A Conversation with Heyday AI’s Women Techmakers

By
Sebastien Rankin
March 8, 2021

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we sat down with Heyday’s leading ladies to start a conversation around women in tech. 

Spanning from conversational design, product management, sales, marketing and customer success, our small but mighty team embraces differences to build world-class conversational AI for retail and eCommerce merchants. 

What’s it like for women working in the tech community? How can more brands empower women to be change makers? Keep reading to get their perspective as they share their experiences and advice on allyship, career progression, recruitment and inclusiveness.

Sidebar on the language used in these interviews: we interchangeably used the words female and women in our discussions. We recognize how intersectionality impacts each of us, and hope this piece inclusive for all female-identifying persons across sex, gender identity, and gender expression.

Whether in STEM-related fields, customer success, sales or marketing, how do you feel about the status of gender equality in tech? 

Anna: While we’ve taken steps in the right direction, we’re far from the destination. We need to collectively focus on fostering, mentoring and encouraging more women to pursue their interests from a young age — whether it’s coding, programming, or any other discipline. Invest in showing young women that they have a seat at the table, and they can contribute to actually building products. 

Christine: When I started university over 15 years ago, engineering school was clearly a boy’s club. Today, I am seeing a lot more women entering the field, but looking more closely at the data, you’ll see most women in tech companies end up on the sales or marketing side. Most importantly, women rarely make it to the executive level, and even more rarely to the c-suite. But we know it’s not a pipeline issue anymore, it's a drop-out issue. We still have ways to go to make sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed in STEM disciplines and women are not left behind in such great numbers. We need to address the issues that make it so much harder for women to make it to those senior roles.

My brother is a nurse, and I’m the Head of Sales at a tech company. Pursue what you’re interested in. We need to collectively make sure that the career someone pursues isn’t defined or limited in any way by their gender or how they identify themselves.

Amelie: We’re making progress, but there’s still a long way to go to erase pre-construed notions of gender roles and encourage women to pursue whatever they’re interested in and passionate about. My brother is a nurse, and I’m the Head of Sales at a tech company. Pursue what you’re interested in. We need to collectively make sure that the career someone pursues isn’t defined or limited in any way by their gender or how they identify themselves. 

Nathaly: I’ve noticed a change in the sense that I’m seeing more women in leadership positions. There are studies that show diverse organizations perform better financially, and I think that as a result of those quantitative findings, we’re seeing more companies in tech and other industries take it more seriously and foster a more inclusive environment for everyone, starting from the top-down. 

Julie: From my experience across several sectors, I see tech as the most progressive by far. While it’s still not perfect, I see tech companies as pioneers in diversity and inclusion, and they seem to invest greatly into building diverse teams. The tech industry is making great efforts and progress on this front — my hope is that other sectors, ones with more traditional philosophies, follow suit. 

Malak: It’s funny, when I moved to Canada, I was surprised to see so few women in engineering. Where I’m from, Syria, we have far more women in engineering, and software engineering in particular! I don’t know why this is the case exactly, but I think it might be because from a young age, we were encouraged to engineering as a possible career path. 

Sacha: I’m pleased to see diversity has become a part of many organizations’ recruiting and hiring processes, but the conversation has really only just started. I think we’ll only be able to appreciate progress around diversity in the workplace once it’s so normalized it’s not a headline or “special” anymore. We still have a long way to go in terms of supporting and encouraging women to pursue the career they want from a young age, especially if it’s a historically male-dominated profession. That’s the only way we can eventually get to a point where diversity isn’t a shiny HR stat we draw attention to, but just the way things are

What do you think companies need to do to foster more diverse teams from the top down, across all teams? 

Anna: Diversity starts from the inside out. If you have to choose between two candidates with equal qualifications, training, and experience, hire the woman. Hire the person of color. Hire the trans person. It’s only through repeatedly making these conscious decisions that eventually (and hopefully) it becomes second nature. People in decision-making positions, especially when it comes to hiring, need to be aware of their own implicit biases and ask themselves why they prefer one candidate over another. 

People in decision-making positions, especially when it comes to hiring, need to be aware of their own implicit biases and ask themselves why they prefer one candidate over another. 

Christine: There are no shortcuts. It takes deliberate efforts, and yes, there will be a cost to those efforts. What decision-makers need to know is that diversity is worth their investment and effort. It’s been well-documented that diverse companies are more successful. Instead of hiring quickly through your business school network, keep roles open for longer and boost postings across job boards targeted at diverse professionals. If you build a diverse talent pool to source candidates from, you are more much likely to hire diverse employees.  

