I was born and raised in Shiruru, a small village in the Karnataka state in India that no one has ever heard of.
We were a lower middle-class family, my father was a farmer, and my mother was a housewife – neither of them was well educated. We spoke Kannada, the language of Karnataka I studied in until I reached the 10th grade.
In my family, particularly in my village, women generally didn’t work. But my parents had a vision of educating their children. They treated me equally to my two older brothers, who also wanted me to become educated. It was ingrained in me that I had to graduate and work.
Although my mother wasn’t well educated, she was very ambitious. She would wake me up at 4am to study. While all my cousins would help their mothers with the housework, my parents told me to focus on my studies and never asked me to do any housework.
I always loved science over other subjects like history or languages. So in high school, I studied science. This was a big change because you had to study science in English, and I had only started learning English as a second language after 5th grade. I had no support system with anyone who could explain English to me, and we didn’t have the internet then. So I would keep a diary , write down the words I didn’t understand, and look them up later.
I always wanted to give my parents a better life and fulfill their dream
I had a cousin whose husband was a banker. This profession was very well recognized in our village, so I thought I’d take a job in banking too. I had never come across engineers. When I was in the 8th grade, my one brother did a computer science diploma. I had heard that computer science offered many opportunities. I always wanted to give my parents a better life and fulfill their dream.
After 12th grade, I gained admission to an engineering college outside of my village. I had to live in a hostel, which was a big culture shock because I grew up in a small village. I completed my engineering studies in four years, becoming the first person in my extended family to get a university degree.
My husband encouraged me to keep up to date with the technology
I got married within a year of graduating. My husband worked for Amdocs in Cyprus, and I joined him there in 2001. It was a beautiful country where we had a good life, but it bothered me not to be working. I am very grateful to my husband because he always said my career was important. For the three years, we lived in Cyprus, even though I couldn’t work, he encouraged me to keep up to date with the technology so that when I did have the opportunity to work, I could compete. In 2004, we found out that Amdocs was opening a center in Pune, and we knew I would have multiple opportunities. So we returned to India, and I applied for a job at Amdocs. I was recruited as a tester in January 2005. I have been with Amdocs for over 18 years and have not looked back.
Now my 16-year-old daughter supports me and looks up to me as a role model
My brothers have always supported me – they encouraged me to study and supported me financially when I was studying engineering. When I got married, my husband’s family also gave me much support. Now my 16-year-old daughter supports me and looks up to me as a role model. She is currently deciding whether she wants to study finance or technology.
I have come across challenges that other women face, such as the impression that women are only promoted because they are women
As a woman in the tech world, I haven’t personally faced any challenges. But I run an initiative in my unit in Pune to promote diversity, and at times I have come across challenges that other women face, such as the impression that women are only promoted because they are women.
"I’ve learned a few things along the way – persistence, adaptability, and that any skill can be learned."
Amdocs is putting a lot of effort into changing this preconceived idea, and both male and female leaders are helping to change the culture with support from team management. For example, female role models are doing extremely well in highly critical projects, which helps to change perceptions.
I run the AQE (Amdocs Quality Engineering) Growing TogetHER platform with female managers. It started in 2018 to provide a platform for female employees that would improve diversity and increase female leadership at all levels. It comprises four pillars: soft skill building; mentoring; networking; and a coffee corner where any challenges can be discussed in a forum of female managers – often, female employees aren’t comfortable talking about their challenges with male managers. We are spreading this initiative across India, and we are also trying to implement it globally.
When we started, we had 35% women working, and now we are at 44%. We also seek to improve our leadership numbers – we still aren’t there, but from 17% in 2020, we are now at 28%.
At times I feel that, as women, we don’t raise our hands to get opportunities for ourselves
As part of the INSPIRE program, we have taken on two challenges for 2023 – one is to improve our leadership numbers, and the second is to improve our numbers in technical roles to 50-50. We now have 35% women in technical roles and want to increase this by at least 5% in 2023. We have many different and exciting initiatives; for example, as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, we came up with awards for women in various categories and asked them to nominate themselves because I want to promote a culture where women raise their hands. I sometimes feel that, as women, we don’t raise our hands to get opportunities for ourselves. We are also launching the Pathfinder program, where mentors and mentees, who also put themselves forward, are paired up for two months to work on communication skills.
Being able to adapt easily has helped me
I’ve learned a few things along the way – persistence, adaptability, and that any skill can be learned. As a person who came from a very different background to most, I was put into many situations; for example, when I went to college, I had to adapt to a very competitive environment that I had never experienced in my village. Then I moved to the corporate world and had to adapt again. I used to be a very silent person, but in the corporate environment, I learned that you must be vocal and communicate to be a leader. Being able to adapt easily has helped me. Over the years, I realized you can learn any skill if you put your mind to it.
People tell me that I am a role model
They see me as empathetic and balanced between the business and people. I don’t have a one-sided view – I believe that on the one hand, we need to deliver, that the business side is important, but it needs to be balanced with the people.
It’s important to tough it out and overcome the challenges
I believe in helping others and motivating the team. My advice to other women is that upskilling is very important and that they should be ready to step out of their comfort zones and take on new challenges. Resilience is very important. I sometimes come across women who feel they are facing challenges and want to take a break. My advice to them is to be persistent and resilient. The situation will change. It’s important to tough it out and overcome the challenges. Then you will look back and feel proud of yourself. To deal with stress, I play badminton, and every day I either do yoga or run, including half marathons.
I love people, so interacting with people is the best part of my job
For 15 years, I was also part of the production team. You can’t predict your day, and I realized I liked this part of the job. There could be surprises at any time, depending on how you handle the situation. This makes me happy.