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1. How easy or difficult is it for women to rule the technology space?
There are many women in technology these days, but are the numbers adequate? Perhaps not, but they are growing. And there is enough critical mass of women to ensure an organic emergence of leaders from this pool.
As with most corporate roles, the fight for the leadership position is on the basis of merit. Women are competent – functionally, technically, emotionally and behaviourally to succeed.
On one end of the spectrum, you have companies that realise the value of having women lead complex projects and ensure a collaborative approach in an otherwise acrimonious or aggressive environment. At the other end of the spectrum, women still struggle to find their place or be confident about who they are professionally. They are good at what they do, but don’t necessarily have an executive presence. They need support and mentorship.
The latter situation is more prominent and widespread. It’s up to the leadership of the company to set the right context to nurture women leaders in technology. At Schneider the technology leadership team is very diverse across gender, ethnicities and education and it sets the tone for the subsequent levels in the organisation.
2. What are your biggest achievements till date?
I have been fortunate to transition effectively across different functions like sales & marketing, human resources, business strategy and now information technology. In my previous role as Corporate HR Head at Tata Motors, I was at the forefront of the organisation-wide HR endeavor helping create vibrant talent and compensation processes, setting up subsidiaries, working on major acquisitions and people transformations. I took a mid-career break to go study at MIT Sloan for an MBA. I would count making a successful transition into technology as another achievement. This is an area where I had little previous exposure. It’s been a fun journey to successfully lead the teams deploying enterprise-wide HR systems and also help transform in a core IT area.
3. How would you describe your journey to become a technology leader?
It’s been a journey of learning and evolution. When I look back at the three years since I transitioned into this role I realise that I have learnt a lot about technology, project management in a multi-cultural environment and remote management of people.
I initially got into an area that I was familiar with i.e. HR. I had very limited exposure to technology until then, so this was a good stepping stone. Since then I have moved inroads into deeper infrastructural technologies. I still have a lot to learn. I am currently spending time to understand the applicability of Mobile and artificial intelligence to make user experience simpler. For me, the journey has only begun.
4. How easy or difficult was it for you to make a mark in this male-dominated industry?
I have had very supportive leaders and colleagues, who’ve reposed their trust and confidence in me. In that regard, I would say it’s been extremely positive and enriching for me. My company also ensured that in my early days in the role, I got a technology mentor to help me better assimilate the complexities of a highly technical project. These and other actions helped me navigate comfortably.
5. What unique challenges do women face as global business professionals in the field of technology?
That would be three things:
• Deep understanding of emergent technologies and being ahead of the technology curve.
• Have a thorough understanding of the business / user needs.
• Being able to deal with multi-cultural teams across different time zones.
6. How can women shine as entrepreneurs?
The success criteria would be the same for men as well. The only additional difference is the capacity to take risk. Women by nature are conservative. It’s not a lack of ideas there but we need partnerships that can help support us take the first step to start a venture. Perhaps other women entrepreneurs as mentors will be a good starting point. Also easy access to funding will progress it further.
We need to provide more visibility to women entrepreneurs – recognise them for their achievements (successes / failures) and create a community that is vibrant and engaging. This will encourage more people to join the trade.
7. What are the drivers of change for women in technology?