Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ten important things I learnt at the Grace Hopper Conference

Was in Phoenix Arizona last week attending the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. I have been to a lot of conferences in the last decade but this was special because this was the world's largest gathering of women in computing. You actually did not stand out in a sea of men if you know what I mean J

Many of my learnings were not really ground breaking or brand new. However this time, I was able to talk to a lot of other women and validate that many of these findings are real and apply to a lot of women out there in the technology workforce. To keep it simple I am listing the 10 points that stick out in my mind. It is also not in any particular order of importance. Here you go:

1)   Don’t become the best kept secret in your organization. You might be doing great in your sphere of influence but when change happens and we all know that change happens in large organizations make sure that you have an influential network within and beyond your organization.

2) It is not always about getting mentored. Mentors give you feedback based on your performance and usually after a particular growth level you end up with the feedback ‘I think what you need is another great mentor’.  
But the new buzz word is to find a SPONSOR. Yes a sponsor who is willing to make your case behind those close doors when promotions are being discussed, when a raise is being considered etc. Find out your potential sponsor/s and map them within your organization, they need to be people who truly believe and understand your true potential. You need to of course build up a network of more than one sponsor if possible, even people whom you know very well from outside your organization.

3) Satya Nadella the current CEO of Microsoft was in discussion with Maria Klawe about women in technology. This is a discussion which is definitely worth listening to. But pay attention to what Maria is saying in this conversation and see how she naturally navigates the whole conversation and touches upon all the sore points that exist for women in the workforce. I particularly liked the point where Maria actually disagrees with Nadella about relying on your good karma to get a pay hike!!

4) When you are having a difficult conversation at work don’t try to ease a topic of concern into a conversation you are having. As women we tend to start a conversation where everything is fine at the beginning, in between we quickly bring in the uncomfortable bits and then at the end quickly make sure that the conversation is ending on a positive note. 
In this scenario the person on the other end of the conversation assumes that everything is fine, of course he/she is a little bit amiss but you tend to give the impression that you have found peace with the situation at hand. So again, have those difficult conversations with the right amount of focus and calm. It is important.

5) My highlight for you is a new word in your vocabulary – all of you who hate being part of the office politics, think of it now as ‘organizational awareness’. See how the whole negativity is gone out of the window when you consider it as ‘Organizational awareness’.  You have to be aware of the networks that exist and remember that avoiding this completely altogether can be deadly for your career.

6) Also important don’t continue to work in an area where you already know that you are going to regret having done this later on in your life. Trust your experience to move on at the right time!

7) Ok here’s the thing ‘What’s the simplest way to get a promotion?’ Ask for one! But before doing that ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how capable you are of performing the job today? What you need to be aware, based on an internal survey @ HP is the following:
a.   Women will apply to a job when they believe they meet 100% of the job requirements.
b.   Men on the other hand will apply if they meet 60% of the requirements.
c.   So the learning for me was: If you are 60% ready for the next job you want to have – GO FOR IT!!

8)  Make sure that you are being judged by your potential and not be experience only. I learnt that often men are promoted based on their potential and women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on performance. 
For this to happen your management needs to be aware of your accomplishments. Like I mentioned in point 2 you also need the full backing of your sponsors and also help in building a corporate culture where career accomplishments are recognized.

9) Ok this is one is key too – if somebody does a good job let them know about it. If that somebody is a woman make an extra effort to explicitly mention that, promote that in discussions. Help other women in their journey in navigating the complex boundaries at work.

10) A tiny data point related to point 4 – ‘Don’t avoid difficult conversations’ Have you noticed that difficult conversations taken between five and fifteen minutes and often actually a lot less. This short and uncomfortable conversation can be far less stressful than a long period of bearing with the situation at hand.
Don't avoid the difficult conversations!
Hope you took something out of my learnings from the Grace Hopper conference. If any of you would like to discuss any of the points above in detail with me, send me a note and I will be happy to have that conversation with you. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I am coining a new word!

Have you ever felt hapsa? I am sure you have, everybody has! I think I am mostly in a state of hapsa. And I guess that’s what life is all about, every moment is a moment filled with hapsa. Like right now I am hapsa. I am so happy and grateful that I had such a fun birthday but at the same time I am sad thinking about my friend J who succumbed suddenly to cancer. She was also so young and full of life and it was so cruel that she had to leave so suddenly, leaving behind an innocent 7 year old behind!!

I guess you got the point, hapsa is the state of mind where you are happy and sad at the same time. It’s like after a very successful presentation you feel so happy and exuberant, but strangely sad that the whole thing was over so quickly and you wonder what the fuss was all about afterall.Guess I am reading a lot of philosophy these days, a subject that I would love to spend years of understanding if I could.

