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Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech: Saray Ben-Meir of SQream On The 5 Leadership Lessons She Learned From Her Experience

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Don’t apologize for thinking or acting differently than men. Many times, women see/judge/operate in a different way which might give them an advantage.

As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Saray Ben Meir.

Saray Ben-Meir, Chief-of-Staff and Corporate Innovation at SQream

As SQream’s Chief-of-Staff, Saray works across teams to ensure alignment on broad and strategic initiatives across the company, building partnerships, leading organizational changes and leadership design, driving constant process improvement, and ensuring the organization abides by its cultural values. Saray brings over two-decades of experience in the hi-tech industry, in both corporate and startup organizations, in Israel and abroad.

Saray also serves on SQream’s Executive Innovation Team, which envisions and incubates SQream’s next-generation products, creates partnerships with strategic stakeholders, and integrates those projects into the work stream of the company.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career in human resources roles. I first became responsible for developing cross-functional teams of tech and business professionals when the Canadian start-up that I joined was acquired. I was responsible for identifying experts from both companies who had complementary skills to design a new organization that would take our joint offering to the next level.

Since then, I’ve been working at technology companies exploring ways to accelerate innovation by fostering an intrapreneurial spirit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

As Head of Corporate Innovation, I’m responsible for facilitating strategic initiatives that require multi-disciplinary talents combined with out of the box thinking. Three years ago, our CTO came up with the disruptive idea to create “SQream Nano”, a very small device that processes heavy data analytics. Since the product was for a different market than our typical customers, we created a “squad” responsible for mapping the solution to different verticals to see where there is the most significant need. I developed discovery sessions based on my personal network of experts to explore IoT and automotive use cases including smart city applications and others.

We worked as a task force from incubation until it was ready to become an official item in our product portfolio.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was trying to head hunt a CUDA developer when I just joined SQream, as this was a very hard skill to find. Without realizing it, l approached someone who by chance worked for a partner of ours. Our CEO told me the day after, “You did a great job finding the best CUDA guy in the industry, however you caused a serious “diplomatic incident” with this partner. This taught me that the industry is an ecosystem we should treat very carefully and wisely.

My way of operating is to have a win-win approach where all parties involved come out ahead, and not to burn bridges.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our end goal is helping companies make better decisions, by improving the efficiency of their data processing at a very large scale. We took upon ourselves a very ambitious mission with technical complexities that huge companies struggle to overcome. I’ve been with SQream for almost 8 years and our biggest differentiator is our team’s determination and belief that we can meet any challenge. So many things along the way could have stopped us, but we didn’t give up.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly working on minimizing the time to insight for decision makers. I am especially proud of how our technology is able to accelerate cancer research by increasing the amount of data that can be analyzed while reducing the time to reach meaningful results.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I am happy to say that I see a larger number of women in the tech industry. Schools are making more of an effort to expose girls to technical fields from an early age, which will pave their way to the tech industry later on.

However, despite this positive change, I believe that it will take another decade or so until we will see 50% representation of women in tech companies.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

The most known and spoken about challenge is combining a meaningful career with being a parent. The tech industry is well known for its demanding working hours and some women are concerned about balancing professional and personal life.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?

My background is not technical, but I always worked with very technical professionals, I’ve always strived to learn and dive into the details and understand deeply what we do. Along my career I had situations where technical people were reluctant at first to trust that I would understand their answers.

Very quickly, however, they discover that due to my natural curiosity, passion for learning, and my different perspective focused on people throughout the organization, I can provide valuable input that can be an asset.

From my experience, listening, analyzing, finding practical solutions that will get the job done earns me respect from those who might initially question my authority.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Be a good listener

2. Invest in creating good relationships with your stakeholders and then you can make a greater impact.

3. Don’t apologize for thinking or acting differently than men. Many times, women see/judge/operate in a different way which might give them an advantage.

4. As a leader you cannot satisfy everyone, learn to live with criticism from those who are not in agreement with you.

5. Don’t compromise on being a meaningful parent while building your career.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

You will be judged on your results, so excel in whatever you do.

Don’t expect any special favors and don’t take shortcuts.

Speak your mind! Don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts and opinions. Even if you make a mistake, learn from it and try again, don’t let anyone stop you. By having a different perspective, you can contribute to a new discovery.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Each of my managers through the years has had a significant role in making me who I am. I was lucky to have managers who opened their door for me, gave me the confidence and the freedom to take bold actions and push things forward, while exposing me to various domains from which I’ve learned a lot. I also owe some credit to those who were honest and told me along the way I can’t succeed — perhaps without intending to, they pushed me forward no less than those people who believed in me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have been volunteering for years in various diverse projects. I try to share my experiences, knowledge and motivation with people who have limited excess to the tech world or to the business world. Also in SQream, one of the things I’m proud of, is that we do a lot to open our gates to diverse talent — for example, we coach young students and support them through their first steps in the tech industry.

You are a person of influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would have like to spread the work culture of the tech industry to other sectors who operate in a very “old school” management style by not empowering individuals and striving for excellence and innovation. I would like to see sectors like education, healthcare, or industrial become more influenced by this culture and to give the people who work in that industry a healthier environment where they can prosper.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My personal role model is the philosopher and writer Ayn Rand because of her belief in individualism and excellence over mediocrity. My favorite quote of hers is — The question is not who is going to let me — but who is going to stop me.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I would love to meet professor Itzhak Adizes whom I read and followed for many years and feed my brain with his many important insights. As a Jewish child during World Ward II, Adizes hid in Albania as a Muslim for protection and then in 1948, Adizes moved with his family to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces. After completing his undergraduate education, he moved to the United States where he obtained a doctorate degree in business from Columbia University. He is well known for developing the PAEI management model in early 1970s, that categorizes managers into four key roles, Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur and Integrator.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.