NOT ENOUGH WOMEN AT THE TOP LEVEL
Amrita Sinha, General Manager, Core & Next Core Gen Connectivity Services, Tata Communications
Deloitte states that there has been a consistent increase in the number of women professionals with a significant increase of 11.7% in their presence in India’s technology sector. Although more women are pursuing careers in technology than ever before, there are still significantly lower numbers of women in leadership or C-suite roles. Like everyone else, I encountered numerous challenges and opportunities while climbing the ladder of success. In 1997 I started working with my dream company VSNL (now Tata Communications), it was my first exposure to navigating an independent life and career in a new city with no family nearby. When Tata Communications made acquisitions and became a truly global company, I had to test the waters in a global environment, which was tough but inspiring. It gave me exposure to the rest of the world, new people, practices and cultures and a chance to inculcate a whole new set of skills.
WORK FOR A FEW YEARS BEFORE DOING THE PHD
Shilpa Vora, Chief R&D officer, Marico Limited
I grew up in a family of STEM professionals and therefore I was determined from early on to pursue a career in STEM. After my undergraduate degree in microbiology, I went straight to a PhD program.
It was a proud moment to be a PhD holder at the age of 24. However, it came with a number of challenges as one lacks the holistic perspective and understanding at that age. If asked today, I would advise the younger generation to complete their master’s degree, get a few years of work experience, and then prepare for a PhD program. When I joined Marico, I was proud to see over 50% of women in the R&D department. I would encourage the younger generation to have a role model in their life as it helps shape aspirations and ambitions. My grandfather and parents were the cornerstone of my principles and career choices, always guiding me on the right path.
CELEVATING AN ENGINEERING CAREER CHANGED VIBHA’S LIFE
Vibha Jahagirdar, Head of Global Technology for India & Global C0 Head of Post Trade Technology, JP Morgan Chase & CO
To choose one career in tech was a turning point in my life. Women pursuing STEM fields when I pursued my degree were rare, and engineering was no different. There were – and still are – biases and cultural expectations for women. But solving problems and coming up with technical solutions to real-world problems drove me towards this career. Trust is important in any field. And it’s especially important in industries like technology and financial services. I encourage women and girls to believe in themselves, know your stuff and be confident. If you are prepared and skilled, your expertise and value will shine through. Historically, fewer women than men entered STEM careers in the past, but that gap is slowly being bridged. Today, there are more female role models in STEM career paths and more women in leadership positions. Our own Global Chief Information Officer Lori Beer at JPMorgan Chase oversees our global technology function and inspires us every day.
KIRTI IS SOMETIMES THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM
Kirti Kama, Senior VP, Technology, Mastercard
Because of stereotypical gender roles, many adolescent girls are discouraged from pursuing education in STEM fields. Additionally, women pursuing careers in technology often face challenges, whether it’s balancing work life or speaking in a room full of male colleagues. I have often been the only woman in the room and faced challenges early in my career balancing work, especially during major life events. Don’t shy away from asking for help. Your needs when it comes to learning and work-life balance may be unique, and we need to speak up and set expectations accordingly. We must become aware of our learning and take ownership of our personal and professional development. The field of technology is expansive and full of possibilities. A unique perspective as a woman in STEM is an invaluable asset that can be a driving force for innovation and business growth.
IT TAKES TIME TO FIND THAT COMFORT ZONE
Suganya Subramanian, Staff Software Engineer, INTUIT
As a woman in the STEM field, I face some challenges. Growing up in a small town and attending an all-girls school and college was a big adjustment to transitioning to a professional career in a big city. Suddenly I was in a more diverse team and needed to become better at prioritizing work and personal life. But with time and the support of my team, I was able to find my comfort zone and even received a double promotion to senior software engineer while balancing motherhood. Now my challenges are a little different and include mentoring junior engineers, staying on top of all initiatives at work and keeping up with the ever changing technology! My advice to girls and women who want to pursue STEM is to explore and discover an environment that is conducive to your personal and professional growth, where your contributions are recognized and valued.
WOMEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOUCH THEIR IDEAS
Merlyn Mathew, Head of Delivery Excellence & Talent Supply Chain, Persistent Systems
Entering the IT industry in 1996 meant reading a hardcover book on C++ by Bjarne Stroustrup to be able to code in the absence of search engines. I relied on a helpful teammate to find syntax errors due to the lack of advanced IDEs, all while trying to understand the client’s business and the deliverables the project needed to deliver. Learning on the job, staying current with the latest advancements, challenging norms, teamwork and striving to make a positive impact while delivering business results are fundamental to a fulfilling career in technology. Young women today must embrace a cross/multidisciplinary approach to STEM careers. A pure scientific background, together with coding skills, an understanding of economics and knowledge of scaling solutions, is the need of the hour to tackle major societal challenges. Women must learn to express their ideas boldly. Fail fast – but don’t hold back from trying.
SEARCH FOR ALLIES AND ADAPT TO CHANGE TO THRIVE
Mugdha Deshpande, Managing Director, Wealth Management Technology, Morgan Stanley
As a software developer, in my early years I had a learning curve to understand the big picture. I constantly tried to adapt to the dynamic environment with fast technologies. In my early years, as a woman in tech, my first struggle was fighting for inclusion, in a male-dominated industry, and being considered to lead a project. Since then I have grown. By networking with the right people, self-learning new technology stacks, and earning a Masters and MBA in Computer Information Systems, I created a space for myself in this field and built a strong foundation. Currently at Morgan Stanley, I lead a team that provides core platform services for wealth management technology applications that enable modernization with automation and tools. As I give advice to aspiring young women, there are three things I always say: Look for allies, focus on the end goal, and adapt to change, because change is the only constant.