Coffee with: Gal Gavish


April 17, 2014

Gal Gavish, Hightail product managerName: Gal Gavish
Hometown: Haifa, Israel
College: MBA from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
Title: Senior Product Manager for Web

Gal Gavish’s love of all things tech brought her all the way from Israel to right here in Silicon Valley. When she is not hard at work on our web app, her love of cooking and finding new music keeps her occupied. We caught up with Gal to talk more about being a woman in tech, discovering music on Pandora and how she fell in love with technology.

Ofunne Okwudiafor: What persuaded you to make the move to Silicon Valley from Israel?

Gal Gavish: I was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. After completing my undergraduate studies in computer engineering I worked at Sun Microsystems for five years. I started off as a developer but worked with a lot of customers directly because my team, Engineering Services, worked to develop customizations of our mobile platform to various cellphone manufacturers around the world. I really began to enjoy this side of the business and wanted to learn more about it so I decided to come to the US in 2008 to get my MBA. Even though I was in business school I still loved tech and didn’t want to leave that world. So, after graduation I moved right to the heart of tech in Silicon Valley.

OO: How did you fall in love with tech?

GG:  When I was six years old, my mother took a computer class to certify herself as a computer teacher and ever since then we always had a computer at home. We would always use it to play games, but I was never a “computer geek”; I didn’t learn programming by myself or anything like that. But, when I joined the army, a mandatory service in Israel, they put me in army intelligence as a computer technician and I was in charge of the entire computer system on the base. That kind of drove me to tech because I was dealing with computers for two years and I really started to enjoy it. So, when I completed my service I studied computer engineering at university.

OO: How has your experience been as a woman in the tech world?

GG: In university I knew I was a minority as a woman, but I didn’t feel very different, because I was treated as anyone else was. I had the same experience at work and when I came to Hightail, I was surprised to see so many females on the product team, which was a positive surprise. But, I have noticed a lack of female engineers in this space and I know this is a general problem around the world. I read about it a lot, and it seems that it starts at a young age. Women are scared away from math and science courses that are the basis for computer, technology and engineering.  It’s actually funny because both my sister and I went into engineering related professions but my brother is a salesman. He can sell anything.

OO: How did you know Hightail was the right place for you?

GG: Seeing the entire company come together for a weekly lunch really sold it for me. After a round of interviews, I was invited to meet with the other PM’s (product mangers) and attend the Monday lunch where the CEO Brad Garlinghouse would be speaking. I just fell in love with the atmosphere of everyone being together, knowing what was going on within the company and being able to ask questions. I liked the open and dynamic atmosphere. People and environment are two things that are really important to me, so this event basically sealed the deal.

OO: Are there any projects you are looking forward to?

GG: I am really looking forward to the new web app coming out. The fact that we are making huge steps to improve our old technology in order to make a change and help people get their work done really drives me and keeps me coming back to Hightail every day. I am really excited for people to start using it.

Let’s get into some favorites.

OO: You lived on both US coasts. Which do you like better? East or West?

GG: I don’t know if one is better than the other. They are very different. I really like the weather here in the California because it’s very similar to Mediterranean weather where I grew up. Experiencing snow when I lived on the East coast was cool, it was a novelty but after two years I had enough. I like the weather better here and I like the fact that I can be really close to nature if I want to be. I can get in the car, drive 15 minutes and I am in a national park or state park. When I was living in Philly and my sister was living in New York, I was very much confined to wherever public transportation could get me and had to plan all of those trips ahead of time. There was more work involved and less room for spontaneity.

OO: Are you team iPhone or team Android?

GG: Definitely team iPhone. I tried to use one of the first versions of the Android and it was super buggy.

OO: Favorite mobile app?

GG: Bejeweled

OO: Favorite hobby?

GG: I love to cook, I am actually taking classes right now. Growing up, both of my grandmothers were great cooks and my mother learned how to cook from both of them. So there was always good food in the house but it was a challenge to learn from them because they never had a set recipe — a little of this here and a little of that there. You had to actually watch them cook and try to do it yourself.

OO: Favorite band or artist?

GG: I use Pandora to discover new music and I just found out about this artist named Phildel. She’s amazing. I have been listening to her over and over again. It’s hard to describe what genre she would fall under, but it’s really unique.

OO: Favorite coffee drink?

GG: I don’t drink much coffee but if I do it’s a cappuccino, like a really good Italian cappuccino.

OO: Favorite movie?

GG: I have a couple: Gladiator and The Princess Bride are my all time favorites. I can watch them over and over again.

OO: Currently reading?

GG: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. I also read silly romances all the time just to relax and kind of disconnect.  It started with my mom reading us books as kids and I’ve been reading books every night ever since.

OO: Who inspires you?

GG: I have always looked up to my older sister. She’s definitely the smartest person I know. I’ve always asked her for advice, even today. I really value her opinion. She is my inspiration and my idol.

OO: What gets you going in the AM?

GG: I drink chocolate milk, I know its kind of juvenile, but that’s what I have been doing for 30 years now. And, I listen to music while getting ready for work, so that kind of gets me going too.

You can never go wrong with chocolate milk, Gal. If you want to learn more about Gal, follow her on Twitter @galgavish