International Women’s Day: Conversations with Deem Teammates

March 8, 2021

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

   — Gloria Steinem


Everyone has a story to tell. The more that we get to know people — regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — the deeper connections we can build. And I think that makes for a better world.

A big part of our culture at Deem is celebrating what makes us different and lifting each other up, so we can share our successes and learn from each other every day. When we set out to interview some of our team for this project, I didn’t know what we’d learn. I believe it’s important to ask these types of questions and have these conversations, so that everyone can be an agent for change.

This year, the Deem People & Places team had the honor of interviewing some of our team members in recognition of International Women’s Day. We are excited to share their stories with you. But first, a short history of the day and this year’s theme.  

International Women’s Day and 2021 theme

According to, "International Women's Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900s — a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

While the first National Women's Day can be traced back 1909 in the United States, International Women's Day was first established at Copenhagen in 1911, and first celebrated that year in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.” chose the theme Choose To Challenge for this year. They explain, "A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world."  

Women of Deem share stories and advice

Interviews by: Candace Roberts, Kate Siberry, and Vikas Murthy, from the Deem People & Places team

Nina Tarleva

Role: Payroll Manager

Department: Finance

Location: San Francisco Bay Area, United States

Q: What about past teams and their cultures made it so that you felt more supported, so that you didn't experience barriers or obstacles?

A: Maybe it’s because it was intelligent, professional, educated people who I worked with and that’s probably why. Multicultural. You know, thinking back, I’ve always been in diverse teams and the people...they were very different…. And I always was thinking how people work hard and keep learning and have an open mind to do something new.

At one point, I was amazed because I kept realizing that it’s normal if you want it to be. If you want to move, step-by-step, as a person in your career, in your professional life, that’s what you have to do. You have to learn, you have to find a way to communicate with different people with different backgrounds, with different traditions and cultures. And again, I’m lucky because I’ve always been in an environment like that.

And have a sense of humor — that helps a lot.

My Phung

Role: Senior Product Marketing Manager

Department: Marketing

Location: San Francisco Bay Area, United States

Q: What can our industry do better to help support women’s advancement and development in their careers?

A: Ask us more questions. Women may feel intimidated or feel like their voices aren’t heard. I think taking time to consider what women on your team have to say can help. Just strike up that conversation, and invite us to participate in more discussions.

Q: What would you ask men, or even women, to do to better support women getting a seat at the table?

A: I would say to think outside their circle. I know that most of the time, these circles aren’t created intentionally. They just happen and they become part of the corporate culture. At my last job, we called it “the boy’s club.” But think outside of your small group and consider what additional values or opinions and thoughts someone outside your group can bring in. And invite them to have a seat at your table.

Gowramma Mallikarjun

Role: Principal Software Engineer

Department: Engineering

Location: Bangalore, India

Q: What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

A: I was the first female from my family to move from the village to relocate to a bigger city like Bangalore, seeking a higher education and career. My cousins are inspired by my actions.

I joined a software company with minimal knowledge of coding and any other skills. But I worked hard to ensure I learned coding and I can learn anything quickly to make myself fit for the role given to me.

MinJeong Kim

Role: iOS Developer

Department: Engineering

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Q: What barriers or challenges have you faced as a woman, if any, in becoming successful in your field?

A: I am very lucky. I can happily say I have never faced any challenges or  barriers. Not so long ago, we [women in society] didn’t have the same protection….There was so much we couldn't or weren’t allowed to involve ourselves in.

Now it's different, so take advantage of that. Forget your gender. Don’t box yourself off, forget your inhibitions, and focus on the work - what it is you want to do.

There are some really talented female developers out there. Don’t lack the confidence — we can, by nature, lack confidence sometimes. I think that's happened on occasion in the tech industry.

Kathy Karlesses

Role: Senior Director, Sales Operations

Department: Sales

Location: Pennsylvania, United States

Q: What advice would you give to women considering a career in your field?

A: Most definitely the words would be of encouragement. I think our industry needs women — women of all different backgrounds — to provide leadership and perspective that really only comes, I think, from being a woman.

And whether at Deem we classify ourselves as in the travel industry or travel technology, or simply technology, those fields are wide open with opportunities and have many possible paths to pursue. So, you’re coming into a field that has lots of options and regardless of your interests, there’s room for women. 

We’ve been lucky that we’ve had a lot of women in the travel industry, but as we migrate to the technology side, I see less and less. It kind of trickles down a bit and the women fall more to support and client-facing roles, and the technology is still dominated by men.

