Celebrating International Women's Day with an Inspiring Leader of Our Own
What do Atari and Sega have to do with developing? Playing video games may not be a precursor to coding, but from an early age Adi Rome had what she admittedly refers to as a "geeky side", and her connection to all things technology only strengthened.
Adi Rome is HERE Mobility's R&D Group Manager responsible for the development of the Mobility SDK and Mobile Infrastructure. International Women's Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to feature Adi in our first Employee Spotlight, so we sat down to have a conversation with this fascinating professional.
Can you tell us a bit about some of your more meaningful professional experience that led you to this role at HERE Mobility?
I started my development career as an embedded developer, from day one working with infrastructure, and moved to development of mobile operating systems. In my next role as a developer consultant at Symbian, I worked with developers from different countries, helping them develop on our operating system. I loved diving into different technologies and seeing how they were going to merge and integrate. The fact that I was dealing with a wide range of technologies from different kinds of aspects and looking at it from different sides opened my eyes to see and understand things better. I still believe, and that's something I'm also encouraging my developers to do, that when you learn more technologies and you understand their strengths and weaknesses, it gives you a better understanding and helps you come up with better solutions.
As an expert in the field, I was asked to write a technical book for developers to explain how to write correctly for Symbian OS, especially multimedia components for smartphones. I found out at that time that I was also pregnant with my first child, and joked that I felt fortunate to work on two labors of love, and was proud to have two babies in the same time period. I dedicated myself to being a full-time Mom, during which I gave birth to and stayed home with my three boys, now 9, 7, and 5, (laughs), it was a challenging five years, after which I was ready to go back to the comparatively-calm world of high tech.
I felt like I had to close the gap that may have opened up in the tech world while I was out, so I actually did an internship working in developing for iOS, and I loved how easily I got back into it. I realized that I've always had more of a passion for infrastructure and developing for mobile. I really enjoy it because it forces you to think of things from a developer point of view because you're actually writing software for developers, so you have to think about a wide range of use cases- what it can be used for, how to write something that's going to be open and give an answer for all those kinds of use cases. From then on I've had a number of roles that have allowed me to evolve my skills and hone my craft to do what I'm best at. Also, I've found that having worked in a different country like I did with my job in England and working and interacting with other cultures, you learn and kind of open your mind and face new challenges, which helped prepare me for a leadership role in an international unit like HERE Mobility.
You speak of the importance of working with other cultures. What do you think about the role of diversity in the workplace, and how do you see that in play at HERE Mobility?
I think it's very important. If you ask me what makes you do your job better and helps you improve, I believe it's diversity of backgrounds and experience. It's important that we allow people to bring their ideas and points of view - it makes us better. I think every problem has more than one solution, and different perspectives bring you better solutions. This is something that we do well here, we have diversity, and that to me is also something I look for in a work environment.
What attracted you to this work at HERE Mobility?
I met Liad when I came to interview for a different role, and that was a significant meeting. He said that in his opinion, my place was working on the SDK. During the interview process I met the people here and knew that this was the place for me. I think we have a group of very special, different people here - very smart and kind. Along with my passion for technologies I have a strong passion for people and I'm always looking for a place with technical challenges, but the human factor is also so very important to me. I like working with people that support and help each other, and this is completely a teamwork kind of place, so this is a big piece of why I'm here.
As for working on an SDK in the mobility space, it's really exciting. We're working on building a good development kit that will allow developers easy access to our platform services. We are at the edge of something new with the growing momentum in smart mobility. It feels good to be a part of it.
Can you talk a bit about the struggle that anyone who is a working parent faces, and the search for balance? For women who are mothers, this is a continuous juggling act and you have to find a way to make it work to succeed in this career. How do you do it?
It's an ongoing challenge, it never ends, every week is a new challenge, but it's worth it and I try to find the balance. I have longer days and shorter days, and when I'm with the kids I try to find a few hours that I'm not connected to any device, iPhone etc…
Wow, is that possible in this day and age and with such demanding work, to disconnect?
I try, I do my best, and it doesn't always work out because there are sometimes urgent things at work and usually this is when your kids need you the most, it always happens together (laughs).
There are days where I dive into a technical problem and get enthusiastic and end up staying late and getting home when the kids are already asleep and realize I didn't see them today and this is when the heart hurts.
But my success formula is to find the balance with my husband, to have found a partner to share this challenge with you is so meaningful, and then it makes it a little bit more manageable. Also, sometimes I give my kids a day off from school like a Friday off so we can spend some time together. I try to compensate and make the time, but it's not always easy.
What do they think about your work?
They think I am a very cool mom because I work with mobile, so I always know about all the mobile devices and the technical stuff and they can talk to me
about features… They like what I do, and want to know more. My older son asked me to teach him Android, so we started with CodeMonkey, great software for kids so we're already coding. And my middle son said that when he grows up he wants to come work with me.
