Young Superwomen in Flash: What Is Their Situation?
The SuperWomen in Flash Leadership Award winner discusses key issues for women in the storage industry and young women in the industry share their professional journeys and more.
00:02 Fahima Zahir: Welcome to the third annual SuperWomen in Flash at the Flash Memory Summit this year, held virtually. So, those new to the program, the vision of this program has always been to promote the success of the women in our industry with the goal of encouraging more women to join us.
00:18 FZ: My name is Fahima Zahir, and I'm with IBM in the global storage division. Personally, I've always thought of storage as the most complicated component of the data center and the most interesting, and it's not something that everyone, especially a girl aspires to get into early on in life. I, for instance, come from a refugee immigrant background as a child. In college, I got into engineering as a major, but without a support system decided to study French and philosophy because it came easier to me, and then went on to law school. I didn't finish because of financial necessity and reasons but entered high tech by detour as a technical writer. And here I am. And as I found out from industry veterans, from what I've learned from them, it's the most interesting and the most rewarding. You've heard the phrase "Data is the new oil". It was coined in 2006 by Clive Humby who said that "Data resembles oil because it's valuable, but if it's unrefined, it's not necessarily usable." So, I think the great value in understanding the role storage plays in data and data consumption is a very important one. So, this year, the shift has been on younger women in the industry, but outside of that, we have a different backdrop to our discussions.
01:41 FZ: We're in the middle of a major global pandemic, and the shift from working from home has had a huge impact on all of us, for those of us that have been fortunate enough to be able to do that. This report . . . So, I'll start this discussion with this report and I'll close the discussion with the report as well from McKinsey & Company because I think the questions that I have drafted for our panelists are more targeted and focused. They're more personal to them, and we don't have hours to chat, but I think the bigger question of gender parity needs to be on the forefront of how we engage in how we work today. The data set from this report comes from 317 companies, about 40,000 people were surveyed in the field from June to August 2020 of this year.
02:29 FZ: And I think it's important . . . It's worth a read, there are some really startling and eye-opening stats here, but some of the salient points that I want to bring to your attention is that the choices companies make today will have consequences on gender equality over the next decade. And the need for flexibility in adjusting policies for more gender parity, or at least sustaining what we have today, is critical. And on the positive side, I think companies have more . . . They have more possibility and they can recruit from more talent pools, so they're not restricted to specific metro areas and have more opportunity to diverse talent pools. And the one that I think is more . . . is really important, is that it's creating a building block to having a more empathetic workplace for everyone to work in.
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Flash Memory Summit 2020 Sessions From Day Three
03:32 FZ: So, now let's turn to our panelists who've been patiently listening to my preamble all this time. I'm going to briefly introduce all of them by way of name and where they're working at right now. But I'll give them an opportunity to introduce themselves at greater length. First, we have, by alphabetical order, Ginger Gilsdorf, software engineer at Intel. We have then Purvaja Narayanaswamy, from Pure Storage where she is an engineering lead. We have Renee Yao from Nvidia, global healthcare AI startups biz dev lead. And Shriya Paramkusam from NetApp, product manager there. So, let's start with Ginger. Please introduce yourself and tell us your story.
04:16 Ginger Gilsdorf: Yeah, hi. As Fahima mentioned, my name is Ginger Gilsdorf. I am actually relatively new to the world of computer science and storage. In my previous life, I like to say, I was an elementary school teacher. And when I quit teaching elementary school, I decided to go back to school for computer science. So, I went from a very female-dominated field to a much more male-dominated field, which is a pretty interesting shift. In my computer science degree, I took a course in big data, which really sparked my love for seeing how systems operate together and computer architecture and all of that. And through that I got an internship at Intel, and I have actually been there now for five years as a full-time employee. In the side, I'm taking an online degree at Georgia Tech. It's a master's in computer science with a specialization in machine learning, so I hope to have that finished in the next year. Thanks.
05:23 FZ: Welcome. Purvaja?
05:26 Purvaja Narayanaswamy: Hi all. Thank you for having me. My name is Purvaja Narayanaswamy. When I think of my journey, it really started in my grad school lab. I have a master's in computer science from Texas A&M University in College Station. Then, my focus was in development of machine learning algorithms for biomedical drug development. Handling and modeling huge genome sequences required efficient distributed computing and high-performance scalable storage. Solving some of the core architectural challenges in distributed systems inspired me to move to Silicon Valley to continue my journey.
06:06 PN: I would say working as a software engineer in enterprise storage network systems for the last nine plus years honed my experience that has spanned a variety of companies, sectors and used cases. Working with customers and vendors while at Dell, Cisco Systems, Sky . . . Samsung semiconductor, Pure Storage, has provided a deep understanding of the enterprise infrastructure complexities, capacity performance challenges around modern AI and analytics workload. I'm currently an engineering manager at Pure Storage, driving projects on FlashBlade. FlashBlade is an all-flash storage array, scale-out array, for modern unstructured workload around files and object. I'm so excited to be here. Thank you all for having me.
06:58 FZ: Thank you and welcome. Renee?
