Inspirational Woman: Sharon Einstein | VP (EMEA) Robotic Automation & AI, NICE

Sharon EinsteinSharon Einstein is VP (EMEA) Robotic Automation and AI at NICE.

NICE is a billion-dollar technology company – headquartered in New York (office in Israel and London (Blackfriars)) that provides customer experience and employee engagement technology for the likes of BT, PayPal, Thomas Cook and Metro Bank.

Sharon joined NICE in 1997 as a system analyst and during her time at NICE has been on both sides of the fence: CIO – deciding on the technologies to grow and transform the business, and now VP EMEA Robotic Automation and AI – selling and implementing automation solutions to customers embarking on their digital transformation journeys.

Tell us about yourself, your background, your current role

I’m Sharon Einstein, VP EMEA Robotic Automation & AI at NICE. NICE provides customer experience and employee engagement technology for over 25,000 organisations in more than 150 countries, including over 85 of the Fortune 100 companies.

I joined NICE in 1997 in a temporary role as part of the MIS and IT team (Management Information System and Information Technology) and since then have worked in multiple roles. First, as a CIO, deciding on the technologies to grow and transform the business, and now leading our Robotic Automation and AI efforts in EMEA – selling and implementing automation solutions to customers embarking on their digital transformation journeys.

I’m from Israel, married and have two beautiful children – boy (9) and girl (7).

Do you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I was at university, I wanted to be a developer and planned a career in a R&D (research and development) industry. But just before I graduated, I got a temporary position at NICE in MIS & IT and haven’t looked back since.

When I started my career I set myself a clear goal – to become CIO – knowing the impact technology has in business. The path to getting to this point wasn’t mapped out for me – but I knew where I wanted to end up. It helped stoke the fire and drove me to be at the front end of technology development and implementation.

In came NICE. As a company known for its innovation, it led me to the role I have now. This leads me to my first bit of advice – to have a sense of where you want to go but to be flexible with your plans. A calculated risk and a willingness to seize a good opportunity, even if it’s unexpected, can pay large dividends.

Have you faced any challenges along the way, and if so have how you dealt with them?

Challenges make us all stronger. I know they certainly have for me. For me there are two buckets I place those challenges into. One is very much aligned with the business. The other is how I manage out-of-work hours. Fortunately, I have benefited from a strong support system in both of those areas. I have learned that risk is inherent in the DNA of an innovative organisation and to not take risks will inevitably lead to failure. It is also how I approach my personal life. You must be open to where the road leads and sometimes be willing get your hands dirty and chart your own path. My second bit of advice: be daring.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace what would it be?

Women should be able to be their natural selves without apology. We all should be our authentic selves in the workplace and be ok with that.  This goes for men and woman. If you are aggressive by nature, so be it. If you are sensitive and emotional, so be it. We should be able to express ourselves just as we are, instead of being concerned that we’ll validate a stereotype.

I have seen it time and time again – women try to be less ‘emotional’ and more aggressive because that’s what we perceive others expect of us. Early in my career, I found myself questioning how emotion impacted my brand. I thought somehow, if I showed my feelings, I would be seen as weak by other colleagues. But in my opinion, showing a bit of emotion in the workplace is not a bad thing at all. It makes you more human and relatable. And my goal is to create an environment for my team where everyone can be their authentic self – regardless of gender.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

First off, I will say loudly that a career in STEM is very rewarding. The fact that you’re a woman shouldn’t hold you back. If you like technology, mathematics and science, then I’d highly recommend a career in STEM. Some might see a glass ceiling but from my perspective I see a lab floor.

I was exposed to IT from a very young age and was able to spend time with many intelligent people who taught me how their systems worked and encouraged me to innovate. I went on to study computer science and then I got the temporary job at NICE that got me started on this journey. It’s been a great career for me and I’d love to see more women in the industry.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I find technology an inspiration. Being a change agent for our MIS and IT teams,  transforming them from back-office/cost-centre functions where their real value recognition fell short, to strong business enablers is one of those moments.

A second achievement is the transformation of our EMEA Services division. As VP of Services and leader of an amazingly talented team of innovators, we delivered a three-year profitable customer loyalty programme. This effort was driven through a shared objective to deploy value at every customer interaction. We exceeded profitability and customer satisfaction targets, resulting in significant impacts to the overall business results in EMEA.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The question I always find myself asking is what’s next. It’s important to always be future thinking. I expect my team to constantly uncover opportunities to influence how technology impacts the way we live and work. I have an expectation that we are each there for each other. I could not be prouder of our team. It is equally important that we constantly seek new talent to disrupt our norms. In that is the next big idea.

As a female and as an executive in an organisation like NICE, I feel a sense of responsibility to find ways to give back. We must spend time in our community, support causes we believe in and pave the way for the next generation. For me, personally, I look forward to what’s next and to mentoring the next woman or man who can step into my shoes.

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