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Engineering My Way Through a Career in Tech

Dressed in all black casual attire, Tamar Newberger portrays a sharp Silicon Valley figure at first sight. But the second you engage in a conversation with her, her rhythmic speech and laid-back vibe puts one at ease of her accomplishments and the high-profile figure that she is.

We had the privilege to welcome Tamar Newberger as a guest speaker this week and her no-sugar-coating success stories were nothing but inspirational. Tamar is a computer scientist who has held executive positions and leadership roles in companies such as AT&T, Novell, SCO, and Catbird, a Silicon-Valley start-up. Also a diplomatic spouse and activist, Tamar lived in Prague for the past three years where her husband served as the United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

“Do what you love and don’t be afraid to take a leap.”

From a young age, Tamar was fearless and curious. She remembers a time during primary school when she spotted three boys in her class hovering over computer parts. “I walked right into the room and asked them all these questions about it. I didn’t know anything about computers but I was very interested,” said Tamar. While her passion for technology hadn’t bloomed quite yet, she came to a crossroad during the last semester of her freshman year in college. Being one credit short to finish the year, she decided to take computer science 101. What was supposed to be a credit-filler turned into her passion, resulting in her majoring in computer science. “Experimenting is important to find out what you love,” said Tamar,looking back at her decision at the time.

After graduating from Columbia University, Tamar joined the AT&T Corporation. As she was quickly climbing up the corporate ladder she later transitioned to Novell Inc. to lead the Unix System Laboratories (“USL”) team. Once there, Tamar suddenly faced a career dilemma. Novell had announced their sale of the Unixware division — which Tamar’s team had developed — to Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (“SCO”). With Hewlett-Packard (“HP”) being the leading licensed seller of Unix software at the time, Tamar and her team were asked to make a decision, to move to SCO or HP. “It was a very tough decision,” Tamar recalls, “everyone I looked up to and respected told me to go to HP,” because they valued the stability of HP over SCO. Tamar said this was the pivotal time in her life. “What did I want? Responsibility at a large firm? Or am I willing to take the risk of not having the security of working for a large firm?”

After much thought, Tamar had decided to join HP just as everyone around her had suggested. The night she gave her decision to HP, she thought to herself, “Something is not right.” The next morning, she woke up and followed her heart to join SCO, where she held an executive position until she joined Catbird. The lessons she learned were to not be afraid to try new things, and be fearless.

In 2014, Tamar left Catbird to move to the Czech Republic, where her husband served as the US Ambassador. Despite the need to give up her career in Silicon Valley, Tamar was enthusiastic for the opportunity to promote female entrepreneurship and empowerment as the Ambassador’s spouse. However, when they arrived, the circumstances were not as inviting of her ideas as she had expected. In 2015, Tamar came across a documentary on the gender and minority hiring gap amongst software engineers titled, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap. She then decided to make it her mission to host a screening at the US Embassy. When her original proposal was shot down, she engineered her way through negotiation after negotiation. Later that year, the US Embassy of Prague hosted a screening of Code and the event was covered by multiple media outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Tamar looks back on this experience with an important lesson learned: “Don’t give up, be nice, and don’t take no for an answer.” As a woman, we are expected to be nice naturally.

Here are some of the other nuggets of her advice:

  • Women who are seeking a career – Do some research at the hiring company and see if they have a track record in diversity, whether they have women in senior management positions or at their board. These are telltale signs of companies that value diversity in the workplace. They will be more likely to be successful than an all-male management team.
  • There used to be a five-year career plan – With technology and products accelerating, we now ought to think shorter term, such as a two-year plan.
  • Pursue a career that you are passionate about – It shouldn’t be just a job.  We would be a lot more successful in our career if we do what we love doing.
  • When making a big decision – Ask for advice. Informational interview will help us to explore different fields and industries, and most people you ask love talking about what to do.
  • For working mothers – Tamar recommends the book “Healthy sleep habits, happy child”.

 

Tamar Newberger is no stranger to forging her own path. She is an innovator, engineer of female career development and a mother. She embodies every positive element we all aspire to have. Her message to all women navigating their way to success is simple: Do what you love and don’t be afraid to take a leap.

 

Want to meet more inspiring female role models? Join us for our 2018 Mentoring Program. Applications will be open on 12/1. Check out http://womenaccelerators.org/mentoring-program/ for details.