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Women of Very – Spotlighting Alexandra Kaufhold

Women of Very - Alexandra K
Women of Very - Alexandra K

The Executive Leadership Team at Very is passionate about promoting and celebrating the incredible women within our organization, particularly those in highly technical roles. We wanted to devise a way to spotlight some of the accomplishments of our teammates, so welcome to this month’s installment of “Women of Very.”

This October, we’re spotlighting Alexandra Kaufhold, Sr. Electrical Engineer @ Very.

Our executive leadership team met with Alexandra to learn more about her journey and get her perspective on women in technology, especially those in technical roles like electrical engineering. Here’s what Alexandra had to share:

1. Who or what inspires you in your profession?

I had a supportive AP Physics teacher in high school, Mr. Vore. He was always positive and encouraging, even during times when I doubted my abilities. His unwavering motivation inspired me to keep pushing forward. He used to say, “It isn’t about the grade; it’s about what you are learning and can learn. It won’t be easy, but if you love it, go for it.”

2. Have you faced any unique challenges working in technology? If so, how have you overcome them?

I second-guess myself all the time. In my first job at a tech company, I was tasked with design work, but instead of diving in to make progress, I fixated on the question, “Can I do this?” While I chose this career because I love the challenge of designing and making something work, the beginning can be daunting when you don’t always know where to start.

To overcome this self-doubt, I sought guidance from great mentors. In every company I’ve worked for, I’ve had a mentor there to answer my questions.

Alexandra noted that finding that person at Very has been a bit more challenging because we are all remote, and she’s still new.

3.  What advice would you give to other women interested in pursuing a career in technology?

#1 Make sure you love it. There will be challenges, and the journey won’t be “easy,” but if you’re passionate, go for it! Don’t let naysayers deter you from pursuing the profession and problems you love solving.

#2 Support your colleagues. I love a tool we use at Very called Bonusly. It’s a Slack integration that allows colleagues to give shout-outs and reward each other with Bonusly dollars, which can be turned into fantastic prizes like gift cards or swag. I enjoy using this tool as it enables me to acknowledge my teammates. People often queue into the negative, but having a company tool like Bonusly helps open up the feedback cycle to include positive callouts of a job well done.

#3 Ask questions. Try to relieve yourself from the embarrassment of not knowing something or how your question might sound to others. Just ask the question – don’t be afraid.

4. What inspired you to pursue a career in technology, and how did you get started?

This might sound silly, but it goes back to when I was 5 or 6 years old, watching the movie “Legally Blonde” and disliking how they always counted Elle Woods out. If you look past all the pink and Hollywood drama, I liked how Elle Woods showed everyone that she could overcome the odds, persevere, and do anything she put her mind to. This concept of overcoming the odds and persevering is what has inspired me to pursue a career as an engineer.

As for my career path, I began as an electrical engineer at eGague Systems, a renewable energy monitoring company. Later, I joined Sphero, a technology organization that works with Pre-K – high school educators to make STEM programs accessible to all students. I was an electrical engineer at Sphero and the lead engineer for the Indi project. Subsequently, I moved to Rivian, an electric trucking company, as a senior electrical engineer before joining Very.

Why did I choose Very? I was drawn to Very’s size and the current stage of growth we are in right now.

I also decided to take the job at Very in part because another female engineer interviewed me, and I love having the opportunity to work with other women in tech!

5. What do you find most rewarding about working in technology?

I enjoy solving problems, and in tech, there will always be challenges that need tackling. Whether it’s the schematic in front of you, collaborating with team members, or addressing company-wide issues, overcoming these challenges is the best feeling in the world. And if solving these challenges were easy, everyone would be doing it.

6. What is it really like to be a female engineer at a company like Very?

Working at Very offers a unique and appealing position for women engineers. Since we work in a highly male-dominated industry, it can be challenging being on a team of all men. When entering an office or a meeting where you’re the only woman, you get noticed almost immediately. This has impacted my confidence in the past. However, since Very is a fully remote company, I get to focus on my work, ask questions, and then connect with others when we need to chat about a project or find solutions. Plus, the entire engineering team here is extremely supportive, inspiring, and always willing to deep-dive into a topic. I came to Very to learn, design, and build, and that’s what I’ve gotten to do!

7. How do you think women in technology are still bumping into defined gender barriers in business and society today?

There are the gender norms that you see in the job search process. For instance, when women come across a job they want to apply for but don’t meet every single one of the qualifications, they hesitate to apply, even if they might be more than qualified. In contrast, most men would apply if they met most of the qualifications and wouldn’t think twice about it. I know I didn’t meet every requirement on the JD for my role at Very, but I still applied, and look what happened…

Another gender barrier is that women sometimes shy away from negotiating their compensation. We, as women, are quick to overthink and are worried that people will either say “no” or think less of us. My advice: don’t overthink it – just ask. 

I also want to address the distinction between being “a boss” and “being bossy.” Doing what you think is right is being a “boss” and not being bossy. I dislike the fact that women are often tied to gender norms of “being bossy” when trying to manage their teams or do their jobs. 

8. What’s one important lesson you’d like to share with other women in technology roles or someone looking to get into tech?

For me, it’s about asking questions and having an always-learning attitude. I like this quote: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” as I think this applies to learning and personal growth.

Expanding your knowledge helps you grow as a human. If you stop learning, then what’s the point? Oftentimes, I will ask my team if I can sit in on calls to learn and enhance my skill set. I’m a firm believer that learning is a lifelong journey, regardless of age, title, or career stage.

Thank you for your inspiring words, Alexandra. We’re appreciative of you and all the fantastic women at Very.

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