Diligent Q&A – Júlia Szatmári on International Day of Women and Girls in Science
In honor of International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11, 2024), Júlia Szatmári, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at Diligent, shares her remarkable journey, strategies for success, and invaluable advice for aspiring women in the industry.
How did your journey in software engineering unfold, and what pivotal moments shaped your career path in this industry?
My journey in software engineering started when I was 13 years old, and I got my first computer, a ZX Spectrum. I was fascinated by the possibilities of programming and creating my own games and applications. I continued to study computer science more seriously in high school and later at the university, which led to my first job as a software developer.
While I have never been totally convinced during those years that writing software code was my thing to do most of the time, at my first workplace, I realized that software engineering is so much more than that. It is about creating new solutions that impact the world (in fact, my software code is probably still used in some telecommunication networks), solving problems, collaborating with others and constantly learning new things. So I fell in love with it.
Software engineering has traditionally been a more male-dominated industry. So getting my first leadership role helped to validate that I could increase my impact in this domain. From that point on,I was determined to continue on that path. I enjoy leading teams and projects, setting the vision and strategy, empowering people, and delivering value to our customers.
One of the highlights of my career so far is joining Diligent as a Senior Vice President of Engineering. It was a pivotal moment for me to take on the challenge of building a new site in Budapest and leading a team of talented and passionate engineers who develop world-class products for governance, risk and compliance (GRC). I am very proud of what we have achieved together in a short time and how we contribute to Diligent's mission of empowering leaders to make better decisions.
As a senior vice president, what strategies have you employed to navigate challenges unique to women in technology and advance your leadership role?
If there is one difference that I have observed between my male colleagues and myself, it is that they are typically more confident and better at highlighting achievements — whether it is a job interview, status update or reflecting on performance. Of course, we all perform equally well when it comes to the execution and delivery of our jobs; however, this slight difference in confidence in ambiguous situations can have an oversized effect on careers. So, this is just something that I have learned to be mindful about and manage better.
Seeking mentors and sponsors who provide guidance, feedback and advocacy is invaluable. I have been fortunate to have mentors who helped me grow as a leader and sponsors who opened doors for me to take on new opportunities and responsibilities.
Leveraging strengths and skills to demonstrate one’s value and impact might sound obvious. I have focused on delivering high-quality work, solving complex problems, and driving innovation and excellence. However, it is equally important to communicate achievements and aspirations clearly and confidently and look for feedback and recognition when appropriate.
It is important for me to learn and grow as a leader and a technologist. I have embraced new challenges and roles that stretched me beyond my comfort zone and allowed me to develop new competencies and perspectives, which also helped increase confidence in my own values and impact.
What advice would you give aspiring women in software engineering, considering your experience breaking barriers and reaching a leadership position?
Most importantly, women considering pursuing a career in software engineering should know they will need to put in the work – don't give up on your dreams before fully throwing yourself into the race! Being a software engineer is a team sport, typically in a collaborative, inclusive environment, and women with great people skills and great problem-solving skills can have a stellar career in engineering. Women are often underrepresented in leadership positions in software engineering because they are also significantly underrepresented in junior positions. This is a profession where women can flourish, but we need to change the perception and encourage young students to explore this path.
Have you encountered situations where gender bias affected decision-making? How did you address and overcome such challenges?
Of course, I understand that the problem exists in the world, and I know that unintentional bias can also cause harm even without meaning to. I am lucky to have worked at companies where I have never experienced any discrimination because of my gender, even in a small way.
In fostering diversity and inclusion within your teams, what initiatives have you found most effective, and how can the industry better support women and girls in science?
One of the initiatives that I think is very effective in fostering diversity and inclusion within engineering teams is mentorship. Having a mentor who can guide, advise and support women and girls in science can make a huge difference in their confidence, motivation and career development. Mentors can also help you overcome challenges, learn new skills, and expand your network. I think the industry can better support women and girls in science by creating more mentorship opportunities, both formal and informal, and by encouraging more women to become mentors and role models for the next generation.
The industry can do more to reach out to schools, colleges and communities and showcase the exciting and rewarding aspects of software engineering. By exposing young girls to the possibilities and potentials of this field, we can spark their interest and curiosity and inspire them to pursue STEM education and careers. We can also provide them with resources, guidance and scholarships to help them achieve their goals and overcome any barriers they may face. This can also raise awareness and challenge stereotypes about software engineering and women's roles in it.
To explore the state of diversity in boardrooms worldwide, Diligent Institute, along with 22 partner organizations, created the Board Diversity Gaps report. Download the full report to learn how boards are progressing toward diversity goals, and check out our Careers page to explore current opportunities.