Advice for Women in Leadership: Q&A with Erika Varga McEnroe

Synopsys Editorial Staff

Jan 27, 2021 / 3 min read

Erika Varga McEnroe is Synopsys’ chief ethics and compliance officer and a senior vice president of Synopsys’ legal team. She and her team are responsible for corporate legal matters, including corporate governance, ethics and compliance, securities, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate social responsibility. She’s also on the executive committee and board of directors of Watermark, an organization whose mission is focused on empowering women to make their mark in their companies, careers, and communities. We chatted with Erika recently for her insights into leadership and career development.

Q&A with Synopsys’ Erika Varga McEnroe

Q: Tell us about your career path, and what led you in the direction of corporate law.

A: I didn’t strictly plan my career path. Instead, I attribute my moves to people—mentors, former bosses, and co-workers—who suggested areas where they thought I’d perform well. I think it’s helpful to listen to people who know you and know your strengths. If you’re following your strengths, you almost can’t go wrong.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your workday?

A: Being around people I like keeps me going. That’s hard to do during a pandemic, unfortunately.  But video meetings, with cameras on, is surprisingly effective at mimicking in-person meetings. So, during the pandemic, meeting with my team once a week, with all of our cameras on, has been very rewarding because I really do enjoy the people at Synopsys.

Q: What advice do you have for women interested in achieving a position of leadership in the tech world?

A: For women, in any industry, I would recommend three things:

  • Be brave.
  • Be confident, or fake it if you need to.
  • And, above all, be prepared. (This you can’t fake.) The doors of opportunities open when you impress the people in the room (or Zoom!) around you.

I also encourage people to get involved in groups outside of work, whether it is a benchmarking group with people in similar positions at other companies, or a non-profit organization that you are passionate about. You will be amazed at how this will enable you to bring valuable perspectives, leadership skills, ideas, and contacts back to your job.

Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

A: It’s probably from my husband, telling me to be more confident. I’ve struggled with confidence, yet this has probably caused me to be more prepared than the next person.

Q: Who are some leaders that inspire you and why?

A: Right off the bat, I think of Deirdre Hanford, Synopsys’ CSO, and my own boss, Rick Runkel, Synopsys’ general counsel. Deirdre commands respect the moment she walks in the door and continues to impress from then on. Of course, she is brave, confident, and always prepared, but I admire how she does not sweat the small stuff, how she effectively delegates, and how she recognizes and appreciates everyone she works with. As for Rick, he has created an environment in which everyone wants to move mountains for him. This is because he is decisive, honest, fearless, a great communicator, humble and, most of all, caring. He cares deeply about each and every person who works in his department.

Q: What has been most rewarding about leading Synopsys’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives?

A: Our first CSR report! At Synopsys, we’ve been putting our values into action to deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits for years, but our CSR report in March of 2020 was the first time we communicated externally about our actions in a consolidated way. It was rewarding to see our efforts together in one place. We are currently working on our second CSR report to be published soon.

Q: What are some other highlights from your 14-year career at Synopsys so far?

A: Standing up for other people and helping people along the way has been rewarding, especially when I see them doing well. If I can play any part in anyone’s advancement, that truly is a highlight for me. I also love all of the challenges I have and the opportunities I’ve been given.

Q: Any good book recommendations for women who want to grow into leadership roles?

A: “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero is one that I’ve gifted to other women. As I’ve mentioned, confidence is so important, especially for women.This book is about believing in yourself.

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