Give them Wings — A friend of mine said that her mother and grandmother always gave her the feeling that she has wings and can fly. I loved that, and immediately adopted it and decided I wanted to do the same for my kids. Anytime I see my daughter struggling with something I tell her — “but you have wings! You can do anything!” and we both laugh.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Sagit Manor, the CEO of cybersecurity company Nyotron. What sets her apart from her male and female counterparts is that she’s relatively new to the security industry. Before becoming Nyotron’s CFO and shortly after CEO in 2017, she held senior leadership positions at B2B tech companies including Verifone and Lipman Electronic Engineering. Less than a year after joining Nyotron, the company’s founder, Nir Gaist, and Board of Directors asked her to assume the CEO role. She quickly made waves by pivoting the company’s product from a “last line of defense” solution to the industry’s first Endpoint Prevention and Response (or EDR 2.0) software.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel, but grew up in a beautiful farming village in the North. I always volunteered and during high school I was a scouts’ counselor and also tutored a sweet Ethiopian girl in math. At the age of 18, I joined the army and served my country for four years as a lieutenant, in charge of assessing and interviewing candidates for the IDF’s elite units. When everyone, after the army, went backpacking in Asia or South America, I had an amazing Museum trip to London and Paris with my best friend. Then I went straight back to school. I received my BA in Accounting at the College of Mgmt. Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion, Israel. My mom is a second generation of holocaust survivors and a nurse by profession. My dad is a doctor, and they both worked at the same hospital for more than 45 years. They divorced and remarried, and I have 2 brothers and 3 sisters that I am very proud of!
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
A few years ago, at my previous company, I was invited to participate in a women’s’ empowerment session and the speaker spoke about the difference between men and women, emphasizing two main differences in our work mindset. First — men like to network while women don’t. Women are task driven and once we finish our work tasks, we are focused on getting home and continuing our tasks there. Men will go grab a drink with a colleague after work and spend time mingling. I took this very much to heart and the next day I called my previous boss that for months had been trying to schedule a coffee with me and set a meeting. Since then, I make time for networking, it became a key to the way I do business today.
The second difference she spoke about — is how women, as opposed to men, will not apply for a job unless they feel they are 100% qualified. With men, 40% qualification is enough. Because what’s the worst-case scenario? They’ll be rejected? Fine with them! Well, not so easy with women. When the Nyotron Chairman of the board asked me if I’m willing to take the CEO role on, my initial reaction in my head was no…I’m not ready…never done it before…but then that great speaker came to my mind and I immediately said yes! Although I know I had (and still have) a lot to learn, I decided to take the chance and believed in myself that I can do it.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Probably similar to all busy CEOs…meetings, phone calls, tons of travel, early morning calls with Israel, cleaning out my inbox on flights, dropping my daughter off at school, picking her up from gymnastics, watching my sons’ basketball and soccer games. I do make the time to exercise. I love running in nature and I always carve out the time to do it. And I love reading, especially right before I fall asleep.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I believe there are two elements to it. One — they need us. Every day. The unconditional love that a parent gives to his/her child is vital for their healthy development of a strong sense of self and confidence. In addition, children need consistency. When you are traveling and one day you’re here and two days you’re out, it breaks their routine.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
Even though I travel a lot, I try to keep a sense of continuity and a set schedule for my kids. It’s not always easy to juggle it all, but it’s very important to me. I always make a point to be with them for important occasions, performances, holidays — the moments where seeing my face means everything. On the other hand, it’s important for me to be a role model, especially to my daughter, that women can take on high level executive positions and run big companies — that the future is wide open for her.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
As a working mom, coming home early during workdays was always a challenge and I wasn’t able to do it every day but I always tried to be there at least 2–3 times a week when they got home from school. When I’m home, I’m home, no phone, no email, I’m fully present with them, playing cards, board games on the carpet, riding bikes, when they were young it was playing with legos, barbies, action figures and more.