07:02 Renee Yao: Hey guys, great to be here today. So, as my title currently says, I'm a global healthcare AI startups lead, and I currently manage more than a thousand and some healthcare AI startups globally at Nvidia. And prior to that, I was at Nvidia for good three years on the product side, being a product manager to build reference architectures with ecosystem partners. All of them are here, actually, for the reference architecture for self-driving cars and telecom industries.
07:31 RY: And prior to that, I was more part of the core DGX product marketing, management team as well, and DGX is our first AI system to enterprise from Nvidia side. Prior to that, I worked at Cisco, build some of the big data solutions on Hadoop, on UCS and that field has definitely changed quite a lot, for those who are following this space. And before that, I have some experience also in the memory . . . SanDisk as well. I would say my favorite experience out of the entire four years at Nvidia, related to storage, would be racking up some of the servers on a Valentine's Day at 7:00 PM at UC Berkeley, getting a call from your boyfriend saying, "Hey, it's time to come back for Valentine's dinner."
So, I think many of us will share similar experiences like that, where many of us turned to work because we are passionate about it, to add value for our customers. Outside of work, I'm a competitive ballroom dancing and, in fact, my ballroom partner is also a woman, and we definitely were one of the first few that challenged the status quo of what traditional gender role is supposed to play in dancing world as well. Great to be here today.
08:47 FZ: Welcome, Renee. Some interesting anecdotes there. So, I'm not sure why your boyfriend didn't bring you some cake or something to the lab itself to join you . . .
08:56 RY: It's a data center. You can't really get in without all of the clearance and all of that, but . . . Yes, for future reference.
09:03 FZ: And I think I know who your partner is in ballroom dancing because she was telling me about being sort of the first couple or a person dancing there. So, we digress. Wery interesting story. Thank you. Shriya?
09:17 Shriya Paramkusam: Hi everyone. Yeah, thank you so much. It's great to be part of this esteem panel. Great stories from everybody in such varied backgrounds that all of us come from . . . I myself have an undergrad degree in engineering, electrical engineering, and I started off as an engineer, and then slowly I got more interested in the business side of things, and that's when I worked on MBA, so, I'm an MBA from National University of Singapore, and then again another master's in information systems from San Diego State University.
09:47 SP: Right now, I'm a product manager at NetApp. I've been with NetApp for about seven years, working on various different types of products. If you ask me when I was younger, would I be . . . find you ever doing this or would I be doing this . . . I wouldn't have even known there was a role like product management, but I think it's a perfect fit for everything that I love to do. I get to work with so many varied different types of people, engineers, sales of marketing field, everybody, and I love that, especially customers, obviously, and looking to solve customer problems and how we can actually change our roadmap to cater to customers and solve issues and make their life easier. I think that's the best part and the most fulfilling part of my role, and I love it.
10:34 FZ: Excellent. Welcome to all of you. I really appreciate you being here. As you can see, we're all very diverse, diverse backgrounds and diverse perspectives based on my individual conversations with you, prepping for this call. So, let's get started. Let's start with Ginger. Actually, let's start . . . The first question is, "How has the definition of feminism changed today, and does that terminology have any bearing now in our industry? And do you consider yourself a feminist?" Purvaja, I wanted to start off with you. Sorry, Ginger, too.
11:07 GG: No, that's OK.
11:08 FZ: I wanted to start off with you because you had an interesting comment that I found was very similar to my sentiments, and I think it's a great way just kick off this question.
11:20 PN: Thanks, Fahima. Yeah, this topic is definitely a topic close to my heart. To really understand the definition of feminism better, I would say we should reflect on the history of feminism briefly. The first wave of feminism roughly started around 1830s to early 1900s. That centered primarily around suffrage and legal gains, focusing on political equality, particularly the right to vote for women. And the second wave of feminism originated around 1960s to 1980s, and it was primarily focused on social equality, focused on women's reproductive rights, fight against domestic violence, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, were some of the notable ones. And that led to the third wave around 1990s to early 2000s, where the focus was on the micro-politics of gender equality, intersectionality that really examined the complex interconnected of the society, including race, class, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics. This third wave, I would say, really empowered the trans-individuals that focus on individual battles women face, including sexual harassment.
12:44 PN: We are now definitely in a fourth wave of feminism. I would say it started somewhere around 2010 to now, which is 2020. We are in a digital era with the focus on social media campaigns, some of the notable ones, the MeToo movement, Time's Up movement, bringing high-profile assault cases to the spotlight. And a point to note and to be really proud of is that now we have a record number of women seeking political offers and leadership roles.
So, when I really look back at the strong foundation these waves have laid . . . First, I'm super-thankful and humbled that I am standing on a platform that has been laid by all these prior leaders. So, I first considered myself a humanitarian, an influencer and a technologist. I strongly feel that we have a responsibility to really give back to the community, build a stronger support system and use technology to inspire and influence the underprivileged. I believe that education and technology at this time and age is not a luxury, it is a necessity and should be accessible to every kid out there. That's the real challenge ahead of our generation, and I believe that we all have a role to play in making that happen.