Coining the word hapsa for my own self reminded me of Anne Curzan’s lovely TED talk about ‘What makes a word ‘Real’’. Check it out and I am sure you will agree that in several years hapsa will describe a state of mind where you are happy with a tingling feeling of sadness still.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I am a Holi convert :-)

I remember I was never a fan of the Holi festival, actually never ever until now. Also strange that I never really understood why smearing people with color and literally chasing people to drench them in color could be fun.

All that has changed now, I have to admit that I am a convert, a true Holi convert. Funny that after living in Germany since the year 2000, this year I actually got around to celebrating Holi with friends in the lovely town of Heidelberg last Sunday (23Mar2014). Thanks to my friend Divya Bhoomireddy and thanks to the Interkulturelles Zentrum (IKZ) in Heidelberg this was possible. Divya who is an executive member of the IKZ was the brain behind the whole event. She just used her amazing network skills to reach out to people to come up with a perfect agenda for the evening.

Actually it was in this process that I actually learnt again about the meaning behind the festival of Holi. Besides the lovely mythological stories of Prahalad and Holika and the religious connections the festival has, it was nice to remind myself about the more important aspect around the festival. The fact that the festival removes all differences of caste and creed, differences in race or color once everybody is covered in the colors of Holi. That is indeed fascinating and here in Germany it was an awesome experience to celebrate Holi with our German friends and friends from other nationalities too.

So thank you Divya and thank you Interkulturelles Zentrum for making me a Holi convert!! A very nice write-up about the event can be found here, for my German speaking friends.

P.S. Divya has plans for a whole lot of interesting programs together with the IKZ and if any of you are interested in sharing ideas and thoughts with her you can reach her at this address.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

California dreaming

Everytime I think of California, the dreamy 1965 folk pop hit from the group 'The Mamas and the Papas' starts playing out in my head. Couple of weeks back when I was in this beautiful US state on work I realised that the dreamy number probably will not fit the current scene of the whole place.

Thoughts that are fresh in my mind from my visit include:

1) Everybody seems to be a man or woman with a mission, though in some cases I realised that they did not know what their mission really was.

2) You can sit down in an Indian restaurant and get transported back to India -because you hear Tamil being spoken by a couple in its purest form at the next table. This happened to me when work colleagues invited me out for dinner at the Mynt.

3) I think the whole place is actually swarming with Asians - I could only meet Indians and Chinese most of the time and in most of my meetings.

4) My two German colleagues were happy to be accompanied by an Indian I guess ;-)

5) Breakfasts are huge, by day four I was actually beginning to eat larger breakfast portions than I would normally eat.

6) It is lovely beautiful sunny weather outside, but the air conditioning is always on full blast in the hotel rooms and everywhere you go. So no matter what the weather outside dress in layers at all times. First and immediate step every evening I enter my hotel room was to turn off the AC and force the windows open.

7) I was so happy to see more and more cyclists on the road who were not being threatned to be run over by the huge massive cars. I think their numbers are growing every year I am here.

8) A lot of happy joggers, jogging at insane hours in the morning. Remember I was still on the German timezone.

9) Pizza Antica in the Santana Row area of San Jose serves better pizzas than what I have had even in Italy!! Now how can that happen!

10) First time I was subject to an explosive trace detection test at security - felt quite important as the other travel companions could breeze on through :-)

11) A quick sneak into any shopping window indicated big sales and big discounts- such a bummer that there was hardly any time left to do some serious shopping.

12) Just loved the energy that exuded from the SuccessFactors office that I visited in the South San Franscisco area especially their clear belief in their company values were plastered all over their office walls.

On that note I have to end the post with the lyrics from the lovely old song from Roy Orbison, 'California Blue' which goes something like "One sunny day, I'll get back again. Somehow, someway But I don't know when, California Blue California Blue ". Sometimes you just have to decide which memories and songs associate with a place in your minds eye.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Moms out there YOU ROCK!!!

10 random thoughts that cross my mind in my role as Mom:

1. To come back home from a full day of work, pause slightly at the front door - muster up all my strength and walk in and announce 'Team buckle up Mama is here'. Well, this also means the kids almost ignore you until you raise your voice and scream 'GIRLS did you hear me, I am here!!'

2. It means as you drive back home 'you make a mental note of what is in the refrigerator, what I could cook for dinner and also updating Cozi with the things that still needs to be bought for tomorrow's dinner. Sometimes, it also means taking a sharp detour at the last minute, freaking the hell out of drivers behind me when I realise that I need to stop by the grocery story to pick up Crème fraîche for the chicken masala I would like to make.

