Be aggressive about your career goals - Prasanna Anireddy, Director of Engineering, Progress Software

2nd Nov 2013
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Prasanna Anireddy is a simple and straightforward person with a deep passion for technology. In this honest and personal conversation with HerStory, she opens up with us about her childhood, schooling, early days of career, finding her passion and what keeps her going today. Let us delve deep.Edited excerpts:

My father forced me to be ambitious

I went to Stanley junior college for my intermediate in Hyderabad. I happened to be a state ranker in intermediate. After college I joined BITS, Pilani. When I look back at those days, I don’t think I have been very ambitious. I have always been very excited and passionate about the things I do, but never really very ambitious. In fact despite getting an admission at BITS, Pilani, I did not want to go very far, I wanted to join Osmania University and stay at home in Hyderabad. But my father had a different opinion. He thought that only when we go far and be in premier institutes, we get to learn more and that is definitely going to give one a better edge later on; which I realize now. But at that time, I was not the one who was pushing to go far out. My father was the main reason I went to BITS, Pilani. After Pilani, I went to Michigan Technological University in the United States.

Going to Pilani helped me push myself out of the comfort zone. I got introduced to many new cultures and made many friends. At Michigan, I was a Teaching Assistant while studying. My Professors there realized my potential and always encouraged me to move ahead in this field. That was a great confidence boost for me.

Joining Automation Technology Inc. 

Right after I graduated, it was recession time in the US. I got married during my Masters and my husband was in the Bay Area, so I joined him and started looking for jobs there. I had a great opportunity to join a startup there called Automation Technology Inc. I worked there for 15 years before Progress Software bought out a division of Automation where I was part of. I was in Bay Area for 10 years. In 2000, we decided to move back to India to spend more time with our families. We also wanted to raise our daughters here. My husband is from electronics background, and as soon as we moved back he started his own company in Hyderabad called Nano Bright Solar Technologies. He is an entrepreneur and keeps himself super busy.

I spent 15 years at Automation. I had many other job opportunities come my way during this time. But I stuck to Automation. Because I loved the thrill of being at a startup, and the founder there trusted me a lot and encouraged me with a lot of opportunities. That was important to me.

Becoming the Engineering Director

As part of Automation acquisition story, I joined Progress. At Progress, I moved on to management roles every soon. Today I am an Engineering Director there, and I manage a team of about 30 which includes engineering managers and team leads. Technology remains my core interest. I interact a lot of with marketing and sales folks as well in my current role, but technology is my heart. I ensured that I did my best job and delivered on time with the opportunities that came my way, and that discipline opened up more opportunities to me.

Plus points and minuses

My passion to do my best, my ability to build strong relationships, my ability to encourage my team to be their best are my secrets to success I think. As such I am not a very outspoken person. But I should be doing more of it. I should be part of many technology interest groups, be more active on my alumni network etc. I am particularly not very proud of these things, but I guess you could be successful even if you are different. Or maybe I would have been a lot more successful if I were more outgoing. Progress is a level playing field, it is up to you to figure out what you want to do with that space.

My parents are the pillars of my success story and a man behind every successful women

I have an extremely supportive family. My mother and father have always been there to help when needed. They took care of my kids when they were infants and they are just a call away when needed. This helped a great deal when kids are not well or have vacation. At home things were taken care of for me, so I could completely focus on my career. Having a supportive family makes all the difference. My husband and I divide our time to raise our children. Despite being an entrepreneur and being busy himself, my husband makes time to drop the kids at tuitions and helps them with their studies. He has always encouraged me to aim high in my career.

Advantages of being a working mom

I have two daughters. My first daughter, Apurva, is 19 years old and is pursuing her second year MBBS. My second daughter, Alpana, is 16 years old and is undecided between Law and Architecture. Both my kids have been fairly independent since their childhood. I guess that is the benefit of being a working mother. In fact, my kids encourage me to go ahead in my career today! If I was a stay-at-home mother, I would have been more involved with my kids at every step, but because I am working, I let them be and make their own choices many times, and in the long run that helps kids be more mature I think. My kids are very responsible.

Simple things that make difference for women

In the US, there are more number of women who are working and are successful in any field when compared to India. Simple things like not being able to stay late at office because commute is not all that safe here – these are simple things, but they could make all the difference.

Advice to younger women in tech

If you have career goals, go after them aggressively. In fact, I feel I should have been more aggressive in the early days of my career.

We thank Prasanna for all the open and honest conversation, and we sincerely hope much more success comes her way.

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