I grew up in Punjab. My father had a Ph.D. in soil science and always believed that I had to work.
But 30 years ago in India, women got married and became teachers so they could easily move to wherever their husband was working. Your job wasn’t supposed to be more important than your husband’s.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a pilot. So I went to study at a university where there was a flying school - the Banasthali Vidyapith women’s university, based on the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. It was in a remote location, so all there was to do was study. I graduated with a B.Sc. Hons in math and computer science, an M.Sc. in computer science, and also managed to add 3-year diplomas in German and Indian dance.
Back then, technology wasn’t my first priority. But I didn’t like history, geography, the arts, or biology, so by process of elimination, I landed on math and physics. Math was my love. I related to computers because their base was mathematics. It always intrigued me how computers work – 30 years ago, it was an enigmatic box that no one understood. When I started studying hardware and software, the bits and the bytes, it was like a story to me, just as history is a story to others. And the love continued.
My father pushed me to work; my husband drove me to believe that my career is important
Until I got married, I taught at a college in Punjab. When I got engaged, my husband had worked for Amdocs since 2000. Once I graduated, he referred me to Amdocs. I had to make a mental switch because I had never imagined myself in the corporate world, having grown up with my father’s expectations of me being a lecturer or a professor. But 21 years later, I don’t regret it. I have a super supportive husband – for him, my career was never about following his career. From day one, we made decisions and looked at both of our opportunities together. My father put in my mind that I needed to work; my husband told me, “Your career is equivalent to my career; you don’t need to follow me.” There’s no sob story here!
"I’ve always taken risks in my career, which has given me confidence. I take risks with my team and the initiatives they bring to me. I am always open to listening and not saying 'no' to things they want to try. "
When I joined Amdocs in 2001, I felt no difference between men and women
My journey at Amdocs started 21 years ago as a CC++ developer. I moved to Infra and then to Delivery, where I worked for 12 years. Next, I led the Managed Information Systems group in India for almost six years, during which I represented the IT organization in India management and helped grow it from 70 to 250 people. Then I was the Customer Services Unit lead for the AT&T account from India. At the start of November, I began a new role as a cluster head for Canadian and NAO accounts. I’ve been part of the Inspire group since its inception seven years ago, working on diversity, especially gender diversity.
I was able to advance in my career, and no one around me felt like I was getting preferential treatment because I was a woman. Today I sometimes feel that the emphasis placed on diversity has created a dissonance, and women being promoted are considered to be receiving preferential treatment.
I felt no discrimination – after I had my baby, I didn’t want to travel, and my manager didn’t have a problem with it. In fact, in addition to my role, I was able to support my colleagues who were traveling a lot. As a result, no one felt I was entitled.
My rise through the ranks was all about taking risks.
I’ve changed roles three times. The first time I chose Infra over Yellow Pages, which would have involved working in Cobol. It was a difficult choice because it meant working with technologies I wasn’t familiar with, but I was too naïve then to realize I was leaving my comfort zone and starting from scratch. Next, I had a choice between being an account Customer Delivery Manager or leading the Managed Information Systems (MIS) group working on internal Amdocs tools, using all the latest tech I’d never worked with. I chose MIS. And my most recent move was a choice between leading the non-Dox area, which was similar to the work I had done in MIS, or leading the Customer Services Unit, which involved working with budgets, which I’d never had to do before. Again, I chose the option that would require me to take a risk and do something new.
My ability to take risks has always been key to my success
I’ve always taken risks in my career, which has given me confidence. I take risks with my team and the initiatives they bring to me. I am always open to listening and not saying “no” to things they want to try.
The best part of my job is interacting with people, guiding them forward, and helping to put things right when there is chaos. Every year I mentor three or four women as part of Amdocs India’s “Build Your Leadership Voice” program. I was part of the team which initiated this program a few years ago as part of our company-wide Diversity and Inclusion initiative.
Don’t leave your career in someone else’s hands
Having come a long way on my own journey, I want to pass on my confidence to other women. My advice to women is three-fold: Firstly, don’t wait for someone to push you, don’t place your career in someone else’s hands, don’t get into a rut of doing the same thing over and over, rather think about what your next role is, upskill yourself and go for it. Secondly, raise your hand, don’t overthink it. And thirdly, if you’re going through a crisis, ask for help, and if that doesn’t work, take a break, but don’t end your career.