Monday, 26 December 2011

Why I Continue to Work in the Technology Industry

One common question that I get asked is, “Why are you still working?”  I don’t understand that question because there is still so much more for me to accomplish and give to the technology industry.
It all started for me in high school. My high school was next to an Engineering college and I would ride my bicycle past the college every day. I always assumed I would go to the Engineering College next to my high school. This was an easy decision since there is precedence in my family with both my dad and brother having studied Engineering. I also had a good aptitude for Math and Science. 
In college, I was surprised to find that the female-to-male ratio was skewed. Although I live in a country which has a skewed gender population ratio, I still found it surprising. I come from a family where it is very much accepted to be a daughter, a wife, a mom, and a working woman at the same time. I now know that it was atypical of Indian families. When I started working, I found that the female to male ratio was again skewed across the industry and across countries. As years passed by more and more female peers dropped out (that is a topic for another blog). Their approach to problems, solutions, communication and leadership style may have been different but I still found them being very effective. Is it possible that some senior managers did not recognize this difference in approach and effectiveness?

I have had the luxury of having some of the best managers to work with who have helped me build my career. Having said that, some people have made it uncomfortable for me to work but overall it has been a positive and rewarding experience. Companies want “out-of-the-box thinkers” – the very fact that I have stayed in this industry for over 20 years and plan to continue, should make me an out-of-the-box thinker, shouldn’t it?! But at the end of the day, I still don’t see myself very different from others. I want the same things (impact, growth, recognition, job satisfaction, etc.) in my career as most other people.
With each year passing, I realize that there are so many more things to learn. Even with over 20 years, I have never done a boring repetitive job. I enjoy having ownership – whether it is a project, a product or a team. I enjoy coming up with goals that are very challenging and then convincing everybody to go after those goals. I celebrate my successes and feel sad about my failures. I enjoy working with and observing my seniors and learning from them. I enjoy hearing from my teams and not just their experiences at work but also their experiences outside of work. I enjoy spending time with the young folks in the industry and understanding them – makes me feel closer to my kids. I enjoy looking at the history of companies, products and teams.
In my twenties, when I was based in the US, I believed in the all-American dream of working hard when you are young and retiring rich early. In my early thirties I realized it is not only financial reasons that make me come to work, it is also about being part of something big and meaningful, and yes, the glory and satisfaction of doing something BIG – whether it was building the first Giga Hertz CPU or the first Indian CPU design, it was always something that I believed in and wanted to be part of.
I am in my forties now.  I would like to continue in the tech industry and keep looking for the next big thing to be a part of. My kids are grown up. For those young moms and dads who are finding it hard to do the balancing act, my only advice is to continue working; it gets easier as the kids get older. You will even find time to write a blog!
So, why do I continue to work – because this is my industry; this is one place where I can make an impact, a difference to the industry, community, company, team and to myself. Why would I not continue to be here for another 20 years? I wish though, that most of my female peers didn’t have to opt out and could reach their potential – there is so much they can give to the industry…

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