Women Who Reign: Maytal Dahan
“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.” — Sandra Day O’Connor
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a software engineer and manager at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin. I get to work with a bunch of super talented and smart software engineers, researchers and scientists remotely from my home office in Los Angeles. I love telecommuting and have been doing it for 15 years (really, that long!).
I love what I do, we get to use web technologies to help advance science through the web portals and science gateways.
I’m also a mom of three amazing young children. Parenting is the hardest, most exhausting job but is rewarding beyond words. My kids take my breath away when they conquer a fear, learn a new skill, and overcome hardship. Being a mom has changed my perspective how to best live my life and what kind of impact I want to make on the world. I’m determined to be a role model for my kids, showing them by example that an individual has the ability to make an impact. By seeing how hard I work and how much I love what I do, I hope to impart that discipline and determination on them.
Fun fact: I went swimming with sharks and LOVED it!
Another Fun Fact: I was a nationally ranked fencer and travelled all over the US competing! Go Fencing! I used to be an Epee fencer, I started in Los Angeles at the age of 13 and fenced all through college. I loved it, I got to travel the country, meet amazing people, learn what hard work, discipline and determination can get you. I also learned the value in failing and getting back up again.
What # would define your life journey?
I’m always trying to grow and learn — as a woman, mom, friend, manager, and software engineer. I tried mountain biking for the first time with my team, the last time I rode a bike I was 12 and I had never ridden a mountain bike before. I was terrified, I thought I was going to crash into a tree and break a limb. I fell (a lot!) but I got back up, I had moments where I was really scared and wanted to cry but I did it. I was so proud of myself, it is never too late to learn something new and conquer some fears.
Favorite website / app:
I am a bit ashamed to admit it but Facebook. I’m addicted. I have family and friends all over the world and love to keep in touch with them. For me facebook is about community and creating a community around family, things you love, and let’s not forget lots of puppy videos.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I’ve been really lucky to have many fortunate people around me to inspire me. But I would have to say my earliest inspirations were grandmothers — Judit and Aliza. My grandmother Judit taught me that it is never too late to live your life on your terms and find your passion. Late in life she found a love of traveling and painting. She was excited to adventure and travel the world even if it meant she had to do it on her own. She taught me that it is never too late to learn something new and I have her paintings displayed in my house to regularly remind me of that. My grandmother Aliza still inspires me today, she grew up in a small village in Morocco and wasn’t even given the opportunity to have the most basic education but she is resilient and created an amazing family where her grandkids are leading startups, advancing science, and making a mark on this world.
Song that makes you want to dance:
Destiny’s Child “I’m a Survivor” as an undergraduate student my lab buddy Cathie and I would blast this during our late night coding sessions when we needed a pick me up.
With more gray hair — but aside from that as I enter this phase of my career I look forward to being able to make an impact and use my skill and knowledge to help mentor others. I stumbled upon a career in Computer Science through many happy accidents. I think engaging kids early on in a love of inquiry based learning and imparting how technology can change lives is really inspiring. As a manager it is my job to help a team run effectively, make our projects succeed but also make sure that those on my team are growing and learning.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Don’t give up. I know it sounds so cheezy but it is true. There have been so many times I didn’t believe I had it in me to do it. I didn’t get it, or I wasn’t succeeding the way I wanted to be. But putting your head down and getting through the current hurdle will reap unexpected rewards. Just knowing that you can overcome when you wanted to quit and throw in the towel is empowering.