Sojern Women Break the Engineering Mold

Sojern is dedicated to increasing representation of women in STEM.

March 22, 2019

As a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) role, engineering is one of the career fields with the least representation of women, something Sojern is dedicated to changing. We feel that our engineers break the mold.  

To celebrate National Women’s Month in the U.S. and International Women’s Day, we sat down with our women engineers to gain insight into their career paths.

The STEM Gender Gap

Women are in the minority as engineers (only 13% are women) and in most STEM fields, a fact that has a direct impact on how women feel in academia and the workplace. According to a study by Williams, J. C., Li, S., Rincon, R., and Finn, P. 61% of women engineers report that they have to prove themselves repeatedly to get the same level of respect and recognition as their colleagues. And that feeds into tech industries as a whole, with 53% of women, compared to 31% of men, who start out in tech-intensive industries leaving for other industries. For women of color it is even harder to break into a STEM career: In 2014-2015 women of color earned a small percentage (black women: 2.9%, Latinas: 3.6%, Asian women: 4.8%) of bachelor’s degrees in all STEM fields.

We want to do our part in helping to change those statistics. There are many organizations dedicated to helping women and girls enter into STEM careers and we’re actively working to connect with them. We work with R Ladies to host meet-ups for women in the data science realm, attend events such as WITI (Women in Technology), Women Hack, and women focused career fairs, and seek out other opportunities with women in STEM organizations to ensure we have a diverse pool of engineers here at Sojern.

Women at Sojern Pave Their Own Paths

It’s clear that women in engineering spend a larger than normal portion of their careers bumping into and breaking through the glass ceiling. Despite the low representation, our women engineers have not allowed themselves to be discouraged. They are passionate about the impact they can and will make on the world.

A big part of overcoming a lack of representation is seeking out role models and mentors. Sojern recently launched a program called the Sojern Women’s Group (SWG) to aid in these types of relationships. The mission of SWG is to create an intimate, trusted, peer-to-peer network that fosters professional and personal growth for women through mentorship, workshops, and events that are open to all. Across teams at Sojern, women are already starting to find the value in this program, as the group has opened the floor for healthy discussion about raising up others and paving the way for women within the company to build lasting relationships that foster confidence.

We asked some of the women on the engineering team how mentors helped them feel confident in STEM roles:

“During my PhD my advisor was very supportive in my research and career development. She helped me to overcome challenging projects and gain experience in the field. She helped me to present my work in front of a big audience and reach a wider audience. She helped me to be fearless.” – Nurcan Durak, Lead Data Science Engineer

“I have a few role models in the industry. One of them is Kate Matsudaira, a Director of Engineering at Google. She has written a lot of articles about how to become an effective individual contributor and engineering manager. I’ve learned a lot from her articles. My current manager, John Bryant, has also been a good mentor to me since he joined Sojern last year. I’ve learnt best by examples and working with him has helped me grow significantly.” – Kristin Nguyen, Senior Data Science Engineer

“My mom was always the person who inspired me and supported me in my career. My mom is a teacher, she taught physics in high school for more than 30 years. I watched her working with kids and making an impact in their lives, and I grew to have a profound respect for what she is doing. Even after retiring, she continues to work as a private tutor and stays true to her career choice. My mom taught me to stay the course and keep moving forward in my career. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.” – Yelena Perelmutova, Lead Software Engineer

Why Engineering at Sojern?

Sojern’s engineering team is one of the fastest growing parts of our business. As a result, we’re constantly hiring for engineering roles. So what’s it like to be a part of it all? Nurcan, Yelena, and Kristin gave us a first hand account.  

“Sojern has big data concentrated on the travel domain. This data allows us to discover patterns about customer behavior and maximize the customer engagement. It is nice to utilize my skills in data science and machine learning. My manager is very supportive of us taking risks, working on projects impacting the business, and automatizing the human in the loop processes.” – Nurcan Durak, Lead Data Science Engineer

“Sojern has a great vision which greatly depends on engineering.  At the same time, the vision cannot be achieved without cross collaboration between engineering and all parts of business. I find people at Sojern very collaborative, flexible, and friendly. I see a lot of interesting technical work with an opportunity to make a positive impact on the work of others around me.” – Yelena Perelmutova, Lead Software Engineer

“Sojern has a small engineering team and being in the AdTech space gives us a number of challenging and impactful problems to work on, which is exciting. I would love to have more female engineers come join us!” – Kristin Nguyen, Senior Data Science Engineer

What does it take to be a woman in tech? Our engineers list strong math and problem solving skills, computer science related subjects, lab work, real world applications, seeing the impact on daily life, and natural curiosity as innate aspects that push them forward.

Interested in joining the engineering team at Sojern? Check out our job openings here.

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