The world of IT is largely male dominated. Despite that there are exemplenary stories of women who have pushed boundaries to make it big in the technology space. One such popular face of Indian IT is Poornima Shenoy, an industry veteran, a serial entrepreneur – who wears several hats. The British Chevening scholar for Women in Leadership and Management from the University of Bradford, Shenoy is the founding president of India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA), an independent board member for two companies and currently the co-founder and CEO of THE GAIN, a global acceleration platform for innovative technology startups.
In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Poornima Shenoy tells us what it’s like to be a woman in Indian tech, the challenges unique to women CXOs and lessons for aspiring women in technology space.
CXOToday: Can you tell us about your professional journey? What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Poornima Shenoy: Our professional lives are always woven together with our personal ambitions and happiness. I see myself essentially as a creator and a builder. So that has helped in my entrepreneurial journey and in working with leaders and teams. I am focussed and work really hard at meeting goals. Luck and family support too are important. I have had two earlier start-ups Nexus and Latitude and the current one is THE GAIN with STPI Director (former) B V Naidu. In addition, I started the marketing division at Manipal Global, set up NASSCOM’s first office in South India besides being the founding President of the India Electronics & Semiconductor Association IESA. I am also on the Board of two NSE listed companies. I find dealing with dishonesty as a real challenge; that is non- negotiable for me. I will walk away from a deal if I am not comfortable with the elements.
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?
Poornima Shenoy: I think Indian women are tough balancing artists. We manage to have our careers, our ambitions, our families and still succeed at all of them. I think it is important for us not to be wanting to be perfect at everything. Achievers want to excel but we need to accept that priorities change from time to time. It is possible to focus on the long-term goal in sync with present circumstances. One would be happier getting there. Look at the women in tech-in engineering colleges and at entry points into organizations. The struggle is really beyond and above the mid- level positions. But this is a global issue not just an India related matter.
CXOToday: We do not see more women in the CIO or a similar senior role still. What needs to be done about it? Do you see things are changing for the better?
Poornima Shenoy: I see the number of women CIOs going up. This is a plus. We must find out what got them there, what makes them stay here and try to replicate it. Organizations like Intel, IBM, Wipro are standing examples of such success stories. Even our government labs and Public Sector Banks.
CXOToday: How do you think inclusion of male executives and other board member help in reducing the gender gap.
Poornima Shenoy: It is necessary to have different perspectives while making decisions with long term consequences. Today we are not willing to accept unilateral viewpoints. I sit on the Board of the India Electronics & Semiconductor Association IESA as an elected member and not as a woman nominee. In major decisions, we aim to ensure participation not just on the basis of gender but also from a business perspective-how can we be more inclusive with Respect to SMEs, start-ups, regions, etc in addition to the larger corporations.
CXOToday: What would be your organization’s priorities in the next one year?
Poornima Shenoy: I am Co-Founder at THE GAIN- a tech Accelerator focussed on deep tech start-ups globally. We make our investment decisions from a business perspective and not based on the gender of the entrepreneur. Having said that, I would like to see more women starting companies independently. At IESA our focus is on engaging the start-up ecosystem and seeing more successful start-ups out of India.
CXOToday: What is your advice for women in Tech and entrepreneurs?
Poornima Shenoy: I would advise a three-pronged approach:
– Be focussed on your goals and do not get derailed by temporary set- backs.
– Work hard-really hard. That is essential.
– Get good mentors and a strong support system.