A Focus on IDE’s Leading Women – Michal Segal, VP HR
The 2nd interview in our International Women’s Day 2020 series is dedicated to the phenomenal Michal Segal, who's leading our HR department with courage, integrity and a genuine love of people.
Tell us a little bit about your current role and how you got to IDE.
From a very early stage of my professional life I was fascinated by the concept of leadership, and had a strong drive to constantly develop my skills and reach a managerial role. I studied multiple degrees, among which were economics, sociology and mathematics. On the surface of things, math and economics seem to have nothing to do with what I do today, but looking back I see a clear connection between these academic fields and my current daily needs as a manager, so doesn’t seem like such a weird leap anymore. Despite having no familiarity with the business world, I saw the transition into organizational consultancy as a personal challenge, an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and pursue new things.
During my years in various HiTech companies, Amdocs and Strauss, I started to develop my own HRBP agenda, which was based on a simple but solid realization: people everywhere are looking for meaning, and need to feel like they’re an integral part of something bigger than themselves. In recent years, more and more workplaces understand that people are less driven by superficial perks such as more money or a fancier breakfast buffet, but instead – need to know that they’re seen, appreciated and making an impact.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I was raised in a traditional Zionist family where my parents treated me the exact same way as they treated my brothers. I was raised to respect people, and have to say I was always fascinated by people’s stories, which leads me to think I didn’t reach HR by chance.
To me, Intl Women’s Day is a good reminder that despite many wrongs that still need to be changed, women have come a long way, and I don’t take that for granted. I truly think that women that embark on career opportunities that traditionally were occupied primarily or exclusively by men, can do an equally and sometimes a better job than their male counterparts, because they tend to be stronger and more capable.
The areas where I feel the most feminist about are around stereotypical gender-based managerial style. Historically, femininity has been perceived as emotional, soft, undecisive or weak, which are not the attributes that most people would instinctively associate with an effective business conduct. To overcome that misconception, women in senior business roles used to act more like men in order to get respect and make themselves heard. But nowadays, more companies are starting to realize that the feminine way is better in areas such as negotiation, diplomacy and complex problem solving that require a more thoughtful analysis. The feminine way is an improved, smarter managerial model that makes much more sense to me. You don’t need to be aggressive or loud or cut to the chase to get things done.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
To me, women will always be the focal point of the household. In my case for example, regardless of the very active and equal role my husband takes on himself, his involvement doesn’t take away from my need to be there for my 5 kids. I want to have a meaningful impact on their lives, and at the same time, it’s also very important to me to make a meaningful contribution at work, because it’s more than just work to me.
If I feel like I’m making a genuine impact at work and at home – I’m at peace with my choices. Every morning I ask myself: “What has to happen today that can’t wait for tomorrow?”. This simple question allows me to clear out the noise and prioritize more effectively during a very hectic day.
We always need to finetune ourselves when it comes to a true work-life balance. It doesn’t have to be a clear cut between the two, as these worlds can coincide and occasionally seep into one another. Not only am I ok with that, but to me it’s the healthiest and most realistic way to go about my day. I’m a mom and a wife and a manager and a friend, and these aspects all live inside of me simultaneously, so why should I pretend that at work I’m just “work Michal” or just “mom” when I’m home? To ensure balance, I align myself constantly to meet the changing needs of each arena that constitutes my life.
How do you envision your life after IDE?
I’m very happy where I’m currently at and think I still have a lot to learn and contribute. At some point along the way, I would like to be the CEO of a socially-focused organization with a clear agenda that aligns with my world view.
If you could give one tip to other women looking to promote their careers – what would it be?
If you want to do something there’s nothing that stands in your way. True, there are still lines of business where not enough women are in positions of power, mainly because of social norms or misconceptions. IDE is a workplace where women are active and present across all disciplines, and I truly believe gender plays no role here at all. We’re proud to have amazing women in senior positions, women in stereotypical male-centric roles like engineering, women leading teams, setting the pace and challenging the status-quo. I see powerful, minded young women at IDE and I’m in awe by their determination and confidence. Still, I’m very much aware that there are plenty of other companies where women are not a common sight in key positions, and that’s something that has to change.
The old businesses mindset, where women were viewed as a weaker HR investment than men because of maternity leave and family commitments, that supposedly affect working moms’ focus or drive, is now a thing of the past. Nowadays, more and more organizations understand that women are an asset, regardless of when they have to leave work to pick up their kids. Businesses understand that productive and committed employees aren’t necessarily those who work 14 hours a day or stay in the office till 20:00. My tip to women paving their career path is to never stop challenging themselves, keep a constant finger on the pulse of their daily balance and always be proud to be, think and act like a woman.