Storage for AI in 2025 and How We Got There FMS Special Presentation: UC Santa Cruz School of Engineering
Guest Post

SuperWomen in Flash Panel

SuperWomen in Flash award winners discuss their professional roles and how they got there, opportunities in the storage industry for women, and future plans.

00:01 Camberley Bates: Hi everybody, welcome back. This is Camberley Bates, managing partner, Evaluator Group, and we are here with the Flash Memory Summit SuperWomen in Flash award recipients' panel discussion. Joining me is our Rising Star SuperWomen in Flash Award winner, Deepti Reddy, and our SuperWomen in Flash Leadership Award winner, Barbara Murphy. Welcome.

00:24 Barbara Murphy: Thank you.

00:25 CB: So, I want to take time, imagine us sitting on three chairs on the stage, if we can, having a chat, and talking to people about what's made you really who you are and how you got here, within reason, right? So, first of all, I'm going to go . . . First question, how and why did you get into tech, and what other options did you consider before you got into it? Barbara, I'll let you kick that one off.

00:52 BM: Well, first of all, I can say that I am an excellent example of the product of government policy. In the '70s and '80s, the Irish government had a policy to increase the number of people in general going into STEM, and they highly encouraged it throughout the high school system. I had considered going into the medical industry because my mother was a nurse and I was always around it -- around doctors and nurses and things like that -- but they really encouraged particularly people who had done the sciences to explore engineering. And convinced also that it was an excellent way to get a long-term career, and so I took the jump into engineering, and obviously the rest is history. But it does show you that with the right government sponsorship . . . Look at the Irish government and the Irish society today, that has all of the major industries, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, you name it, Apple, everybody's got their headquarters in Ireland, so great example of government policy, and I hope we see the same for bringing women into sciences here, too.

02:04 CB: That is awesome. That is something we can learn here in the United States. Deepti?

02:09 Deepti Reddy: Yeah. So, Camberley, for me, I grew up in Bahrain, a small island country in the Middle East. I remember taking up coding class in C++ when I was 14, as a sophomore in high school. Up until then, I'd only use my dad's computer to play computer games. But I really enjoyed programming, I naturally have an analytical and problem-solving mindset, so coding came very naturally to me. I followed that up, took a class in Java the next year as a junior in high school, and by then I knew that I wanted to pursue something to do with programming, I did not know specifically with the technology industry. While I was in college, I was looking at two paths: one was programming for medical device companies, think like pacemakers for Siemens, Medtronic, et cetera. But then I had the opportunity to intern in the Bay Area, and I was amazed by a few things. First, it was just the pace of the industry, there was so much going on around that time, the Fibre Channel industry was growing rapidly, the iPod had launched a few years before that, and iPod was clearly not possible without storage technologies, so it was actually the pace of the industry, first and foremost, that really attracted me to the industry.

03:20 DR: The second was the culture. It's pretty surprising, compared to the culture in tech to other traditional industries like oil and gas, and even healthcare. And what really struck me out was the tech culture is very fast paced, but it was yet very casual and friendly, and I love that. Yeah, I'd say the third one was the investment in women. This was evident during recruiting events. I was impressed by the investment that tech companies were making in empowering women to be future leaders in the workplace. So, those three were the reasons why I decided to then pursue a career in the technology industry over the medical device industry, and here I am today.

04:00 CB: That's awesome. OK, so here's my next question, that's great. So, why you're in tech, why data storage? And I guess why I'm asking this question is because . . . How do we bring more women into the industry, how do we attract? And since you were obviously, Deepti, attracted to the Fiber Channel stuff or what was ever going on there, but what about why data storage?

04:21 DR: Yeah, I think that was more of an accident, to be honest. A good friend of mine was working at LSI Avago in Colorado Springs, and she referred me to the position at LSI Avago, so that's how I got the job. But I think what's more interesting is what made me stay in the industry for such a long time. And I think what's made me stay is that there was so much happening. Like I remember back in 2011, the flash industry was growing, we'd see double-digit growth rate, so at that point of time I decided to move from LSI Avago to SanDisk because I wanted to capitalize on the growth of the SSD market. I also realized at that point in time, there was even more I could do, like I could pivot into product management and actually have the opportunity to define and launch a portfolio of cloud service devices.

