“Don’t bring your gender to work,” Intel India Head Nivruti Rai tells women at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit
Nivruti Rai, Country Head of Intel India, in a fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit, emphasises the need for women to be confident, to be risk takers, to help fellow women, and '…forget that you’re a woman.'
As the Country Head of Intel India and Head of the chipmaker’s largest R&D unit outside the US, Nivruti Rai is too often the ‘only woman’ in the room. She attributes this to her sheer grit and unwillingness to bring gender to the workplace.
“Actions speak louder than words. If you do your actions to the best you can, you sleep peacefully,” said Nivruti, calling this the “sleep test.”
“If I have done my action and I fail, I still sleep peacefully. But I don’t sleep peacefully when I don’t act. And that’s the courage that I have slowly cultivated in me.”
In a fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit, Nivruti emphasised the need for women to be confident, to be risk takers, to help fellow women, and, most importantly, to “…forget that you’re a woman.”
Elegantly dressed in a sari she had bought from Manipur, Nivruti, who once nursed ambitions of becoming a fashion designer, told the audience how she was often mistaken for an office assistant, instead of a design engineer in the early days of her career because of her colorful, immaculate dressing sense.
“People used to say, ‘she’s too fashionable to be an engineer.’ But I believe that’s their problem, not mine,” said Nivruti, who joined Intel as a design engineer in 1994, soon after completing her Master’s Degree in Engineering from Oregon State University.
In the nearly three decades in the company, Nivruti has always let her actions do the talking. Consequently, she was appointed to head Intel’s R&D in mobile devices unit in 2005, and took over as country head of Intel India in March 2016.
“Dress as colorful as you want, be the way you want, but don’t ever bring your gender to work,” Nivruti told the over 700 women gathered at the Women on a Mission summit. “Your actions, not your gender, should and will do the talking.”
Today, Nivruti is recognised for pioneering the use of a technique called 'error correcting codes' to reduce operating voltages and memories.
Her other notable work include championing the use of AI and Machine Learning (ML) to enhance road safety in the country through agreements with state governments and collaborating with the Consulate General of Israel to drive innovation and connect startups from both nations.
“Technology is the one thing that can solve many of the social issues we heard about today. In the problem related to manual scavengers, we really don’t have to have human beings scavenging. A single robotic hand, which you can monitor, can accomplish that. You can also do robotics surgery sitting in United States on a person in Germany,” Nivruti said.
But these accomplishments aside, it is more important for us to ‘create value’ with whatever task is given to us, whether one is a homemaker or in any other profession, said Nivruti.
“I never planned to become the Intel India head. But what I did plan was to do whatever is given to me and do it better; to put my heart and soul into it and continue to be better at it every single day. Everything else happens as a result,” she said.
Nivruti follows three principles that help her do this effectively:
1. Take stock of what you’re doing today and do the best you can.
2. Selectively forget your past.
3. Plan for your future by continuously growing through learning and challenging yourself.
Take challenge by the horn
Women need to be courageous enough to speak up and act when they believe they are the subject of gender bias or being excluded from conversations that matter.
“So many times I have walked into a conference room to a meeting that I have not been invited to and sat on the fifth chair or dragged a chair for me. It was hard, but if you don’t do it, nobody will,” said Nivruti, amidst loud cheers and applause from the audience to this statement.
In fact, the men don’t even realise there’s a problem, so it is usually not even intentional, she said. As a result, it is upto the women to change their thinking and train them to be more inclusive, she added.
Women also need to take challenges by the horn and recognise that we have it in us to achieve anything we set out to do, said Nivruti, quoting a shloka from Hanuman Chalisa, a verse from an Urdu poem by Mirza Ghalib, and a quote by Mother Theresa that attests to the power of the individual.
“You have so much energy inside you. If you really exercise that energy, you can shake the three worlds: the heavens, the earth, and lower realms. That is the power you have,” she said, quoting a shloka from Hanuman Chalisa.
She also cited a line from a Mirza Ghalib poem, which echoes what Hanuman Chalisa says. She recited, “Ranj se khugar ho jata hai insaan, toh mit jata hai ranj; mushkiley itne padi mujh par, ki aasan ho gaye,” which translates to:
“When you are faced with so many difficulties, you learn how to get rid of them and fight them, so much so that they all become easy.”
In other words, whether it is taking care of your ageing parents and grandparents, looking after your children and your home, or managing your work, or leading a team, women have the potential to do it all if they channelise the energy they have within them, she said.
While it’s not easy, this can only happen if women confront challenges head on, Nivruti said, quoting Mother Theresa to emphasise the power of taking charge of your own fate.
“I used to think prayers changed things. Now I know, prayers changed me, and I change things.”
A big shout out to HerStory's Women on A Mission Summit sponsors: Co-Presenting Sponsor Microsoft, Sequoia Spark, Innovation Valley, NetApp Excellerator,Servify, ZOHO, Meesho, Arctic Fox, DROR, and Gifting Partners WoW, &Me.