Women in tech: “Women MUST promote and support their fellow women.”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Reema Poddar, Chief Product Officer for Teradata.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Reema Poddar, Chief Product Officer for Teradata.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Reema Poddar
Reema Poddar is the Chief Product Officer for Teradata. In this role, Reema is a member of the Executive Leadership Team reporting to Oliver Ratzesberger, President and CEO. A highly successful executive with nearly 24 years of experience in the software industry, Reema Poddar is a respected thought leader and authority on big data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud services, and the industrial Internet of Things. She leads product management, product engineering, technology innovation, and corporate and cyber security. In this role, she ensures that the product offerings deliver on their promise to help customers rise above the complexity of today’s analytics landscape to find answers to their toughest business challenges.
Since joining Teradata in 2017, Poddar has unified the global engineering organization, leads a team of 1,700, and actively contributes to the overall strategic direction of Teradata. She drove a cultural transformation within engineering by focusing on solving business use cases and building a framework for key products and features. Poddar was a driving force behind the general availability of Teradata Vantage, the industry’s only platform for pervasive data intelligence.
Her successes include accelerating digital transformations, enhancing customer experiences, and enabling companies to improve automation, developer productivity, and operational excellence. Poddar encourages young women to consider technology and product management roles. At Teradata, she strives for diversity by supporting the Teradata women network and the TeraBytes group. Poddar holds Master’s degrees in computer science and electronics.
What first got you interested in tech?
As a child, I dreamed of changing the world by helping people in need. In elementary school, I made up my mind to become a cardiologist after seeing my father suffer through a massive heart attack. In grad school, my ambition broadened, and I realized that to truly change the world, I had to touch more than one patient at a time. Advancements in technology were already beginning to enhance patient care and I could see how future technological advancements could facilitate extraordinary improvements to the healthcare system and to public health in general. It was then I found my passion in the power of technology (Computer Science) and I realized that I needed to pursue a career in technology to truly change the world.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Early in my leadership career I transformed GE software technology center in India with a start-up focus. I led the people, process and technology transformation and achieved the global award for being ranked the first global site with the highest score for employee and customer satisfaction. Here I faced a male-dominated leadership culture where getting cooperation from my peers was truly an uphill battle. Through building partnerships and trust, I instilled a startup mentality and built a high-performance culture focusing on things such as new production innovation, new product introduction via user experience, automation, and continuous improvement. I took away numerous learnings but instilling a high-performance culture has been useful everywhere.
A strong support group
My family has always been my best supporter, and my father and mother are my role models. They are not even high school graduates. They taught me how to be grounded and respect everyone. My dad always told me, “Experience is one thing that no one can take away from you. So, try new things and don’t be afraid to face uncertainties: being uncomfortable is ok.”
There are a few other people who have inspired me over the years including:
Indra Nooyi is an Indian American business executive, serving as chairman of Pepsi Co and as CEO for 12 years from 2006-2018. She is consistently ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women. In 2014, she was ranked at number 13 on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful Woman. In February 2018, the International Cricket Council announced that Nooyi would join the ICC Board as its first independent female director in June – this in a sport that usually men play. She uses her support network to learn and grow, and seeks help from anyone without any inhibition. She is a great women leader who shares her experiences for the greater good.
Satya Nadella is an American business executive from Hyderabad India who currently serves as the CEO of Microsoft. I look up to him as a change agent, who believes in focusing on people’s strengths, not weaknesses, and who is curious and tries to learn from the next generation.
Don’t try to be a perfectionist. Most women try to perfect things. Believe in yourself and take time to celebrate your victories by focusing at times on yourself.
Kirsten Green is the founder and managing director at Forerunner Ventures, where she backs female-led startups such as Birchbox and Glossier, as well as successful e-commerce plays with Jet.com and Dollar Shave Club. She made Forbes top Female Executives and Midas’ List of Top Tech Investors. Six out of the seven executives in her firm are women.
Victor Lund was our president and CEO at Teradata Corporation and he is now the Executive Chairman of the board of Teradata Corporation. Many people would assume that Vic would be a technologist at heart. He isn’t. One of Vic’s greatest skills is understanding customer problems and delivering solutions to solve them. Vic combines a seasoned business acumen with a humble and approachable demeanor that resonates with our customers and employees. I have learned a lot in the short tenure under his leadership.