05:09 DR: So, then I took my experience and moved to PNY Technologies, and Dell EMC to do that. So, I think, as Barbara said, every time you feel like, "OK, there's not enough happening," and I think of leaving the industry, I realize that there's just a lot more that starts to happen, and that's really what has kept me in the business.

In terms of how do we attract women? I'd say campus recruitment. It has to start young. It has to start early, perhaps even introducing women to engineering and roles in technology, specifically in the storage industry, even as early as high school. And that's something I've done through the Society of Women Engineers in Colorado, and we've definitely seen that as being very impactful. So, I think those are two things to do, is just start recruiting women really young.

05:55 CB: And Barbara, how about you? Why did you stay here?

06:01 BM: First off, like Deepti, I think we all fall into our categories to begin with, and then we end up staying. So, for me, when I first came to the U.S., I ended up at Adaptec, the first company that was into storage space. It had such an amazing impact on me, I would say, for my whole career, because of the people that I worked with and the progressive is one thing in particular that I really liked about Adaptec, when I went there and interviewed, was the number of women in management and in significantly senior positions. I had never seen that anywhere in my life before, which was fantastic. And then what keeps you here is the fact that it's just such a changing industry. I started, effectively, in direct attach, if you think about it, with SCSI, and then serial ATA, but what's happening, networks have gotten 100x improvement in networks, 100x improvement in media as we move to flash. And, so, these huge, gigantic leaps, you're thinking, "Oh, I'm getting bored with the industry." And then something new comes along that just empowers it to the next level.

07:09 BM: And now we have cloud, which is bringing in a whole new spectrum again. And there's just always so much growth and so much opportunity. That headroom is great. And getting back to what Deepti said about encouraging people to join the industry, I think that a lot of what we . . . What I would like to spend more of my time, is getting opportunities to get in front of women to explain the opportunities that exist within the technology field. I don't think we do enough job promoting that and really making them feel that you're not going to be alone, 20% of our engineering team are female. And that's actually great because, especially in startups, it's very often very polarized.

07:56 CB: And so, I talked about during the awards ceremony, the merging of the left and right brain that we bring, and maybe that's excluding my male friends, to a detriment to them. But I really do see this trend of engineering women going from this element of running the engineering to much more broader roles within the company. And maybe if you could comment on there, how has that worked for you? Either one of you.

08:34 BM: Well, I'll start with that. When I think that men very often have a bias towards action, as opposed to a bias towards feeling, if that's the right word. It's the thinking versus feeling, right? And I think that what I like to bring to our company is the thought about how we're perceived by our customers, what do they think about us versus how they feel about us. Is it a positive or negative? And try to bring more of the, what I would call the emotional quadrant to the industry at large, because at the end of the day, we buy and sell to human beings. And we all feel the same way. So, trying to bring that part of. . .  It's not just about your technology. It's about how you approach your customers, and do they feel like you're a company they can trust? I think that's a lot of how women moderate, I would say, the industry at large.

09:39 CB: Deepti?

09:41 DR: Yeah, I would say, for me, I have to thank women like Barbara Murphy. I think they set the standard. They've given us hope that women can rise in the technology industry. And I think just overall, the industry has changed a lot. But, yeah, you're right, maybe predominantly it used to be male-centric, but that's changed quite a bit. I've had great mentors who were women. I've had a lot of managers who were women. And I think they've done a great job in just empowering younger women in the workplace. And I resonate with what Barbara's saying, that these days . . . There was a time maybe where we would hire people because they had high IQ. But these days, leaders are looking for people who have both IQ and EQ. And I think naturally that has enabled more women to rise to the top.

10:31 CB: OK. So ,both of you have mentioned mentors. Who have they been? What have they taught you? How did you find them, or did they just find you? Deepti?

