Rashmi Mohan was the special speaker in a recent webinar for the Qualcomm Global Scholars program. A WeTech program, Qualcomm’s Global Scholars offers both scholarship awards and mentorships to women studying STEM at selected universities in China and India. As a prominent woman leader in the tech industry, Rashmi talked about the “Journey Ahead,” sharing her own experiences about transitioning from university into her career. For more about Rashmi’s bio, be sure to visit the blog featuring the first part of Rashmi’s Q&A. This second blog highlights Rashmi’s responses to Scholars’ questions about transitioning into the tech workplace. WeTech is grateful to both the Scholars and Rashmi for sharing their insights in this Q&A.
Q6: Is it difficult to have a career and a family at the same time?
RM: I am living proof of the fact that it is possible. Is it hard? Of course. Every choice we make comes with its share of hardships. But I would not let that deter you. Like I said in the session, our life is full of prioritisation exercises. At every given point of time, something will be more important than the other; focus on the priority. As an engineer, if my release is tomorrow and my daughter has a math exam, I would pick my project, as the math exam help can be rendered by another trusted adult (e.g., spouse, grandparent, teacher, neighbour, etc). Similarly, if I have a parent teacher meeting, and it clashes with my weekly status meeting with my boss, I would pick the PTM and ask for another meeting slot.
You have to build your support system if you want to be successful. And the only way to do that is to educate your friends and family about the kind of help you need, and the kind of help you can provide. This holds true for any part of the world. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If someone else can do the job as well as you, let them. I go by a simple principle: Always strive for all the parts of the family to be (more or less) happy and engaged with the choices you make. Keep revisiting the decisions you make every few years to see that the principle still holds true.
Q7: Did you meet any discrimination against women in your career and how did you overcome it?
RM: Early in my career, I did feel slighted. I was just out of college, and we were pushed into a project with just three of us, and I was the newest on the team. There was another woman on the team, and then there was me, and another guy. I was left out of tasks, and he seemed to be the self-appointed lead of the project. In the assignment, the tasks would be divided between the two of them. It was hard for me, because I hadn’t come from an environment like that. So I bided my time; I was upset at the beginning. But I realized that it was also that they had worked together on a few projects before. I wish I had had the ability to ask him why he was slighting me, but I did it another way at the time. I took on the projects that neither of them wanted. I did a reasonably good job; I spent time learning. I very quickly made inroads, and then people began to believe in my ability to learn and contribute. So, I don’t know if it was a gender-based discrimination, but certainly it was discrimination of some sort. Typically I find that, with those sorts of people, the best resolution is to prove yourself in your work. There’s an evaluation you have to make. One, can you have the discussion with this person in a calm manner? Two, is that person mature enough to handle the feedback that you’ll give them? If the answer to both is yes, then it’s probably worth it to have the conversation directly.
Q8: Would you share a time or situation where you felt stuck in what job you needed to take? How did you handle it and what helped you to make that decision?
RM: Right after I graduated college, the market was booming, and I was in California at the time. A lot of job opportunities came my way. The first one was a great job with a tremendous compensation. But it required 40% travel, and because I was already married at that time, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to leave my husband that much of the time. I have always believed that life and career goes together. You have to find a good balance between the two; you can’t over prioritise one over the other. But the bigger decision came about a year later, when the company I was working at completely shut down. So then I had to look for another job, especially because I was on a visa. And so I interviewed with a few different places, and I was offered a few jobs. It was a more challenging decision to make, because one of the jobs was working on building new and upcoming technologies. The pay was fantastic, and I had an amazing vibe about the manager I was to work with; he was incredibly knowledgeable and very creative. The other job was at Yahoo, and while the team was fantastic, it was a little less trending from a technology point of view. However, as a company, I evaluated that the work of that business was more exciting to me. One of the mistakes we often make is believing that if we know our technology well, we are going to succeed. You have to realize that unless you know the company’s business goals and know how your work align with those goals, it will be hard to succeed. And I realized that the number of career options for me at Yahoo were a better fit for who I am. And I went for that. With that I took a salary cut, but it was a better fit for me. So it was a difficult decision. But I had to look at the things that motivate me. You have to really ask yourself what is bothering you, what makes you happy, and almost always you will uncover what you need to help make a decision.
Q9: There may have been a lot of pressured situations for you at work. How did you deal with those?
RM: Pressure comes from different scenarios. There’s the pressure of managing all parts of your life, an important thing. You will notice that everything seems to happen at the same time. So, for me, I would have a child who was ill, my husband would be travelling, and a release at work would happen at the same time. The situations will come in many different ways. For me, by nature, I am a very calm person, so it doesn’t really bother me as much. I actually work better under pressure. But pressure comes in different ways.
For example, when I experienced pressure when I was at the company that was going through a rough patch. As a manager, it’s important that you are representing the right message to your team. No matter how bad the situation, there is always a positive. So, as a manager, I would read a lot about where the company was headed, and then I created a positive environment, meeting each week with my team. And I would always try to find a few success stories to highlight. As a team, we would look at underlying problems to see if we could find a solution. If it is your team, you have to educate them. Make the environment fun; it eases the pressure off other people. And a lot of the time, the pressure is not necessary; we put it on ourselves.
Don’t miss the first part of the Qualcomm Global Scholars Q&A. Rashmi shares advice on what university women in STEM can be actively doing to hone their soft skills and become more competitive in the tech workplace.