Thursday, August 10, 2017

From a girl who codes to all the girls who want to code...

                                                     Photo Credit, Times Inc

I have been in the tech industry for more than a decade in various roles. I have chosen to pursue my passion as a technologist, against all odds. Being in software and systems engineering/architecture centric roles in a man's world can sometimes get daunting. It can be pretty overwhelming when you fly across the country to attend a tech conference and as you enter the conference room, you see an ocean of  men with just one other woman in a corner.

Being talked over many a time and learning to re-assert the points to be made even after being talked over; having to work twice as hard to establish credibility specially when you are in a role which involves convincing a group of peers or junior technologists about a technical strategy or tactic; having to  consciously work on not starting any sentence with 'I may be wrong, but...' I have been there, done it and figured out ways of venturing out of my comfort zone, while continuing to learn new lessons everyday.

I have realized that as an engineer and technologist, and a woman technologist at that, who often has to speak louder, work harder, have more data to prove my points... one of the best ways in which I can subtly align a team to a strategy or tactic, I believe will work, is to lead by example. There is no better way a technologist can lead by example than to provide a preliminary tangible view of the end result/product. With all the advances in the technology sphere, turnaround time and inter-team
dependencies for building prototypes has reduced significantly. One person working on one computer, with a plethora of virtual computing resources and services available to her/him at her/his fingertips, can churn out prototypes to prove a concept much more easily than it was possible earlier in the decade. No matter what your role is in a team, a prototype built in a short amount of time or guiding a team member to build a prototype, can work wonders in terms of  aligning a team to a specific line of thought, which no number of meetings or discussions during that same period of time, can achieve. And that's the reason, even after all these years, as I have progressed through various roles in the technical ladder, in addition to keeping generally abreast of technology advances, I have made a conscious effort to keep my coding and software development skills as up to date as possible, along with all the other career  skills that I have fortunately managed to pick up over time.

In any sphere, being able to subtly align a team to one's strategic point of view, without rubbing anyone the wrong way, is the key to making sure a concept sees the light of day, in terms of a customer facing product/solution. There's no better way for a technical strategist to achieve this than by leading by example, getting his/her hands dirty in the product design and development and thus setting the pace for the team to get a jump start to meet a business need.

I have also been fortunate enough to be around technology leaders(both men and women) who genuinely believe that engineering technology as a discipline can work wonders only with collaboration, cooperation, empathy along with technical aptitude and passion (not genetic pre-disposition). These same folks also believe that with most corporations/industries attempting to transform themselves into digital/technology companies, being tech savvy and having an aptitude for technical skills is no longer an option, but a necessity if you are in one of these industries.

Most technology companies, and companies which aim to become technology companies, are moving towards an organization structure that promotes product based, self-organizing, self-contained, agile teams focussed on a building and maintaining products with state of the art technologies to meet business needs. This also means that this provides an opportunity for men and women with servant leadership qualities to thrive. Self organizing, agile product teams require a mix of collaborative, cooperative, empathetic team members who are skilled technologists. Irrespective of what a man and woman's  predisposition  may be, to succeed and thrive
in such teams, both men and women have to be able to come out of their comfort zones, re-train themselves, practice and pick up skills (social and technical), that they may not be naturally pre-disposed to. Whether you are a man or a woman, a good combination of social and technical skills  as well as a good combination of IQ and EQ, is required to thrive in such emerging technology organization structures. It will soon no longer just  suffice to be  a 'geek' or a 'strategist' or a 'visionary' or a 'people manager' or just a 'good communicator' to be able to survive and thrive in this fast evolving technical space.

So, no matter what anyone says, all of you girls who are passionate about technology, do not get disheartened. The future is yours to grab!

I am a strong believer that environmental factors(both at home and outside), passion and practice are the primary contributors of women succeeding as technologists.

But it has to start with the acceptance of certain facts:
- Gender stereotypes exist and will continue to exist in the near future
- We have to be prepared to find our way through this maze of stereotypes and get used to working outside our comfort zone, while the world adapts, transforms and finally achieves the utopian dream of being free of gender stereotypes.
- We have to look out for each other, and carry each other over obstacles.

For all the girls who want to code and be technology leaders, let me tell you this...there will be a time in your career when you will have to strategically guide/lead technical teams full of men towards a vision. You will see shadows of doubt in most of  their eyes as they try to convince themselves why they should listen to a woman about something they believe they probably know better . But there's nothing more rewarding than you getting your hands dirty in code to build a quick prototype that drives home the points you are trying to make, and in the process seeing  the shadows of doubt just as quickly disappear, as everyone aligns themselves to a shared belief and vision,  which then gradually begins to take shape. There's nothing more exhilarating than seeing a product/solution you have actually helped design and build see the light of day!

So keep coding, be resilient and keep rocking the tech world!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Of dinner table conversations…of courage and compassion…of the hare and the tortoise…

Today’s dinner table conversation comprised of the importance of standing up for oneself and for others around us…and for the need to show compassion to people around us...as ‘D’ and I put one hypothetical situation after another in front of  Raya, we were amazed to realize that the little Kindergartener was able to articulate quite clearly how she would stand up for herself and her friends and family, when needed…the only question she raised was, ‘Mama/Baba, what do I do if someone is being mean to a stranger?’…That quite stumped D and I…we tried our best to explain the need to be able to differentiate one situation from another, when dealing with strangers…trying to drive home the point of the need to be compassionate while looking out for oneself, when dealing with a stranger, who seems to need help...I am not quite sure we did the greatest of jobs explaining this point…but we gave the best explanation we could…parenting is after all an evolving art, ain't it?!…I am sure we will do better next time...