14:16 GG: Well put.
14:18 FZ: Thank you. Any thoughts, Shriya?
14:21 SP: I definitely agree with that, Purvaja. I think we do have a role to play, and I consider myself, and all of us actually, very privileged to be where we are right now for all of the support that we've had in the past. I myself do consider myself a feminist, and the reason being that the pendulum has to swing to be equal first. So, I think we are at a phase where there's a change, a lot of change, but there's still change to be seen, whether that's equal pay when we come to whether women are making as much on the dollar as men
And going to Grace Hopper last year, actually, it showed while there's a lot of support, there's still ways for us to go, and I think they're definitely on the right path. Even having an opportunity to have a conversation like this with people like us sitting around the table is a great privilege. But if I think of my role right now, with the meetings I've had since morning, I think this is my fifth meeting, but I have been really the only women in all of the meetings until I met all of you today. That really shows there's still a big skew in the amount of women that we see in this field, and that's something that I think that we have a role in correcting and making adjustments on.
15:31 FZ: And I think the pandemic or working from home is exasperating that. So, it's magnifying that, and I think it's really important to keep that in mind. Renee, what are your thoughts?
15:43 RY: Yeah, I agree with both of the panelists before me here, especially I think Purvaja, your definition and took us through the history was very beneficial. And, in fact, I'm about to finish a Stanford continuous study course on woman suffrage the past millennium. I took that course as actually just to learn, one, more about history. The second thing is to really appreciate this whole voting process, the fact that many years ago women don't even get to have a pen in their hand to vote, to have a voice, to even stand on a podium or even have a panel discussion like this. We have come a long way. And the first definition that was given in that lecture was feminism. So, in that lecture, the slide that I shared here is, "The definition is a belief that although women and men are of inherently equal worth, most societies privilege men our group, therefore, social movements are necessary to achieve political equality between women and men, with the understanding that gender always intersects with other social hierarchies."
16:53 RY: And then, today, if you were to do a quick search on the internet, and the first definition of feminism is actually around having your voices heard and be supportive of the other gender, the advocacy of women's right on the basis of equality of the sexes. So, I think that really beautifully summarize both of the panelists that have voiced your opinion. And if I were to ask myself, "Do I consider myself as a feminist?" Based on a definition in the 1800s or 1900s, I'm probably not even doing so much in terms of revolutionizing how the world is changing for a woman. But in my own power, I am a contributing member of this Woman in Tech movement, if you will. So, more specifically, I started like the Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters club for public speaking, which is benefiting more than 360,000 members in this nonprofit organization. And I've also taken leadership role Nvidia Women in Technology club, which has about 300 some members, and then on top of that, the Women in Big Data actually started by Intel to start. And then a whole ecosystem of partners came together, and now that group has 7,000 members, and I'm also part of the San Jose Chapter as well. So, I'm very grateful to be part of, a contributing member and continue to foster this ecosystem and give women a voice in this space.
18:17 FZ: I think that's awesome. And I have a cousin who's a freshman at Berkeley . . . Well, maybe a sophomore. I'll be sending her your way to get her involved, so thank you for that.
18:26 RY: Oh, great. Go Bears!
18:30 FZ: Ginger, your thoughts?
18:31 GG: Yeah, absolutely. Everyone's brought up some really good points. To me, this was the toughest question on the list because the term feminism certainly has changed over the years, especially as Purvaja mentioned. But, today, there can be almost a negative connotation that some people interpret it as man-hating, and of course, that's not the intent of it. So ,for myself, I don't tend to label myself as one or the other, but more along the lines of the humanitarian and really trying to treat everyone equally no matter what subgroup they fall into. But I do also think it's important to recognize the work of women who have come before us that have laid the groundwork for us to be in these fields today, so that's about where I'm at on that.
19:22 FZ: Definitely. I think there's definitely power to parity, and that's the report that I'll reference in closing. But having women in the workplace, there's statistics that show that the revenue an organization . . . It contributes directly to the revenue of an organization, as well as to the GDPR of a nation-state, so there's definitely power in parity, and I love that expression. So, thank you for answering that really tough, I think tough, question and being on the spotlight. So, moving on to the next one: "Do we need to differentiate ourselves in IT and, as females, what does that mean?" Shriya, you have the floor on this one.
20:06 SP: Sure. I think so, as much as anybody would want to differentiate to make sure that they go ahead, I think as women we just have a little more to do there just to be considered equal, and I think that's where . . . I have learned that I should know that some people may have inherent prejudices about me as a woman and what I bring to the table, so I should be even more prepared than ever to have that . . . Hold the weight of the discussion. So, I think I work it in my advantage; I do not really hold against it that I have to be better. I think it just works better that I can be much more prepared. I know where I'm getting myself into that there could be some prejudices that I can help clear. So, if I go well-prepared to a meeting where somebody might have a prejudice against me saying that I may not know my stuff and I actually know my stuff, I think that'll help change that opinion of them. And that'll make it easier for somebody that comes after me in that sense of the previous question where we are already playing a role in changing opinions, so that's how I think about it. I think I . . . There is inherent opinions, and I can do my part in being much more well-prepared and changing that ideology.
