‘Confidence becomes the differentiator’: Women in business, technology speak on panel


Photo credit: Archer Communications

Technology professionals Nadia Ghassemi, Dominique Greene, Una Fox, Saira Rahman and Maddi Stein share how they go to the leadership position they hold. “At some point you might have to… just say, ‘I believe this is the right path for me,'” Ghassemi said. “And I may lose a little money or a little time in the short term, but it’s going to get me to where I want to be.”

By Surya Patil, Sports Editor

Confidence. When asked what advice they would give young women going into technology-related fields, all five panelists agreed attaining career success often comes down to confidence.

Student Body President Rose Chuck (’23) and Executive Board member Alyssa Ponrartana (’23) moderated two panels the week of Sept. 12. Middle school students viewed the first panel, which was comprised of Archer alumni who own successful businesses, and it took place during MS-FLX Block Sept.12. Women on the panel own businesses ranging from an art studio to a language pathology private practice.

“It was really cool to be a bridge between the moderators and the student body, ” Ponrartana said. “A big piece advice that was given was ‘don’t take yourself too seriously.’…They talked about appreciating parts of Archer and the importance [of] participating in the things you are interested in because the journey will be over before you know it.”

The second panel took place during US-FLX block Sept. 13 and was comprised of women who are making an impact in a technological field. Upper school students gathered in the dining hall to hear each woman share their unique pathway to their positions.

Panelist Saira Rahman is currently the vice president of new investment initiatives at Fundrise, a fintech company, where she develops new products. Rahman highlighted the importance of having confidence to take career risks. The other panelists agreed with this statement, and they stressed the importance of letting go of the fear of failure. Rahman left the company she was working for after 11 years, which ultimately led her to attaining her current position.

“By the time I was 27, I was reporting into nine different banks, managing a $40 billion book simply by having stayed at the same company, ” Rahman said.”And by the time I climbed the ladder at that company, I had done just about every single role there, and I have the type of brain that I was now trained to be entrepreneurial. One of my clients who was at one of my banks asked me to jump ship and start essentially becoming a CFO in-training of that bank, so I jumped ship and joined the bank… And it was a swing and a miss.”

Along with taking risks, the panelists discussed the commonly referred to statistic where men are likely to apply for a job with six out of 10 qualifications while women are likely to only apply for a job with nine out of 10 qualifications. Nadia Ghassemi, the Head of Audio Partnerships in Google’s Global Ads division, commented on the statistic.

“When you think about that men are getting the job with 30% less qualifications than the women, and the women are waiting for how long it’ll take to get those next three skills — which will be years — your male counterpart already got the job, ” Ghassemi said. “And so he’s already five to 10 years ahead of you in your career. Now that I’m sitting in a lot of rooms with executives — men and women at Google — it is so evident that confidence really becomes the differentiator at those levels.”

Maddi Stein, an aeronautical engineer who works at Skunkworks, specializing in aerodynamics, summed up the “perfect” concoction for success in two words: confidence and passion.

“I really love the part when they were discussing how women and men have a different takes on applying for jobs or different opportunities,” Ponrartana said.”I loved it when the aerospace engineer combined confidence and passion. That was a really succinct memorable phrase.”