Women’s Day: Women in tech share 5 crucial lessons they learned during their journeys
The internet was recently abuzz with news of a nine-year-old from Shillong developing an anti-bullying app. It’s heartening to note that Meaidaibahun Majaw has started young in the world of tech, but it remains to be seen how her talents will be developed and sustained for the greater good.
We can all cry hoarse about how the future is female, is in STEM, and that statistics corroborate this with the number of women in tech up from 21 per cent to 30 per cent. But what’s disheartening is, according to a McKinsey report, nearly 50 percent of women in technology leave the employment pipeline at the junior to mid-level.
What can be done to retain women in technology, attract more girls to STEM, and sustain their interest?
We need role models in technology to mentor women, help them learn new things, believe in themselves, and move forward, despite the many challenges in their way.
In this context, some of the top women leaders in tech in India speak about their own journey and the crucial lessons they have learnt.
Always keep an open mind
With over two decades of experience in the corporate world, I have always believed in creating opportunities for all team members to bring their ideas to the workplace in an environment that cultivates the exchange of broad thinking and inspires innovation.
During the course of my professional life, some of the key lessons I have learnt are:
- Be adept in adapting to new technologies, keep an open mind to learn new things, also keep unlearning the past.
- Invest in building your network. One should make a conscious decision to also give more to the network than take from it.
- The first two lessons will enable you to enlist several mentors and inspire strong sponsors. This will help you build a stronger portfolio for yourself.
- Define your brand and build it step by step. It is important to celebrate failures as much as you celebrate successes.
- Lastly be passionate, confident, and take calculated risks.”
Sheenam Ohrie, Vice President, Dell Digital and APJ CIO Leader, Dell Technologies
Hand-hold other women in their journey
- Being a woman doesn’t mean that your work standards are any different from others. To break away from any bias, you have to ensure that it’s your work quality and results that define you, not your gender.
- Utilise your innate qualities and areas of strength like empathy, relationship building, effective communication, and approaching a problem from a different angle.
- Stay relevant, stay curious. It is important to not get into any one area that is a comfort zone. Learning something new constantly can help you grow immensely. For example, working women returning from their maternity breaks should be prepared to reskill to improve themselves.
- Be open to seizing the right opportunities when they come along even though they may come at an inconvenient or inappropriate time. Look at the larger picture and your future growth.
- As someone who has experienced and overcome tough and challenging situations it is your responsibility to mentor and guide fellow women in the right direction.
Mankiran Chowhan, Managing Director, Indian Subcontinent, SAP Concur
As a woman leader who has been in tech for over 18 years, my journey has been defined by many lessons; of these, the ones that have deeply influenced my path are the following:
- A successful foundation at work begins with “trust”. This is key to gaining acceptance from teams, customers, and stakeholders, and collaborating towards common goals.
- Aiming high and striving for excellence unleashes energies and enables lasting impact.
- Evolution is necessary to succeed, and therefore we need to have a learning mindset and be up-to-date on tech, business, local and global contexts.
- A career is a marathon so it’s important to focus on enriching experiences and not just positions.
- Well being starts with a healthy mind and body, so take the time to cleanse and balance.”
Shikha Pillai, Head of Strategy, Siemens Healthineers
Respect others’ views
Here are the five crucial lessons, I learned in my career:
- Challenges are the biggest opportunities that will help you learn and grow. Never let go of an opportunity for the fear of failure!
- Do not hesitate to take tough decisions when needed.
- Don’t just state problems; come up with possible solutions when you are projecting a problem.
- Listening to and respecting others' views is very critical if you want to grow as a leader.
- Prioritise your company’s goals before your own aspirations."
Jaya Jagadish, India Engineering Lead and Corporate Vice President, Silicon Design Engineering at AMD India
Build and lead tribes
It is exciting to see how more women are getting involved in shaping the future of the tech industry. I started in early 2000 and I am extremely fortunate to have witnessed the changes in the industry in terms of culture, talent, and mentorship.
Here are my five learnings:
- Make mistakes. The biggest hurdle in the entire learning process is the fear of making mistakes. Hence it's critical to break stereotypes to solve newer set of problems
- Build and lead tribes. There is so much to learn in this fast-changing world, hence having interest groups promote collective intelligence
- Cultivate talent and make yourself redundant. The best way to gain in depth understanding is to teach someone else
- Find your mentor. I have been very fortunate to have mentors who encourage me to take up bigger aspirations and problems. They are certainly the folks who keep me grounded
- Last but not the least having a support system (professional and personal) is critical to focus on the task at hand.
Gunjan Shukla, Market Partner, South East Asia and Practice Head, Engineering for Research at ThoughtWorks
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)