21:21 PN: I cannot agree more with Shriya on this. One thing I would add on is definitely an observation. Technology is disrupting every industry; it's transforming our lives and world, which means that now we have a lot of career opportunities, especially for women. The opportunities out there are tremendous. So, when I think of differentiation, I really believe that strength every individual has is indeed the uniqueness that they bring to the table. And it's not just in IT field, and it's not just for women; it is applicable to all genders and all fields, so you have to be confident to bring the uniqueness to the table. And with all these competitive opportunities ahead of us, one phrase that really resonates well with me is, make a pact with yourself: P-A-C-T. Plan your path. Take action to differentiate yourself. Confidence. Do it with confidence and tools. Leverage the right set of tools. It is a challenging environment, but you're not there alone, there's a lot of professional networks, seek good mentors; attend all the career workshops.
22:35 PN: As Shriya was talking about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, I was privileged to be a speaker at GHC and have participated in that mentorship circles. It's a great venue to connect and network with more aspiring and talented folks. Sometimes you have to challenge the status quo with the right intent; inspire and get inspired; and do it all with passionate conviction. At the end, I would say, have fun in whatever you do, at the end you're all learning and you're all in it together, so that's my two cents.
23:08 SP: One more thing that I can add here is, like Purvaja said, it's actually, technology is a great equalizer. There are Facebook groups, which are free for anybody to join, which have such amazing mentors that you can seek out. All that is there is to seek out, and I think that's the little push that we as women need to be open to seeking and receiving that help, and it's there for the asking, and I think that's a great thing with the technology today.
23:37 RY: I love the technology equalizer term, and in fact a term I think many women don't realize that they may be the victim of is actually the imposter syndrome, which essentially this definition is that an individual will doubt his or her skills -- usually her, unfortunately -- talents and accomplishment, and has this persistent internalized fear of being potentially exposed as a fraud. So, in this case, it's like women, a lot of the women, actually, in the tech industry shy away from applying to jobs or taking on opportunities unless they meet all of the requirements. But for men, they sometimes just put themselves out there and are willing to take the opportunity. I think no matter if that's coming from the culture background, or how you were raised, or just generation of gender difference, it's something to be mindful of, and I think this is where also if you are seeing other talented women in this space, not speaking up because of confidence of some of the other biases. This is where all of us coming together can shine and help each other build skills, and then encourage each other to take risks, and always be there to build that safety net. If things don't work out, that's OK; we stand up again and we build it again, and we can move forward together.
25:00 GG: So, maybe I interpreted the question a little bit differently, but like Shriya, I'm often in meetings with only men, and I'm the only woman on my team, but I don't feel this concerted need to differentiate myself outright. I think that comes naturally with my background, more than just my gender, but everything in my background means that I have a different thinking, style of thinking than I think a lot of my teammates. And they are diverse in their . . . in their own ways and I think those differences come out pretty naturally
But I do agree with the points of when you have the confidence in your ideas and you've done the work to back up your ideas, then you go in there and that's where you . . . For the most part, people just want to work with someone who's good and know what they're doing. And if you don't have any room for people to challenge you on, or you're real strong with your convictions, then I think that that's the way to go and the differentiation part comes naturally.
26:01 FZ: I think it's definitely a loaded question, and there's different perspectives on it, but you've touched on so many good, great, points; confidence is one. But there's always instances of where . . . I'll take . . . I'll bring the Kamala . . . The vice-presidential debates as an example. How we project ourselves, how we intonate, all of that tends to become very important depending on the role, whether it's a VP candidate or not, I think there's so much involved there, there's so many layers of complexity that unfortunately exist, so a lot of the commentary after that debate was she was smiling a lot; Kamala was smiling a lot, and you do that because you don't want to appear very aggressive. So, there's a lot, I think, that needs to be addressed in terms of how we're perceived, and especially . . . I'll speak from my experience as well. I tend to get very excited, and that excitement needs to be cushioned with good intention, at least received that way. So, anyways, definitely a loaded question, and I appreciate all the different perspectives here.
So, let's move on to the next question: "Some people say that women still do not support other women in tech. True or false?" And how does that play into the overall success of our industry do you think? Renee, let's start with you.
27:36 RY: Sure. I think to a certain extent that might be true. I've been part of the ecosystem where I'm proactively building a community where women are supportive of other women. So, we recently had GTC, which is Nvidia developer conference, and we do proactively reach out to women speakers to make sure that brilliant minds out there get a chance, get a platform to present their work. And also given how important public speaking is, that's why I also started the Woman L.E.A.D Toastmasters club to bring some of these underserved topics, and provide people a platform to build up the skills so they get to present the great work that they have done for many years.
