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Women of Groundswell

Avatar photoGroundswell Team
On , In Culture

This international Women’s day we wanted to highlight some of the amazing women who make up Groundswell. The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge so we have asked them what it means to be a woman in tech and the challenges that come with being in a male dominated tech industry.

Vasundra Srinivasan

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consultant

Who is your most memorable female mentor? 

My Mother. She is a professor who has had an illustrious career spanning over 40 years as an academic. She accomplished a dual master’s degree and Ph.D. at the young age of 31 from the University of Bombay, India. She then became one of the most sought-after professors in her area of expertise. Throughout her academic endeavors, she received prestigious scholarships and awards for performance excellence. In addition to this, she trained with the Italian Opera to sing soprano and completed her piano studies with Trinity College in Bombay, India.

Over the course of her career, she authored several textbooks and operated a successful coaching business. None of these accomplishments came easy to her, and she faced unimaginable challenges at every step. I always thought she was a celebrity because it was almost impossible to walk into a market (or go anywhere) without people coming up to her saying how she impacted their lives as a professor. After all, her students included many film and television celebrities, esteemed politicians, and dignitaries.

At age 71, she is now retired, a new immigrant to Canada, a recent transplant to Vancouver and is currently working on her memoir with Firefly Creative in Toronto. I admire her drive to succeed, open-mindedness, resilience, and humility. Her passion for continuous learning inspires me each day. It has become a valuable quality for me to imbibe in my career as a technology professional.

How did you get into tech? 

I never planned to be in tech. Growing up, I wanted to be a designer and a writer. As an MBA in Marketing fresh out of B-School, it took me a few months to realize the value of being a hands-on full-stack marketer in a fast-moving digital world. I quickly began building skills across the marketing stack – from digital strategy to designing and content creation. From there, I was recruited by a Big 4 consulting firm to help analyze and interpret business requirements for digital transformation projects. Just as ‘marketing technology’ was beginning to be formally recognized as an industry, I started a boutique consulting firm in Pune, India to help small and mid-sized businesses with digital transformation. With every project my firm took on, I added skills to my tech experience.  Honestly, none of this was by design; it was entirely driven by my desire to learn as much as I can and help my clients the best way I can.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in tech?

When I reflect on my journey, I see the opportunities, encouragement, and support I have received from my peers, mentors, and the tech community at large. I have been fortunate enough never to have dealt with any discrimination during my career. Honestly, even if I did, I am the kind of person who wouldn’t register it because I am too focused on learning and improving myself. The most I have experienced is a few awkward moments. Like when a group of guys forgets that they have a girl in their midst or feel like they have to act differently because I am around. But I can see this changing. There is a lot of awareness around the gender gap in the tech industry, making many people conscious of helping women move forward in their careers.

How has being a woman given you a unique perspective in tech?

I am not an expert on the topic, but I can say, diversity in thought helps in problem-solving and fuels innovation. I feel I bring this diversity to the table, not specifically because I am a woman but due to a combination of life experiences. I’ve worked across geographies, industries, cultures, and the skills I’ve acquired through them give me my unique perspective.  For example, I am passionate about yoga and creativity. I never imagined this could add value to a technology company. But yoga has taught me the importance of learning (it is one of the essential principles of yoga). My creative thinking has helped me be better at problem-solving and innovation. Both skills have worked in my favor in the technology industry.

Gimra Malapas

Senior Consultant

Who is your most memorable female mentor? 

I don’t have a mentor per se, but I definitely admire some women I’ve either worked with or simply look up to based on their work in their respective fields. I am constantly inspired by the women around me who are strong and confident but at the same time not afraid to show vulnerability without acting like a victim. They have the courage and boldness to defy conventions and standards; they are also able to be empathic and compassionate towards others. These are all traits that I am still developing as an individual and I see glimpses of these in the various women I encounter in my day-to-day. I’ve also grown to admire Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern for being the graceful but steadfast leaders that they are, despite being thrown into numerous challenges and being the targets of unforgiving critics.

How did you get into tech? 

Though my educational background is in Marketing, Advertising and Communications (MarCom), I kicked off my professional career in Banking and Finance. After my stint as an interdealer broker for currencies and fixed income instruments, I landed a job in the FinTech industry given my financial markets experience. That’s when I first got acquainted with solution sales and software development. I’ve been in tech ever since but have now been able to expand to other industries through my work with Groundswell.

Have you faced any challenges being a woman in tech? 

I’ve been pretty fortunate that ever since I came into the industry, I’ve never had to deal with any form of blatant gender bias or discrimination. All of the tech companies I’ve joined in the past had really strong and smart women in various roles.

When I first joined Groundswell back in 2016 I was the only female permanent full-time employee (out of less than 15), which I thought would be nerve-wracking. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how the team welcomed me and how supportive everyone was. I immediately felt at ease. Now it’s 2021, and our company has grown a lot. There are 22 of us women (and growing) taking on a wide range of roles and responsibilities, which makes me optimistic that we’ll continue to see this positive shift in the industry in the coming years.

