Vindhya JosephMy current role is as an Engineering Mentor (Manager) at Unibuddy. We’re all very thrilled about our Series B funding and looking forward to the next phase of accelerated growth.

There are a number of interesting and challenging projects that we are working on – many related to enabling our platform to scale massively, others related to new features and capabilities to support new markets that we are entering. (Shameless plug – if you love technology and love solving hard technical problems, Unibuddy is hiring ☺)

I have been interested in engineering since my teenage years, my aunt, who was a senior scientist in DRDO (India’s Defence Research Organization) was my inspiration, and I grew up watching her and wanting to be an aerospace engineer. However, when I joined college, I took Computer Science as my major, and I have been hooked ever since. The formative years of my career were spent at Microsoft, in the Windows core kernel team. After 12 years in the industry, I took a 6 year break to raise my kids, then moved along with my family from WA, USA to Bangalore, and re-entered the workforce as a senior engineer in a startup incubator. The tech landscape had changed quite significantly in the meantime, and I had a super fun time learning the LAMP & MEAN stacks, web application programming etc. I also had a short stint as an entrepreneur, which was also a huge learning experience for me.

Other than tech, I love hiking, running and travel.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never formally planned my career. I have always enjoyed working with technology, and have loved solving problems. I always saw opportunities in challenges that others saw as too difficult or mundane. My career strategy primarily consisted of finding interesting and challenging problems to solve.

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

My biggest challenge was taking a 6 year break to raise my children. I wanted to be fully present for my kids when they were little. The decision to take a break from my career was a very scary one to make. I was afraid I would become irrelevant. Afraid it would be difficult to re-enter the workforce. There weren’t any programs designed to help mothers re-enter the work force. No support system in place. Especially in the tech industry where your skills can become seriously outdated in a few years, it was a huge risk to take. My strategy to re-enter the workforce primarily consisted of 2 approaches – first was to volunteer my skills and time to organizations that were desperately in need to senior tech talent, the second was to rapidly up-skill myself and bring myself up to date with the latest in technology.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It is hard to pick any one achievement – for me, every challenging problem solved brings a sense of achievement, and I am constantly challenging myself. So I would say it has been a fun journey so far, and I have enjoyed all aspects of the journey.

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

I would pick 2 factors that I believe have been significant factors in my growth – the first is not focusing on how others see me or what others think of me. I try to be data driven, I stand by my convictions, but am always open to feedback and constructive criticism. The second is not focusing on the career ladder or job titles and focusing instead on learning. By keeping the focus strongly on learning, I have acquired skills, and accumulated experience in various roles and technologies. As the years go by, I find that the skills are transferrable and applicable to various problem spaces, and the experiences have given me an intuitive sense that I often rely on in problem solving.

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

Two tips:

Be a lifelong learner – be curious & inquisitive. A learning/growth mindset is the most valuable asset to build.

Be your own champion – do not rely on external validation or recognition of your abilities. Believe in yourself and pursue your path with conviction.

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

These days, the barriers for success are much lower at the start of your career. It is easier to go up the lower rungs of the ladder. However, it still is the case, that unless you have a strong support system, women have to choose between career and family. I was lucky to have an extremely supportive husband because of whom I did not have to choose – I could have it all. Family friendly policies at the workplace are the first step towards enabling women to succeed. Policies that support flexible working hours, flexible working location options, flexible benefits – these are things that I found helpful.

There is also often a lack of role models and effective mentors for women. Since most people in senior leadership positions are men, women who are growing through the career ladder lack effective mentors who can help them. Women often learn to emulate male leadership styles which may not be their natural style. However, I believe that you don’t necessarily have to emulate current leaders to become a leader. Follow your own unique style. And most importantly, believe in yourself – your conviction in yourself makes a huge difference in how you are perceived. Of course, belief in oneself is not a substitute for skills & capabilities. You have to be really, really good at your craft.

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

The most important thing companies can do is to make the workplace equitable to men and women. For this, leadership, people team, managers, everyone has to think empathetically, think deeply about what will make the workplace equitable. Maybe it is ensuring that all meetings take place during core working hours so women can get back to their families in time for dinner. Maybe it is providing transportation options so women can travel safely back home after work. May be it is flexible hours so women can take classes to upskill themselves.

Men need to actively engage in the solution – by asking questions and listening to understand, without filters, and without bias.

Companies also need to encourage budding leaders, give them opportunities and take chances with them.

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?

I would create more outreach programs where women in tech and tech leadership roles can inspire young girls to pursue STEM subjects. Also more mentorship programs by women leaders to mentor young girls starting their careers in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

    1. Grace hopper celebration
    2. Women in Tech
    3. Career Strategies for Women that Work podcast by JJ DiGeronimo
    4. Accelerate your Impact

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