Don't miss out on opportunities because of imposter syndrome - believe in yourself
Aiming for perfection is a laudable target, but never let it hold you back from opportunity. That is the lesson Rajashree Das, chief architect at Capgemini India, wishes she knew when she began her career.
Despite being successful in her own right - as well as her position as chief architect, she is also a global community leader for the Women in Delivery programme, and has two decades of experience in IT - Rajashree says that she has previously passed on opportunities because she didn't believe in herself, only for less experienced team members to be promoted instead.
We talked to Rajashree about her work and the tips she would give to other women just now starting a career in tech: appropriately, as she is a finalist in the Role Model of the Year category at this year's Women in Tech Excellence Awards!
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
As women, by nature we do not always appreciate our work and can believe we could have done better - stuck in perfectionist mode or with imposter syndrome. I would not have been nominated for the Role Model of the Year award unless pushed by my leaders, and I could not believe it when I was shortlisted as a finalist. As a Women in Delivery Custodian at Capgemini, I have motivated and encouraged many talented female colleagues across the globe to participate and nominate, and I was so happy - and surprised - to see so many shortlisted as finalists!! This is the testimony of how we underestimate ourselves and the talent we bring to the table for our organisation, our clients and our families/colleagues.
So I completely support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence campaign to help our female talent discover their own achievements, be proud of them and get accolades/visibility in bigger forums. This in turn motivates more female talent to look at these achievers as their role models and aspire to be there too and be a rock star!
How did you get into IT industry?
From my school and student days, I used to love maths and science more than literature and biology. I pursued these subjects to become an engineer, and got into one of the best universities in Mumbai, India. In the final semester of my Engineering degree I was chosen for a software engineer position in a large multinational IT company. Since then, I haven't looked back. It's been more than two decades now, and today I play the role of Chief Architect, architecting for complex customer problems.
What do you think is the reason for the unequal gender split in the IT industry?
Being in a technical role calls for continuous and consistent upgrading and reading, to build new skills and follow emerging trends in the market. It requires you to take risks for early adoption and experimenting with new technologies. For senior positions, you need to be a thought leader and role model whom others can look up to and take guidance from.
With women generally already juggling and taking charge of many roles on their personal front, unless an individual is 100 per cent confident that she can give her full attention to a new technical or senior role, they will often not be able to justify the demands of the role. Hence, they avoid picking up these positions, though capability-wise they can succeed in them: we already have many successful female CTOs and leaders in the tech industry. Architecture work in IT has been traditionally male-dominated, but I want to continue to bust this myth and make sure diverse perspectives from women architects bring in value, creativity and innovation.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in your career?
A few years ago, in my previous organisation, my group leader had given me the opportunity to become the head of Architecture & Solutions for its Product Engineering Division. I politely said "No", saying that I was not ready, as it was a very significant responsibility. And the next thing I knew, a junior, less-experienced male architect was made the head as he said "Yes" immediately, and I became a part of his team.
This was my biggest lesson I have learnt: never let go of an opportunity! If you are not sure of your decision, talk to senior experienced trusted colleagues/leaders, take their advice and then make a wise decision. Today, there are so many forums providing mentoring and coaching - I wish I had had that platform few years back when I was young.
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
The world (and careers in IT) has changed a lot in the last two decades: it's important to understand the market dynamic today, the challenges our customers are facing as the pace of change continues to accelerate. Historically, innovation came from finite number of sources (high tech firms, R&D etc), but today there are millions of different sources.
So to enter and excel in IT career, I would give the following tips:
- Accept that what we understand today might not be applicable tomorrow
- Be adaptive and agile to accommodate changes when they appear versus if they appear
- Anticipate change and embrace it, rather than 'keeping the current status quo'; and
- Apply agile and build minimal viable product-based architecture tools and methods