Amelie: Take time to identify your own biases, then build a plan to make up for your blind spots. Whether it’s hiring, promotions, or how decisions get made internally — actively seek out different perspectives and challenge your assumptions. 

Nathaly: At Heyday, we foster our diverse culture by actively promoting it internally. We have a newsletter where we amplify our colleagues' accomplishments, routine feedback sessions where everyone has a chance to speak, and bias training for management. It works really well for us and I think even those simple outputs can help other organizations get on the right track! 

Julie: According to Women Who Tech, women own only 5% of tech startups and female executives only make up 11% of the total Fortune 500 companies. I believe that we shouldn’t wait for men to give us our place in the tech world but to take it ourselves, similar to how Whitney Wolfe forged her own path with Bumble. I’d like to see women take more risks by starting their own business, women encouraging other women to succeed and building their own networks. 

Malak: Companies need to accept that diverse teams, especially in technical fields like engineering, will help them solve big problems and build better products. Diversity starts with your mindset, defining your company’s values, and bringing in employees that support them. 

Sacha: It can be difficult to imagine yourself in certain leadership positions if the only people up there look nothing like you, or have completely different experiences of the world than your own. Diversity needs to start at the top, and for organizations that don’t have balanced representation, it starts with acknowledging your shortcomings, embracing allyship and fostering an inclusive culture. 

What’s it like as a woman working at Heyday? 

Anna: Working at Heyday has been great. I feel like I can voice my opinions and speak up with no second guessing myself. Everyone is empowered, our opinions are valued, and we’re trusted with the ability to make decisions.  

Christine: We foster a very inclusive environment, and by that I mean that everyone is encouraged to bring their strengths and insights to the table. Introvert, extravert, fresh out of university or 15 years of experience, technical or non-technical...regardless of how you identify yourself and where you’re from — your voice matters. 

Regardless of how you identify yourself and where you’re from — your voice matters. 

Amelie: I get recognized for my accomplishments, and have a supportive group of leaders around me that help me learn every day. Everyone is given lots of room to make decisions, to make a difference, and to add value to the company. Plus I’m surrounded by awesome smart and strong people that make a conscious effort to support one another. It’s everything I could ask for! 

Nathaly: I have the opportunity and pleasure to work alongside incredibly smart, knowledgeable and passionate women who uplift the people around them. I have the respect and trust of our founders and am empowered to grow the Customer Success team and evolve our processes to serve our customers better. 

Julie: Heyday is the place where great work is recognized, no matter who you are. It’s very meritocratic, and I think that’s what makes this place so great. Everyone is treated equally, is supported by leadership, and judged based on the merits of their work. 

Malak: Funny enough, I’m the only engineer on a team of 28 developers (laughs). Even with that clear imbalance in terms of gender, the team here assures that everyone has a voice, regardless of gender, religion, background or the color of your skin. The team pushes me to be a better developer. We help one another grow, and that’s something I really appreciate. 

Sacha: I’ve found it to be a very supportive workplace. I’ve never questioned the value of my voice, or felt like anyone has questioned or undermined my knowledge or expertise solely based on my gender. It’s certainly not perfect (the majority of our employees are men) but, that being said, everyone here is an ally, is committed to building an inclusive environment, and I appreciate the conscious efforts to diversify our teams.  

What advice would you give to women looking to build a career in tech? 

Anna: Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, and be loud! Everyone has a learning curve. You have the right to make mistakes, learn from them, and get better over time like everyone else. Over time, you’ll gain confidence in yourself and your work will speak for itself.

Christine: Start building your own little community from day 1, this ensures you have mentors to help you grow, and that you always feel a sense of belonging (even if you’re the only woman in the room). Make a conscious effort to keep in touch with people you enjoyed working with or who showed they care. Send them yearly updates - trust me, they’ll love hearing from you and feel validated that they’re contributing to your success. Those relationships will lead you to the most interesting opportunities. 

Amelie: Do it! It’s a deeply rewarding and fast-paced industry. Identify what fascinates you, what your values are and what your strengths are, and then find companies that align with your values and will give you a chance to shine. Oh, and when it comes time to talk about salary with HR, don’t undervalue yourself. You’ll never get what you don’t ask for. 

Identify what fascinates you, what your values are and what your strengths are, and then find companies that align with your values and will give you a chance to shine.

