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‘Female role models inspire girls to pursue tech careers’, says this techie from Amazon

Apeejay Kharghar alumna Vindhya Rao calls for large-scale investment to build state-of-the-art computer labs in all schools.

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Vindhya has been working as a Software Development Engineer with Amazon for around 3 years now. She is part of the Amazon Kindle Team and is tasked with providing a buttery smooth reading experience to users. Kindle devices enable users to browse, buy, download, and read e-books, newspapers, magazines and other digital media via wireless networking to the Kindle Store. She completed her B.Tech in Computer Science from Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Vindhya’s father is a former Instrumentation Engineer and mother is former school teacher. In an informal interview, the young techie talks about her school life, how to get more women in tech, experience of working at Amazon, and more. Edited excerpts:

How was your school life?

Though I studied in Apeejay Kharghar for just two years – classes 11 and 12, I share a strong bond with the school. I had an admiration for the school even before I got enrolled in it. Let me share an anecdote. I was in class 4 when I interacted with a few students of Apeejay during an inter-school quiz competition. I was immensely impressed by their enthusiasm towards academics. So after I completed my class 10, I wanted to pick a school that gives full attention to studies as classes 11 and 12 are extremely important for your future. Apeejay is known for providing the best conducive environment for studies, so it was obvious for me to pick the school. The positive environment created by teachers prepared us well for the Boards. I also participated in extracurricular activities with gusto. I took part in a lot of oratory competitions and was the student editor of my school magazine. I am thankful to the school for contributing to my holistic development.

Do you think we need more women in tech?

Absolutely, and for that to happen we need to have more female role models in tech. We are witnessing an increasing number of women in leadership roles in most fields, but in tech the progress has been slow. When women see other women in tech roles they find it easier to relate to them and get inspired to follow their footsteps. Research shows that role models have an amplified benefit for women due to persistent gender bias and negative stereotypes that most women experience from early on in their lives. Technology is rapidly shaping our world, yet women are currently under-represented in this crucial sector.  We also need to provide hands-on coding experience to school students so that they have practical exposure to the tech world. For that, we need to invest heavily in building up our infrastructure, specifically state-of-the-art computer labs. It’s important that we tap and encourage the talent at the grassroots level. Getting the right teachers is also important. I remember how my Computer Science teacher in Apeejay, Pallavi Ma’am, played a crucial role in making the subject interesting for students.  

According to you, what are the biggest challenges women face in tech?

At Amazon, I have never faced any gender-based discrimination. It offers one of the best working environments for professionals. However, based on my observation and interaction with my peers, I feel the biggest issue faced by women in tech remains being taken seriously due to gender perception and undergoing strict scrutiny compared to men. Other issues that affect them are non-flexible working policies and added responsibilities post marriage.

How is it like to work in one of the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) companies?

It has been a fantastic experience till now. I bagged the offer from Amazon during the campus placements. I worked as an intern with Amazon for around six months before I was absorbed as a full-time employee. The best thing about Amazon is that it encourages you to maintain a healthy work-life balance and inspires you to take initiatives to tackle challenges and solve problems. There’s complete freedom to innovate and take ownership at work.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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