As the new year begins, it’s a time for self-reflection and improvement both in your career and personal life. In this Product Profile, we speak with Ketaki Vaidya, an AI Product Manager, at Oracle Hospitality to discuss working in tech as a woman.
Ketaki has been in the tech industry for over 5 years now. Coming from a family of doctors and engineers, she was the first to delve into the sector. After her four-year course in Computer Science, she received an offer from Oracle in 2017 where she’s been working at ever since. She discusses her experiences of working as a woman in the tech field, and what initiatives there are for women to get into the sector, learn, and grow.
Working in tech as a woman
Ketaki explains that from studying and working in tech-based positions, she noticed that there weren’t enough female role models, especially in leadership positions. Although there is an increasing number of women entering through entry level, a large number decide to leave the sector during the mid-career level.
“Stereotypes and pre-conceived views are a common issue while working in this sector,” she says. “It happens in implicit ways. It’s not always intentional but comments are made based on the stereotypes that many of us have been brought up with,” Small comments such as asking a woman to take notes during a meeting, or making a comment about hiring for tick boxes are common experiences that women may face daily, Ketaki says.
It’s important to have these role models in the industry to explain what is right and what isn’t. This is imperative to ensure that leaders are lending voices to those who feel uncomfortable speaking up.
Initiatives to improve diversity in the tech world
Aside from the need for more female role models in the workplace, several initiatives have been created to address female inequality in recent years, Ketaki explains. “I’ve seen many women tech conferences arise, and communities being formed as part of it. So today I’m very grateful that we have such communities to rely on where we can get together with other women and rant about the problems that we’re facing. These have also been useful to get the required support without feeling like we are being left out,” she adds.
Despite the positives, she says how every conference and community tends to have a very different objective. Ketaki adds, “We have a long way to go before we can have gender equality in the tech industry. This equality will come by addressing multiple issues that a range of women face at every stage of their careers. This can accelerate with the hiring of more women.”
In addition to conferences and communities, Ketaki explains that organisations must have inclusive policies to support women during various stages of their lives. Benefits such as paid leave, flexible working, and mentoring can be imperative factors. These can be introduced to not only support women in tech but to also ensure longevity in their careers. “They [women] should be given the resources and the time to get back to work without any obstacles to their career growth,” she says.
Initiatives that Ketaki works with such as MillionStem as well as Women in Tech Network have made it their mission to drive these initiatives in the right direction. Ketaki explains that the first step with these initiatives is to inspire the new generation of women and show the world that there are a plethora of possibilities within the sector. “There are roles within tech companies that aren’t heavily tech-based, while others require you to be good at writing and communication. Many others require a completely different set of skills—there’s so much variety and many roles to choose from. That is the message that we have to first get to the next generation.” Ketaki explains.
Dealing with imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a common feeling in the product management community. As someone who has just broken into product, this is not different for Ketaki. Having to travel from India to San Francisco for this role, feeling like an imposter is expected. However, what Ketaki has learned is that imposter syndrome doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. “It may always exist, and you may never be able to eliminate it, but you can manage it. If you have it, it means that you’re serious about the task at hand,” she says. Being part of a strong networking group, and always asking for help can go a long way in combatting this.
When it comes to women speaking up about their personal issues, or them simply asking for help, Ketaki explains that it could take a woman 5-10 years before they start doing so. There is always a worry that speaking up may impact the possibility to climb up the career ladder.
“In those five to 10 years, you could lose a lot of those good opportunities which could’ve led to a better career path. But it’s common to think not speaking up is normal, especially if an individual is working in a toxic environment,” she says. Ketaki closes by listing three key things to consider if you are looking to grow in your career.
Reach out to more people and always have a support network.
It doesn’t have to be your workmates. It can be outside of your workplace because there are these communities that are coming up these days.
Attend different conferences
You can talk to people and form your tribe. But once you have your tribe you have to rely on them for advice. At times we get blinded by the situation at hand. And you need to get some unbiased advice on how to handle these situations.
Find a mentor
Both inside and outside product management. A 2019 survey by Olivet Nazarene University found that while 76% of people think mentors are important, only 37% have one. A mentor can offer guidance beyond the specific skill development offered by a coach or manager. Doing this can establish an ongoing relationship with an expert in the field that you are looking to delve into.
Where to find Ketaki and further resources
- Check out her podcast
- Read her product management and tech insights
- How to break into product management