28:18 RY: And then on top of that, we share many of the AI resources with this Women in Big Data community, which started by large organization across the Bay to start, and is now actually a global phenomenon as well. And I think the more that you're involved in these organizations you just start seeing . . . It's like a connective fabric, and it's very powerful to connect the dots and share resources, and you do fell this energy of everyone is very upbeat and positive. I think I share probably who has . . . Who share the same experience in Grace Hopper. That's a completely different energy. Once you're there you feel like, "I am here to change the world." So, that feeling like a rising tide lifts all boats is what I'm currently in. I hope I'm not just in a bubble because I'm surrounding myself with positive women, and we all encourage everyone to be positive in this space, but I look forward to hearing from you all on this panel as well.
29:15 SP: I think I have been very lucky in that I just do not even have, like, women looking out for me, but also men. It might not be a gender story; I know that it's just that I am luckier than a lot of others in getting the opportunities, and people seeking me out as a mentee and supporting my career. But what I take away from that is, I love when the people . . . I want to provide that forward, whether that's a note of appreciation; whether that is when somebody is quiet or not speaking up, allowing them a voice to speak up; things like that, where I can be mindful of how somebody else might feel. I think that's what I would want to do to uplift others, just because I've seen how much other support meant to me, just to pay that forward. So, that's something that I'm in the path of to pay it forward; not just seeking it, but also sending it across and paying it forward.
30:07 GG: And I've also been lucky like you, Shriya. I've had both men and women serve as mentors to me, so this question made me think. And I thought, "I don't know that I see this kind of woman against woman in tech," but also I do know that we have unconscious biases, and it's important to be aware of those. I've heard people tell stories of you're a woman sitting on a plane and the female pilot comes on, and there's completely without you thinking about it you go, "Oh no, is she going to be as good as the man pilot?" And it's one of those weird things that happen, so I think it's important to just be aware of that, and if you catch yourself in that a pattern to correct that, and so . . .
30:52 SP: I think that's a knowledge where even ourselves, like even we as women have biases, and knowing that at least makes us more aware of them, and then work towards removing those things. And I think that's something that we have, so inherent biases no matter how you've been brought up, that we attribute to ourselves but also attribute to other people, that I think we can definitely be conscious about them; eliminate them so that future generations don't have to live with those biases.
31:20 PN: I totally can resonate with all my peers here, and Renee you're not in a bubble. This is a time where we definitely have to build a stronger community that is really safe; it's a safe place where we all feel empowered and heard. And when I think of a support system, I can totally agree with Ginger and Shriya here, so there is definitely room to improve the system, and we need more mentors, allies and sponsors; need both male and female sponsors and allies to achieve our goals in terms of professional and personal developments. And as Renee was highlighting some of the awesome ERG works and groups that she's been part of it Nvidia. I also feel so fortunate that at Pure Storage, we focus on building a platform, we focus on ERG organization-level initiatives, where we retain, elevate and empower women. And I've been a co-lead driving initiatives in that platform. And events and venues, like definitely Grace Hopper, a couple of folks have mentioned, it's a great opportunity to network and participate in the mentorship program. So, at this stage, it's really building a stronger support system. We need allies, and we should not be afraid or timid to ask for help. We need sponsors and there's no . . . It's a time and age where we need to be vocal about the needs and asks.
32:55 SP: Yeah. I think not being shy. I think that's one big learning that I've had is that it's OK to ask for help. It doesn't show weakness on your part; it actually shows strength on your part to ask for help, and that has been one of the biggest learnings. And I think it's still a learning -- it's in process, but that has been a big change in how I perceive myself as being stronger, working towards being stronger.
33:17 FZ: I think that's a really interesting point because, Shriya, because I . . . Personally, I was raised very Middle Eastern mindset, be seen and not heard, as a girl especially. And it took a lot of my 20s and getting into the marketing field to undo a lot of the traits, the behaviors that I had learned to be quiet, to be super-shy. And, in certain instances, I still am. But it took a lot to undo a lot of that behavior, so to be more confident, to be more . . . Not question yourself. And like you said, ask questions, ask for help, all of that came . . . It was very hard for me in the beginning. Ginger, did you cover this question? I lost the . . .
34:05 GG: The one about women supporting women? Yes, yes.
34:08 FZ: Awesome. Let's move on to the next question. "How do you push and up your game without sounding judgmental and critical in the workplace, as sometimes women are seen?" And I'll start with you, Ginger.
34:24 GG: OK. Sure. So, some of this goes back to what we were talking about earlier about having confidence in doing the legwork to, if you're presenting an idea, to really know what you're talking about. And like I said, if you have all your facts in order, it's really hard for people to put you down or distrust what you're saying. But another thing this question made me think of is just . . . I have a pretty thick skin, especially coming from teaching third grade, where you have eight-year-olds calling you all kinds of names, and their parents even sometimes, but I really truly don't take a whole lot personally, and I know people have bad days, whatever. So, I think that helps. I assume good intentions for the most part, whether there's just a comment that sounds a little bit off, I just let it roll off my back. And this is not to say that I think you should ignore an issue that's pervasive or repeated. But for a lot of these instances where you have a response from maybe a male colleague that you think sounds judgmental, for the most part, I just let those roll off my back and . . . Yeah.
