Meet Anat Rapoport, she has worked her way through every rank in the engineering and technology industries. She has been VP of engineering at multiple companies and was GM and co-CEO in her last two roles. Rapoport is an experienced R&D manager with a master of science in computer science from Tel Aviv University. She is an Israel Defense Forces 8200 alumni, and a mom of three. Her new book is Woman Up!: Your Guide to Success in Engineering and Tech, (Lioncrest Publishing (May 31, 2023).

Q: Can you tell us a little about the trajectory of your career?

My career in tech is a story of not giving up, wanting more, and learning along the way. It started when I studied computer science at a top university in Israel. At first, I worked as a backend developer without really thinking about moving up or what I wanted from my career.

Eventually, I felt the urge to grow and aimed to be a team lead. However, I didn't know about my weaknesses or how to achieve this goal. Becoming a leader wasn't easy, and it came with its own set of challenges.

During this time, I also wanted to become a mother, which led me through years of tough fertility treatments. These experiences made me stronger and wiser, but also kept me from holding onto the team lead position I worked so hard for.

After becoming a mother, I was still a software developer. In order to understand my next steps, I watched others who moved up in their careers and learned from them. This motivated me to push harder towards my desired position as a VP of R&D.

Just two years later, working very hard and moving very fast, I made it—I became the VP of R&D at a startup.

Since then, I've continued to tackle more VP positions, using the resilience and insights gained from my experiences.

Q: You chose a field that is dominated by men. What obstacles did you face in climbing the hi-tech ladder?

First of all - I had no direction and didn’t aim high. I believe it is related to the fact that I had no female role model as a senior manager. Second - I wanted to be a mom and that took years from my career. Third - Even when I finally wanted to advance, my confidence was lacking. I waited for approval from others.

Q: How were you able to balance having a career and being a mother?

I had a very supportive spouse and I took all the help I could get. Also - I didn’t expect myself to be a perfect mom. In fact, I didn’t expect myself to be a perfect anything.

Q: What do you see as the most important steps a woman should take to advance her career?

  • Develop Determination: Realize career growth is in your control, not just up to supervisors. If not recognized in your current role, seek advancement elsewhere.
  • Develop Resistance: Stay calm during upheavals and learn from failures. Balance work and personal life without guilt, especially when family responsibilities arise.
  • Ask for Feedback: Seek insights from managers, peers, and mentors to uncover and address blind spots. Embrace feedback for personal and professional growth.
  • Self-Promotion: Take credit for your achievements. Seek out significant projects and opportunities to stand out and add value to your organization.
  • Observational Learning: Learn from the success of others, particularly how they handle failure and pursue goals. Adapt these observations to develop your unique approach to career growth.

Q: You talk about the loneliness of being one of few women in your field. What advice can you give women who feel isolated in their job?

Feeling isolated in a predominantly male field can be challenging, but there are strategies to build connections and feel less alone:

  • Seek Out Community: Look for women's groups within your field, both in your workplace and online. Organizations and networks related to your profession often have chapters or forums dedicated to women, offering a platform for support and advice.
  • Find a Mentor: A mentor who has navigated similar challenges can provide invaluable guidance. They can offer not just career advice but also emotional support and strategies to deal with isolation.
  • Create a Support Network: If a women's group doesn't exist in your area or field, consider starting one. Even a small network of women who understand your experiences can make a significant difference.
  • Professional Development: Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars in your field. These can be great opportunities to meet peers, including other women who might share your experiences.

Remember, your presence in the field is paving the way for more women to follow. Each step you take to connect with others and build a supportive network not only helps you, but also those who will come after you.

Q: You have said that one of your life’s missions is to have more women at the top supporting each other. Why is this so important to you and how do you envision this happening?

Having more women at the top supporting each other is crucial to me because it's about breaking cycles of exclusion and building a culture of inclusivity and empowerment. It's not just about filling quotas or achieving statistical diversity; it's about changing the narrative and dynamics within leadership spaces. When women support each other at the top, it creates a ripple effect, creating environments where diverse voices are heard, valued, and integrated into the decision-making process. This, in turn, encourages more innovative solutions that reflect the needs and perspectives of a broader segment of society.

Also, it's about changing the narrative around leadership itself—promoting the idea that effective leadership can embody qualities traditionally considered feminine, such as empathy, collaboration, and emotional intelligence, and that these qualities are not just beneficial but essential for successful leadership in today's world.

Ultimately, I'm driven by the desire to create a better world for my daughters. I want them to grow up in a society where leadership reflects diversity, inclusivity, and mutual support among women. It's about ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed and are judged by their abilities, not their gender.

Are you a female executive with a powerful story to share? Databird Journal is dedicated to elevating and amplifying the voices of women making an impact. If you want to share your story, don't hesitate to contact us