Women in Tech | ChannelDrive.in
“My mantra for success is hard work and there is no shortcut to success”, these are the words of wisdom that define the meaning of success and strong integrity for Asha Rangaswamaiah, Principal Engineer, Data Technologies & Fabric Enablement Group, NetApp India.
As part of our special content series – Women in Tech – we at ChannelDrive.in engage with her to map the crests and troughs of her professional and personal journey so far.
Professional Profile – Redefining Success
How do you define success? What is your mantra to succeed?
Success means a bunch of things to me. I believe every aspect of our lives has success associated with it. Say on a personal front, I would consider myself successful if am able to imbibe some of my values in my child. Career wise, my ability to influence my colleagues and get the best out of them will make me a successful professional. Similarly, for some, success could be when they help an underprivileged person.
That said, my mantra for success is hard work. I believe there is no shortcut to success, and only hard work can take you to places where you want to be.
How has been your professional journey so far? Please tell us about your various job profiles.
After completing my graduation in Computer Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University, I joined a Bangalore-based networking start-up called Neutron Networks in the Quality Assurance (QA) team, where my role involved testing WiFi routers and firewalls. You are basically given the job to find faults in something and fix those, which was something that I found very exciting. What I found equally enjoyable was working in a startup culture, be it the close-knit community, the challenging work or the thrill to deliver against tight deadlines.
Two years later, in 2005, I moved to NetApp as a Member of Technical Staff. Back then, the NetApp Bangalore office had less than 100 employees. I joined the QA team that was testing a product called NetCache. Around one-and-a-half years into it, NetApp decided to sell the product and that is when I moved to Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) File Systems, which is the core of the ONTAP products.
It was a huge shift from networking for me. The technology was completely new to me and we were now dealing with Storage Systems, which is so vast and deep tech at its core, that it takes years to fully comprehend in its entirety. It was very challenging but was also a good learning experience for all of us. We had a lot of good mentors who we could reach out to whenever we needed any help.
Today, after having spent close to 13 years at NetApp, I am the Principal Engineer at the Data Technologies and Fabric Enablement group. And it has been such an incredible journey so far.
When you look back in your career – what according to you can be termed as big turning points. How have these turning points helped you professionally?
Soon after we moved to the WAFL File Systems, I asked my management to give me an entire project that I could handle on my own. Until then, it was the Sunnyvale, US, office (global NetApp headquarters) that used to drive most of the QA projects. They trusted me and gave me a big technology to work on. I had to cross collaborate between the two sites and ensure that we delivered our work on time.
It was encouraging and motivating when my suggestions and inputs were taken into consideration. I also worked with senior engineers and mentors and that gave me a lot of exposure and understanding of the work that we were doing.
Another turning point in 2010 when I moved to the Sunnyvale site for one-and-a-half years for a fresh project. I was the only QA person for this project, and my manager and I had to hire and build a new team for the project. Forming a new team at a global level and mentoring such a diverse group of individuals and getting them to deliver that project has been one of my most fulfilling experiences at NetApp. In fact, I did not fully realize the importance of mentoring until I received a call from Tom Mendoza (Vice Chairman NetApp) sometime later.
He told me that my peer had nominated me to recognize my efforts towards the project. I was shocked and surprised at the same time. These are the kind of things that make a huge difference in our lives.
What are some of the challenges that you faced and overcome during your professional journey? How did you overcome these challenges?
Being in a profession where we still lack gender diversity is not easy. But fortunately, I have not faced such biases in my professional life. This could be due to various factors. Firstly, I consider myself a strong individual and this has always helped me stand my ground.
Secondly, the culture at NetApp has been quite gender-agnostic which made it easier for me to blend in. And we make sure this is carried forward with new women coming on board, ensuring we have a comfortable and secure work environment.
I also found a strong woman role model in the organization, a very senior engineer who I first worked with when I had moved to WAFL. She has been a big influence on me; I felt if I could become even half of what she was, I would consider myself successful.
From her I learnt many a thing, including being detail-oriented and thorough with one’s work. She was aggressive but not arrogant and that’s a very subtle line. I really admired this quality in her.
I have tried to incorporate these in my career as well. As a leader, it is important to be humble and approachable as this helps build interpersonal relationships.
How do you see yourself five years from now? What are some of your big goals that you want to achieve?
I want to continue in my current career path. There are not many women technical leaders in our industry, and I want to make a difference. I want to learn about new technologies and keep myself abreast of innovations and developments in this fast-changing industry. One instance would be that while I have stayed with WAFL for a long time now, I have made sure that I work with new WAFL areas and features every two to three years.
I also want to acquire leadership skills which will enable my professional growth. In terms of the coming few years, I aspire to become a Technical Director and have been putting all my efforts to get there.
Personal Profile – Passionate about Technology
How would you describe yourself?
I consider myself to be a strong woman with a passion for technology. Since my childhood, I have always been curious to learn and explore new things, a trait I still carry, which helps me grow in all my roles, be it as a technical leader, a mother or an individual. I strongly believe we should be given the freedom to make our own decisions and let no one else decide for us. The moment we take control of our lives, we can achieve whatever we want.
How do you see yourself as a person? What are your three qualities that have helped you grow as a person and a professional?
I am extremely committed when it comes to my work and have always been a team player working in a large group and providing opportunities to all my team members. This is an important aspect of my style of work. I appreciate feedback from my colleagues and believe that to achieve and grow as a team, there must be transparency and a two-way conversation. I am also always open to learning and make sure that I never stagnate.
Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?
Being a mother to a six-and-a-half-year-old, under regular circumstances, may not allow parents much time to invest in themselves.
I am however using this opportunity to explore new interests and hobbies with my daughter. When she joined art classes, I did the same and have surprisingly found myself very good in sketching. I even want to continue it. When she started taking swimming classes, I enrolled myself as well. Chess is another thing that we are learning together. This allows me time to bond with her and is an experience that I deeply cherish.
Please tell us something about your family. How has been their support in terms of helping you grow professionally?
I have been married for 11 years now and am a mother to a six and a half-year-old daughter. My husband has always been very supportive about my work and pretty much everything else. I want to also mention my mother’s contribution, both in my formative years and as well as today.
Having her close to my home has helped me in maintaining a work-life balance. It’s comforting to know that my daughter is safe and growing up with the same set of values as I did. As a mother, it definitely helps me focus on my work more.