35:38 SP: Ginger, I aspire to be you. [chuckle] No, so I think I'm opposite. I have been opposite. Again, working towards it. I have a coach right now who helps me with making sure I don't think too much about things that happen. I tend to sometimes think and too much of things which are nonconsequential, which don't really need that space in my mind about. And that's where the whole developing of a little thicker skin comes into play. And I think that's definitely very useful, especially in my field where I interact with so many different types of people and they come with different backgrounds or different thought processes, that . . . It doesn't have to be that you have analyze every word that's spoken.
36:21 SP: And on that topic, actually, I'm a product manager, which means that I have to work for the roadmap of my product, and I have to fight for getting my features in and all of that. And that comes with a lot of passion because I love my products, I love what I do. But my passion sometimes gets taken, misinterpreted as aggression or just the way I put things across. So, I've had to take that feedback. I mean, a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow. Like how you sound too aggressive, maybe you want to tone it down a little bit. And then worked with it. How do I take something positive from some feedback like that? But I think that has actually helped me. Like how do I put my point across so that I get my way without offending or sounding aggressive? Like how do I put the passion across and get what I want for the product, what is the right for the product or right for whatever I'm saying, and tone it down so that it is much more palatable? So, that's something that I have been working on and learning.
37:22 RY: You and me together, Shriya. [chuckle]
37:26 PN: I can totally hear Shriya here. So, she is quoting the point and fact that it is indeed a skill, and we have to patiently learn it and take efforts to groom it. So, when I think of skill set, there are some great books that come to my mind. Some of my mentors have suggested, and they're a great read. I highly recommend Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman. And one of my favorites is Getting It Done: How to Lead When You're Not in Charge by Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp. So, all these books really talk about the skills that you need to lead better, have better conversations at workplace, how do you create impact.
38:11 PN: I come from a sports background. Back in India, I used to play basketball for the district a long time ago. So, it is every skill, it's a process. You need to put a conscious effort, and I see it like the skill that you need at work every day; you have to come with a intention to be a better version of yourself. A mantra that my mentor taught me is really when I go into meetings it's listen more, talk less and be decisive when you need to be. And I carry all of this forward and it's a work in progress. I'm still trying to groom, take this step-by-step.
38:54 PN: In any relationship, credibility comes with a track record. You have to earn respect and trust at your workplace. So, set the goal, execute with highest quality, and what's really important is to collaborate with the team and include them in your thought process and execution, and . . . results at the end. I believe action speaks louder than words, so you have to show your record track time and time again, and do it with conviction and passion. I can totally associate the word passion, and if you have the great intentions and do it with passion and have fun, you're here to succeed.
39:34 FZ: I love all that. I think we're all work in progresses, so that definitely resonates, and I love everything that you just articulated in terms of how to practically . . . You practically get there and deliver transparency, trust towards a mutual goal that . . . Thank you for those thoughts.
39:54 RY: And actually just on goals specifically, sometimes it's also important to not make assumptions that we actually have a joint goal because there might be opposing team and asking the bigger pictures, they align on the objectives and goals, I think sometimes could be very interesting and important to just put all cards on the table and see are these the best way to solve certain problems? And to touch on a little bit, I'm also a big reader as well. I have many books on my shelves, where my mentor also recommended me, specifically about how do you take feedback or give feedback or are there comments, you should just let them go or actually should you touch on the comments that you perhaps find maybe offensive? And there's a skill set and some workshops out there.
40:41 RY: They call it the NVC, "Nonviolent Communication." Essentially, is if you were to have . . . If you're in a conversation where someone is actually just attacking you, what do you do and how do you soften that and how do you bring people back and remove the emotions from the conversation and really focus on the problem to solve? A book specifically, I really like on this is actually Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High and "crucial conversation" in the definition in that book is actually opposing opinion and very strong emotions, and if things don't go well, then it's very high stake, for example, things might fall apart, you might lose billions of dollars. And that crucial conversation really takes you into not just the work environment, but also your personal relationship. So, I think for the skill side of how do you be a very considerate and effective communicator in the workplace, a lot of skills that . . . And books, there's definitely lots out there for us to take advantage of.
41:41 SP: I think definitely even in terms of negotiation, even to put across your salary or whatever that is, you're rating things like that, I think we tend to shy away. And that is, again, another thing that is a crucial conversation to put your work out and ask for what you really think you have contributed and why you deserve something. So, there's definitely that, too, that I have learned from Crucial Conversations.
42:08 FZ: Excellent. Moving onto the almost last question, second to last, what's the biggest, I can't even say this word, hurdle, right now for you in your career, given all that's going on? And we'll start with you and Renee because you mentioned the concept of aggressively patient. That really hit home to me.
42:30 RY: Yeah, sure. As you guys probably heard from me, I'm working on quite a lot of things, and one of the biggest hurdle for me is how do you actually stay focused and make the biggest impact with a limited time that we have? When you have to select, for example, which projects to do, how do you evenly divide your attention or put 90% of your eggs in one basket and focus on the other things? And oftentimes, I think, especially the millennials or the younger generation, we do suffer from this instant gratification because of the social media world. You want to post something, and the immediate likes is a gratification, and that's almost instant.