Nathaly: If you’re passionate about tech, just go for it! Don’t be shy, apply for roles that interest you (even if you don’t 100% match the job requirements) and believe in yourself!  

Julie: Don’t wait for opportunities...create your own! And don’t be afraid of failure. It happens to everyone. Learn from your mistakes, believe in yourself, focus on improving every day, and you’ll build a fantastic career. 

Malak: More than anything, don’t let anyone else decide your career or define who you are as a person and as a professional. Choose a profession you love, and define what happiness and success means to you.

Sacha: Starting a career in any field can be intimidating, but for me the biggest lessons were: own your perspective and expertise, don’t be afraid to challenge people and to ask questions, support and elevate the voices of the women, PoCs, and LGBTQIA+ folks around you, and focus on building strong connections with peers and mentors you admire. 

For all the people out there looking for a place to build their career, how can they tell if a company is actually walking the talk when it comes to allyship and empowering women in the workplace? 

Anna: Cut to the chase and ask what a company is doing in regards to diversity in the interview. If they’re authentic, they’ll happily share what they’re doing and the initiatives they have in place. 

Christine: I would recommend looking at the company’s website, especially their “about us” or “careers'' pages and asking open-ended questions in the interview, like “what are your values?” Based on what you hear, you’ll have a better idea of where they stand. Pay special attention to what you are not hearing. 

Amelie: I’d recommend reaching out to people other than the hiring manager or HR. Reach out to people who may eventually be your colleagues on LinkedIn. Those conversations can be very insightful and help you peek behind the scenes to see how that business really works. 

Reach out to people who may eventually be your colleagues on LinkedIn. Those conversations can be very insightful and help you peek behind the scenes to see how that business really works. 

Julie: Honestly? You can scour a company website and ask all the right questions in the interview process, but I’m also a person who trusts my intuition. When I speak to people who work at the organization, I trust my gut feeling. It’s usually telling you something you don’t yet have facts to corroborate. 

Malak: I recommend reading as much as you can on a company’s website and reaching out to current and former employees on LinkedIn. Also, be mindful of how your potential future colleagues make you feel in the interview process. You can feel when a company will be a good fit.

Sacha: Actions speak louder than words. Don’t just accept when the company tells you they have diversity and inclusion practices – ask how these practices are folded in to their day-to-day? How often do closely they track progress? How do they measure whether or not they’re making progress? Who are the people at the table making these decisions and defining what diversity is to the company? Snoop on LinkedIn to get a sense of the staff. See if you have any 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connections who work there (or who have worked there) and send them a message to ask for the tea! 

Let’s talk about growth. What advice would you give to women who want to advance their careers and break through any proverbial glass ceilings? 

Christine: First, be proactive about feedback. You need to understand how you are perceived by your group so that you can fill in the gaps. Second, make sure you are crystal clear on what is expected of you. Do not accept evaluations where you are told vaguely to have more impact in order to get promoted. Ask many questions, ask for examples, ask until you feel you have a clear agreement on what you need to do to get there. 

Amelie: Sponsors are key to advancing your career. It’s not just your boss that needs to know you and appreciate what you bring to the table, it’s your boss’s peers as well. Sponsors are people from other teams that appreciate your work and value you. Foster a network of sponsors within your organization and nurture those relationships.

Julie: Focus on bringing value to the organization, celebrate your successes (and the success of your peers!). And finally, know what your convictions are and what you stand for. I always like to say “if it doesn’t work here, it’ll work somewhere else”. If one organization doesn’t value the same things you do, somewhere else will. 

Malak: I’m an observer at heart. I recommend observing the people around you and learning from their experiences, mistakes, and successes. 

If you want something, ask! You’ll never get what you don’t ask for, whether it’s a promotion, learning opportunities, or anything else.

Sacha: Forge strong relationships with your peers, seek mentorship from people you admire, and have confidence in what you bring to the table. Don’t compromise on your values with the hope of career advancement — you need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and like what you see. Also, if you want something, ask! You’ll never get what you don’t ask for, whether it’s a promotion, learning opportunities, or anything else. 

What advice would you give men in tech? How can they support and empower women in the workplace and walk the talk when it comes to allyship?  

Anna: Make an effort to listen. In meetings, acknowledge that a woman might be less inclined to voice their thoughts. Assure that everyone has an opportunity to speak, and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable doing so. 