That's so sweet. Your kids are lucky to have such an involved, cool Mom as a role model. What about you, who are your role models, and who do you go to for advice?
My first manager after I graduated University, when I worked in the embedded world, was phenomenal and is still one of my best friends, we're still in touch. She
showed me how to manage people and projects and get things done on time in a very special way, actually connecting the people and teaching them how to work together and helping them grow. That was the way she pushed things forward and until today when I have questions sometimes I consult with her. She is one of the significant people in my life.
I feel privileged to be here because I have managers that I can learn from and talk to. I appreciate and respect my manager and I feel that I can go and talk to him, regarding any work dilemma, whether technical or about people or anything else, and he listens and always gives me good advice. This goes back to what I said about HERE Mobility being a special place and how the people are such a huge factor in that.
It's amazing that your first manager was such an influential person in your career, and that you had a female mentor. High-tech has always been seen as a more classically male-dominated industry, is that something that you've felt in your career? At HERE Mobility there is a strong, growing female contingent, also in leadership roles, - can you talk a bit about being a woman in your field, and whether you sense a change in the dynamics?
When I was in high school my major was physics so we were 7 girls out of 40; I have always felt like I belonged, even though I've always been a minority. Maybe I bring something else as a woman but I have been fortunate to work in great environments and have honestly never felt that it was a stumbling block, despite the juggling act of being a working Mom being a factor. I always felt like if I performed well enough I'd be promoted and I'd have my space. I think that being a woman isn't as much of a factor as much as leadership and work style. You can work from a place that's very intuitive, and be more sensitive to others, and also be connected to the more focused and goal-oriented elements of your job.
I agree with you that more and more women are coming into the industry and I believe that it's because the balance has changed also outside of work. I think women today have more of a chance to put more into their careers and it's paying off for companies. It's all about balance. For me, I feel that now it's my time to grow., and I have been really enjoying the challenges of my current role supervising both all the professional development of the mobile guild and managing the SDK group and the evolution of the product.
Despite the hopefully-growing trend of more women and girls being encouraged to come into the industry, we still know enough to be appreciative when we see a savvy, intelligent and successful female professional. What advice would you, as a role model for the next generation, give young girls looking to follow a career path in high tech?
I would tell her: follow your heart, believe in yourself, and try to isolate your thoughts from other people's expectations or thoughts, try to understand what you're really passionate about. It's ok to not look at each decision as a final decision, life is dynamic and things can change, and it's ok to make mistakes and we only learn from them and grow from them.
I also tell this to my boys, really try and find your inner self and see what are the things that are really important to you and will make YOU happy, kind of close your eyes and think where do you want to open them where do you want to be tomorrow morning, what do you want to do. And let the answers guide you.
Do the things that you like and do them well. If you want to be good, put all your effort in and do the best job that you can and follow your instincts. As you can see, even my career path wasn't one straight road. Life is winding, and you have to be brave to make the hard decisions. If you feel like you have to go back a bit in order to move forward it's ok, and no one's chasing you. It's ok to take things at your own pace and believe in yourself, and if something doesn't work for you it's ok to change.
If you don't make mistakes you don't learn, making a mistake means you're growing, you're then going to change something, you're going to improve.
I really admire your positive attitude and the perspective you have on the way our choices shape our lives. As someone who clearly believes in finding the lessons that our lives can teach us, are there are any sayings that speak to you and guide you?
There are a few that resonate with me. "Little girls with dreams become women with vision", which I think is especially appropriate today and in encouraging women to aspire to be whatever they can think up.
Also going back to how life is a series of choices and how we grow from them also in retrospect, friends once gave me a lovely box of chocolates as a birthday present with a sentence on it, "When you smile it doesn't necessarily mean you're happy, but it necessarily means you're strong." We cannot control everything in our lives, but inner courage and inner strength mean we can control the lens through which we see our choices and we can control how others perceive and receive us, and I truly believe in taking the time to build and shape the realities of our lives, and continuing to search for balance.
So in pursuit of that balance, is there anything you do outside of work that you enjoy, that may be surprising for our community to learn?
I actually really enjoy baking, and once even made my son an elaborate birthday cake with Angry Birds characters and decorations made from fondant. This, sculpting in clay and drawing have been hobbies that I enjoy as a different kind of artistic outlet outside of work, but it's hard to find the time. Maybe this is a reminder for me to go back to doing that, too. All in the name of balance, right (laughs)?
Stay Tuned for More Employee Spotlights to Come
That balance is certainly elusive, but Adi gives all of us hope that it's more doable. Thank you to Adi for taking the time to talk with us. Stay up to date with our blog to catch our next Employee Spotlight.