Today is International Women’s Day – an important day at Thales. Not only are we celebrating all the hard-working women in our company, but we are also taking this opportunity to acknowledge all women globally with our commitment to creating a more gender-balanced world. This year’s theme, Balance for Better, stands to take action for equality and celebrate women’s achievements.
In order to celebrate the women here at Thales eSecurity, we are shedding a spotlight on one of our own, senior director of engineering I-Ching Wang.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. What led you to this career path and how did you end up in engineering?
A: I grew up in Taiwan with two younger brothers. Our culture was such that I wasn’t encouraged to do much outside of my daily routine, as compared to my brothers who were consistently offered opportunities. People in my environment had the mindset of “if she can make it, great. If she can’t, that’s fine too.” It was really up to me to push myself and create opportunities for success. During my senior year of college, I had a chance to work on the IBM miniframe system and was thrown into the world of technology. This experience piqued my interest and was the driving force behind my move to the U.S. to work in the field. The first job I got was at a small firm doing computer graphics, which brought me to Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI). From there, I moved to Veritas as the technical director of software engineering. Since then, I’ve held a few other positions across the engineering space which led me to my current role at Thales.
Q: What importance do you place on mentorship as a woman in a STEM career? Did you have a mentor who helped you get to where you are?
A: Mentoring is hugely important in this industry, and I consider myself so lucky to have worked with some amazing mentors over the course of my career. Most notably, at SGI, there was a mentee program where I was paired up with a female VP and would connect with her once a month to set up goals for my success. She was someone that I could talk to and confide in, and someone who knew my progress over the years. In another job, I had the opportunity to mentor two women and pass down the things that I had learned over my career. We met regularly and discussed their challenges – most of which were about balancing family and work—and fortunately I have had much experience doing this. Both experiences (being a mentor and a mentee) showed me the importance of women supporting other women, especially in STEM careers, and the value that we can provide each other.
Q: How can we get more women excited about careers in STEM?
A: Girls today have so many chances to get into coding, engineering and related fields, but we need to continue creating environments to help them see these opportunities more clearly. If they get praise for what they do in science or math classes, I believe that they will continue pursuing these avenues. However, if educators or employers get discouraged, their pursuit of a STEM career will stop there. We need to encourage them to grow in the field and stick with it. Overall, culture needs to be changed – and while this won’t happen overnight, young women need to start seeing more women in top universities like Carnegie Mellon and MIT, and in companies like Google and Facebook to feel like there is truly a spot for them in these places.
Q: What advice would you give women who are trying to pursue STEM careers?
A: My daughter is a lawyer who recently got a new job in public services. Something I’ve always stressed with her is the importance of finding a group of women with similar interests and using each other as a support system. This translates to any industry. Work together with like-minded women and find a mentor who can help you navigate this field. Another piece of advice I would give to women hoping for a career in STEM is to not be afraid to be seen. Walking into tech tradeshows, for example, and seeing mostly men can be intimidating. If I raise my hand in a panel session at these events, I still don’t get the same attention that men do. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand even higher and assert yourself.