3. It means answering a very urgent late evening call from a colleague at work with one hand and at the same time trying to tell little bunny using a lot of futile actions telling her that her handwriting could be much much better. I keep reminding myself that she will not have to write on paper when she is my age, but anyways.

4. It means getting the best welcomes in the world to die for after a business trip - but then as a matter of fact expected to immediately shed your business attire and jump back to being Mummy again - 'Mama can you take us to the schwimmbad today?' At the same time looking into hubby eyes totally in acceptance of the fact that the real superman was at home holding up all fronts diligently single handedly.

5. It means churning up some yummy food to eat in very quick intervals of time and then getting really painful looks as to why this yuckky stuff has to be really eaten completely. Thankfully gets compensated by hubby happily digging into dinner with a content smile.

6. Getting corrected regularly on the right usage of German grammar especially the artikels and constantly correcting the kids to use either complete German or English sentences.

7. It means getting squeals of delight from across the Atlantic to see their Mom on Facetime, where you would do anything in your strength to reach out and kiss their innocent faces.

8. It means trying to squeeze in couple of hours no matter how short a business trip may be to get back home with a little small gift that they would love but you know very well would be lying somewhere under the bed in a couple of days time.

9. It means lying in bed with your little ones all cuddled up and reading a night time story and stopping to take a deep breath thanking God for such blissful moments when in the next minute there could potentially be a screech right into your ears 'MAMA, she tugged on my half of the blanket !!!'. These moments of bliss always comes and goes in waves. These waves can be compared to the birthing contractions where the break between them for a woman is so blissful, but you are almost on the verge of knowing what is coming up next. I think I am analyzing that thought a bit too much here, I better stop.

10. It also means trying to endlessly clear up the clutter in every room of the house and having to start all over again in kind of cyclic intervals. But cleaning clutter even comes with an advantage, that it gets you into this state of nirvana where I can clearly visualize a product feature that can immensely help my customers solve an integration design challenge that they are facing.

This is not a complete list, but cheers to all the Mom's out there, I think this job makes all the other jobs in the world seem so easy :-) I was a bit late for international women's day, but I just think we women rock...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Sadhu from India?

I kept hearing Semmel baba from the other side of the dinner table and was wondering why my Czech and German friends were talking about some Indian saint. I tried to listen in and asked J and D what they were talking about. They said we are having Semmelbaba for dessert. I thought I heard wrong, but only later realised that Semmelbaba was the name of the yummy strudel that Nadja prepared for us.

Yes Semmelbaba a very yummy Czech cake and the main ingredient is 'Semmel' which translates into bread and yes they mainly use left over bread to prepare this delicacy. You should definitely try it out when you get the chance.

March through March..

OMG, it is already March and the first week of the month is already done. I am really spooked thinking about how the weeks are flying away. I still have not started working on any of my New Year resolutions. Actually at this point in time cannot remember if I made any at all.

A lovely vacation week now behind me and I am rearing to march through the entire month of March. Actually it will be quite a packed month at work. But still cannot seem to forget the mountains, the fresh air, the feel of the cold snow, the warm smile of Nadja our hostess who take care of us during our stay at the chalet in the Czech Republic. Little bunny asked me before going to bed when she can go skiing again and I knew exactly what was going through that beautiful mind of hers.

I promise myself that at the speed the months seems to be rolling ahead it will soon be time to go back.
But for now let me focus on marching through March.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Want to know more about Peter?

It's a lovely week here in the Czech Republic. I mean there is not too much snow, but enough for us beginners to learn. It is the fourth year we are here with our friends and everytime we get a little more familiar with everything about this place. Seems to become a part of our lives.

I am also happy with the progress I have made with my skiing. Maybe in the next couple of days I will go on to the higher slopes with my older daughter. Target is to come down the slopes skiing together with her, let's see if I can make that target this year.

But this post is not about me but about my teacher who is helping me get to that target goal. He is called Doctor Peter. Almost 78 years old, but a real toughie. Already last year when I was here he told me that I need to get rid of all my fears and just enjoy the sport. The rest would come automatically. Well, thats easier said than done. But I think he has an unique way of explaining his lifes events which kind of transports you to a different world, and then you somehow at the same time you seem to make the right moves sliding down that slope.

Peter, tole me that back in 1980 he lived in the Communist Czech Republic and he longed to get away. It was difficult for somebody back then to get their identity papers and also get a visa to travel to another country like Canada. Yes that was Peter's dream back then to leave communist Czech Republic and live in Canada and that's exactly what he did.

