Her mother was a pediatrician who chose to prioritize time with her children over her career. Tamar Kam decided to take a more balanced approach in her career, family, and life choices.
With over twenty years at Nova, Tamar Kam is Nova’s Alpha & VAS Tech Manager. Here, Tamar shares her career experience and what she thinks about today’s work-life balance.
Tamar, did you ever dream you would become an electrical engineer?
When it was time to choose subjects I wanted to study in high school, I told my dad that I would probably marry at the age of eighteen and never have to work. My dad gave me a stern look and said, “not going to happen! You are going to study something that will allow you to work at a proper job and make a living.”
I ended up choosing to study electronics in high school, and I loved it, which is why I also pursued it in university. The difference between high school and the university was that in high school, we were eight girls out of forty students, and in university, we were eight women out of a class of 400.
Give us a glimpse into your life – your family and your hobbies.
I’m married to Amit, and we have three kids; our oldest is seventeen, and our youngest is eleven. We live in Rehovot. I play volleyball, and I love camping with my family. Camping allows us to enjoy quiet time with our children. In fact, we have all our camping gear in our car, ready to go. We only take it out when we reach our destination.
Twenty-two years ago, you made a great decision to work at Nova. What made you choose Nova?
I interviewed with several companies, and at one of them, they asked me some questions that nobody dares to ask today. I also noticed that the employees waited for five o’clock to arrive to swipe their employee cards and go home. I realized I didn’t want to work in a place like that.
Sometime later, I interviewed at Nova, and I was hired to work in the electronics department. I told them that I’m a software person, not a hardware one, but I was informed that at Nova, everybody does everything. When I began working at Nova, I was the 187th employee.
Twenty-two years in one workplace is a lot, especially these days. What has made you stay?
I know twenty-two years sound like a lot, but there are people here working here even longer. It says a lot about the company and how we feel about it.
How many positions have you had at Nova?
Throughout my career at Nova, thus far, I’ve held four positions.
I started in the R&D electronics team. I was part of the team that defined and developed electronic cards and wiring diagrams. I then managed a team of electrical engineers as the team leader of Nova T500 Hardware.
After that position, I received an offer from Nova to relocate to the USA, a position in which I would provide support to one of our customers. By then, I had been at Nova for twelve years, and this sounded like an exciting opportunity. We were in the US for two and a half years.
After returning to Israel, I began working in the service department in a very intense, interesting, and challenging position. People in the service department escort a project through its entire lifecycle, starting from the initiation phase with R&D, and high-volume manufacturing with the operation team, transferring knowledge and supporting tools all the way to the project closure. In other words, we need to be intelligent, strong, and stress-proof.
But really, I get to work with people from every department and with customer representatives.
My current position title is Alpha & VAS Tech Manager.
We often hear about a family relocating because of an offer the husband receives. In your case, it was your career that led your family to relocate. Is there a difference if it is done to help the woman advance versus the man?
That’s a great question, and it reminds me that when I was much younger, I received a phone call from a researcher who was analyzing the differences between men and women concerning their education, promotion, and salary. I remember being shocked at the notion that there’s a difference. I don’t think there’s any difference!
Regarding our relocation – every couple chooses the balance between life, career, family, etc., that is right for them. The most crucial factor is choosing the model that the couple wants to implement in their life.
In my case, my husband and I have chosen to balance our lives on every level. We are both electronic engineers, we supported each other through our academic studies, and we continue to support each other through our career development and personal life changes (e.g., having kids and raising them). We are both very career-oriented, and after our children were born and it was clear that I didn’t want to slow down my career, we got help in the form of a nanny for our kids. I had flexibility at work, but it was my choice that helped me take advantage of that flexibility.
When the offer came to relocate, I received my husband’s full support, just as he would have received mine, if he were in a similar position. In fact, when we decided to take the offer, it was clear that my husband would be home with the kids for the first year, until they would get well acclimated.
When you hear the term work-life balance, what does it mean to you?
I think the term work-life balance is usually applied more to professional women than to professional men. I think we need to consider talking about everyone’s overall balance of all aspects of their life: health, sports, hobbies, family, me-time, education, children, time for your partner, work, etc. It’s within this context that we need to understand how we balance our lives, and what elements we are willing to let go of because they are less of a priority.
What do you think your children would say about your role modeling – being a mother and a professional?
I don’t think my children see me as a professional. They only know me as a mom. From their perspective, I’m not sure that they can relate to the complexity involved in being both a professional and a mother.
And yet, I’m sure something rubs off and a seed has been planted within them because they see the balance that my husband and I have, when in society that balance is not as obvious.
I’ll give you two recent examples. The first one relates to my daughter who decided she wanted to switch out of dancing classes to take up karate. When she announced that this is what she wanted to do, I was very happy with her choice. Still, her older brother asked her “are you sure you want to be a part of such a masculine sport and come home all bruised?
Also, my daughter will be turning twelve in a few months, and she has chosen to take upon herself the Jewish ritual of reading from the Torah, which is usually reserved for boys on their Bar Mizvah. In this case, our entire family is very supportive of her, and I have to admit, that I am very proud of her.
After sharing these two examples, I guess I really do serve as an example to my children of what women can do and what they can achieve.
How do you see your own mother’s role modeling relative to yours?
Looking back at my own mother who was a pediatrician, she paid a price with her career, because she chose to work part-time in order to raise us and spend more time with us. She was a prominent figure in the creation of the health system in the town I grew up, but because she worked part-time, she never received the recognition she deserved. Up until recently, I didn’t understand the extent of the sacrifice she made, even though she was a pioneer in her field.