Conference Takeaways: comSpark, Women & Diversity

Conference Takeaways: comSpark, Women & Diversity


I was lucky to have the opportunity to work in the software industry right after graduating from college in a mega tech city like Shanghai. As I grew in the company and together with the team, I established more and more confidence and rapport with peers and customers, building invaluable memories and experience of solving problems and delivering custom projects. With the support and guidance from Gensuite’s corporate team in the United States, I was leading the China subsidiary for less than two years, before I left for a full-time MBA program in Maryland.

Two years flew by quickly, thanks to Gensuite, after MBA graduation I got back to the team and started to work in the Cincinnati office to lead innovative projects and product development. The company, from the leadership team to the peers, all have given great support to help me settle in and get more accustomed to the work culture here. I also have found a great mentor as our Executive VP Natasha Porter who’s been giving me advice throughout the years of my career development. More importantly, as somebody who loves new challenges and new domain at work, I’ve had the chance to work on and take lead on some of the exciting opportunities to apply my experience and what I’ve learned from the MBA program into real-life business challenges, and collaborate with many team members across the company.

As a woman and also a minority in the tech workforce, I acknowledge the challenge to stay competitive and be able to perform at the same level and receive the same recognition as other peers. Luckily, I have so many role models both from within the company and the business worldwide that I can look up to for inspiration and encouragement.

Last month, myself and several Gensuite team members in the Cincinnati office attended the comSpark Innovation & Tech Summit. This event brings together technology companies to celebrate innovation in Cincinnati’s growing tech community. During this conference, Gensuite’s Founder & CEO, R Mukund, and Executive Vice President & Customer Development Officer, Natasha Porter, had the opportunity to speak on separate panels. Mukund spoke on the Diversity in the Field of IT panel and Natasha spoke on the Women in Tech panel. As both a woman and a minority, I feel proud to be represented by a company that values diversity on so many levels.

 

I wanted to share insights that Mukund and Natasha covered during their talks. Here are their answers to some of the hard-hitting questions surrounding women and diversity in the tech community.

Diversity in the Field of IT Panel

How can we attract diversity to Cincinnati?

Mukund: In the Indian-American Chamber of Commerce, we talk about how we can encourage more Indians, and minorities in general, to enter the tech space. Indians strive for excellence in higher–education and into our careers. But we are still under-represented in this community. The best way to overcome this is to participate in events like this, where we can come together and promote diversity in tech.

How can we promote tech in Cincinnati?

Mukund: In 1999, I was in a Compliance Assurance management position at GE, initiating the launch of software applications that became Gensuite. The Gensuite team were looking at locations to establish our company, such as Connecticut. But I wasn’t leaving Cincinnati. And finding people to recruit was easy because of the diversity in this city. For this team, we need to solve problems for our customers. Diversity is important to provide customer service that our users can relate to. What attracts people to our company is having content and materials that are attractive themselves. And being relatable no matter what we are selling.

How bad do you think discrimination is in the workplace and do you think it’s getting better?

Mukund: In the IT space particularly, it’s getting better. Getting the product to the customer is our main mission. But the other powerful driver is talented people. We need talented, diverse people to make our mission possible. Talent is what counts. It helps to eliminate roadblocks. If you can produce a solution, then we need your talent.

What do you think of Women in Tech?

Mukund: There are unique dimensions that women bring to the workplace. My mother is a strong female, and because of her influence, I really respect women in the workplace and the strong women I work alongside. At Gensuite, we all share the same mission. Our team is comprised of 40% females, but there are areas that that aren’t as balanced, such as our product development team. We are excited to welcome more women across all Gensuite global locations. There are certain things that females bring to those areas such as dedication. Two females joined our team today, and over lunch, I told them this, “speak up, we want you to share your ideas and have your voice heard.”

Women in Tech Panel

Tell us about a time, event or situation you were in that you realized you were different from everyone else in the room and how did you handle it?


Natasha: Early in my career, I was asked to travel to Japan to work with various sites using Gensuite. When I showed up for the training and discussion session, I quickly realized that out of the 300 people at the plant, the only women were myself and the administrative assistant at the front desk who checked me in. I was responsible for running an all-day session with 40 folks at the site, all different roles – plant line operators, EHS coordinators, up to the plant manager. Preparing for this meeting, it was important for me to know my customer, their needs, and learning about their culture and etiquette.

 

These panels always talk about work-life balance what do you have to say about this today?

Natasha: I think a lot of these panels talk about work-life balance because it’s a real challenge people face daily. For me personally, I have learned a lot along the way from both men and women that I have worked with. What has worked well for me is to have a weekly rhythm that includes work, rest, learning and maintaining communication with my loved ones.
What do you believe you bring to the table that your male peers don’t and how do you leverage that?


Natasha
: My answer would be “woman’s intuition” – it has helped me immensely in my career to forecast/predict where someone/a situation will go, read body language and adapt to situations.

 

What’s your favorite thing about being in the tech world and why would you recommend it to other women?

 

Natasha: It’s constantly changing and there are always new things to learn, makes it a very dynamic environment.

 

Being assertive is often viewed negatively for women but for men it’s not, how can you navigate this stigma in a male-dominated field?

 

Natasha: For women, being assertive can sometimes be mixed with being overly emotional. The best way to manage a challenging situation is not to bring emotion to it, but to position yourself with factual information and clearly state why you are going after a particular point or stance.

 

Growing quickly in a company, as a woman, can mean facing controversy with men the workplace. Have you had to face that and how did you handle it?

 

Natasha: I haven’t had to face this from the perspective rising quickly in a company. There have been times when I have had a disagreement or don’t agree with a colleague (man or woman), but when I took a step back, it boiled down to the differences in our personalities and the need to adapt to change the dynamic. Doing a personality test (DISC, Myers Briggs, etc.) is a great place to start. It helps to have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your personality and how you need to adapt to situations with folks who have personalities that are different from your own.

 

Hearing Mukund and Natasha, and the other panelists’ comments on what it’s like to be a minority or female in the workplace really inspired me. It was awesome to see these people who have achieved so much success in the tech industry and has made me reflect on my own experience in the field. I am so honored to be part of a company that has strong diversity and women’s initiatives. And to be a part of the team that celebrates what makes us different.

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