As we spoke to Raya about the need to show compassion to everyone around her, about being able to stand up for herself and others around her, I have to admit I said a little prayer in my heart…a prayer hoping that some other parent at some other dinner table was doing the same…so that as our children learn to stand up for themselves, and for their near and dear ones and strangers, alike…hopefully  there will be someone, someday who will be willing to stand up for them, if ever the need arises…well, we can only hope and pray…

On a lighter note, Raya always seems to take forever to finish dinner…
So today I told Raya: "Raya, Baba and I are almost done with dinner and you are not even half way through. You are so slow"
Raya, after a moment’s pause: "Mamaaaa(tcchh tchh tone), I am the tortoise…I am slow, steady and focussed! You are the hare because you are teasing me about being slow. That's not nice."

Oh well , I was obviously too stunned to respond…an embarrassed, flushed face and a tame,’That’s true! I am sorry’ was all I could manage...now who could argue the 'hare and the tortoise’  point after all…it was a classic case of Aesop’s fable staring right back at Raya’s mama :)…

That's that...

I however want to end this post on a much more sombre note, sharing  a belief and thought that I hope will let all of us sleep  at night whenever we get bogged down by the chaos, the pessimism, the shades of grey and black in the world around us…and that belief is that 'Side by side, with the worst of humanity, more often than not,  you will find the absolute best!’ 

Nothing drives this point across more eloquently than a most unfortunate series of events  on a train in Portland last weekend. Prayers for the families of the beautiful souls who stood up for strangers, at the cost of their  own lives. May their souls rest in peace! In death, they have spread love and reaffirmed the belief of many of us that indeed, 'Side by side, with the worst of humanity, more often than not, you will find the absolute best!’ So, Thank you!






Thursday, March 9, 2017

Woman...

Woman...Let's just say it's a loaded word...the origin of a child...the origin of mankind...yet more often than not, as history shows, sidestepped and pushed into a corner in the name of patriarchy.


The boldness, spunk and confidence little girls are born with is often eroded as they grow up, primarily due to environmental factors. I saw this video yesterday, and it is quite disturbing...



and then there was this report , http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/computer-science-learning-closing-the-gap-girls-brief.pdf that a friend shared on Facebook that validated everything in the video with more statistics. We are in the 21st century and there are twice as many boys as girls in STEM professions...that's a sad, sad state of affairs...

That aside, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and then realized we don't have to look too much outside our own inner circles to discover a few traits which prevent women from being the strong and impactful influence on society, that they can potentially be.

In the very literate and educated circles, we move around in, I notice a few very distinct traits among a lot of woman that make it more and more difficult for them to reach out to and accomplish what they are capable of achieving:
- Their sense of worth(financial and otherwise ) is very tightly coupled with those of their partners. I rarely see a situation where a husband's worth is tied to the wife's...often enough wives take pride in their worth being tied to the husband's ...not that I have a problem with that kind of love and the coupling part of it LOL...but if that sentiment was reciprocal, wouldn't that be such a great example for our little kids...
- A lot of women believe and spend their time wanting to be liked by everyone they know. It doesn't take too much to realize that this really is an impossible feat to accomplish. In an effort to be liked by the majority, these women never learn to make their voice heard, to stand up for their beliefs and  for those who they know in their heart of hearts, are right...they just follow the masses...sadly enough, in such situations, without realizing it, they are surrounded by a lot of people, yet alone since their voice is never reflected in the thoughts and voices of the people surrounding them...that doesn't bode too well on their level of confidence and security, for sure...
- A lot of women speak of equality, but are not ready to do their bit to support their partners. While they readily play victims at the drop of a hat, when the husband wants to take a break from work and the woman has to support the family, that becomes an absolute "no,no". If the situation were the other way around, that's of course the way it is supposed to be LOL
-Women don't realize the kind of power and influence they can wield by just having each other's back. That sense of camaraderie often starts and ends with hanging out with the girls and never extends to a meaningful social cause. I am not saying this doesn't apply to men. But I am talking about women here.

We all aim to be strong women...we all want to be around strong women... and we all want to raise strong women...but let us all remember that the lessons and traits of strong men and women and of gender equality start with the interactions at home...

I am a daughter, sister, wife, friend and mother...I am loving, caring, attached to my family and close friends...I am also bold, confident, fiesty, secure and very comfortable in my own skin...I speak my mind...I work at home and have a professional career outside...I am not a great cook...I am clumsy...I sleep in while 'D' makes breakfast...I make lunch instead...I chaffeur the kids around and give 'D' the space he needs to do the things he likes, when he needs it...I don't ever play victim...I don't need a man or another woman to validate my place in the world...and all that doesn't make me any less feminine...all that doesn't make any of the people who matter to me love me any less...

'D' is a son, brother, husband, friend and father...He is bold, confident, secure and very comfortable in his own skin...He works at home and has a professional career outside...he is a great cook...he is not clumsy...he makes breakfast...he speaks his mind...he doesn't ever play victim...he doesn't need a woman or another man to validate his his place in the world...he is loving, caring, attached to his family and close friends...and all that doesn't make him any less masculine...all that doesn't make any of the people who matter to him love him any less...

'D' and my worth(financially and otherwise) are not coupled to each other, but that doesn't make us any less in love :)

It's not an easy task maintaining this equilibrium...it requires a lot of work...flexibility and adaptability at both ends ...Life is not always easy...it has and always will have it's share of ups and downs...but this partnership of equals, I would like to believe, makes both us strong, secure, confident and ready to take on challenges...all that I can hope for is that all of us with partners are successful in seeking out ways to reach this equilibrium...we are able to be role models for our children...so that we can be examples of strong women and men, we can be around strong women and men and we can raise strong women and men....because a society needs rational and strong men and women to flourish and prosper...

So yes let's #BeBoldForChange!!!