From 1980 - 1981 Peter stayed at a refugee camp in Austria and then realised that the only way out was to escape. And that is exactly what he did and he went to Canada and applied for asylum. Today Peter is a Canadian citizen and spends his time between Canada and the Czech Republic. He comes to the Czech Republic in the winters mainly to help people like me meet their target goals on skiing. He makes it sounds so easy and nice, and it is amazing what a hard life he had to go through in the past.

Today Peter proudly talks about his daughter who is a very famous doctor back in Canada who lives in a million dollar home. He tells me that probably this is the last season when he would be coming back to the Czech Republic as he plans to get a mobile home and move to Florida for his retirement.

I really hope that I will meet Peter also the next year when I am here. His stories are so interesting and sometimes I wish I could just listen to them instead of having to focus on my moves. But then like how Peter realised his dream, I remind myself that my dream is to ski down those slopes with my daughters :-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wiesloch @ Sochi

Love Wiesloch and love living here. Feels proud to have our own Wieslocher Laura Grasemann at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Part of the feestyle skiing team from Germany at Sochi and cool to note that she is part of the Ski club in Wiesloch.

Cool, to see Laura's picture as you drive into town.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Strange but true...

It’s been a while since I have been on this space. But I still recall the second week of December 2013 very vividly in my mind’s eye. My usual cheerful self was on a flight to Bangalore to tackle 5 days of work. I was completely charged especially because the mission was clear and also realizing that after I get back I had the promise of the whole Christmas vacation ahead of me.

As always, like any other business trip it is only when you actually sit down on your seat on the flight is when realization strikes. I was really eager to meet the team in Bangalore, work with them during the next days and also felt a general sense of excitement to be back in Bangalore the place where I was born.

All through the flight I had this kind of nagging feeling, but kept dismissing the thought without really focusing on the thought. You know especially when you have more important things like clean up the slides for next days presentation, enjoy a nice movie on the flight or catch up on lost sleep.

When I looked into the monitor some hours later I realized that it was only couple of hours to go for the flight to land in Bangalore. The persistent nagging thought came back and I got all tensed. The flight was going to be landing close to 13:30 am in the morning and I was supposed to take a shuttle from the airport to the Marriot which translates into travelling from one end of Bangalore city to the other end all on my own in the middle of the night! Now for some of you who are reading this post you probably do not even realize why this would be worrisome. The last months though, I have been reading about a lot of horrible incidents that happen to women in India. Some of them have been quite prominent in the media

Always read about these articles in the comfort of my home and commented heatedly about them on different media sites, but here I was stricken with fear few hours away from landing in India in my own hometown Bangalore!!

I frantically started looking for some familiar faces on the flight hoping that there must be somebody with whom I could share the cab ride to the hotel. Flight landed, I cleared customs, and got hold of my baggage as well. I was still unsure what to do, the airport was bustling with activity but I was still petrified. I came out of the airport and promptly the shuttle driver showed up placard in hand and all smiles but wondering why I was not happy to see him. I told him that I was looking for colleagues who could join me on the drive to the hotel. He happily nodded his head and told me that was fine. He also told me that there was a security guard who would accompany me in the shuttle as requested from the company, hoping to calm me down. On the contrary this made me even more nervous, two against one and it was already 14:30 am in the morning.

Then I saw a group of Swedes who had been on the same flight from Frankfurt to Bangalore talking about their shuttle to the Marriot. I heaved a sigh of relief, thanked my stars and went over boldly to them and asked them if I could tag along and share their shuttle as I was also staying at the Marriot. Now it was their turn to look very nervously at this Indian woman whom they did not know at all asking them if I could accompany them. Figured out that they were in India for the first time, which added to their nervousness. I somehow managed to convince them, told them that I was also there on work and that I did not want to travel alone at this time of the day. They worked for the company Volvo and they seemed to be a really nice group of people and they agreed. I quickly told my shuttle driver that my company would foot the bill but I will actually not be taking his shuttle. He was very confused and told me that I would have to speak to his manager on the phone and explain why I was doing this as it was his duty to take me from the airport to the hotel. I did that and finally after settling everything with everybody found myself on a shuttle from the airport to the Marriot with a group of 3 unknown Swedish visitors to Bangalore. I found the whole experience very strange to be honest. On the drive to the hotel I tried to engage in some pleasant conversation, actually trying to put them at ease talking about my last trip to Stockholm and how my daughters loved all the books from Astrid Lindgren and how Pippi Langstrumpf was one of the kids favorite characters. Also told them some of the nice places where they could go shopping in Bangalore.

But all through this time I was actually thinking that it is really unfair that I would feel the way I felt not in any other country but in my own country and in my own hometown :-(

Strange but true!