Swetha ArcotSince high school, I have dreamt of working in the IT industry. I think I was destined to be a computer science engineer. My older sister was a computer science engineer, and I’ve always had a passion for computer engineering!

As a young adult, I studied computer science and engineering in India and from there, I took on a quality assurance role, as a QA engineer, although now it’s commonly referred to as software test engineer. Growing my expertise in the space, I now hold the position of Technical Lead Manager at Sysdig, a cloud and container security company.

Challenges of my career

Since a young age, I have always felt cultural and societal pressures. My dad is very progressive; he had strong career ambitions for both of his daughters and supported our education a great deal. There were conflicting views from others who felt that girls do not need the level of education or career that my dad planned for us. He made a lot of sacrifices for our future – investing his life savings, taking additional loans and building our confidence. His support is a big factor in what got me to where I am today, and I am incredibly grateful.

Once I entered the professional world, I experienced scepticism about my ability as a woman in this industry. Fortunately, this wasn’t from everyone, but from those who did question, I always felt a pressure to prove my worth and I feel that pressure was stronger for me than it was for some of my male colleagues. I continually had to remind myself of my abilities despite attempts by others to diminish my value because I worked too hard to let their doubts knock my confidence. Over time, I learnt to let the quality of my work speak for itself to change others’ perceptions about me.

I’ve also spent time thinking about my career and my life as a mother. When I had my second child, I had doubts as to if I could manage it all. It’s a lot to juggle kids and work. I imagine most professional mothers feel the same. I am grateful for my husband to be incredibly supportive throughout my career. Even with his continuous help and assistance, I realised those early years were not the time for me personally to push myself to the next promotion. I worked hard at work for years, but during the early years of motherhood, I chose to concentrate on doing the job at hand, not pushing for the next promotion. I knew it would be there when I was ready to take on more work. Once I saw that my kids were ok, everything was stable, I started pushing to move further in my career. This was hard for me to admit at the time, but this worked for me and I’m proud I made the decision that I did!

I have now been at Sysdig for more than three years and I feel that I have found a place where I am always valued by my work, not judged on anything else. Building on the progress the industry has made, Sysdig has harnessed a positive culture that is hard to find, even in the most progressive companies.

Advice to other women

While progress has been made, there is still work to be done. One area is around pay equality. I think it’s our responsibility as women to research the pay grade and negotiate. I would advise any women in the interview process to stand strong in their requests. Women should take advantage of recent laws in the United States, which require companies to disclose the salary bands for a posted role. Women should use this information, even if they are not US-based to understand what their peers are being paid.

Make sure your career is a good fit for YOU

Another piece of advice is to remember when you’re interviewing with a company, they are interviewing you, but you’re also interviewing them. Listen to your gut, and if something doesn’t feel right, perhaps you shouldn’t join that company. I’ve declined opportunities when I didn’t feel the culture was the right fit. Always make sure you are asking the necessary questions to get a feel for the company, their plans for the future and their culture, so you can make a better-informed decision.

As the next generation of women think about the career they want to build, I encourage them to consider what they are passionate about and to not be afraid of big dreams. If you pursue what you are passionate about, you’re naturally going to excel in that field. Once you identify your dream, go for it, be consistent and don’t let anything or anyone stop you. You will find your allies and mentors along the way who will help you shine!

Advice I would give to my younger self

Finally, my advice is to not feel weak for intentionally slowing down your career during the early days of motherhood. It doesn’t make you less of a feminist or less of a “boss lady” by doing that.

Work will be there when you are ready for it. Even when you find it tough, know that you are stronger than you realise and you will push through it and emerge stronger. Your career will be long, it’s okay to lean into different things at different times.

Find the right balance for you personally. I’m now in a place where I can look back at that time knowing I did a good job handling both priorities – my kids are wonderful, and my career is going really well. And I know that my dad is proud of me!