Christine: If you consider yourself a feminist, stand by your values — even when it isn’t comfortable. Call your colleagues out if they say something you feel is inappropriate. Give them feedback and help them identify their own biases. This is important because it helps make it less acceptable for sexism to continue to exist and be internalized.  

Amelie: Identify your own bias. This advice is good for other women in tech too. We all have some unconscious bias. Developing self-awareness is critical to healthy relationships at work or in your personal life. 

Nathaly: Unconscious biases are the obvious place to start. Also, make sure that you listen more than you speak. That advice goes for everyone, but we need to collectively make an effort to make our colleagues feel heard and like their thoughts are valuable and appreciated. 

Listen more than you speak. That advice goes for everyone, but we need to collectively make an effort to make our colleagues feel heard and like their thoughts are valuable and appreciated. 

Julie: It’s simple: treat everyone equally! 

Malak: I think the best thing a man can do is get involved in the discussion and listen. This can help them align and support their female colleagues. Listening fosters understanding, understanding fosters empathy, and empathy makes a better workplace for everyone. 

Sacha: I think the easiest thing men can do to create an inclusive environment is simple: listen! Give the people around you space to share their thoughts without fear of being judged, publicly scrutinized, talked over, or otherwise invalidated. If you see someone doing or saying something sexist or inappropriate, call them out on it. Use your privilege and your voice to support and uplift those around you. 

Who's your top female role model and why? 

Anna: An early role model that I always come back to is Tina Fey. She’s a shining example of a woman who used her quick wit, intelligence and humor to build a career for herself, and then used her platform to inspire an entire generation of female writers.

Christine: Sallie Krawcheck, Wall Street veteran and the CEO of Ellevest, a company made by women, to help get more wealth in the hands of women via women-friendly investment portfolios. She is such a great example of how we can run the world better for everyone. She’s a badass. 

Amelie: I look up to Arlene Dickinson. She’s a mother of four, investor, author, tv personality and wildly successful Canadian entrepreneur. She’s empathic, strong, funny, and unafraid to share insights with a healthy dose of humor in her newsletter. She shows women everywhere that you don’t need to choose one over the other — you can have a family and a great career. 

Nathaly: Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook. She empowered me to believe in myself. As women, we often forget to acknowledge what we’ve accomplished and celebrate our success. She gives inspirational advice on how women can earn leadership roles and inspire their teams.

Julie: I met Sophie Brochu when she was the CEO of Energir (formerly Gaz Metro), and that was a transformative experience. The way she treats people, finds solutions to challenging problems and does her job at the highest level is extraordinary. 

Malak: Zaha Hadid, she was an internationally-renowned architect who influenced so many young female architects. In a male dominated industry, she carved her niche and showed women that they, too, could succeed in that industry. She inspired an entire generation of women to become architects. 

Sacha: Kathleen Hanna, front person of the punk band Bikini Kill is someone I’ve admired since I was a teenager. She forged her own path in an overwhelmingly male-dominated punk scene, made (and continues to make) art rooted in community and empowerment, and used her position of power and platform to create space for more women (she was the one who started the “girls to the front” movement). She has total agency over herself, her body, and her career, and upholds pro-feminist, anti-racist, LGBTQIA+ inclusive principles in everything she does. 

Building inclusive spaces for women in tech 

When it comes to diversity in the workspace — particularly in the tech sector — we still have a lot of important work to do. Men account for more than half of the job applicant pool, and women and female-identifying persons are underrepresented candidates 16% of the time

And, while the statistic is trending upward, progress remains slow.

According to CIO, the number of women in leadership positions grew by 24% between 2018 and 2019.  This is an important figure to monitor, because having more women in positions of senior leadership tends to correlate with more female hires, as well as an organization’s ability to retain them long-term.

Organizations where women occupy 50% (or more) of leadership positions are more likely to offer equal pay, retain female-identifying employees for longer, and report greater job satisfaction.

At Heyday, we strive to empower the people around us and manifest the future we want to see from within. “Diversity is in our DNA,” says Étienne Mérineau, our CMO and co-founder. “50% of our leadership team identify as women, including our VP of Product, VP of Finance, Head of Sales, Head of Customer Success, and Head of Talent and Culture. We recognize that there is more work to be done, but are incredibly proud of the inclusive culture we’ve built and continue to build.” 

“AI will help shape the future of society and our economy. We need more women in leadership positions to make sure that the future we create is more inclusive and fair for everyone.”

We couldn't have said it better.

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