Tuesday, June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day, an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the career opportunities available to girls in this field. Not only are we celebrating all the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world, but we are taking this opportunity to encourage careers in engineering overall.
To help commemorate International Women in Engineering Day and this year’s theme, Shape the World, following is a Q&A with our very own Parul Chaudhary, director, Identity and Access Management engineering, and head of DIS engineering Competence Centre in Noida, India.
Q1: How did you end up in a career in engineering and what does your job entail now?
Nothing in life comes for free, and this motto has helped me achieve a go-getter attitude. I was taught to work hard and also learned the value of this on my own, which has helped me to live up to my parents’ expectations in school. I started my career with a dream job in teaching. I enjoyed it to a great extent but realized it wasn’t my cup of tea after a few years. Agility has been the key to success for me, and that’s the reason I ended up in the world of software development, an industry I have found to be very exciting.
My current role is primarily representing the identity and access management leadership in Noida, India and leading PKI engineering teams across the globe. Managing teams with multiple products--building them from scratch--has been an experience of continued learning and strength at work. I also act as head for the India engineering competence center representing Thales’s DIS management for the country, and am part of the company’s India executive committee.
Q2: Did you have any women role models that helped shape your career path?
Indeed. It’s important to have role models in life. When I started working in data protection, one of the women on the leadership team created an everlasting impression on me. She taught me how to be more proactive and well organized at work in spite of having a full plate. I learned that it was important to be understanding of people and manage my time to ensure that colleagues who needed me always had my attention. She was known as a person who was always one step ahead and never missed an action point. She also was a passionate leader that knew how to build high-performing teams, collaborate with global stakeholders, and ensure there was clear, open transparency.
Q3: What do you love most about your job? Anything that you didn’t expect that has really been exciting for you?
The most loveable part of my job is the people. Without a team that believes in you, respects you and is there with you – there is no success.
One of the most memorable moments during my career at Thales was the move to professional services from engineering during my tenure in the software monetization part of the business. I was not sure how it would turn out. This was my first time interacting with high-valued customers. Those five years of my career not only gave me a new dimension, but it made me face some tough customers while being onsite working through delays, and almost daily decisions on next steps. I loved the role and enjoyed every part of that roller coaster experience (including the sleepless nights). and because the management team here at Thales believed that I could do it, I knew we could all win as a successful team. These are the moments you remember.
Q4: What has been the best part of your job?
The best (and most challenging) part of my job has been building high-performing teams from scratch. I have learned so much through these assignments and I have been able to recruit people with the right attitude and aptitude. Technology skills can be learned, but basics cannot be rebuilt.
To build a strong team, I work closely with my group to keep them motivated and always try to lead by example. More than individual career successes, I believe in helping people see how they can grow their teams further so that it results in a chain reaction. I have an open door policy and offer flexibility, authority and space to my team.
Success is not achieved alone, it is through teamwork. Today, my team is autonomous, and capable of handling most challenges by themselves. It gives me a sense of pride to see them growing and taking ownership.
Q5: How have you seen the industry change over the years to be more inclusive of women?
In the past few years, there has been many initiatives towards making people aware of their unconscious bias, and be more inclusive of women. While all this looks promising (and with the number of women in engineering and technical jobs increasing), it is just a start as we continue to develop and refine the ways we work towards an equitable world.
Q6: What advice would you give to young women that are looking to start a career in engineering?
Every person is different and what works for one person might not work for someone else. However, here are some general thoughts that can help young engineers:
- Be yourself – Do what you do best and have confidence in yourself. It is good to find a mentor or a role model that you believe in to give you direction, however, it is up to you to make it happen. So play on your strengths, and do what you are passionate about.
- Don’t be afraid to fail – There is not always win or lose, it’s all about learning through the journey.
- Be a sponge – There is value in constantly learning. Even pieces of knowledge that seem unimportant today can pay dividends down the road.
- Embrace new responsibilities - It can be intimidating to be thrust into a new role without much experience, but those chances are often a fast track to developing skills and knowledge. When a challenging role comes available, jump on it. Just be prepared to put in the work.