Monica Aggarwal admits that when she first joined IBM as a senior software developer, she never knew how long it would last. Nearly two decades later, she is still at IBM, as Vice President for IBM India Systems Development Lab (ISDL), a global development lab, leading IBM’s server, storage and systems software. In addition, she also heads the System Integrators (SI) mission and works with industry leading SIs on go-to-market strategies, enablement, and partnerships.
“This is a key research and development lab based out of India, and we develop new cutting-edge products around Machine learning, Deep Learning & Cloud technologies right from processor design and firmware all the way to operating system. “This is a very strategic development lab for IBM as we are uniquely positioned to not just work with clients in India/South Asia but also Middle East & Africa, China and the rest of Asia Pacific countries,” says Monica, adding, “We are in a relationship economy where clients come back to us because IBM’s DNA is ‘putting the clients first’ and that inspires us to deliver world class products. At ISDL, engineers get an opportunity to work with clients, on joint research programs with Universities and present at conferences.
Tapping potential, encouraging growth
Listening and helping people look beyond their horizons is something that is very close to Monica’s heart. Being a mentor and a leader of several initiatives that help young women at IBM, that steers them to realise their full potential and expand their horizons has been Monica’s passion.
She credits her career growth, in seeking out opportunities and having the right support, both from family and leaders within the company.
Monica says that she soon realised that IBM is a “company of companies” and opportunities to scale both horizontally and vertically were abundant. She joined IBM with a software background and few years later decided to take up Systems as a challenge. IBM provides you with abundant opportunities to go after your passion, the key is the willingness to learn and pushing yourself out of the comfort zone every day.
Accelerating growth and blazing a trail
As part of the IBM Chairman’s Acceleration Team (formerly the Growth & Transformation Team – G&TT), Monica believes that every woman wants a level playing field and a healthy competition. We have great programmes at the WW and local level. She is the Executive sponsor for Trailblazers, a customised program to groom women in technical roles. The key is to catch them young and focus on roles that help them deepen their expertise and stretch them horizontally – we call this a T shaped individual. We also focus on their social eminence and innovation quotient,” says Monica. Trailblazers have access to IBM executives via mentoring, roundtables and individual sessions. The program gives them a 360-degree perspective, and the difference seen in them is palpable. The four-year-old, custom-made programme, offers immense value and has helped women grow in confidence and tear across their comfort zones.
Fuelling a trillion-dollar digital economy
Monica says that India is a great place to be a woman in technology. The social fabric of the country is changing and hence focusing on education, financial inclusion and legal frameworks will go a long way in closing the gender gap and increasing the GDP. Today, parents encourage their daughters to take up science and math, whether it is in rural or urban India.” She believes government schools and colleges can play a key role in grooming more girls to take up STEM courses and an industry-academia collaboration can expedite it.
“Once you show a child what you can dream, the sky is the limit,” she says.
“What’s amazing is the number of women-led start-ups that have risen in the last decade. We also need both men and women to be investors and mentor more women. India is growing by leaps and bounds, and 48% percent of 1.3 billion people are women. With the focus from corporates and the ongoing impetus from the government, I have no doubt that women will contribute in a big way to the trillion-dollar economy.”
Away from the office, Monica, who holds a Post Graduate degree in Business Management and a Bachelors in Technology (Computer Science), enjoys travelling. “I have a penchant for yoga and picked it up a few months ago and make it a point to practice three to four times a week. But sometimes, doing nothing can be the best break. Just unplug and recharge, she says.