A beautiful recent story was about my older son who decided, at the age of 18, to move back to Israel and join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He called me the other day excited, thanking me for playing SET, a very smart card game, with him when he was young, as most of the tests he had to go through felt exactly like the SET game.
Another great memory my kids will always have is shabbat dinner where we always go around the table and share the week’s highlights.
I always volunteered in school while working full time. The look at my kids’ faces when they saw me coming to their classroom to help out was priceless! I was so involved that one day, one of the class moms asked me if I had a job. My son heard the question and we burst out laughing.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
1. Be present — Focus on your kids. Put away your phone or laptop. Let them feel they are being heard, listen to their stories, ask questions, make them feel important.
2. Share stories — The more you share, the more they will share. The more they know about your work, the more they’ll be more engaged to share their day to day. Also, they’ll understand more why your work is so demanding. They’ll feel part of your success and you’ll feel part of theirs.
3. Be honest — They see and feel everything! if you’re tired right now or bothered by something, let them know. They’ll open up to you too.
4. Even when you’re away, you’re close — If they have a test when you’re away, call and ask how it was. Let them know you think if them even when you’re not physically present. In addition, wherever I am, when my kids call me, unless I’m in front of 100 people speaking, I’ll apologize to the person I’m speaking with and will take the call.
5. No guilt! — I love and enjoy my work, even if it means that sometimes I spend less time with my kids. Raising kids that see their parents happy and successful is a great role model and key for pushing them for giving their best to every project they’ll face.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I believe the strategies I’ve shared above put me in a better place as a parent. Knowing that I’m there for my kids at all times, being a good role model, loving them — it can be as simple as giving them hugs, spending time with them and listening to their issues seriously.
Don’t try to be perfect. Let them know that you are human, you make mistakes, you can apologize — it shows them that it’s ok for them to do the same and models the behavior they will need to make friends and eventually, join society.
Lastly, and this might sound counterintuitive, I believe that by paying attention to my own well-being, I am a MUCH better parent. When I’m in a good headspace, relaxed, nourished — I feel that I am much more present and patient with my kids. I think as career women who are moms, we often can lose touch with ourselves, and it’s super important to take time for us, so we can be there for them.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
- Focus on their Passion — Find out what they love and are interested in and help them cultivate these passions into skills. My son loved math and soccer. I told him to focus just on that — the rest will fall into place. I wanted him to be happy and not suffer through school. Today he’s an A+ student.
- Give them Wings — A friend of mine said that her mother and grandmother always gave her the feeling that she has wings and can fly. I loved that, and immediately adopted it and decided I wanted to do the same for my kids. Anytime I see my daughter struggling with something I tell her — “but you have wings! You can do anything!” and we both laugh.
- Challenge Them — I feel that we need to challenge our kids, help their brain “integrate” — play challenging games, cultivate their creativity, talk about the future
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Some will consider success achieving wealth, respect or fame which is probably true however, for me, success is the road taken, not the outcome…success for me is the belief that you can, that you’re giving your best, that you’re happy with the choices you make.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I’m crazy about TED talks and probably heard most of the talks about parenthood, leadership, motivation and more.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A few years ago, while meeting with my best friend, I was debating about a work issue and he gave me the best piece of advice ever — as his dad taught him — ‘you already have the no in your hand…so try for the yes!’. Realizing that if you won’t try, you will never know what you have missed!
Another quote that I love to use — ‘Don’t be offended. It’s a choice you don’t make’. It is so easy to get offended and hold on to a miserable feeling, however, you can make the choice not to let it get to you, to protect yourself from other people’s “stuff.” Keep believing in what you are doing and be genuine.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a math program where math is taught in a fun way, through games and life examples and not just boring practice. I’d take that program everywhere, especially to lower socio-economic neighborhoods, because I feel that learning math and science is a huge boost to a better career and a better life. As I tell my kids…find your passion and go with it. For my son it’s Math and soccer. For my daughter it’s math and gymnastics. Once kids feel successful, they are happy and confident and the sky’s the limit for them!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!