Did someone ever try to stop you from advancing in your professional life?
Yes, but I would never let them.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Inspiring confidence and building a high performing team who appreciate the trust, transparency and collaborative approach we take. I’ve built my reputation on driving behavioral changes in order to deliver innovative products that customers demand. The net effect of these changes has enabled transformations that have inspired confidence in subordinates, peers, and boards of directors at the companies that I have served starting from startups, GE and at Teradata.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” STEM disciplines are all about trial and error and you must be willing to take risks to be a successful technologist. Now, consider how many families raise their children. We allow our boys to take many more risks than we do our girls, whether it’s on a sports field or if it’s asking someone they may like to go out on a date.
Failure offers valuable life lessons, yet because we tend to want to protect our daughters from disappointment, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn. Luckily, my father took a very different approach with me, challenging me to take risks.
For example, growing up in India, I remember how I loathed going to the post office because on the way, at a bridge-crossing, there was a particular group of boys who would tease other kids who crossed over the bridge. I remember needing to mail a letter and begging my father to take me to the post office so I could avoid those mean boys. After explaining my plight, my father not only made me go by myself, he actually gave me the daily task of taking our family mail to the post office every day! I hated it then, but I know small things like that helped me face the toughest situations and to learn how to overcome fear. I am a stronger human for it being now.
Could you name a few challenges women in tech face?
Women MUST promote and support their fellow women. Too many women look at the number of seats women have at the table as limited and assume their biggest competition is the other woman at the table.
Also, in general, for women to get to leadership positions, they tend to be more “A” type personalities than their male counterparts need to be and will naturally oppose other A-type personalities at the table. Be yourself, use your strengths and focus less on your weakness. Don’t try to be a perfectionist. Most women try to perfect things. Believe in yourself and take time to celebrate your victories by focusing at times on yourself.
Not every woman in the tech space needs to be a technologist. There are other roles like product managers, business analysts, program managers where women can excel.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
The US is suffering from a lack of tech talent and it’s hurting the bottom line for companies large and small across the country. Adding to the tech talent pool is an economic win any way you look at it.
Share your stories of learnings and failures and you will help others achieve their goals faster.
In addition to providing women with the same economic opportunities men have, gender diversity can empower women to be part of a workforce that is solving our world’s greatest challenges like clean energy, healthcare, and much more.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
Diversity brings together different people from different backgrounds with different perspectives. In the workplace, those perspectives bring different ways of thinking which leads to different ways of problem solving.
Diversity challenges us to think differently and allows us to challenge each other’s way of thinking. Diversity allows us to understand and appreciate our differences. Diversity is the secret sauce for teams to confront challenges in the workplace and solve in unique ways. At Teradata, I believe we are already seeing the results from our effort to hire a diverse workforce.
What advice would you give to women who want a career in tech?
Focus on your strengths: You are very likely to underestimate the things that you are naturally good at and it is often with these things that you can make the greatest impact.
If you lose, don’t lose the lesson: In this day and age, speed to market is the critical element and there’s always a balance that you need to strike between speed and perfection. Train yourself to stop striving for perfection and instead, learn to take risks and adapt a fast fail approach. Setbacks lead to success as long as you learn from them.
Find great mentors: Seek out people you admire who recognize your unique talents and demand you leverage them to maximize your potential.
Become a great mentor: Share your stories of learnings and failures and you will help others achieve their goals faster. When you truly help someone to achieve their potential it can be one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences in life and it will make you a better leader. Mentorship offers the opportunity to shape tomorrow’s leaders and when done well can lay the groundwork for a culture bound for success.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- Women in tech: “Different backgrounds enrich processes and products”
- Women in Tech: Frederike Busch — “I don’t believe in structural discrimination”
- Women in Tech: Dagmar Schuller — “There were one or two obstacles along the way”
- Women in Tech: Lisa Mo Wagner — “The most important thing when starting out is to be more self confident”
- Tips for Women in Tech: Andrea Pretorian — “Setbacks and ‘failures’ are really learning opportunities”
- Women in Tech: Swarali Karkhani — “Women in tech should try to step out of their comfort zone more and speak up more often without having imposter syndrome.”