating an inclusive workplace.
The #SaltSessions Women in Tech #WiT interview series speaks with thought leaders from around the world to get their opinion and advice on how they have grown their career in tech and overcome challenges and adversity during their career.
What is your current role and the most exciting part of your work?
I am now managing Infosys EMEA relations in a multinational bank. The most exciting part is meeting the clients and compiling the best possible solution to the challenges they face. This not only gives me a view into all the various technologies and work approaches that exist, but teaches me to understand and work with a plethora of different personalities.
What has been your most career defining moment that you are proud of?
I was very excited when my knowledge of Spanish and negotiation skills landed me the biggest deal in the quarter back in a cloud computing company. That’s when I realized I can manage a deal from the beginning to an end, articulating product benefits well and aligning the team to work on client requirements. It was very empowering as we managed to build a most complex and powerful cloud in company’s history. Later, this got me into a final of Future Stars of Tech award.
Talking about my futuristic engagements, I was very surprised to be invited to moderate a panel on the creative use of AI for Lexus. There were C-level officials from Lexus, top experts in AI, and an Oscar winning director on the panel. I had never done public appearances before but decided to take an opportunity. It was super exciting and went really well. I loved talking in front of an audience and do it quite often now.
What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?
I don’t think anything should be done as of now. Tech and STEM are already super trendy, with Silicon Valley dominating all the discourse about the future and bio-technologists winning beauty contests. Everyone wants to be in tech, and women are following the trend a lot.
Equally, as rising costs of life and population increase, some women simply cannot afford to stay as housewives. Thus, the combination of women empowerment and economic realities pushes more and more girls into an exciting and challenging field of technology.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?
There can be an appropriate answer to this question, saying that sexism in the workplace is a myth and personally I have never had to deal with this nonsense.
A truthful answer to this question, however, is that predominantly, especially at the beginning of their career, women face immense pressure and sexual harassment at work. Only extra effort to prove your worth and extreme self-composure can prevent an otherwise “natural” tendency towards objectification.
I did face sexual harassment myself and had to resign from a workplace because of this.
This is why I can say that the importance of #MeToo movement cannot be overestimated as well as the importance of finding a company that takes company culture and respect seriously, one which I am lucky to work in today.
What is the biggest deterrent in your opinion to women succeeding in the workplace?
There are several things preventing women’s success, some of which are external and some of which are caused by women themselves. Recently I gave a talk in Excel about the Future of Work for Women and how modern technology can help us get to the top of our game.
First of all, women are not as self-confident as men in calling out their achievements, and, unfortunately enough, people do not possess telepathic abilities yet. You simply have to make people aware of your strengths and achievements and ask for the corresponding remuneration.
Biologically, women are still giving birth, which leads to around 70,000 women leaving the workplace annually in the UK alone. Many of these women leave for good and many are never able to catch up to the level they could have been at if they had sacrificed their personal life. Thankfully, new technologies such as VR and holograms as well as new approaches to work (Flexible working) will allow women to avoid “motherhood penalty” once and for all.
Moreover, there is still an accepted idea that a woman is best at taking notes and preparing presentations, stepping back when the moment to shine comes. Only a conscious decision to step outside a comfort zone and take ownership of the whole interaction will allow a woman to feel her power and prove to colleagues that she can run the show.
As an employer what would you recommend to other companies regarding infrastructure to have in place to develop the best talent?
The most important asset of any company is its people. The ways to develop them, show their importance, and reward accomplishments are very important to boost company culture and help people grow personally and professionally. Having said that, I do not think personal recognition should come at the expense of “team spirit”. It is paramount to maintain a collaborative attitude while encouraging individual contribution.
Talking about diversity, however, I do not understand the ideas of quotas of hiring women, minorities or LGBTQ because they should be given a chance. All people are talented and should be given equal opportunities because they are good at what they do and deserve to be given a chance and not because they happen to fall into some group or category.
Who is your modern day hero?
Elon Musk, hands down. Instead of finding excuses and “playing by the roles” he managed to change the rules of the game, make tech and space cool again and turn all of his outlandish ambitions into concrete concepts and profitable empires. He defies the boundaries and perception of what is possible showing each and every one of us that we can be our own “superheroes” if we truly believe in what we do and our ability to make this world better.
His success inspired me to start my own philanthropic initiative around the full utilization of human potential and reversing the incurred damage to our environment. More can be found at Transpire.me. The platform is open for article and project submissions. Everyone is welcome to be a change maker.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
WIRED is one of a few quality tech outlets that discuss the consequences and impact of modern technologies on our everyday life, rather than simply quoting new features and announcing latest news. Books by Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, Michael Bess and Yuval Harari definitely give a good and timely perspective of where we are headed.
Equally reading science fiction truly gives us a perspective of what is possible. Reading old sci-fi is especially insightful as it shows the ingenuity of the human mind while keeping one grounded in regards to how much we can foresee and how many things are completely outside of our control.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
Yes. Do not assume you cannot do something because you are a beginner or in the midst of a career change. Ageism is an artificial concept that keeps society stable. It does not mean you have to adhere to it. Take opportunities and volunteer for things even if not asked for. Come up with initiatives and do things others deem outside your reach. The more you take on early in your life the easier and more fulfilled your life gets down the road.
What job did you dream of when you were a kid – your Plan A career path?
I always wanted to be a Sci-Fi writer. I’m working on a book in my free time, so who knows, maybe it is meant to be?
Fun fact about you?
When I was 4 years old, and my parents forbid me from getting into the sea in Odessa to prevent me from getting a cold, I decided I had to leave them on the beach and sneak back home to swim in my bath. I had no idea where exactly I lived but I was very determined to catch a taxi home, until I was found by police that my parents summoned from around the area once they noticed I was missing. I think they had a stressful afternoon – but I had a great and refreshing walk.
Before MBA I did all of my studies in Political Science. Surprisingly enough, this turned out to be way more relevant to what I currently do than knowing accounting or corporate finance. Studies, especially Central European University, was an immense asset that taught me how to navigate a complex organization and confidently defend my position in front of an audience.
Later, I used these skills continuously when learning how to present company’s solutions to a client and how to get the best resources to deliver on my promises.
Even after completing MBA, I had absolutely no idea what I want to do. I got into technology sales by pure chance and very logically at the same time. Sales is perfect for people who love socializing, speak multiple languages, and are eager to learn new products or technologies fast. I went to a rooftop party and was asked to come to an interview to develop business in a device management company in Poland.
Since then I fell in love with technology, progress, presenting complex solutions, working with clients and making sure things get done. Equally, I rediscovered my writing skills by writing promotional materials for that first company, and later started KateGoesTech.com, which got me into Forbes and multiple speaking engagements on futurism.
At the moment, I am managing a multi-mullion banking portfolio in Infosys, as well as working as a Futuristic Consultant.
Working in such a gigantic organization as Infosys teaches you something new every day while ensuring you stay humble and understand that every big success is an achievement of many rather than a “lone hero”. Futuristic engagements help me to stay up-to-date with developments across the board and aware of numerous scenarios of how the future can unfold.
Follow Kate on Twitter @KateGoesTech