Monday, 18 July 2016

This Time It Was Adobe

Once again.. this internship experience was about getting out of my comfort zone and leaning in, but in a slightly different way. I was ready to code and to contribute to the team. I was well versed with Sandberg's mantra to shift from the " what can I get ? " to " what do I offer ? " mindset. To Proceed and Be Bold and to say YES to any kind of task I felt uncomfortable with or any project I felt I could not do.

And that is exactly what happened... Cloud Technology and Java Script Libraries are not my favorite topics. But I anyway worked on them and by the end of the internship I realized , "Eh! They were not that difficult !! "  . Apart from surprising myself by being able to understand new technologies easier than I thought I could, I leaned in by asking for help and by asking for feedback. Two very important values in Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Book that can help anyone succeed in one's career. Asking for Help is something I hate doing because of the fear that I might end up irritating someone. Thank God that my mentor was a patient one and handled all my questions calmly !! Asking for a feedback was more difficult considering how sensitive I am and how I have never been able to take criticism. I watched "Feedback is a gift" video on LeanIn.Org Website 5 times and not only got the courage to ask for feedback about my work from my manager, mentor and the other colleagues in the team but also made sure that I don't take it personally. 

Unexpectedly, I also leaned in in a way Sheryl did not write about. And I am so glad I did. I went on a team trip. Trust Me !! Going to Manali with almost strangers was way way out of my comfort zone. Same was attending the Cocktail Party and other Team Parties. I went for them only to get to know more about myself. This was the first time , it did not take much time or effort for me to get comfortable with everyone during the trip. I strongly believe that the credit goes to the positive energy that flows within the work culture and to some "crazy" people who consistently encouraged me to be a part of the group conversations. I discovered that I enjoy more when I am not afraid of people around me and when I let myself free. I never knew I could make friends so quickly and easily.

Like every other experience in my life since last 2 years ( when I started leaning in ), this internship also helped me learn about technologies, the professional world and about myself. I finally believe that software is the right field for me. I realized that I am happier when I am not afraid to be myself. I am glad I took up small challenges and once again leaned in in my own way.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Why I will always be thankful to Lean In and Sheryl Sandberg?

Before people start getting annoyed with my "Thank You Lean In" posts, I thought of writing WHY I WILL ALWAYS BE THANKFUL TO Sheryl Sandberg and Lean IN !! This is also for people who have known me as a kid and are still confused "WHAT CHANGED THIS GIRL? "... Here is the story...

Innocent , sweet, shy , quiet, weak, slow, immature, kiddish, too nice, dumb, fearful, full of low self confidence, introvert - This has been my definition always, This is what people knew about me.

I still remember class 11th ( high school ) when my very short 16 year old life took a dramatic turn. My then best of friends started avoiding me. I suddenly became the most embarrassing friend to hang out with. And unfortunately I had no idea why this was happening. I initially started asking my friends and I got answers like -- “ You laugh too much “, “You don’t know how to talk to guys”, “You should work on yourself and grow up a little” . The answers were not clear but one thing was sure that something was wrong with me ( I thought then ). This bugged me so much that eventually I started hating myself for who I am. By the end of school , I was so afraid of hearing these comments that I decided that I will never talk to new people and will stay in my shell all my life (worst decision). Even after graduating from high school I kept asking myself again and again and again -- What wrong did I do? Why didn’t my friends like me?

Finally , I have found the answers. During school, I did not follow the unspoken rules that a 16 year old girl is expected to follow. I was not the kind of girl , a guy would ask out for a date. I used to laugh a lot ( I still do ), which is something guys don’t like in girls -- an unspoken stereotype. I never cared about how I looked, I did not know anything about dresses and hairstyles. I did not like shopping ( I still don’t) .I was good in studies , a sincere student and very talented but that obviously didn’t count. Consider it God’s curse or blessing, HE did not give me the senses to hear those unspoken messages and stereotypes( which my friends definitely followed ).

As I entered college, those unspoken messages became louder. I came to know that being good in maths and computer science or being able to create mobile applications didn’t matter for girls. The things that mattered was --Number of boyfriends, your dresses, nails, hair, time you spend on makeup and plans with your future prince charming. I was shocked when I was told that I will have to eventually sacrifice my ambitions and career after getting married and having kids. I knew this was wrong and unacceptable but neither did I believe in my opinions nor I had the courage to speak them aloud.
tongue emotico

When I read Lean In, the fact that Facebook’s COO and I share the same opinions gave me the courage to talk about these stereotypes amongst my friends. It took me 6 months to complete Lean IN. It took me 2 more months to gather the courage to write my vague thoughts to . I was on the top of the world when I received a reply from the organisation. I did not expect someone to actually go through my note. Nola Barackman was the first person outside my confined group of people with whom I communicated with over e-mail. She has made e-mailing a part of my comfort zone now. Her words had the magic to encourage this shy, innocent, weak and slow girl to start a circle with her then new friends. She introduced me to Alexandra Catherine Swanepoel , who was the first person I met over Skype. I was so nervous before the Skype call. I started jumping for opportunities , I never thought I could do. I used to observe my group of friends and plan my lean in circle activities accordingly. I remember jumping with joy when my circle’s pic was shown in the lean in campus kick off watch party. On 24th December 2014, lean in team gave me a surprise by posting my picture on their page as “The inspiration of the week”. I couldn’t believe it was written for me. Being an “inspiration” was so unsettling. Because of that picture , I met Bruna Curcio -- the first person I met in person .. haha

This was huge for someone who had once decided to never talk to new people ever.I stepped out of my comfort zone every single day. Not only public speaking, but speaking with people in general, exploring new things in programming, talking to new people without the fear of being judged, playing sport, raising my hand in class even when I didn’t know the answer, taking part in activities -- you name something new and I will do it.

