VP Engineering, HPE
Manju Abraham believes resilience is a critical skill that is needed to not just survive, but also to thrive. Her career journey took many turns as she went from being a rocket scientist in India to holding several leadership roles in Silicon Valley. During the pandemic, her focus on mental health and self-care helped her foster a culture of openness with her employees at Delphix, and feels she can take the message of growth and learning through compassionate leadership, diversity and inclusion to a larger audience.
“Life on this beautiful earth is short and precious, we have much to accomplish to fulfill our full potential. Live your purpose.” - Manju Abraham
1. What traits of yours have you found to be the most valuable in your career as a leader?
My curiosity and my ability to learn fast and continuously. This has helped me to take on new and unfamiliar areas in technology, and also with the human part of leadership. In management or leadership roles, so many people depend on you and it is no longer enough to learn and grow yourself. You have a responsibility to develop each member of your team; to help them thrive the way they want to, under your care.
The challenge is that each person is unique, with different lived experiences, different biases and different mindsets. I believe in tapping into people’s strengths and strive to be a compassionate and empathetic leader. I delegate, but I also set the direction and set a high bar. We have to develop the skills to listen better, to understand their strengths and motivation; to empower and support them to meet their true potential.
2. How does being raised in India color your management and parenting style?
Unconsciously, our default behavior is influenced by what we experienced. Sometimes we have to unlearn our own conditioning to be better parents and human beings. I was the daughter of two rocket scientists and I was expected to do only that - follow all the rules and be the best at everything. Growing up I would challenge everything, but I was still an obedient daughter. I was culturally taught to be 100% wife, 100% mother, 100% community, and 100% employee. So as an adult, I was playing a super woman thinking that’s what I had to do, never asking for help and constantly feeling guilty.
Deeper introspection helped me understand that self-care is not selfish. I had to discover that I don’t have to be perfect at everything and that being very hard on yourself helps you be a high-performer, but it's also a self-sacrifice. I was ambitious to do new things and to help people, so I had to prioritize prioritize ruthlessly. I set boundaries, and threw all the rules and conditions and barriers away for myself and helped others do so as well.
3. What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?
4. How was your experience over the past year with all of the Covid restrictions?
Having to quarantine for Covid was actually a silver lining for me. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2019, I focused on my goal to get back to normal and fought and won the battle; I leaned on hope and gratitude to build on resilience.
If it weren’t for Covid, I couldn’t have attended face-to- face meetings while recovering. But everyone was stuck at home, and many people didn’t even realize what I was going through. I was included; I could do all of the community activities and events and network, from home, and work full time, just like everybody else. The wonderful, accomplished women from The CLUB, Athena Alliance, Neythri and my college and school alumni friends provided the much needed human connection that sustains us through all challenges. I led a full life at home because of Covid. I had a lot of time for reflection, to tap into my creative sides as well with painting and volunteering. Right now I mentor many women at different stages of their career and help counsel cancer patients going through the trial of their life and work on aid for covid-impacted communities and children through the charity organization, Vanitha. All of this gives me purpose. The more I give, the happier I am and the stronger I get. I’m grateful for this time. The power of the human mind enables us to be knocked down by life, but come back stronger than ever.