Women Leaders Should Challenge The Status Quo: Jaya Jagadish

by Sohini Bagchi    Mar 04, 2019

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Women may still be a minority in tech, but as their power rises, so does their responsibility and visibility. Jaya Jagadish, CVP, Silicon Design Engineering and India Engineering Lead at AMD India Pvt. Ltd. is one such successful leader who has been instrumental in driving AMD’s India as well as global growth. In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Jagadish talks about her career journey, challenges faced by women leaders in the IT industry, changes in the CIO role and how women can make their mark in IT domain. Exceprts.

CXOToday: Can you tell us about your professional journey?

Jaya Jagadish: I joined AMD as a Design Engineer, right after my Masters’ degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Texas. AMD works in the niche semi-conductor space and very few women take up a career in hardware engineering, but I was passionate about building and designing products and knew from the start, that this was my calling. After a short stint at Mentor Graphics and Analog Devices, I returned to AMD and was part of the founding team that set up the company in India in 2005.

One of the high points of my career has been building a high performing engineering team at AMD India - grounds-up. When I joined, we had limited talent in the CPU design space. We hired fresh graduates and trained them internally to build the talent pipeline. Today I lead 400+ engineers as part of the silicon design team and we play a critical role in driving AMD’s product roadmap. In addition, as India site lead, I work with the leadership team in the country to drive cutting edge innovation to fuel AMD’s global growth.

CXOToday: What are the unique challenges Indian women leaders are facing in the field of technology? How are these challenges similar or different from their western counterparts?

Jaya Jagadish: Challenges faced by women are similar across the world. Women often step off the career ladder at middle management level, as they are not able to cope with the demands of a senior role while managing care giving responsibilities at home. Long work hours, cross site meetings, corporate travel along with domestic responsibilities could stretch women leaders in different directions. Since it is less common to have women in leadership positions, it is also not always easy to be accepted as a leader. There are times, when you have to doubly prove yourself to earn the positionand respectfrom peers.

CXOToday: We do not see more women in the CIO or similar senior roles still. What needs to be done about it? Do you see things changing for the better?

Jaya Jagadish: While it’s encouraging that we, in India, have a better ratio of women in the ICT workforce at about 34% - less than 1% are in the C-Suite. I strongly believe that this needs to change and organizations need to build a conducive work culture for women managers to rise the leadership rank.

Progressive organizations like ours have taken several initiatives to support women.At AMD, we run a strong mentorship program for high potential women employees. They work with senior leaders to build their leadership skills, management capabilities and strong industry know-how. I was mentored by our CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, who has been recognized as one of the most influential women leaders in the technology world. In my current role, I mentor a number of women managers at AMD.

In addition, we have an Employee Resource Group (ERG) called the AMD Women’s Forum [AWF] which meets regularly to share achievements, discuss challenges, undertake networking opportunities and learn from women leaders in other sectors.

CXOToday: How do you think inclusion of male executives and other board members help in reducing the gender gap?

Jaya Jagadish: Gender equality is anorganizational imperative and every leader must play a part in building an inclusive work culture. At AMD, we recognize the challenge of increasing representation of women in engineering and other roles. We are doing this by institutionalizing mechanisms to reduce unconscious gender bias at workplace. We run a “Multi-voice” initiative to educate our global workforce to the power of multiple voices in the recruitment and promotions process. We are driving efforts to recruit diverse talent and sensitize everyone towards an inclusive culture, where the best ideas “win” regardless of the individual’s gender.

CXOToday:  What would be your organization’s priorities in the next one year?

Jaya Jagadish: 2019 is an exciting year for AMD as we are celebrating our 50th anniversary! It’s also an important year because we are rolling out our 7nm processors in the market across CPUs and GPUs. It is an industry first and the India team is playing an important role in helping bring these chips to the market.

CXOToday:  What are your hobbies?

Jaya Jagadish: I am passionate about Carnatic music. I started learning when I was four years old! If time permits, I practice and teach children in the neighborhood. In addition, I am interested in the field of Naturopathy and spend time learning about this medicinal science.

CXOToday:  What is your advice for women CIOs and entrepreneurs?

Jaya Jagadish: Throughout my journey, I have come to learn that the onus of success lies with women employees. It is important to build your confidence, as well as understand and play to your core strengths. Women have the innate ability of being more observant and sensitive. We tend to be more caring and can bring in the much-required sensitivity to understand, comprehend and resolve many people related issues. As leaders, we also need to stand firm on what is right, question the status quo and not shy away from taking bold decisions. Do not give up when the going gets tough. Things do settle down eventually.