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Outstanding Woman Achievers in IT
Priya Pradeep
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
As women’s activist Simone de Beauvoir puts it, “One is not born but rather becomes a woman…it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature.” Thankfully the young IT industry across the world and especially in India does not see a woman as an unusual creature on the prowl amongst its cerebral corridors. The statistics are a clear indicator of this refreshing news: according to Catalyst, a U.S. based women’s business advocacy organization, only 11 percent of corporate officers in America’s top 500 technology companies are women, whereas the top Indian IT companies have more than 20 percent of women on their rolls. That’s way above the representation of women in the banking or manufacturing sectors.

At present, 76 percent of the software professionals in IT companies in India are men, whereas only 24 percent are women. However, Nasscom says this ratio is likely to be 65:35 (men : women) by the year 2007. “There was a time when marriage meant the end of a career for women, but now you see less women dropping out,” says Kiran Karnik, President, Nasscom.

We at The Smart Techie seek to build on this positivity. What was our criterion in choosing the women of substance within the IT domain? Simple. Those who had a long innings here. We chose women whose careers are built on the pedestals of passion, perseverance, professionalism, creativity and ability to stretch the limiting limits. In bringing forth these inspiring stories to you, yes both to the male and the female readers out there, we want a change of attitude. From the men encouragement and from the women continuity of their dreams.

A Loyal Trailblazer
Vasantha Erraguntla, 38
Engineering Manager, Design Labs, Intel - Bangalore
* Joined Intel in 1991 and worked on the high-speed router technology for the Teraflop machine.
* Relocated to India in June 2004 to head the Bangalore Design Labs.
* Received a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad and a Masters in Computer Engineering from University of Southwestern Louisiana.

Assertive. Dedicated. Single-focused. These qualities will not short-circuit your career. So has been the case with circuit research specialist Vasantha Erraguntla. She has all these qualities for sure otherwise she wouldn’t have received the mandate at the end of 2003, to set up the Intel Bangalore Design Labs, an extension of the Oregon Circuit Research Labs of Intel. This was to help facilitate world-class circuit research and prototype development, which gave her a sense of euphoric achievement.

“We had the gut feeling that because the market was mature, availability of talent was there and considering the proximity of the Design Labs to other Intel units here this venture would work out,” highlights Erraguntla. For the last 9 years, she has been engaged in a variety of advanced prototype design activities at Intel Laboratories, implementing and validating research ideas in the areas of high performance and low power circuits and high speed signaling. The circuit research happens between the Design Lab offices in Oregon and Bangalore. Technology transfer will happen from India to the product teams in the U.S. and elsewhere. Right now the lab wing here is engaged in the 65nm prototype chip design. Also the prototyping involves custom design of chips starting from definition.

Integral to the process is the parent team in Oregon and between them and the team here in Bangalore it is a turnkey solution. “Our circuit research here at the Design Labs takes into consideration the fact that power efficiency, among other things, is an important factor in our platform definition and design,” says Erraguntla.

All these achievements were possible because of the trust she had built up with the company, which she joined at the start of her career. She firmly believes that careers are built by being loyal to companies for considerably long in order to clinch greater responsibilities and display your mettle. She finds the tendency of young women in the IT services field switching companies at the drop of a paycheque disconcerting.

Erranguntla further thinks that part of the problem may be the vicious cycle that is created when professional women don’t take on responsibility because they are hesitant of potential bias and they, in turn, are not hired into important roles because they are perceived to not want responsibility. According to her continuity requires one to take on challenges with optimism. She advises women to go out of their comfort zone to achieve their ambitions. “A simple thing could be to relocate from your home town to where the action is,” she adds. Nothing is easy. This way the learning will not stop.

A Complete Manager
Jayashree Vaidhyanathan, 34
Director and Unit Head – Business Consulting Services, HCL Technologies
* Started the Business Consulting division at HCL Technologies.
* Started career as management trainee at Vishakapatnam Steel Plant.
* Graduated from Cornell University with an MBA.

What’s the litmus test of convincing your management to start a Business Consulting division within your company when there has been no similar precedent in even competing companies? Jayashree Vaidhyanathan of HCL Technologies who has been voted the Outstanding Woman Manager of the Year 2005 by the Madras Management Association should know better. Her leadership has nurtured a team of brilliant consultants specializing in compliance consulting in just three and half years since she took on the mantle. The methodology developed by HCL for compliance-related consulting has won accolades from Gartner and Meta Group.