A few weeks ago, I attended ABIdotDelhi conference -- a gathering of Women technologists in New Delhi. I raised my hand and spoke about lean in as soon as I got the chance ( I do that everywhere I go now  ). By the end of the conference, I had spoken to 12 senior women technologists. All of them recognised me as the “ the enthusiastic and confident girl who spoke about Lean In “.

Sheryl Sandberg changed the way I perceived myself. From an innocent, sweet girl to a strong, confident and inspiring leader. She changed the qualities I was so-called “born” with. My school teachers, parents and friends could have never imagined this. Even I never knew I had so much potential. I am not sure what the future holds for me and how far I will go but one thing is for sure -- NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW, NOTHING AT ALL. Because of Lean IN, I can finally say I am PROUD of myself.
Once again, THOUSANDS of THANK YOUS to Lean IN and Sheryl Sandberg.

Friday, 25 December 2015

My Favourite Moments at Grace Hopper Conference India 2015

Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing, India popularly known as the Disney Land of Technology is the largest gathering of Women Technologists in India. I applied for GHCI Student scholarship , not expecting to be selected for the same. But fortunately I got the opportunity to attend the Conference as a Student Scholar. Yaayyyy !!

This was the first time I was travelling without my family. I was expecting myself to be afraid but surprisingly I was not. It was like magic. I call it Sheryl's Magic :D 

During the conference Telle Whitney, CEO and President of Anita Borg Institute asked me my favourite moment in the conference. Now when I think about it... they are so many unforgettable moments I experienced in those three days. Here they go ...

Kimberely Stevenson, CIO of Intel and an amazing woman was the keynote speaker of the event. She spoke about the butterfly effect and how small actions can make big changes. When it was time for her to take question, I raised my hand even though I was shivering with nervousness. In fact I kept my hand raised and asked her the question. Yes, I fumbled while asking but I don't regret it at all. Being a shy, introvert girl for whom teachers had just one complaint in high-school - " She doesn't ask questions or participate in class" - This was a big achievement for me.

The second day of the conference I got the opportunity to conduct an informal surprise Lean In Session for all the GHCI Student Scholars. I along with my friends had prepared a 1 hour session from 22:00 hrs to 23:00 hrs covering Lean In and the basics of Open Source. The session extended to 00:30 hrs.  I started the session with asking everyone "Why do you think you received this scholarship ? " and the majority answered "because of recommendations". I further took the session telling how woman not giving credits for their achievements to themselves is a pattern. Then came negative correlation of Success and Likability, sitting at the table, making your partner a real partner, some tactics of negotiation and not leaving the career before actually leaving it. I ended up reading out Sheryl Sandberg's speech from the book where she asks college graduates one question ( my favourite question) - WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN'T AFRAID? I then recorded the answers and created a youtube video.

During the second day of the conference, I went to the Facebook booth and got a picture clicked with my Facebook posters - " Nothing at Facebook is someone else's problem" and "Let's kick the shit out of Option B". I also met two amazing women Nithya Sivakumar and Zainab Ghadiyali at the booth. They shared their inspiring Lean In Stories. On the last day of the conference , the Facebook team gifted me my favourite poster. I am so grateful to them.  Everyone at GHCI got a lot of swag... but these posters... my favourite poster.. only I brought them back home. Thank you Facebook Team for making me feel so special.

On the last day of the conference, Zainab Ghadiyali who also works for an non-profit organisation asked me ''Tell me one thing you are proud of doing?''. I , very enthusiastically, replied that I am proud of starting Lean In Circle in my campus and inspiring so many woman. To which she replies " Women are usually proud of things they do for others, I am asking what you are proud of doing for yourself". I can never forget this conversation. It was an eye-opener. Though I have been telling women to owe their success since last one year but I never realised I still made that mistake. (It is not easy to change mindset ... Phew )  Nervously, I told her about an app I am creating named GIRLGORITHM to teach algorithms to high-school girls and decrease the gender gap in IT Industry.

The best part of GHCI Conference is the exposure you get and the people you meet. From Rashmi Mohan - Senior Manager Yahoo, Zainab and Nithya from Facebook Team to Ankita, Akanksha, Apoorva, Dinu and specially my roommate Nitika.... I met the most amazing women at GHCI and once again felt amazing to be a part of IT industry.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

My First internship - with IBM !!