Dianne Lee-Hansen

Resource Manager

Who is your most memorable female mentor? 

I don’t really have one.

How did you get into tech? 

I have been in the Tech industry for over 20 years now and fell into it by accident. I was putting myself through university and working full time. I was doing temp work and was hired as a QA for eight months. With that experience, I eventually started doing QA full-time. I then moved to become a Business Analyst and Project Manager (PM). With this background, I became a Resource Manager about eight years ago.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in tech?

Early in my career, I was passed over for a promotion because I had just returned from Maternity Leave. I was up for a more senior PM position, and the other candidate was male. We had similar backgrounds, almost the same experience, and similar work ethics.  I was told because I was away for a year, he had more interactions with the current stakeholders, so it was a better fit.  It was very frustrating, and I was afraid at that time to challenge because the culture was very different at that time than it is today.

As a working mother, especially when my children were very young,  it was sometimes hard to have a good work-life balance. It was long hours in a fast-paced environment. I felt I had to keep up with all my co-workers and be as available as they were, or else I would not get the same opportunities as someone without children.

Even if men have children, they are still viewed differently than women. Women are still seen as primary caregivers on top of working. Women have always had to prove they are just as capable as men but are all the while usually juggling more. I do see a change and hope for further change in the tech industry. Currently, there are so few women as developers that they are now being fought over, which is nice to see. Still, I would love to see more women, specifically in Executive levels.

How has being a woman given you a unique perspective in tech?

As women, we tend to take on multiple roles/jobs and try to do everything on our own. As I matured and got older, I found my voice to always ask for what I need to ensure my life is as balanced as possible. The industry is changing, and companies are willing to invest and support women and enable them to thrive in this industry. Women bring a lot to the table, and companies are recognizing this. It is great to see how much more support and encouragement is out there today.  It would be nice to one day see that the Tech Industry is a field that is equally chosen by both men and women.

Soumali Ganguly

Senior Project Manager

Who is your most memorable female mentor? 

My most memorable female mentor was my first manager in Canada, Seema Nandy, who I had the good fortune of working with at my first job in the country. She was from a similar ethnic background as me, who moved to Canada as a young adult and was one of the top leaders in the tech space in this firm. What was great about her is that she led by example, and that was the best kind of coaching and mentorship that I could have received. She prioritized giving timely and effective feedback, led without authority, and used humor and empathy extremely effectively to bring people together. She taught me a lot about assimilating into a new work culture, developing my brand, and confidence to raise my voice.  As a top leader, she managed one of the firm’s most significant accounts, led a large team, and traveled every week from Toronto to Kamloops while seamlessly taking care of her family with two young kids back home. To see her in this position was the representation I needed. Seeing her manage everything with so much ease and grace gave me a lot of confidence and hope as a fresh and ambitious graduate.

How did you get into tech? 

I have always had a strong interest in science and technology and loved problem-solving. My dad was an engineer, so growing up, many of our day-to-day discussions revolved around science and how it played a big part in our everyday life. I have grown up in a generation that has found itself to be smack in the middle of the so-called 4th industrial revolution and seen how technology has been an enabler in all aspects of our lives. I certainly wanted to be a part of enabling and pioneering that change. Growing up in India, technology was a booming industry with excellent career opportunities and growth prospects. Joining tech was a very conscious decision for me and I have certainly reaped its benefits in my personal and professional growth. I think it is a fabulous industry for women to be in and one where they can provide a lot of value. I hope more and more women will join us in tech!

What challenges have you faced being a woman in tech?

In a career spanning over 10 years in tech, I have overall had great experience and felt very supported and encouraged. While we have made big strides in bridging the gender gap there is still a long way to go. Some fields are still quite unbalanced and it can sometimes be uniquely challenging to be in a male-dominated field.

I spent a large part of my tech career in a traditional consulting setting where I was on the road traveling Monday to Thursday to different client locations with my project teams. During those days I often found myself as the only woman in the team, which came with its own challenges. When you are far away from home for prolonged periods of time, it can certainly get a bit lonely. Social and outside of work activities often get dominated by the interests of the majority, which were my male colleagues. However I realized that it was something that  I could easily resolve by bringing more awareness to it and speaking up. For anyone in a similar situation, I also want to emphasize the importance of finding a peer set outside your day-to-day work through associations or the broader firms. It’s important to find like-minded allies that you can lean on for support and nourish those relationships. This experience definitely taught me the importance of being confident about my worth and making my voice heard.

How has being a woman given you a unique perspective in tech?

I think any organization would greatly benefit from the diversity of thought, perspective, and culture. It has been statistically proven that high-gender diversity companies deliver better returns and have recently consistently outperformed less diverse companies. As a woman in tech, I find myself to be less driven by a single goal. I often find that women are wired to be multidisciplinary and do several things at the same time. As a result, women tend to initiate more collaborations which helps in the overall holistic growth and performance of an organization. This growth has certainly held true for me in my career where I have worked with various technologies and industries. Even within those firms, I took on many responsibilities out of my own interest in parallel to my day-to-day work.

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