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By Oracle—Mar 6, 2020
This month at Oracle we’re celebrating the women who have shaped our lives, our communities, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our society. Hear from our employees, partners, and customers and share your own story on social media by using the #HerStory hashtag and tagging @Oracle.
Leor Chechik is a Director of Technical Programs at Oracle. She is an experienced principal software engineer and a founding member of the Oracle Women Leadership Tech community. Leor is focused on building technical initiatives that encourage underrepresented groups to pursue careers in engineering and programs for engineers at Oracle.
Tell us about your job. Where did your passion for building inclusive engineering teams start?
As a student, I was a student representative for software engineering and active in many affiliate groups (women in engineering, etc.). I did my undergraduate in Scotland, and our class started out with a pretty balanced gender ratio, but towards my third and fourth year, more and more women dropped out of computer science to pursue other disciplines. In grad school, I again saw a very dramatic decrease in women completing their degrees. When I started working, I was the only woman on a team of 20 guys—so I really knew it was important to take that step to make connections. It was almost selfish—I wanted to have someone to have lunch with.
What do you love about what you do?
It’s really rewarding seeing young women grow and develop in their careers over time.
Who has inspired you on your journey?
Olya Irzak. She started out as a software engineer at a big company but her passion has always been climate change. She’s the first person I’ve met who is committing her life to real, actionable change.
Olya took a big risk by leaving the comfort of her big company job to start her own company called Frost Methane Labs. She put together a team of engineers, and they work with research partners to identify natural sources of methane gas. They developed a self-sustaining device that mitigates concentrated methane leaking from Arctic natural gas reservoirs.
What’s your biggest takeaway from Olya?
She taught me about the benefits that come when we take a risk in pursuit of our passions. We have a lot of super-talented technical women. It’s really about building up the confidence to take that leap or even small step to follow your dream. It’s also the confidence to say, “I don’t know how to do this.” She identified where she had gaps and was able to build out a team that truly complemented each other’s strengths—and ultimately, she was able to create better solutions because of that humility.
The theme for International Women's Day is “Let’s all be each for equal,” a call to create a more gender-balanced world. What does this mean to you?
Actually, my kids started asking me about this topic this year. I have a son and a daughter. My son recently asked me why girls’ t-shirts had these empowering slogans like “Girls can do anything!” and he didn’t see boys’ t-shirts like that. It was interesting to walk through some of women’s history with my 6-year-old to explain that, "Hey, girls haven’t always been told that they could do anything. The world hasn’t always been this full of possibility for women." It was interesting that he had to ask—because he hadn’t noticed an obvious difference. For the next generation, it just doesn’t make sense why people would be treated any different. So that’s what it’s about—that point where you don’t need explain it.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I have two little kids so they definitely take up a good chunk of my time. I also practice karate. I’m involved even in karate club at the Oracle gym! Other than that, I enjoy the Bay Area and take advantage of all the hiking and good food around.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
My goodness—the Oracle 300 Bakery. They make unique pastries every day, and I can’t resist them, especially if there’s something with marshmallow or mousse.
What makes Oracle a great place to work?
I enjoy the flexibility we have—more so than other companies I’ve seen around. As an engineer, it’s up to you. Some people love working late at night or early morning, and when your priorities change, you can plan your time in a way that works for you. I’ve also been really lucky to work on some incredible teams. It’s the people that make it!
What are trends you see in tech and what do they mean for women?
The trend for young engineers entering the workforce is that a lot of them care about giving back to the community through technology. They’re looking for projects around sustainability and education.
If you could share only one bit of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
One thing no one told me is that engineering is one of the best careers for a mom. When I was thinking about careers, I was taking lots of factors into account, and I always knew I wanted a family. Engineering gives you a lot of flexibility and portability. You can do things on your own timeline and in the location that is best for you. When my son was really young, I asked him what my job was and he said, “To take care of me and my sister.” And I was like, “That’s it, I’ve won! I have a full-time job and I’m a full-time mom.”