In celebration of Women’s History Month, VMware presents a three-part interview series where inspiring women speak about their journey in STEM. They reveal challenges they faced, share stories about their role models and share the lessons learned along the way as guidance for women looking to break into the world of technology. Check out the additional interviews in this series with Megan Coppin and Melissa Dunkerley.
Maschiaccio. It means tomboy in Italian, and it is how Sonia Gulina’s father describes her. If zooming around Europe on a motorcycle, enjoying soccer, and dissecting servers makes you a tomboy, then Sonia is maschiaccio and embracing it.
Sonia is a Technical Account Manager (TAM) in VMware’s Rome office. She began her career in technology sixteen years ago, working with VMware for the last three years. Her love for the field started at a young age and flourished thanks to a fantastic university experience, a passionate professor, and the personal growth she gained along the way.
Where It All Started
Sonia’s first job was at a company that worked for the Italian public. Her task was to assemble and disassemble servers. “At that time, it might not have been a job for a woman,” she laughs, “but I loved it.” Her hands-on experience serves her well in her current role. “It was the best way to learn about the first layer of the technology, to touch the technology.”
Driven by Passion
Passion is a common theme in Sonia’s career. Her father’s love for “all things technological” inspired her to pursue a degree in Telematics Engineering (a mix of telecommunications and programming) at the University of Catania in Sicily. Sonia says that it was love at first sight with her chosen degree. She had an especially memorable professor. “My telecommunications professor was a passionate man. He explained his lessons with passion, love and when I started my work, I think that I realized that I could do the same: work with the same passion as my professor.”
As a TAM, Sonia enjoys working together with customers, staying with them every step of the way. “I love to work with my customers, to engage the customer, to listen to their stories and solve their problems and be able to help them.”
Confidence Is Key
Working at a leading technology company has helped develop her sense of independence. This confidence plays a huge factor in earning respect for her experience and seniority in the field.
VMware has also played a large role in Sonia’s personal growth. She remembers her confidence growing when she realized how valued she was within the organization. Sonia tells the story from a few years ago when she thought she would have to withdraw from consideration for a TAM position because she was pregnant. “I called my manager, and she said to me, ‘I want you to be on the team now. It’s not a problem that you’re pregnant.’ That’s when I understood that I am very important to this company, and I’m more sure of my confidence.”
Advice to Aspiring Women in Tech
Sonia has lots of wisdom to impart on young girls and women looking to enter the field: “In my experience, when I had a problem, I didn’t want to ask for help because I thought I would look incapable. With teamwork, you can arrive at the solution rapidly and widen your knowledge. Ask, ask, ask.” Sonia follows that quickly with “Study, study, study.”
She also advises showing confidence in yourself and your decisions. While Sonia wouldn’t change anything about her career choice or path, she knows there were a few decisions along the way that, in retrospect, she could have made more quickly if she trusted her decision-making.
Changing the Minds of Others
Sonia says that the most challenging part of being a woman in the tech industry is having others question your qualifications. “I remember one time a customer said to me, ‘I’m waiting for the engineer.’ ‘But I’m the engineer!’ The customer didn’t understand that the engineer was a woman. What’s most challenging is earning credibility in this field, but now I’m more confident it’s a little bit different. I have the seniority to impress the customer. When I was younger, it was difficult to accept, but now I can tell my customers this story. It’s a lucky story to tell.”