10:44 DR: Yeah, for me, most of my mentors, I found them. Or even they found me. They were either managers or co-workers. Give you a few examples. When I was at LSI Avago, my manager was Sreeni Donepudi, who's now the director of engineering at LSI Avago. He was a great mentor. I was very young then. I was just in my early 20s, but he did not hesitate even once to put me in front of customers. And, so, I began the journey of just understanding and empathizing with customers very early on in my career. And then when I moved to SanDisk, Caryn Melrose, who was the former manager there, she never once hesitated to have me take on leadership roles, like handling large customer accounts. So, I worked very closely with customers there. I was driving our roadmap internally. And she was a great mentor.

11:44 DR: Then I moved to PNY Technologies. And that's where I met Celeste Crystal. She's a very seasoned product marketer. And for me, it was my very first role on the business side as a product manager and product marketer. And she helped me tremendously in learning the ropes of product marketing. So, I think just naturally, for me, it's always been somebody on my team who I have looked up to, either they were managers or they were peers. And they're just more seasoned, so they've always taken the time to coach me. And yeah, without them, these people, I don't think I would be where I am today.

12:19 CB: Yeah. Barbara?

12:22 BM: Yeah, so again, I've been . . . I can honestly say I've never looked for a mentor, they've somehow found me, and they've been the ones that probably recognized my potential and actually encouraged me. I would start with one of my early bosses at Adaptec, a gentleman called Marc Lowe, who is now a professor at UC Davis in their MBA school. And he took me aside one day and said, "Barbara, everybody around you has an MBA. If you don't get an MBA, you are going to be behind." And he really pushed me hard, and here am I. I think I'm done with college and school, but really encouraged me to go back. I did it at nighttime at Santa Clara and got my MBA. And that was a huge change in terms of my portfolio because it took my brain, not just from having a technical engineering bent, but understanding how to translate that into business value. That was, I would say, a huge piece of my career, but if that didn't happen early -- because as life goes on it gets harder and harder to do these things -- I probably would not have. So, definitely him.

13:27 BM: And then the other person who I mentioned earlier, Faye Pairman she was a vice president and general manager at Adaptec, she went on to be the CEO of Freeware where I worked with her, later at Kinaxis. Amazing human being, Harvard MBA, just an incredible mentor, taught me an awful lot of good things. I distinctly remember one thing she really taught me was the difference between being a doer and sayer, and being a listener. And that was a big transition for me as I went from being a manager, an individual contributor to a manager, to a director, to a vice president/leader. You have to really transition from it being all about you to being a listener and being all about everybody else, and understanding the value comes from the other people. So, huge, two great mentors that I had, and I am very lucky to . . . I would say both of them have been instrumental in where I am today.

14:26 CB: That's awesome. And now also, Deepti is graduating as an MBA student from University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business, right?

14:38 DR: Yes.

14:38 CB: In December, so congratulations to you. I know it's not quite the same as if we didn't have COVID around.

14:46 DR: It was a great experience.

14:48 CB: Yeah. So Barbara, I've got one last question, and this is for you. Looking back, what areas of your career do you wish you had invested more time in and why?

15:00 BM: Well, the interesting thing is, when I got this question from you, I was thinking, "Oh wow, where do I?" And I have to admit, and this is a shame on me for learning it late, but the one thing that I truly can say is, we get to where we are with the tools we have at the time, and we continue to grow and build our teams and do everything. The one thing that I really probably look back, and this is very recent, is I didn't embrace online marketing fast enough. I would say that when I consider how we went to market, I kept a lot of the old traditional things that were familiar to me. And I always love the things that are very familiar, but online marketing has really changed the way we go to market, and the scientific basis of that and understanding it. I think marketing has become as technical as any other industry; it's no longer an art, it's as much a science. And I think that that was one of the things that I didn't embrace fast enough, understanding the power of social media.

16:08 BM: And I think COVID has really also accelerated the fact that it's critical that we can keep great events like Flash Memory Summit somewhat going while not being able to physically be in each other's presence. So, it's really been . . . The big thing I would say is embracing that sooner and faster, would be interesting to see how that would've changed.

16:32 BM: Thank you.

16:32 DR: Take care.

16:32 CB: Thank you.

Dig Deeper on Flash memory and storage

Disaster Recovery
Data Backup
Data Center