Swati Toshniwal, TechWomen100 award winner!
“I have learnt, if you believe in yourself you can make things work!”
Can you tell us about the industry you’re in and the role you play?
I work with Mphasis, a technology services company. The role that I’m in right now is more around technology sales. I started my career with coding, post MBA moved into technology solution consulting, then into marketing and business development and now sales. So, I have been pretty much through the tech life cycle and enjoyed it.
In my current role, I’m focused on bringing the right technology solutions to the clients in automotive and manufacturing sector.
Tell us about your award win, what does it mean to you?
I was excited about the award win! Winning, or recognition makes you feel great and feel like you are doing something right. One of the things in the awards, was how are you paying it forward? What is it that you are doing to enable more women in tech?
I recently started a ‘girls who code’ group where I conduct coding sessions for girls. I think winning the award also helped me inspire these girls to make their own career in tech. My first batch recently completed their course. During the feedback session, kids and their parents shared how in schools the tech exposure is not much. They were excited to actually be able to write code, to build a website or chat bot, or quizzes as part of the sessions and this got them interested in tech. This whole experience of having made a difference and getting girls interested in tech was motivating; and the award was cherry on the cake.
I think winning the award also inspires people who know me, or have worked with me, in terms of how important tech is. I’m very passionate about tech and I do feel tech, along with the right solutions can help you solve a lot of the world’s problems. There is a lot of creativity in tech, it’s not just coding. For me, getting the award was that recognition and being able to inspire others.
Why do you think awards like TechWomen100 are so important?
They help you share your story and inspire others. When you see other women, with similar backgrounds, achieve these awards; it makes you think if they can do it, I can do it too. It inspires you to take up challenging roles, to do something in the tech field and to talk about the difference you are making. You feel like the work you have done has been recognised, so you do better.
It inspires others to see that there are people who are getting recognised so if you do something similar, you would get recognition too. I think it is important especially for women, to get that diversity into the picture.
Do you think people have any misconceptions about women in Tech?
It does depend, but given the fact there are not that many women in tech, you do end up in meetings where you’re the only woman. Women do have to speak up more, voice opinions and showcase potential consistently for their presence to be acknowledged.
Like all roles, the common stereotypes around women continue to exist even in tech. Women also have to consistently prove their worth through performance. However, with more women entering tech, I hope and believe that would change.
What challenges have you faced, if any, in your career?
I come from a family of accountants, so when I chose tech and engineering, I didn’t have many role models then to help guide my career path. So, I had to figure out things on my own. This was tough initially, but the experience helped me be more resourceful and reach out to new people when I need help. Also having a supportive family did help.
Another challenge was in terms of being heard. I am a soft-spoken person by nature, which tends to be taken as I am feeble or unsure of my opinions. So, I had to work on my voice projection as well as tone to make sure my opinions and points are taken seriously and considered.
I have moved across multiple roles, functions, and even geographically which has enriched my experiences but also created challenges as every time I moved, I had to start from ground zero, adapt to new cultures, peers and workstyles. However, overall, I have learnt If you believe in yourself you can make things work!
What do you think would encourage more women to work in the tech industry?
Giving opportunities to women and recognising their efforts. You do see a lot of women in entry level and mid manager levels, but as you move higher up in the organisation, the number of women does reduce. There is also an unconscious bias that creeps in once a woman have children, and it is seen that their focus and potential has reduced. One needs to consciously avoid this bias.
They say, men are promoted on their potential and women are promoted based on their performance and this I have seen in tech as well. I see this as a challenge as it tends to back track women in their career, create frustration and self-doubt. This needs to change and organisations need to start looking at men and women from the same lens.
Companies should be flexible and help coach women. There is a lot of potential. If organisations started coaching women or mentoring their best women, and helping them to grow in their career, this would inspire other women in the organisation. Also, gender pay gap remains an issue and it would help to close it consciously to inspire more women into the industry.
What piece of advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?
Invest in connecting with people, build your support system and be biased for action. I have realised over the 10 years; that connecting with people brings new ideas and can directly/ indirectly influence your career. Building your support system of mentors, friends and family helps to guide you through when you are feeling low. And bias for action helps you move forward and not get stuck in a cycle of overthinking.
Think, take a decision and act. If a plan A doesn’t work out, you do have the chance to find and move with Plan B. And it’s not as bad to go with Plan B as one may have initially thought; So, action is important.
Would you like to be featured in our Focus on Women in Tech series? We would love to speak to you and hear about your experiences and your advice for others. Have you won the TechWomen100 award, or another industry award? Contact Harriet at [email protected]
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