43:11 RY: So, because of that, we end up not being super-patient with ourselves, building skill set, so the Levite founder is . . . he gave us this term, aggressively patient, and he said for the younger generation, yes, it's good that you're ambitious, it's good that you're aggressive. Yes, you should speak up, but also remember to be patient because sometimes these skill set, honestly will take you 10 years to build. It's going to take you 10 years to understand an industry. In the healthcare space, for example, for me, I have to search up how is pathology different and what is the interoperability of medical imaging.
43:47 RY: Little tiny terms. I'm starting from the ground zero, but if I do a little bit at a time, 10 years from now, I will be a very different person in the healthcare space. So, aggressively patient is something that I think I need to constantly remind myself, as I'm picking various different passion projects that I'm working on . . .
44:06 FZ: I love that expression, I can't say enough.
44:11 SP: Another thing that I think I've been doing is giving myself grace, especially during this pandemic. There's a lot happening. I have two young kids, juggling them, work, home, everything in this bubble. I feel very fortunate for where I have a job, I have healthy family, everybody together. So, there's a lot happening. I thank myself for that, but I also give myself grace that there's a . . . It's like a pressure-cooker situation. I'm working on things, they're still lesser time in the day that I can work on quietly when nobody is nagging on me for a snack or to play, things like that. But, overall, it's still a situation that has taught a lot of things and I'm learning as we go to give ourselves grace that you were working through this, I think is the biggest lesson so far . . .
45:00 PN: That's really true, Shriya. I think at this stage, everyone has a different story and different situation at home, and times like this really demand more empathy and compassion, and we have to overcommunicate and be transparent. There are too many meetings, and how do you make sure every meeting is productive, impactful? And as a leader, I have a team and I feel like I have to come up with creative ways to keep the team engaged and driven, and yet give them the space to operate and succeed. So, that's always a challenge, and this pandemic is definitely flexing a new muscle for all of us. So, I would say the real challenge is overcommunication and making sure that the employees' voice is heard, and we respect their sentiments and really empower them for a better version of themselves tomorrow. As the famous saying goes, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I feel like the challenge we're all put in now is only going to make us a better person for the tomorrow.
46:16 GG: And, yeah, for me, I think with the pandemic, the biggest thing that I've been struggling with is being able to maintain those relationships with co-workers or whatever other people that either I can help them in their career or they could help me in my career. I'm more the type of person to build those relationships slowly over time just by seeing people in the hallway and having those little small conversations, but with the pandemic, I'm finding I need to be a lot more deliberate about that and start actually taking the initiative to set up the meetings with the people and really have good conversations, even though you're virtual, and it's not the same type of relationship building, but I think in the end, it does still work. So, that's what I've been struggling with.
47:02 FZ: I agree with that. I'm trying to make my emails less . . . Let's say more humanistic. I don't know, I'm trying to bring more humanity into it, more humor. I've been sending a lot of memes lately in responses. Instead of saying "Thank you," I'll send a "Thank You" meme with the goal of trying to make the other person smile. I really do miss . . . We would have been in person doing this, and there's so much to say for that face-to-face. And IBM has a TechU conference and that's once a year we have that, and I love being there because that's where everybody . . . You meet the solution architects, the clients, the business partners, everybody. So, I definitely agree with you that the networking element needs to be . . . We need to compensate for that, and perhaps overcompensate for that. So, this has been a lovely discussion with all of you. I want to close this out with an opportunity to give you guys closing remarks. Where do you see the future headed here? Starting with you, Ginger.
48:07 GG: Yeah. Sure, sure. So, when I think about the future of women in tech, I really just want women to be exposed to tech earlier on and understand what it is, and that it doesn't have to be this scary thing that only nerds do I guess. [chuckle] Growing up in the U.S., my dad was an engineer, but in high school, I just knew I liked math and logic and problem solving, and I thought, "Well, I don't want to be an engineer. I don't know what that is and it's scary, and I like math, but I don't want to teach math." And, so, I went into a completely different field when in reality, if I had known more about what engineering was, I would have probably been like, "Oh, that's something I'd like to do." So, in the future, I think we're doing or already starting to do a good job of showing younger and younger generations what technology is about.
One of my favorite events of the year, that of course was canceled this year, was "Intel hosts a day at Intel," where teenage girls get to come in, hear from real engineers, go visit the labs and see what that looks like, and just really ask questions and understand that engineering is a viable option for them. And that's something that . . . Like I said, I look forward to it every year. So, I hope for the future that just more younger women understand engineering and just see it as a viable option.
49:39 SP: I agree. As we really heard the term technology equalizer in this conversation, the opportunities in technology are tremendous, and Fahima, I really liked the start preamble that you gave where you said, "Big data is like oil." [chuckle] So, the challenge is, voluminous amount of data, semi-structured, unstructured data is tremendous and there are challenges in the networking stack, compute stack, storage tier, and how do you actually develop modern analytics and machine learning algorithms to refine this data and to make sense of it?
