TechGig: Women Achievers: It is important for women in technology to be seen, heard and leave an impact, says Tesco Bengaluru tech director Vidya Laxman
To redefine women in tech, we need to individually take on the role of owning our talent and expertise, says Vidya Laxman
Neha Singh Verma, TechGig.com
What is it like to be at the helm of technology for Tesco?
It is exciting and interesting to be at Tesco Bengaluru now. Consumerisation of technologies has truly disrupted the retail industry. Consumers are demanding and expecting a better customer experience across all channels. I am currently heading Data Analytics and Services for delivering the end to end customer journey. At Tesco, we are rolling out a technical platform/product mindset underpinned with Agile Product Development - one of our key focuses is omnichannel transformation including rich in-store experience powered by machine learning, augmented reality and robotics.
How easy or difficult was it for you to make a mark in this male-dominated sector?
I have been fortunate for the most part to have always had great male colleagues as my peers or managers who have encouraged, supported and guided me in my journey. Being a sportsperson, one of the things that I learnt early was one need to give it the best to win but one should also lose gracefully. Being very competitive and also the field that I have chosen, I always have to keep up with the changes happening in the technology field, which means that I have to constantly keep unlearning and relearning and augmenting my skills. I have managed to do so by working with some very smart people and this has helped me in being on top of the game.
What is your typical day at work like?
As I have a commute of two hours to office. I start my day by doing interviews. I try to interview every person who joins the team – from graduates to senior folks. I believe that culture plays a very important role and so I am very particular about the kind of people I get onboard. I participate in technical reviews with my teams – getting into high level architecture design as well as have meetings with the business to understand their priorities. Just to build a culture of transparency and open culture of sharing – I try to have a town hall meeting with my whole team to share business updates, new innovative technology that they have implemented etc. on a weekly basis. I also do have focus group meetings. Being on the board of Diversity & Inclusion and also on the board of Tesco Bengaluru entails taking part in discussions on what we can do differently to engage our colleagues more.
Apart from being associated with various industry bodies such NASSCOM, American Chambers of Commerce, etc., you are currently the co-chair for Anita Borg Institute (Grace Hopper) – Women in Technology. What is your aim with this role?
ABI is a volunteer organisation and I was the programme co-chair two years ago and 2,000 women attended that event. The programme has leadership tracks, technical tracks, student tracks and entrepreneurship track for women in technology. The programme chair is a rotational job. Currently, I am on the advisory board. I have been fortunate and lucky to get to the position and want to see to it that I share the experiences and also give exposure to all the women in technology. As this is the only conference for women, it gives me an opportunity to have direct impact on the women in technology.
How would you describe your tryst with technology?
I did my computer engineering and got started on the technology journey. I am a tinkerer by nature so have felt home in this field. Working on cutting edge technologies is always fun but I am also focused on is how it solves the business problem on hand and to make technology the underpinning for being one of the differentiator for my company. I have been fortunate to have my thoughts shaped by women in technology , who I’ve worked for and along with – they have shown and encouraged me that I have what it takes, but who have also been candid that, I will always have a to learn because this field is continually changing. These mentors have shown me that being a woman in technology means having an understanding of your strengths and growth areas, while also having the determination to go after what you deserve.
According to you, what are the drivers of change for women in technology?
I feel it is important for women in technology to be seen, heard and leave an impact. In order to reshape and redefine women in technology, we need to individually take on the role of owning our talent and expertise to pave that path moving forward. I feel that will be one of the drivers of feeling empowered and also executing on it.
What are your biggest achievements at Tesco?
I have always been known as a change agent. As Tesco Bengaluru has embarked on a journey to become more of an Engineering organisation, I am part of the transformation team. I am the Evangelist in Agile Transformation across the whole organisation. Additionally, I am also on the Board as well as Diversity & Inclusion council and have had impact on changing policies across the organisation to make it more colleagues friendly. I am working on encouraging the culture of learning by having sustainable and continuous technical events like meet-ups, hackathons, external speakers and also encouraging the teams to share their knowledge.