As I look back at my journey, the first words that have come are learning, hard-fought victories, accolades, challenges, joys, and tears. The successes and failures that came along the way have provided me precious life lessons! But the biggest success of all has been the wonderful people I have met and the relationships that I have made over the years.
My journey into the technology world began in Chennai over two decades ago at an induction program for Ramco Systems, the first-ever Indian company to make an ERP product. The years I spent at Ramco was the kindergarten years into the technology world. They laid the foundation for the young engineer in me to face the bigger challenges confidently and think enterprise and scale! It is here that I got the thrill of my code going into production for the very first time! I will confess, it’s a high I have not gotten over, and I feel this excitement even today when my team delivers a new feature!
From being at a team that used SQL Server to the team that creates it, it was a ‘leapfrog’ in my journey when I moved to Seattle to work for the software giant ‘Microsoft’! Microsoft at that time was the citadel of technology, and I was awed that I could interview there, let alone getting selected to work there. Microsoft taught me the deep lessons for the technologist I’m today, including what it is to solve problems for millions of customers. I had the good fortune to work with some of the brightest minds at Microsoft’s marquee teams like Windows, MS Office, and SQL Server. I learned that all complex problems are a series of simple steps.
MS made me think like a hacker, and it is there that I learned that challenges brought out the best in me. I realized later that getting hired was easier than breaking the ice with the closely-knit SQL Server team who eyed all test engineers with suspicion. And here was a foreign woman poking into their code. On the second day, the team’s ace developer came up to my desk and challenged me to crack the code that he just checks in. After 3 hours, I came up with a query that crashed his code. I still have the $50 check that he handed me and welcomed me to the team! I learned that respect is earned.
As much as I loved technology, I realized I was fascinated with the real-world impact my work was having and wanted to explore the business side of the software and hence moved to a product role to a then less known firm, Amazon. I had a hard time explaining to my family back in India why I was leaving the software giant and joining a company that sold books online!
Amazon taught me some very valuable lessons that are key to success at any retail company. But one element that stood out about Amazon is truly its customer obsession. I joined Amazon to be one of the first members of the Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA )team, which is now grown to over a few tens of $B. Rolling this program globally was an experience of a lifetime. Even a simple email from a customer would be acted on, be it someone with one order or 100 orders! It was Amazon that deeply ingrained the mantra ‘Customer first’ in me. – I learned that people matter, relationships matter.
After spending 13 years working in the beautiful Pacific-Northwest, I decided to move back to India, and explore other areas of my passion. Education was an area I was very passionate about. I was fortunate to be studying in some of the best institutes in India, and it was payback time. I spent two years working with the underprivileged children in some of the remote parts of Tamil Nadu. It is during this time that I learned the difference between needs and wants! I realized how blessed we are dealing mostly with rich people’s problems like which place to go for a vacation next, which restaurant to eat at, etc. There are people in the world who need to juggle between whether they put food on their children’s plates or worry about their board exam! I learned there is nothing in the world to complain about, including WFH during this COVID-19 lockdown. We all have a job that keeps us super busy and a paycheck that gets deposited promptly in our banks!
After a 2-year stint, I realized that I missed all the action of real-time systems to let go of it entirely and so moved back into the eCommerce world with Tesco at Bangalore. Working in India after 13 years has been a big revelation. I had missed the Internet era in India. India had moved quite ahead, and I was still stuck in 1999! Leading the new era of the workforce in India 15 years later was a unique learning experience. After over five years of fun and amazing deliveries at Tesco and Walmart, I landed in Lowes. Lowe’s used to be my husband’s favorite home improvement retailer as he did a lot of DIY projects while we were at Seattle. When a recruiter called me to talk about Lowe’s, she was quite surprised I knew about the company and knew to pronounce the name right ☺
Passionate, fun-filled, roller-coaster ride with never a dull moment– that’s how I would describe my journey. Be it significant product launches, leadership styles, new initiatives – there was no stop! One thing I learned about myself through all this is that I’m empathetic to our customers and want to solve problems for them!
And the learning fun continues…