Ana Gabriela Pinczuk (E’10) is senior vice president of Services Transformation for Cisco, a worldwide leader in networking that is part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Pinczuk leads strategy, planning, acquisitions and investments, and portfolio management. She is also the newest board member of The Anita Borg Institute, which focuses on the advancement of women in computer science and engineering. Current data show a sizable gender gap when it comes to women in technology.
Is there an ideal age to introduce science and engineering careers?
I wish more people would talk to children early on. Many girls begin to self-select out of science and math in middle school. We need to show them that it might be cool to be an engineer and relate it to activities girls that age find attractive.
Is that what happened for you?
More my parents’ academic influence. My mom is a biologist, and my dad is a physicist. But I really didn’t think about engineering until my first year in college. I thought it was something I could do.
Describe your undergraduate days in the classroom.
I was one of about 10 girls out of 120 classmates in mechanical engineering. I was used to being around guys growing up, so I never felt particularly different. It did hit me, though, when I had to take a class in combustion. It was me and 20 guys, and I knew nothing about cars. But the guys were great. And a lot of it was problem sets, so once I understood the terminology, the mathematics of it, it was easy.
For a young woman considering a STEM career path, what does she need to know?
To be the best that you can be in your field. Nothing replaces competence. She should also focus on finding a place to work where she will be supported and hopefully see other people like her.
You’ve mentored a number of women throughout your career. What do you look for in a mentee?
I want a mentee to know where they think they want to go, but also to know they need to be open minded. I want them to take on other points of view. They should be able to do reverse mentoring. I think that I can learn a lot from them, and I want them to have the courage to offer ideas.
What can employers do to support women in technology?
It starts with creating the culture that makes it a great place to work for all types of people. The best thing we can do as employers is provide support mechanisms and opportunities that will help women succeed, including mentoring, sponsorship, education programs, and networking vehicles.
—as told to Lisa Kay Davis (DC’09)