Hail the women

Date:   Friday , February 01, 2008

The IT world that is increasingly concerned of gender inclusivity to uplift women as well as to fill the shortage of resources screams, “It makes business sense to encourage gender inclusivity.” But this doesn’t seem to be the case in the semiconductor industry. The Indian semiconductor industry is faced with demand-supply mismatch of talented engineering graduates who meet the very specialized sector requirements of this industry. While women may be making inroads into the semiconductor industry in recent years, they still hold relativeley few management positions. Recently, Zoom Info, a research agency conducted a survey on ‘Gender in the Executive Suite’. Of the thirteen industries analyzed, the semiconductor industry was found to have the lowest number of woman CEO’s, at a meager 3.1 percent. A similar trend prevails among other high-ranking positions also.

What holds the women back from entering an industry that is filled with a vast array of potential paths for ambitious engineers? Is it the lack of proper understanding of the industry or a lack of knowledge of the growth of the industry in the past decade among women? “In the semiconductor industry, keeping pace with the shrinking product cycle and design cycle due to the increasing complexity of the chip needs undivided attention and single-minded focus. Many women find it difficult to cope with an extremely demanding career here,” explains Veena Chakravarthy, Senior Manager of Centillium. Like the IT industry, the semiconductor industry should also concentrate on gender inclusivity to uplift women as well as to fill the shortage of resources.

In this issue, we present a few responsible women in the industry that dared to travel the road less traveled by women. We hope that their journey would ignite the young minds aspiring for a career here.

Carving a niche
Reshmi Rekha Mishra, Program Manager at Sasken with 11 years experience, got interested in Digital Signal Processing (DSP) when she was doing her masters in electronics from NIT, Rourkela. Subsequently she pursued her doctorate in artificial intelligence and its applications in DSP. Reshmi started her career as a lecturer in National Institute of Science and Technology, Orison, teaching embedded systems. But the quest for research and spirit of learning brought her to the industry. “I was always interested in research activities and innovating and experimenting on new things,” recalls Reshmi. With this background, Reshmi joined as a software engineer in the R&D team in the embedded division in Patni Computers. Here she developed the voice biometric system that made Patni the fifth company in the world to develop the system

She joined Sasken in 2002. She is responsible for the delivery management of ten projects in the embedded division. She is also the program manager for the multimedia codec division in the company. She urges the techies to plan their career in advance. “A career should be a matter of choice and not a matter of chance,” explains Reshmi.

A path to pursue
With a career span of 20 years in the semiconductor industry Veena Chakravarthy reflects, “The complexity of work to deliver successful SoCs first time in this industry is increasing day by day with the development of technology”. Veena is the Senior Manager at Centillium looking into SoC design. She has developed around 12 IP cores and two large SoCs and has presented about six papers in various conferences connected with the semiconductor industry. Veena decided to pursue a career in this industry during her stint in ITI where she worked in microelectronics. Then she moved to MindTree Consulting to join their hardware group.

Veena is currently pursuing research on “Generalized power optimization methodology for ASICs” in Bangalore University. She has done her masters in Electronics and Communication from Bangalore University and a management course at IIMB. Veena believes that to bring out the best, one has to constantly challenge herself. “Define your short term and long term goals and reorient them to the organizational goals and work uncompromisingly hard to achieve them,” urges Veena.

Aiming the sky
As a child she used to curiously wonder about stars, moon, the sky, and the space beyond. Passionately inspired by her father who was a scientist at ISRO, Radhika Ramnath wanted to follow her father’s footsteps. Hence, she joined the space center in January 1984. Here she developed interest in software development and programming and decided to do her M.Tech in Computer Science from IIT, Delhi. Radhika joined C-DOT soon after her M.Tech and had a short stint at Siemens Information Systems before joining Cadence Design Systems.

Today she is the Engineering Director of Cadence where she dwells into the intricacies of quality management processes and also drives some of the research activities in the areas of chip design and layout. As a leader who is also involved in building the next level leadership team she says, “A leader should first think about the organization and her team and then think about herself.” A frequent traveler who likes exploring the world, she says that Kerala with all its lush greenery and backwaters is her all time favorite.

Breaking barriers and conventions
When she passed her engineering in electronics and communication securing third rank from Bangalore University in 1987, Sharada Satrasala had enough opportunities to explore a career overseas. But she chose to stay back in India, as she was sure that she could make it to the top and succeed in her homeland itself. A decision proven right as you look back into her 21 years long career.

Sharada joined Texas Instruments (TI) soon after her graduation. In those days TI India was just a small extension of the big corporate house and she joined as a Software Engineer in a support project and later proceeded to become a developer, project leader, and finally the General Manager of the TI, India ASIC group. Her group was responsible for building the fastest 90 nanometer library in the world till then. Today Sharada is Director, Strategic Supplier Management responsible for driving the processes, strategic engagements, and the relationships with both big and small suppliers that provide engineering services to TI worldwide.

As a woman her advice to young woman engineers is to stay focused in life. “There are some cultural, social, and mental barriers which hamper women coming up. These can be overcome by single-minded focus and determination,” says Sharada.

Toward greater heights
It takes great effort and consistency to be a peak performer in the technology sector when the sector itself is changing constantly. This is very evident if you look at the milestones in the career graph of Rudra Mukherjee, Senior Manager, Mentor Graphics. Currently, Rudra is heading the India group involved in the development of a successful product of Mentor Graphics.

Rudra did her masters in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Kharagpur. She started her career as a Software Developer in the startup company Delsoft (currently known as Interra Systems). Rudra worked in the U.S. for five years with IBM and Innoveda and then returned to India to join IKOS (India) Pvt Ltd, which was acquired by Mentor Graphics in 2002, as a Project Manager. She believes whether it is in life or in one’s career one should always enjoy what she is doing. As a Manager Rudra provides a platform where her team members can exhibit their capabilities and establish themselves as valuable contributors in the EDA industry. Her message to the young techies is, “For a long term successful career look for quality work and do not go for the salary.”