Arusha GuptaTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

It may sound cliché, but I’m a people’s person. I grew up in India, and when I came to Europe on my professional journey, I fell in love with the diversity and work ethos here. After spending over two decades in the tech world, I take pride in adding the human element to the brilliance of technology. In the various roles that I play as a woman, my current role as a professional is to deliver an exceptional people experience for the LTI teams across Europe and Africa. I feel privileged to work with such diverse teams, and I am honoured to enable a sense of inclusion. I am a champion of inclusivity, and I believe that it is our inability to be inclusive that deters women from joining and thriving in the tech industry. I aim to make a difference to people’s lives. I am currently working towards inspiring our youth in the STEM realm, and I am also creating an early career program that is centred on nurturing female talent.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think that we all have our early ideas, and I was always interested in observing human behaviour and understanding the human mind, the most sophisticated machine of them all. When choosing a career, I initially wanted to be a psychoanalyst, but my parents thought that it was a strange profession and asked me to reconsider! Therefore, I decided to study HR. Graduating in the year 2000, I was touched by the increasing impact of IT on society at large. As such, joining a technology services company was a natural choice for me and, in a blink of an eye, it has already been 20 years.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Changes and challenges are a constant, and I have certainly had my fair share of those, and I continue to do so. In the thick of it, it can be difficult, but later when you reflect upon it, you realise that those situations have defined you. I once had a difficult manager, and I really wanted to quit. However, I channelled that energy into another project, which led to my next role. When faced with a testing situation, I take ownership of it and work towards the solution. Being an emotional person, it is easy for me get stuck in the situation, and at that point, what helps is staying objective. Objective views of situations enable you to naturally disassociate from it. And whilst it is not easy, it has always worked well for me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I believe that my biggest achievements are my relationships with the people that I have worked with. Everyone has taught me so much, and it is humbling to see how I have touched their lives. I am privileged to have worked with great leaders and led diverse teams.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Believe in yourself. My parents taught me that I can achieve whatever I set for myself and be my own benchmark. I believe in challenging myself and raising the bar. We all have heard this multiple times, but it is important to live it. It works miracles, and also saves energy that would otherwise be consumed in comparing!

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Keep learning and stay human. Tech is an exciting space as it touches people so significantly. The only way to thrive is to keep on learning. Invest in yourself and do not leave it to others to decide what you should be doing. Ensure you have mentors who could guide and challenge you positively to thrive in what you do well. Many women spend time on things that they are not good at: I would recommend working on your strengths and build on that. It will take you where you deserve to be.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Societal barriers prevent women from excelling in their careers. I believe that as a society we need to differentiate personality traits from gender. For example, the idea that being aggressive is masculine. As parents, we must rewire ourselves to be more inclusive in our language and in our conduct. Most of the time, out of love, we attribute pink to girls or blue to boys, and then unconsciously we develop this distinction as we grow. These behaviours then get amplified, and in the workplace, we struggle to correct that behaviour. While companies are doing a lot to correct these biases, much more needs to be done at the grassroots to avoid falling into this trap.

The pandemic has helped erode some workplace barriers, like flexible working. It has helped address some of those misconceptions around productivity that are associated with working from home. These forced changes in work patterns will enable more female workers to excel on equitable ground. There could not be a better time to crush these barriers than now, with data and determination.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

LTI is leading the female cause, which has helped women tremendously. As an organisation, in Europe, we are proud to say that 40% of senior roles are filled by women. When developing inclusion programmes, it is important that we understand that women may be in different stages of life, and therefore need to be helped accordingly.

For example, mentorship programmes, if run with the correct intentions, can produce wonderful results. 2020 helped emphasise the importance of holistic wellbeing and highlighted the flaws of a ‘one size fits all’ approach. So now, we are talking about a customised experience: at LTI we are strengthening our ‘pod’ service model where members have complementary skills that they deliver as a team.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

While this may sound strange, I believe that tech focuses too heavily on qualifications, and not enough on personal attributes, like work ethic. We must look beyond degrees and focus on soft skills and attitude. This would accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry. Necessity is the mother of invention. There could not be a better time than now when there is demand for tech talent. As of 2020, the global talent shortage already amounts to 40 million skilled workers worldwide. Our ability to upskill and reskill will enable women and address the gap between tech talent demand and supply.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

As I mentioned earlier, it is essential to keep on learning. Given that we all have different learning styles, choose the method that is aligned to your learning style, as that will help you retain knowledge. It could be reading, listening to a podcast, or watching tech videos. I also have spoken about the importance of mentors, so networking can help significantly, and it can also enable crowd-learning. I personally prefer a combination of all of these learning techniques. I strongly suggest that we invest in ourselves and ensure that we take time out to do so on a daily basis.