So, for me, I see a world of possibilities: the next-gen world of IoT, 5G, AI. There's a lot of promising options ahead of us, and I feel like every individual, every technologist, every influencer has a role to play. And as young women, I would say we should leverage the tools out there, network, and I'm so grateful to be talking alongside with talented panelists. And there's a lot of resources and tools out there, so really leverage them and be confident and contribute with passion.
50:56 PN: One thing I keep thinking about is storage or high-tech memory, all of these are not super-cool terms for somebody who's really even wanting to get into technology. They might not think it is cool, but for me it's I think super-cool. I know that with the technology I work on, actually helps make Trolls movie or actually gets a genome sequencing done, so there's a lot to the thing of storage, or high tech for that matter, like having a lot of us from different fields, even here. So, I think that's the message that I want to send out. That there's a lot of cool things happening in this field, and it's not really for the . . . Like Ginger said, not really for the nerds or geeks only, everybody's welcome here, and I think there's a role for all of us to play. And I, for one, would definitely want more colleagues and female colleagues and other people in my meetings, so that I am not the only female in the group, wherever I go. [chuckle]
51:49 RY: Thanks for sharing that. I think for me, from my side, I work with cutting-edge healthcare AI startups every day, and we're detecting a disease, remote monitoring the patients and trying to prevent the next pandemic is definitely very exciting time to see. At Nvidia, our vision is everything that moves in the future will be autonomous, and AI innovation essentially won't sleep in the future anymore and when we are trying to recuperate and AI actually will able to continue to keep working. And, also, the future AI will be a recommendation.
52:25 RY: So similar to . . . I'm actually even thinking like, how would that be for a woman in tech space, and the future women in tech, essentially, if you consider every single human as a tiny AI. Essentially, we'll all feel really safe to be who you want to be, and it's not just like diversity, for diversity sake. If you want to take care of kids at home, that's your dream. That's the way that you want to make impact, that's great.
52:53 RY: If you want to have . . . Be honest with yourself. You want to become the CTO of this giant company running AI or recommendation systems, there are tools available for you to take. And because we are here building this foundation together, eventually for new generations of leaders to come, they could potentially have a recommendation systems, share with them to say, "Hey, if you have these ABC quality, we recommend these path for you to be a part of the AI or a woman in tech world." That could be quite fascinating. So, that was like my thinking when you ask the question where the future of AI or the future would be, and not just from the AI space, but how does that connect with the women in tech space as well.
53:40 RY: And back to, I think one of the earlier points that I mentioned, as much as the technology will continue to move forward and we'll continue to support everyone in the ecosystem as much as we can, I can't stress enough how important it is to be mindful of our own mental health in this space. And one of my favorite person is Lao Tzu. For those of people know him, he's quite philosophical, and one of the favorite quote that I like about it is he said, "To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders." So, I thought that was a really powerful statement because it's more important than ever for us to stay calm and mindful in this very chaotic world and take it one step out of time. There is help, there is . . . Many people are building a very strong vision, and we're all here for you all, too.
54:33 FZ: Those were very . . . That's very deep, Renee, and I think it speaks to what we're all feeling, given the pandemic. There's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety, I think in what's happening with the world and what's happening in politics, the elections, all of it. So, I think to be mindful and to be able to breathe and take a pause, and what Shriya mentioned, to be graceful about it and thank yourself and just be thankful that you're capable and healthy and wholesome, all of that.
55:09 FZ: I think is important because at the end of it, we're all very much in this together. We're very much connected more so than ever before, especially with this COVID thing that is really . . . That's threading us all together with the shelter in place and all of that. So, our successes and failures pretty much have a lot of impact on one and another, and striving to eliminate biases and barriers in how we communicate and how we engage and how we work together, I think is a win-win for everyone.
55:44 FZ: I think on that one, that was our last question for the panelists. I'm going to go to the slide and as promised, I want to end it with another report from McKinsey. In this report, McKinsey states that $12 trillion is what is added to the global economy in a best-in-the region scenario, in which all countries match the rate of improvement of the fastest country within that region. And, in a more full potential scenario in which when women participate in equal amounts in the economy, identical to men, it finds that there's . . . It would add up to a $20 trillion or 26% to the annual global, so worldwide GDP, within the next five years as compared to it being business as usual.
56:32 FZ: So, I think there's . . . The name of the report is "The Power of Parity," and I think that's pretty much the theme of this FMS SuperWomen in Flash or just the whole women in our industry is there's power in parity, and it's typically a win-win for everyone globally. And I think that's a wrap. We're here to promote diversity, inclusivity, but more practically speaking, share our experiences.
All of you, I've really enjoyed speaking with you. I've enjoyed listening to your stories, and I thank you for sharing your experiences and your journeys, and the purpose of this has been to raise visibility into your successes, and I hope we've been able to serve you into that end, so I thank you one more time in participating in our panel and . . . Thank you, thank you.
57:25 SP: Thank you.
57:25 PN: Thank you.
57:25 GG: Thank you.