Being an MCA 1st year student, I was expecting this to be a 9 to 5 developer job and was excited for the same. But things did not turn out the way I was expecting them to be. The first week of internship was disappointing since I had to do everything from talking to startups at incubators to giving presentations in events and meet ups, from helping hackathon participants to creating an application on the same platform .

The second reason I was not happy with my internship was because most of the time I wanted to hide under the table. Yes you read it right, even after being the president of lean in society of my college and inspiring so many girls to lean in ....  I felt not suitable for the internship. All my colleagues had so many achievements. They were from best of the institutes of India like NIT and IIT. One was an android expert, other had created an IoT device that makes the tree tweet. Some were doing more than one internship at the same time while other had just completed an internship from U.S. I felt so out of the place for not having any achievement . By the end of the week, when I came disappointed and tired from office my parents asked " how are you going to inspire women who are looking up to you when you yourself can't dare to sit at the table ? ". The very next day Lean in Facebook page posted the quote "kick the shit out of option B". That was the Universe's sign that I was doing something wrong. 

Starting conversations with strangers and giving presentations in front of them was not something I was very fond of. It was not in my comfort zone. The only thing I could talk about to strangers was .... Yes you are right... Sheryl Sandberg's lean in . So in the second week whenever I had to talk to strangers, I used to start with how women hold themselves back at works place, appreciate the (very few) women present and then move on to IBM's cloud offerings. I spread about lean in wherever I went. By the end of the internship one of my colleagues said " this girls can go on and on about lean in ". 

Internship with IBM was a life changing experience. I feel more confident after two months. I can actually start any conversations about anything . I learnt two new frameworks - node.js and angularjs in two days and created an application on the same. Since I was evangelising IBM's platform as a service - bluemix, it was the best way to learn about cloud computing.  I met the most ambitious group of people I've ever met and made new friends.  Because of these people I see life from a different perspective. I learnt that leaning in is a continuous process. You have to constantly remind yourself to sit at the table and not underestimate your abilities. I learnt what Sheryl  Sandberg actually meant by "sitting at the table" and " kicked the shit out of option B" . 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself. I know people who say "No thank you and sorry'' in friendship but are too formal to believe in the same. True friends love you the way you are. They know when you are faking it. So, the first question you ask yourself while judging your friendship is "Can I be real me?" if the answer is no , don't expect the relationship to last long. Be Yourself with everyone who comes across in your life,and for sure you will find the right people, the right friends to hang out with, the ones who will gracefully accept you just the way you are.

The second question you should ask yourself is "I am a side-kick to that person?" . Do you feel like a supporting character, a side kick, taken for granted?. Do you feel like the "giver" in the friendship?. If yes, then mind your steps. Friends are very important but no one has the right intrude your self-respect. You deserve to feel equal. Respect is a very important part of any relationship and people respect those who respect themselves.

Finally, the third most important element is Trust. If you have a friend who constantly gossips around and judges his/her own friends , you have definitely been his/her target. Don't expect a person who is always criticizing people behind their backs to be true to you. The one who is honest to others is a trustworthy friend.

At the end, if you feel you have true friends...LOVE them the way they are, RESPECT them and be HONEST to them because THEY ARE WORTH IT...... ;)

Monday, 14 July 2014

Lean In

It was 10th grade, the topper of our school was asked to say a few words about her achievement. She started with thanking her parents, her friends , her teachers and her lucky stars . There I was sitting in the audience wanting to scream "For God's sake, tell them how hard YOU worked for your exams !!!" but had no courage or confidence to raise my hand.

Thankfully, my parents always allowed me to be myself. I was never pressurized to "behave like a girl". As I entered all women's college, I started adapting some "girly" behavior to fit into the society. Time went by and I realized that Indian girls were not allowed to even dream big. Most of them were preparing themselves for their future life partners and future mother in-laws. The little ambitious ones restricted their dreams till marriage, as they knew that they will have to sacrifice their career life for their family. By the last year of college I was sure that I am not going to end up living like that. I believed in living in present, for myself and for the people I love , not for the imaginary people who have not yet entered my life.

That's when, My dad gifted me this book after watching (also making me watch) Sheryl Sandberg's ted talk ( ). I felt like I got magic beans which will lead the way to my ambitions. Life became simpler, when while making any decision all I had to do was ask myself  "What would I do if I weren't afraid?". I am working on "Raise Your Hand"and "Sit at the Table". When I read "Don't leave before you leave", the first thing I did was pat myself on the back because I already believed in the same thing. This book made me write this blog as I am not known to be efficient in writing skills. So I took it as a challenge !!

Being a leader was never on my mind. I was very sure that I didn't possess leadership qualities. Now that I think bout it, I WILL HAVE to lead and I will have to LEAN IN in order to encourage other girls. Still not knowing the how's and where's , I am starting it with the people around me.

Few days ago, I completed my graduation and was updating my Facebook status..."feeling blessed" when my father interrupted and said "After reading Sheryl Sandberg's book, you still feel blessings are the cause of your achievements?? ". I immediately changed the status to "feeling proud" ... So Girls be proud of yourself and LEAN IN !!!