Rona Aharonson is the CEO of Safe Drive Systems, the leading developer and distributor of advanced, active, auto safety technologies. As CEO of Safe Drive Systems, Rona is integral in the development and advancement of the company and its product offerings, including its RD-140RDR (Premier) and RD-140 (Premier Plus) Systems. In addition to leading the development and execution of Safe Drive System's long term strategy, Rona holds an instrumental role in the day-to-day operations to ensure cross-departmental coordination, ROI maximization and productivity optimization. Prior to her position at Safe Drive Systems, Rona held senior management and consulting positions, focusing on Sales Management, Operations, New Product Development, Employee Productivity and more. She holds an MBA in Management, concentrating on Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship, from Baruch College's School of Business in New York City and a BBA in Management, concentrating on International Business, from the University of Texas in San Antonio.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
To be a leader, you have to truly believe in the cause that you are promoting. Because I grew up in a family that used to foster children, the need to protect and the need to create a safe environment for loved ones is engrained in me. I have always had an intense passion for safeguarding loved ones, which spills over into the mission of Safe Drive Systems, and I believe this passion is what made me the leader I am today.
How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Safe Drive Systems?
When I was sixteen years old, my father insisted that I start working. Without any previous work experience, I started at the very bottom in the food services industry. With patience and diligence, I mastered every level of employment and was able to quickly move my way up through the corporation. Within a year, I became the proud manager. Now I understand that starting at the bottom, learning all the positions, and growing into management has benefited me tremendously. At Safe Drive Systems, I know the employee process so well, so it is much easier for me to understand and project what this company needs--at all levels--to expand and thrive.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Safe Drive Systems?
Because this technology has only recently reached the United States, our most prominent challenge has been getting the word out. The product has proven to be reliable, affordable, and user-friendly, so at this point our greatest difficulty to surmount is spreading awareness. That being said, our ultimate highlight has been the tremendous positive feedback we have received from our existing clients. Seeing first hand the reaction of individuals once the product has been installed is probably the most rewarding part of my job.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in the technology industry?
I have to say--and in the least selfish way possible--that you can't be afraid to ask for what you want. Social networking is a huge part of business, so you shouldn't hesitate to use all available resources. Fortunately, female leaders tend to want to share their wisdom and help others. So, as a businesswoman, it is important to leverage your connections in order to grow and develop your own social network. Now, being in the position of a female leader, I would love to help other women in the same way that my mentors did for me.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Perhaps I never thought I would hear myself say it, but when you do something you love, it doesn't feel like work. So, rather than consciously trying to maintain a balance between work and life, I feel that the two naturally blend. It is no longer just a slogan, but a life mission to reduce the amount of injuries and deaths caused by car accidents. I am also extremely lucky to have such a strong support system at home. My husband and children are all on board. Of course, there are certain extracurricular activities and school events that I can't and wouldn't miss. However, every day brings new challenges, and I have become extremely responsive, learning to adapt and make them part of my lifestyle.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I feel that women tend to give up too quickly on finding the right balance between work and life. Too many women feel that the two cannot coexist. As a result, some leave their jobs to start a family and do not dare to reenter the workplace. Others become workaholics, forgetting about the importance of having a personal life. So, as a mother, wife, and businesswoman, I challenge women to not give up on finding the right balance. I can say, firsthand, that it is not only possible to find the balance, but extremely rewarding once you do.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I thoroughly enjoyed Lean In because Sheryl addresses the big issue of businesswomen finding the right balance between work and life. She threw the door wide open for women empowerment in the workplace, giving many females the confidence to pursue their goals and reach their full potentials. I think Lean In gives women the exact push they need toward fearlessness and ambition. With more and more women entering the workplace, I truly agree with Sheryl's statement that, "In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
No matter what point you are at in your career or life, there is always plenty of room for growth. Mentors are the most important people because they share their wisdom with you. With their profound knowledge and resources, they help you strengthen your weaknesses and perfect your strengths. My mentors have been astounding role models for me, pushing me to become a better leader. Having learned so much from them, I have made it a personal goal to give back and share what I have learned with as many people as I can, including my employees, colleagues, and family.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, is my female role model. She began her billion-dollar company with only $5,000 in the bank. She had the ingenious idea of creating smoothing undergarments that would complement women's bodies. With no money to advertise her product, she herself was her company's promotion. On top of being a saleswoman all day, she performed stand-up comedy at night. Today she is the youngest woman on Forbes Magazine Billionaires List. I deeply admire Sara's tenacity and perseverance and can only hope that Safe Drive Systems, a life-saving technology, can flourish to the likes of Spanx.
What are your hopes for the future of Safe Drive Systems?
Safe Drive Systems is an amazing technology that can prevent or mitigate the severity of a car accident. Too many people are injured or have fatal accidents that could easily be avoided. So, as a mother, CEO, and concerned citizen I wish that as many people as possible will recognize and use our product. We need to raise our awareness on the road by listening to the statistics of distracted drivers in every age group. It still astounds me that by taking your eyes off the road for only five seconds, you may have covered the length of a football field--blindfolded. Safe Drive Systems' mission is take part in the war against accidents by saving lives through collision prevention, so I truly believe our future is bright.