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Profile: Eva Pittas, co-founder and COO of Laika

Women in Tech: “You need to hustle, be adaptable, be curious about technology”

Sarah Schlothauer

Four years ago, 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 Eva Pittas, co-founder and COO of Laika.

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?

Four years ago, 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 Eva Pittas, co-founder and COO of Laika.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Eva Pittas, co-founder and COO of Laika

Eva is co-founder and COO of Laika, leading customer experience and internal operations at the company. Before Laika, Eva founded BRCG, a boutique consulting firm after a 20+ career at Citigroup where she was a Managing Director leading IT control, compliance, and vendor management.

Eva enjoys playing tennis, traveling, and spending time with her large extended family. She is a graduate of NYU’s Stern School of Business and has a passion for supporting women’s professional growth initiatives.

When did you become interested in technology?

Early in my career, I was in a finance role for a bank and trust company, which hinged on the security of technology. The increase in cloud technology and security brought me toward a more tech-focused position, and eventually led me to start a tech business with my co-founders.

My origin story is like a lot of founders’. I was fresh out of college and responsible for month-end close functions that were critical for closing the books. It took our team over eight days to close the books, which required many late nights into early morning hours and monthly Saturdays to complete the required processing.

Due to all the inefficiencies, I met with our tech lead to create enhanced systems with additional functionality that improved the process. This gave back my weekends and nights (which are very important to a young 20-something). Additionally, I was able to be deployed to a planning and analysis function.

Tech improved the quality of life for our whole team and allowed us to focus on more impactful and important analytics. From that point on, in my roles at varying levels of seniority at Citigroup, I continued to be keenly interested in and focused on the power of technology built and deployed properly.

How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

My parents are Greek immigrants who moved to Brooklyn with their families in their teens. I grew up in a very traditional Greek family and was the first in my family to graduate from college.

My parents struggled financially and always encouraged me to go to college and to “make a better life for myself.” I attended and graduated from NYU with a degree in Finance and started my career in finance roles. Those finance roles evolved into 20+ years at Citigroup as a Managing Director and at the time, that title was reserved for the top 1% of the company.

As a woman, a Greek, and working mother of six, I feel proud of all that I have accomplished. The experience at Citigroup was invaluable. I was lucky to have incredible managers and mentors who pushed me, advocated for me; but the reality is, I had plenty of managers who did not. I continue to push for balance, appreciation, and encouragement for the women who are facing the same challenges I experienced for the past 30 years.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

My family is incredibly supportive.

My parents encouraged me to go back to work after I had children, which was not an easy decision given my background. They took care of my children while I was navigating my career and moving up the corporate ladder, which included leading large global organizations that required frequent travel. My father is my role model for his determination, entrepreneurial spirit, perseverance, and open-mindedness.

A day in Eva’s life

Currently, I am the founder and COO of Laika, a unified compliance platform for information security and privacy compliance.

I started the company just over 2 years ago with co-founders Sam Li and Austin Oglivie. I run the customer experience team, which includes customer success and subject matter experts, and internal operations. I work closely with the product team and with my co-founders on strategy.

Needless to say, like any growing startup, I’m quite busy and wear many hats. I spend a lot of time interviewing candidates to ensure that we bring in the best talent that fits our culture and values.

My father is my role model for his determination, entrepreneurial spirit, perseverance, and open-mindedness.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud that I left Corporate America (Citigroup) seven years ago and took a risk to become an entrepreneur.

I knew I wanted to be part of the innovation that was taking place outside of the bank and I didn’t quite know what that would look like. That leap opened my mind to the opportunity of forming a new business, which in turn provided me with a new and exciting network of people. I’m immensely proud to have a hand in creating the first-ever unified compliance platform, fueling innovation by supporting tech-forward companies and solving a huge pain point in the market.

Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?

We all know the stats with the lack of girls in STEM. I also think it’s because women think that they must be engineers or computer science majors to be in tech and that is not the case. Look at me!

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

Tech is a male-dominated industry. In some ways, it can be harder than banking was years ago due to the perceived need to be a technologist to get ahead.

Balance is always a challenge – especially for women who want families and need to find a strong support system. Being in tech, and specifically a tech startup, is taxing and it is not a 9-5 job.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic, and cultural) impact?

Absolutely, 100% YES. Not only would adding female-identifying people to the STEM field reduce the gender pay gap, but we also know that successful businesses are built on diversity. When half of our population is underrepresented, diversity of thought and practice suffers.

On a more personal note, I am not a traditionally-trained STEM professional. Women tend to steer toward the arts. At my company, Laika, I am proud that we have a population of women with BAs who work in technical roles. I think that we need to continue to show women all the possibilities for their career choices, not limited to matching their major.

My hope is that we will see a more level playing field within my lifetime, because of parental leave improvements, female-focused mentoring, empowerment, and education, and more initiatives gaining popularity across industries.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

I don’t believe there are any quick fixes, and it will take some time. This is only compounded by the challenges in hiring for fast-growing businesses right now.

Creating policies around diversity is a good start, but we need more women in senior positions across tech and other male-dominated fields. Women promote and hire other women at higher rates than men, and women tend to lead more diverse teams.

My hope is that we will see a more level playing field within my lifetime, because of parental leave improvements, female-focused mentoring, empowerment, and education, and more initiatives gaining popularity across industries. As a founder serving a variety of industries, success within our partners’ businesses is a success overall.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?

I would tell them that the tech industry is the place to be! The future is in tech and we all had a front-row seat to the accelerated digitization during the pandemic, even in industries reluctant to move fast.

The wealth creation opportunities are enormous in tech and women should be open to risks and roles outside their area of expertise. As I mentioned earlier, you need to hustle, be adaptable, be curious about technology, and don’t expect to land a 9-5 job. If you are a lifelong learner, open and flexible – you will be successful.

Finally, to be prepared for senior positions, we need women to be mentored, trained, and developed from the start of their careers. This requires intentionality on the part of their employers, managers, and the employees themselves. Seek out the people in your circles who you admire, emulate, and could imagine yourself in their shoes down the road. Set yourself up for success. And my door is always open!

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for JAXenter.com. She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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