It is a common perception that IT is mainly male dominant industry and it is very difficult for women to make their mark and reach higher positions but our next guest on Women Achiever beats the odds and has a successful run in the industry. Jaya Jagadish is a Senior Director of Engineering and India Lead at AMD, India. She has a career spanning over 21 years and has global as well as India experience. Jaya shares with us her journey in the industry and how women can also make their mark in IT domain. Below are the excerpts from her interview.
Brief about yourself (personal, family, education and profession)
I am a Senior Director of Engineering and India Lead at AMD, India. Have a total of 21 years of experience in the industry. My first job was at AMD, Austin after I graduated with MS in Electrical Engineering from University of Texas at Dallas. I later moved on to work for Mentor Graphics and Analog Devices in Austin, TX. In 2005, we decided to move back to Bangalore, India, my home town and that was when AMD had started their design centre in Bangalore. I re-joined AMD in 2005 and have been with the company since then.
On the family front, my husband is an engineer too and works for Dell, Bangalore, India. We have 2 kids, a 22 year old daughter who just completed her MBBS (Medical Undergrad) and a 18 year old Son who is finishing his 12th, also aspiring to be a Doctor.
How did you get into VLSI? How has the journey been?
Engineering fascinated me right from an early age. We had some smart engineers in my family (my uncles) who were my role models and whom I admire even today for their accomplishments and hence pursuing engineering was a natural choice. Electronics was a popular subject and fascinating as well, hence I chose to be an Electronics engineer. Some of the courses I took during my graduate studies in US and the opportunities in the industry drove my decision to be part of the VLSI Industry. The journey has been great with many challenges, opportunities and great learning.
What are the key challenges in this field for women? What are your personal challenges?
There aren’t many women in this field, more so at the management level. The industry is changing to be more women friendly but it does not come naturally. Most of the time, you are the only woman in most meetings, discussions with a room full of men. Many women, with brilliant potential find it hard to come back to work after life cycle changes. With more support from the companies with things like child care facilities, flexi hours, opportunities to upgrade skill set while on long leave, etc. would make it more easy and incentivizing for women to come back to work and achieve their career goals. Many corporates are doing this but more can be done in this regard.
Personally, managing a household with 2 kids and a demanding career has not been easy at all. I have had my share of challenges that required me to travel 100 miles to work every day, work in shifts from 4 AM – 2 PM to balance the family needs. Growth never comes easy and takes a lot of hard work. Acceptance of a woman in a leadership position too does not come naturally. There is lot of scepticism before you prove your abilities.
Overall, I have found the journey exciting and satisfying. I have been fortunate to get the support of my bosses and colleagues who have helped shape my career. AMD has a great work culture and I have been fortunate to have our own CEO, Dr. Lisa Su to look up to as my mentor and role model.
How difficult was it for you to make a move from US to India and how different it is working in India compared to US?
Moving to India was a personal choice and came with its own challenges. After having lived in US for more than a decade, it was not easy to adjust to living in India. It took about a year for all of us to settle down but what really worked was that we were really determined to stay back in India and make it work here. The support system from our extended families played a big role in helping us settle down.
India Semiconductor Industry is relatively young and the teams are more junior/young when compared to US. There is lot of energy and enthusiasm in the young engineering talent in India but the expertise and engineering depth is something we are in the process of building. Engineering leadership plays a key role in guiding, mentoring the young engineers and from my experience managing teams and delivering to our commitments take more effort from the leadership in India.
Culturally there is a little more scepticism and reluctance to accept women in leadership position.
The corporate scene is quite dynamic these days and one must be accessible around the clock. How do you ensure a balance between your personal and professional life in such a scenario?
With worldwide teams, being accessible around the clock becomes part of your life. Technology advancement has made it easier to manage these challenges. I take many of my cross-site meetings from home on skype and schedule my personal things around. There is also increased awareness and sensitivity in the corporates about the time zone differences and how to be more accommodating to folks in different time zone. It is however not easy and requires constant rebalancing to manage both personal and professional requirements.
What is one advice that you would like to give to working women and especially to women who are trying to make a career in VLSI as most people believe it is difficult for women to carve a niche for themselves in this sector.
Building a successful career is not easy, no matter which industry you are in. It takes a lot of hard work for both men and women. My advice to women is, if you are passionate about your career, don’t give up. Build your ecosystem and find a way to work around your challenges but don’t take the easy option of giving up your career. There will be tough phases but if you are determined, you can make it work. Build up your confidence and self-belief and don’t make long term decisions based on short term challenges.
Lastly, how do you like to unwind after a major crisis at work?
I am a trained Carnatic Music vocalist, I sing and listen to music to unwind. I also like to travel, read books (all types) and spend time with my family.