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Uma Thana - Women in Technology Interview Series Part II
23 July 2019
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In this Part II of the Women in Technology Interview Series with Uma Thana who is no stranger to a lot of female professionals in Singapore, being the Co-Founder of Lean InSingapore and also Vice President & Channel Chief, Asia Pacific & Japan at VMware. Uma has close to 20 years of experience in the technology sector. She has worked with some of the world’s leading technology companies and was recognized in May 2018 in CRN’s The Most Powerful Women of the Channel global list.
Uma has shared with our Founder the greatest lessons she has learned, how can female executives stay relevant in the tech space, what drives her to innovate today and how we can attract more females to be interesting in STEM while traditionally women are intimidated by it.
Watch on, you don't want to miss it!
SABRINA: Uma, what have been the greatest lessons you've learned along the way?
UMA: I think mentorship and sponsorship is one of the most important things. If you want to accelerate your career, if you want to get to the top of corporations. If that's what you want, mentorship and sponsorship is critical. I think that one of the most important decisions that a woman will make for her career is whether or not she chooses to have a partner, and who that partner is. You want to have a partner that respects your ambition and isn't threatened by it.
SABRINA: With a growing skill gap, how can female executives stay relevant in the tech space?
UMA: I think in an industry where it's changing so dramatically I think your skills need to be dynamic as well. And I like to segregate skills to what's teachable and what's not teachable. Like can you teach a sense of urgency to somebody? Probably not. Maybe you need to have that in sales. So I've always focused on those and it's it's kind of worked out for me. And I think the second thing I would say is to just stay curious.
I mean, I love to read more books but I also love short articles. So what I find myself doing is like on Facebook and Linkedin, I read a lot of short articles to just see what's happening, you know, who's buying what company, why do they buy them. You know, who's launching the next Start-Up - there's so many start-ups launching today - what's happening with bitcoin, what's someone doing around A.I. And so I just like bits of information. I don't necessarily retain them all but I think staying curious is important, and I think talking to people like yourself and others because tech is so wide. It's from music to manufacturing. You just have a conversation and just say "Tell me more about what you do" when you meet somebody. You get so many golden nuggets.
SABRINA: What drives you to innovate today?
UMA: I always wanted to be the first to do something or I wanted to be someone that did some things differently, right? So although I hated programming in university, for example, I had to study it well. I chose to put that knowledge into something that I found interesting. So like, for my final year thesis, me and my friend, we built the first car reservation system in Malaysia.
So that was exciting and because that was exciting, I was incented to go learn how to write the code to do that. And so I try and anchor on what makes me excited. What do I feel energized about.
SABRINA: Uma, how can we attract more females to be interesting in STEM while traditionally women are intimidated by it?
UMA: So there's a great study by MasterCard that talks to over 2000 girls so we know that. They are making a decision of whether or not to get into STEM at the age of 15 to 16. They are well aware. That it's a male dominated industry. They might be paid less. They're likely to be paid less. And they're going to face discrimination and conscious bias etc. But what they all said, so more than two thousand girls were interviewed - Singapore is one of the countries in that survey - is they need to see more role models.
An everyday woman in tech, you know, someone that's an artificial intelligence specialist, someone that's just started a company on bitcoin. Leveraging Bitcoin technology is important so that...because you can't be who you can't see. So role modelling is really critical. Governments and companies can do to encourage girls to get into STEM by providing scholarships et cetera. That was the other reason they said they would be more interested.
At the end of the day I would just say, to my story, if you're curious enough just give it a shot. You know, I went into each of my roles early in my career not having done the role before. And then you figure out what you're passionate about.