Chat with Deepa Soundararajan: "We need to stand up and ask for what's rightfully ours"

There are no men and women, there are only people. Similarly, in the IT industry, there should be no women or men, only programmers. Yes, there's a massive discrepancy in the gender ratio and men do have a lot on their plate to fix this but women have their part in this. Women must believe that they're equal to their male counterparts in every possible way.

Deepa Soundararajan has been doing her part for many years. She's a senior development manager at Intuit, along with being a loving wife and mother. Through the course of this interview, you'll see that Deepa's gender has no bearing on her life and professional choices. There are many women who've faced adversities in the IT industry, but not Deepa. She made her life what she wanted it to be.

This is Deepa's story.

Aeroplanes and code 

Like many in the IT industry, Deepa didn't start off as a computer science engineer. She says, "I am an instrumentation engineer. I did not have computer science in my core curriculum. Like the myriads of other engineering graduates, I had done a few courses and internships in coding over various summers in college but nothing very serious."

Her moment of reckoning came with her stint with aeroplane simulators. She said, "My first job at Ramco Systems, Chennai was the turning point. We were developing a flight-simulator system.  The elegance of algorithms and the logical reasoning involved in the work made me fall in love with coding."

She thrives in situations that demand the use of her analytical self. She says, "The ability to crack a problem, the feeling of accomplishment makes me love coding. The new learning, which each piece of code brings in, keeps me charged. At Intuit, we foster a culture of innovation and the ability to showcase creativity, which are great motivating factors for engineers!"

She also possesses a very rare quality for an engineer—customer focus. When asked what is her most satisfying moment as an engineer, she said, "My most satisfying achievement as a programmer is when I see how my work makes a difference in a customer’s life. Each time that I have brought 'delight' to a customer has been a very fulfilling experience."

Stand up and ask for what's rightfully yours 

When compared to other streams of engineering, Deepa believes that computer science is easier for women to be a part of.

She says, "IT industry is actually easier on women when compared to many other engineering streams like mechanical/civil engineering. My personal experiences as a woman in the tech industry is that there is no distinction made between men and women. Just like any other industry, we need to be able to ‘stand up and ask for’ what is rightfully ours. It is possible but not practiced often."

She believes that a woman's tendency to step back and focus on family is one of the main reasons why there are so few women in the tech industry. She says, "Statistics may be similar to other industries, but I see that the ratio of men vs. women has increased over time at the entry level, however, when it comes to mid-career there is a significant drop in numbers and I mainly attribute it to women wanting to take a step back in their professional space to handle a growing family."

When faced with the same situation in her life, Deepa had the good fortune of an understanding family. She said, "According to me, whenever there is an adversity, one feels the pressure to take on a more traditional role. But having the support of family and friends is key in resolving these issues and reason things out."

"I come from a very traditional family background. Contrary to popular belief, I have been blessed with a very supportive family that let me pursue my dreams of studying in an engineering college far from home. I had their full support to take up a career of my choice and be independent. Even after my wedding and children, I have a very supportive husband and family that has given me the space to take a break and pursue my career once again."

"Sail out to the sea and do new things"

When asked what she sees herself doing in 10 years, Deepa said, "10 years from now I see myself in a senior leadership position, mentoring and guiding a fresh set of engineers and aspiring young professionals."

As parting advice for budding programmers, she quoted Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, "'A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to the sea and do new things'. Keep learning new technologies and sail the seas you never sailed before. That is how you grow and enjoy life!"

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at YourStory.com. When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.
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