From a young age, Neta Corem, senior manager of product management at Western Digital, understood the value of confidence. Growing up in the countryside of Israel, Corem was surrounded by nature and a spirit of self-reliance.
“My love of nature was always there, and my father always encouraged me to handle technical things,” said Corem. “I always wanted to understand the world around me, to understand how things work.”
These early experiences solidified science and math as major interests for Corem while instilling a strong sense of confidence. At 18, Corem was conscripted into the Israeli Defense Force, where this sense of self-belief would be reinforced and strengthened. Serving in a prestigious division of the Israeli Intelligence Corps, she joined a group that was diverse in age and experience.
“We enter the military at a very young age, and we’re away from home for long stretches, so you learn to collaborate, how to compromise, how to cohabitate,” Corem said. During her service, she also led a team of 10 people. The challenges she faced left a strong impression on the young Corem.
“More than anything, I learned to be independent and self-driven,” she said.
After completing her conscription, it came time to enroll in university. Though she could have chosen many academic paths toward a promising career, Corem was not enticed.
“When I went to the open days for the universities, the most appealing field was always math,” she said. “Eventually I decided to ignore the applicable. I love math, so I went with my heart.”
This passion-fueled pursuit proved to be a challenge for her. Despite her affinity for the field, Corem found the coursework difficult. Occasionally, she found her sense of self-belief challenged. But, like her time in the IDF, she framed the difficulties as an opportunity for growth.
“I often felt unsure—I still feel unsure today—and I think that’s something many women struggle with in this industry,” Corem said. “Yet, I think those challenges really drove me to prove that I was capable, to myself more than anyone else.”
This cycle of pushing back on uncertainty and embracing challenges defined her early career. After graduating, Corem found herself at a software company doing quality assurance, despite having no formal background in the field. At the same time, she was working on a master’s thesis focused on numerical analytics.
By taking on these roles, Corem had forged her own career path which led to a career in technology. Her thesis led to a role at a large defense contractor in firmware development and the world of embedded technology. Like many of her peers, she fell in love with the work, drawn to its complexity and cross-disciplinary nature.
Corem was taught the intricacies of the tech world in school and had to learn the industry while working in it. Corem’s first manager, Marisa, was a key mentor in this respect. Having a woman in the field that she could look up to and ask for advice was crucial for Corem as she navigated early career uncertainty.
“Marisa taught me two things,” she said. “First was to know what you want, where you want to go. She taught me there was value in goal setting. Second was to ask for help. You cannot do everything alone, so it’s okay to ask for help at work or at home.
“This is the most useful advice anyone ever gave me,” Corem recalled.
Today, Corem’s role at Western Digital involves sitting between the product marketers and engineers in the company’s embedded flash division. She helps marketers and engineers understand one another and ensures great products make it to the right customers. With her help, the company delivers its embedded storage for mobile, automotive, and emerging markets. She loves her work and recognizes it as the result of risk-taking and overcoming adversity early in her career.
Corem took on these challenges, in part, because they scared her, but also because she believed she could overcome them. Thanks to support from mentors like Marisa, she was able to achieve those goals.
As the oldest of four sisters, Corem is always thinking about the future generation and how she can build a bridge for those that come after her. This feeling is a key motivator behind her philanthropic efforts with the ATIDIM Scholarship, which seeks to create equal education opportunities in Israel. For Corem, this scholarship represents the kind of support she wishes all young women in STEM received.
“I know from my experience that it was not always easy being a young woman in the industry, the road was bumpy and never straight,” she said, “so if I could make that path a little bit easier, a little bit shorter for someone, that would be amazing.”
Corem’s youngest sister wants to follow in her footsteps and work in the technology industry, and Corem relishes the chance to offer guidance and support. From selecting a major to early career choices, Corem’s advice to her sister, and all young women in STEM, is focused on the power of belief.
“Go after your heart and trust yourself. When there’s that self-belief, everything is easier.”