But women bring that perspective that needs to happen in the technology industry. Especially as we’re moving, as Covid-19 has taught us, to a more humanized approach to our fields.

Gina Barber

Role: Senior Configuration Manager

Department: Professional Services

Location: Idaho, United States

Q: What advice would you give to women who are considering pursuing a career in your field?

A: My best advice would be to make sure that you get to know yourself and what you really want to do. Don’t just give in to or follow a career path that you feel is expected of you.

The example I always like to think about is that of my dad, who was an avionics engineer. He became an engineer because he loved to try to figure out how things worked, solving problems and the mental stimulation that it provided.

As time went on and his career progressed, the expected path was for him to manage larger and larger teams of people who would do what he used to do. He completely lost his passion because he was no longer able to do what made him want to become an engineer in the first place. That’s one thing that has always stuck with me.

Shobhna Singh

Role: QA Engineer

Department: Engineering

Location: Bangalore, India

Q: What woman inspires you and why?

A: We see a lot of women in our own families and around us who do a lot of amazing work. Well, I see my grandmother as the perfect role model. It took huge strength and determination to be the only financial support for a family in a small village in the 1970s, while still ensuring quality higher education to four daughters. This proves the magnitude of change the vision of a woman can bring to a family and society.

Q: What does the International Women’s Day theme, #ChooseToChallenge, mean to you?

A: Choose to challenge the circumstances, choose to challenge the traditional way of doing things and the stereotypes. I believe that women around the world have come a long way, but there is still a lot to challenge to progress towards a society free of gender stereotypes, bias and inequality.

Brenda Semrow

Role: Program Manager

Department: Product Management

Location: Wisconsin, United States

Q: Who is someone who inspires you and why?

A: A woman I admire is Dr. Sylvia Earle. She is a marine biologist and conservationist who is self-taught and got into her field in an era where she was definitely the only woman and totally, constantly pushed out of the situation. So, from the female side, that would be someone I would choose.

Someone else I admire is Paul Watson, who is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Society. I care about the ocean a lot and I admire him because he was a founder of Greenpeace. He didn't agree with the way Greenpeace was doing things and he didn't care what anybody else thought. He was going to go do it his way — he still does it his way. He's very radical and a lot of people don't like him, but he doesn't care. And he gets results, whereas not every organization has had the direct impact on animal welfare and conservation that his tiny organization did on a shoestring budget for so long. So, I guess I admire people that make their own way and get stuff done.

Alison Monteith

Role: Principal Development Operations Engineer

Department: Cloud Operations

Location: San Francisco Bay Area, United States

Q: What advice would you give to women considering pursuing your field?

A: It’s hard to say because I started so long ago and I sort of morphed into DevOps before the word DevOps even existed. Nowadays, it’s probably a little bit different for people graduating. A lot of women don't move into the DevOps field — they may think it's too technical. But the thing is, it's not too technical.

DevOps is a discipline which covers a lot of different areas. This requires good organizational skills and looking at the big picture of how deployments/configurations are set up. You’re working with various teams and there's a lot of juggling — I think women are really good at that…. It’s definitely one of my strengths. DevOps is something that would really benefit from more female team members.

One of my mistakes that I've learned along the way is that women can be too nice. We tend to take the blame and say “I'm sorry” all the time. So, I've learned to avoid doing that. Just be confident in what you're doing and let people see you’re confident. You don't have to apologize for anything.


Poonam Khureja

Role: Software Engineer

Department: Engineering

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Q: Looking at the career path that you chose, were there any particularly big challenges along the way that you had to overcome and that you have learned from?

A: The challenge I encountered growing up was the preconception that girls were considered to be always good in documentation. I always felt that it was more expected that we would do the people management work or HR jobs.

So, the main thing to remember is to challenge yourself. Do what you want to do. Because nobody will give you the opportunity on a plate. You have to grab the opportunity and sometimes you have to even create the opportunities. So, ask for the work. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You are the creator.

Deem is a great platform to give my all, to grab those challenges and to create those challenges for. I keep telling this to everybody. I have come from using different technology, like, from .net. I was quite comfortable with that, so I wanted to challenge myself to learn new technology to grow. I changed my technology and everything, and I’m here in my team now doing what I love to do.

Are you passionate about what you do and ready to join a top performing team? If you're interested in joining our innovative travel technology company, please consider our current job opportunities.




Candace Roberts
Global People Programs Manager

As part of the People & Places Team, Candace partners with our technology team and leaders for employee programs including engagement, performance, and global mobility. She is passionate about creating and developing successful individuals and teams and holds a Master of Science degree in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco.

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