No wonder the consulting unit that she heads at HCL has had zero attrition for the last three and half years.

“I always pick up my son from school,” she says displaying her dexterity at doing the balancing act for her home too. Vaidhyanathan avers that workingwomen who spend quality time participating in activities with children score better than homemakers who leave children to fend for themselves with television serials. That is a point well made Ms. Manager.

A Go- Getter
Anjana Kaul, 38
COO, Aditi Technologies
* Joined Aditi in 1995.
* Earlier served as VP Engineering at Aditi’s spin-off company (Talisma).
* Previously worked with the Indian Defence Department Research and Development Labs.
* Holds an M.S. from DAVV University, Indore

I took upon the chance to explore opportunities which presented itself as I walked upon life’s undulating road,” says Anjana Kaul. One of the first opportunities chosen bold was her decision to opt for a posting in Bangalore at the DRDO than to opt one at her home terrain Delhi. This has been her attitude backing many a milestone conquered.

One of these, of course with a strong team backing her has been shipping of the product ‘Talisma’ outside the country at a time where many thought it couldn’t be done.

The challenges were to build a product not done before, by trial and error keeping in mind the end-users, market and competitors within a time frame. Kaul supported many of these aspects.

Three years after Talisma was spun-off as a company, Kaul re-joined Aditi and was keenly involved in its evolution as an outsourced product development company. Her team was responsible for assuaging the concerns of clients in start-ups in the U.S. about end results and this niche which Aditi had identified before the rest could is very hot right now. Kaul and team deserve applause for grabbing virtually non-existent opportunities.

Chasing Technology
Aparna Khatri, 36
Sr. Manager Development, Symantec India
* Within VERITAS (now Symantec) Software India Ltd from 2000.
* At Ficon Tech, New Delhi (1998–2000) in the Networking domain.
* At Hughes Software Systems, Delhi (1994-1998).
* At Tata Elxsi, Bangalore (1992-1994). Worked mainly on Network management
* Completed post graduation in computer science in 1992.

When you are excelling in something you love, would you risk trying out something entirely new and be still sure you will come out tops? Aparna Khatri did just that. With a strong Unix OS knowledge background in the networking space, Khatri opted to take up the Symantec (formely Veritas Software) offer in 2000. She was consciously making a switch from the networking domain to storage domain. She knew learning in technology means being up to date with trends across verticals.

She recalls her first assignment: A new release for the clustering product called VCS on the Linux platform. As she sat down to evolve the solution, the complexity increased with new Linux kernel releases almost every seven days. Despite the constraints, Khatri believed she could deliver within the six-month time frame. It was no surprise that the India team got appreciation from their U.S. counterparts.

Today, as a second line development manager, Khatri is responsible for product release on multiple platforms. Five years from now she wants to contribute more to organization building. Yes, this is one lady who always knew what she wanted and got it too.

Peak Performer
Chitra Hariharan 42
Director of Engineering, ASIC Design, Open-Silicon
* Has over 18 years of silicon engineering and technical management experience.
* Prior to Open-Silicon, was at Intel Microelectronics and RealChip Communications.
* Held senior engineering positions at VLSI Design Center of ITI
* Received her Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Madras.

How does it feel to be a consistent performer when technology itself is not consistent? “Great,” squeals Chitra Hariharan on her career span within the semiconductor space. Mind you that the three-micron to 90nm evolution in chip design is a gigantic leap in compression. She believes that the crown jewel of her career is building the Open-Silicon engineering team in India from the scratch. Tape-outs (project completion), which are perfect, have been the hallmark of her team as she grew on to lead them.

“ My success is dependant on the team,” tells Hariharan. The second project of the company in 2004, in the display domain within the consumer applications market, headed by Hariharan in the design manager role, won the prestigious ‘Best Development Team’ award from EE Times among 100’s of companies worldwide. This is significant because it was the initial days of the company with all the constraints where it had to prove itself. The design was robust enough for the customer to ship millions of chips in volume within demanding schedules (release to production) meeting all the necessary characterizations for the chip. Hariharan thus ensures that her customer’s peak performance is her and her team’s peak too.

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