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Profile: Tzofia Shiftan, Engineering Manager at Intercom

How to succeed in tech: Tzofia Shiftan shares her tips

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Tzofia Shiftan, Engineering Manager at Intercom.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Tzofia Shiftan, Engineering Manager at Intercom.

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Tzofia Shiftan, Engineering Manager at Intercom

During the past 5 years, Tzofia worked at OverOps, a startup based in Tel Aviv, where she led the application group and helped developers know when and why their code breaks in production. In addition, she is the founder of the R&D Leaders Group in Tel Aviv. Tzofia speaks at conferences and meetups and occasionally writes about technology. You can follow her on twitter @tzofias.

What got you interested in technology?

My love for computers started in the early 90’s when my parents brought home a brand new computer. I remember how I used to play in that single game we had on a big floppy disk for hours. With the next computer, I remember myself learning how to use Windows, Word and Powerpoint. Thinking about it today makes me smile nostalgically. But nostalgy aside, it was something else that made me fell in love with technology.

When I was six years old, I received an electricity kit. I’ll always remember the satisfaction I felt when I finished putting together an electric circuit and the light went on. Another strong memory I have is when I finished writing my first program. I was amazed by the ability to create something out of nothing. This sense of creation is what really hooked me to this world.

After I thought I’ve learned everything about computers, my older brother brought home computer science textbooks. I was really curious so I started to read them and that’s how I learned basic programming. When all my friends were studying in high school, I found my first job as a developer and I enjoyed every moment. Later on, when I graduated from high school, I enlisted in mandatory service in a technological unit. When it came to choosing a major afterward, I went for Computer Science with no questions.

Toward the end of my Bachelor’s degree, I realized that I want to experiment with research so I continued to a Master’s degree in Computer Science. At the same time, I started to search for my first full-time job.

There were two places I really wanted to work for back then. The first one was a young startup, just after seed, named Takipi. I had great chemistry with the founders and the product was so innovative, yet, I was too junior at the time so it didn’t fit. I went with my second best place and joined Thomson Reuters’ innovation team. With a brilliant manager and cutting-edge technologies, it was the best place to establish a strong technological background.

The best support I received from my family was a healthy perception.

A year and a half later, one the co-founders of Takipi reached out to me and offered me the job I didn’t get 18 months before.

I was the 8th employee at Takipi, and when I left five years later, the company, which by then changed its name to OverOps, had more than 100 employees worldwide. All these years I was privileged to work with super talented people and an incredible manager of which I owe most of my growth. Looking back, joining a startup at such a young stage was one of the best decisions I made. It broadened my perspective on engineering, product and strategy, and enabled me to see first-hand how to build and grow a company. It also gave me many opportunities to grow myself: from engineer, to team leader, to engineering manager.

When I think about it, the best support I received from my family was a healthy perception. In my home, there was never a distinction between what’s feminine and what’s masculine. So when I chose to study Computer Science I didn’t feel intimidated for choosing a masculine profession. Instead, I simply felt I was choosing the field I’m passionate about.

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

I never felt there was anyone or anything stopping me from advancing. On the contrary. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow in our industry. All you need to do is to identify them and don’t let any self-doubts stop you.

A day in Tzofia’s life

I’m about to start a new role soon so I’d be happy to share more at a later time.

A year into my first managerial role I tried to figure out how to become a better manager. I found out that while our industry has plenty of meetup groups for engineers, there is nothing out there for engineering managers. So I decided to fill the void and build one.

18 months ago I founded together with the amazing Henn Idan a new group named R&D Leaders. The idea was to give tech managers a place to meet other managers, hear about their management practices, share methods and challenges, give and get advice, and guide them on how to be best at their jobs. Today the group has over 500 managers from different companies and industries, all with the same purpose to become better at what they do and help their employees improve as well. The monthly meetups were a huge success, and we’re about to open another R&D Leaders community soon, in London.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I believe that we, as a society, are responsible for the way things are today. From a very young age, we draw boundaries and define what’s right and what’s wrong. It starts with parents who dress girls in pink and boys in blue, and later on buy dolls for girls and cars for boys. By the time we need to choose a profession, we’re so much biased. Only when we stop perceiving and conveying that tech is a masculine field, we’ll see more and more women around.

I think that we are already seeing results from the current diversity debate, which is really amazing. Yet, we are far from being balanced. I truly believe that only once we stop using stereotypes in our day-to-day lingo and behavior that’s when we’ll see true equality.

Challenges

The way I see it, women are facing the same challenges as men in the tech industry. However, being a minority and understanding many times that you’re the only woman in the room might be challenging to some of us sometimes.

Tips & tricks

Some of the most beautiful things about our industry are that it encourages learning, it allows people to be who they are, and it appreciates original thinking and creativity. If you want a tech career – just go for it and enjoy every moment.

And a few final tips:

  1. Choose a place to work for based on the people who work there and your future manager, who’s going to have a major impact on your growth.
  2. Take the time to identify your aspirations, set goals for yourself, and actively work to achieve them.
  3. Go to meetups and conferences, make sure you always keep learning, and build strong relationships with other people in the industry.
  4. Know that the imposter syndrome is a thing and that there are ways to fight it.

 

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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