Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?
Anu: Make a conscious effort to make and maintain connections early on. When I started working, I was so focused on just work that I worked 50-60 hours a week regularly for the first decade. If I could have invested 5-10 hours each week in myself and in networking, I would have been better prepared right now to be in leadership, and to deal with career setbacks, layoffs and the other pitfalls of having a career.
Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?
Anu: Be yourself rather than trying to fit in. Computer science, engineering and other technology fields are very male-dominated, and it’s easy to feel like you should try to fit in and act more like the men. For example, I watched American football and baseball for the longest time so that I could discuss sports with my male colleagues. I’m not really into sports, but it took me many years to finally just say, “I don’t watch those games” when they came up. It’s our differences that set us apart and make the whole team more creative and productive, and if we are going to make technology more welcoming to all kinds of people, we need to show that it’s okay to be who we are, not who we think we’re supposed to be.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family?
Anu: As you progress towards your career goals, you end up having less time for family. We can’t have it all but we have to start building a support system, and planning. Divide work with your spouse, hire as much help as you can afford. Make sure you spend some dedicated time with your kids whenever you can where you do nothing but listen to them or do whatever they want to do with you. The key is to be present with them, not checking your devices. Schedule this time in your calendar otherwise it’s easy to skip. Scheduling play and family time every week is great as you are more likely to get to it when it’s written, and less likely to say, “I’ll do it later.”
Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?
Anu: I have never had a mentor and I feel that was a huge loss. I really wish I had understood the importance earlier and taken the time to find someone. When I did start to look for a mentor, I was looking for a woman in engineering leadership. I did find one or two possibilities, but they were too busy or I didn’t know how to approach them. I volunteer to be a mentor these days and it gives me more than I give to my mentees. I have started using the help of some of the amazing women at The CLUB recently, as micro-mentors and accountability partners. At this stage of my career and life, I find that very useful.
In hindsight, I wish I had actively sought out anyone I admired with career success and good experience to mentor me. I really could have used some of their knowledge of life and work early on. I feel like my experience is a cautionary tale for others: Make the effort to find a mentor!
Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?
Anu: You need to think hard on why you are looking for a mentor and what you need to achieve by having one. No one is going to be able to hand you a silver bullet. The first step is to recognize and write down your priorities for mentorship: Are you looking for career path advice, help developing as a young professional or leader, insight on different industries or technologies, help with goal setting, networking or do you mostly need an accountability partner? Once you identify that, make a list of people you already know who might be a good mentor. I also suggest speaking with the mentorship committee at The CLUB to help you in finding one. Be flexible as you search for someone, keep in mind that you can have multiple mentors, and I truly believe that you will take away a lot from any mentor you end up working with.
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
Anu: Integrity, trust and vision are the main things I value in a leader. A leader also listens, shares the vision and builds a relationship with the organization, the team, or the company. They are authentic and they demonstrate the change they wish to see in others. A leader is not afraid to go for the moonshots and believe in their team to execute them. They inspire and stretch everyone beyond their comfort zones to achieve success and empathetic during setbacks. I am on my leadership path right now and I try my best to embody these traits in my work and family life.