Eshwari ChandrashekharEshwari Chandrashekhar is Director of Software Engineering at innovation scale-up Wazoku, which works with MoD, Enel, NASA, HSBC, Waitrose, and many more, supplying its Enterprise Innovation Platform to help them crowdsource ideas and innovation.

Eshwari has spent almost all her career in a variety of technology roles and plays a pivotal role in Wazoku’s ongoing success and growth.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Eshwari Chandrashekhar, Director of Software Engineering at Wazoku. I’ve worked in technology for 15 years now, after graduating in IT. My first role was as a QA analyst, but I soon realised it was development that truly appealed to me. I came to Wazoku in an entry-level position, and my career has progressed upwards ever since.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t, but I did have a specific moment when I realised that I wanted to work in technology. I was at school in a year eight IT lesson. I messed something up in the programming exercise we were doing but managed to figure out how to fix it. I knew then that tech was for me and that I relished the idea of problem-solving.

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

In my first job as a QA analyst, there was little opportunity to do any development work, and I figured it would be challenging to make the switch I wanted. So, I did a master’s degree in IT and then joined Wazoku. Perhaps I’ve been lucky with my employer and colleagues, but I haven’t encountered any major challenges since. As a developer, I find it easy to work with guys. There are many men – far more than there are women – but they are very welcoming.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Although in my early days at Wazoku I was a junior developer and learning the skills of the domain, I was able to launch a platform for our first major enterprise client successfully. I still consider that to be one of my biggest achievements. Beyond that I would say my personal growth at Wazoku. I joined in an entry-level position and have worked my way up gradually to my current position as director of software engineering. My role has expanded, my responsibilities have grown, and it has been great to be part of the company’s success over that period.

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

Can I have two? For me, it’s been about perseverance and curiosity. Not being afraid to ask questions and continue my learning has been vital for me and has helped me develop skills and broaden my horizons. Likewise, being determined to keep progressing is important. Careers are rarely smooth sailing all the time, and there are occasions when people need to show spirit and work through those challenges.

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

Just to try and talk to as many people as possible, both in technology generally and in the specific bit in which you want to work. Doing so lets you see how it all works, what it’s really like and allows you to make some first connections. I’d also recommend participating in meet up groups, whether online or in real life. I did that with the developer community in London and just being part of that environment was invaluable.

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

Work-life balance is key for women – in the wider business world, not just in technology. For women, it seems that when your career is taking off, it’s pretty much around the same time that many people want to start a family. So, women are faced with that choice – family or career. In technology, things are so fast-paced that having a year or two away to be with your child can feel like you have missed on new tools, maintaining the required skillsets and much more.

There’s definitely a role employers can play here. Good maternity leave is important and highly valued, but maybe there is more to be done about reintegrating women into the workplace after that maternity leave.

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

What would help more than anything is the provision of dedicated programs to bring women back into the industry, to provide them with manageable ways of upskilling. I think that childcare and childcare support are important too. There’s no reason women can’t have children and succeed in their tech careers, but it makes it much harder without the right support.

There are currently only 21 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?

The first thing that needs to happen is to get girls interested in technology from a very early age at school. It still seems that coding courses for young people are more targeted at boys. Girls need to be shown that tech is fascinating, rewarding and can be a fantastic career option for them.

Secondly, it’s about addressing those childcare issues that I mentioned earlier. There simply needs to be better childcare support, and this can be addressed at a government level and by individual businesses. In India there is legislation – the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 – that states any organisation employing a certain number of women must have mandatory nurseries. I’m sure such an initiative would work in the UK.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I follow many blogs – engineering blogs, the Monzo blog and a whole host of others. They help provide a rounded perspective on tech. I’d also recommend joining as many meet-up groups focused on your area of tech as you have time for – these are invaluable. I am part of Python and Django meet-up groups, and I’ve met some amazing developers and learned useful skills.

I am running a Django Girls workshop in Bristol on 29 April. It’s free of charge, a virtual day of training designed for women and non-binary people to learn about Django. No experience is necessary, and it will be an excellent way for women to join this community and take some first steps toward furthering their tech skills.