Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Monica Bajaj

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing to take the lead in her career. We invite her to share how she achieved her current position, what obstacles she encountered on her climb, as well as tips for how to be a rising woman of influence. This month we shine the Emerging Leader Spotlight on Monica Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager with  NetApp.

What key steps did you take to get to the role you are in today?
I believe that a good education is the first step towards the door of opportunity. The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you. While going to school to enhance my career, there was one fact that has rang true consistently; education is the core foundation that will lead to many opportunities for me, anywhere in the world.

I grew up and studied in India but I always had the desire to experience new opportunities. After finishing with my grad school degree in engineering, I taught as an assistant professor at an engineering institute. Later, I decided to work in the technology industry, which led me to make the decision to come to the United States, where I saw the promise of new experiences and a way to create my own future.

I began my journey over 20 years ago, and at that time my new opportunity was considered quite a challenge because it was not common for women in my culture to travel alone to a strange country; however, during this transition, my parents and brother were fully supportive and continued to keep my morale up and support me. Despite all the hurdles living in an alien country, I did not want to give up and I landed a job in a high tech firm and I have never looked back! I am grateful that I had the support of my family and I don’t think I would be the successful individual that I am today without their encouragement.

As the years have passed and I have created a family of my own, this is still true. Whenever I have the urge to try new things, my spouse and children have supported me tremendously in keeping a balance across my personal and professional life.

“I believe in taking the lead and making things happen.”

What steps are you currently taking to improve yourself, professionally?
I believe in taking the lead and making things happen, rather than waiting for someone to tell me or ask me. I also feel that leading by example motivates other folks around you to also be a part of any given initiative. While going for higher studies or growing in my professional career, I never limited myself to any given role or team. I started my career in engineering as a developer and decided to move into management role after nine years. While working in various startups for almost nine years, I got an opportunity to perform roles in product management and engineering management for onsite and remote teams. Such opportunities in turn gave me a great insight about building the entire product from scratch and manage multiple teams.

“I am a big supporter for women to emerge as successful leaders and not shy away from showing their strengths.”

What is the next step you plan to take in your career to develop your leadership skills?
I would like to take over more strategic and tactical roles which align with the current business and company needs. I strongly believe that it is important to be self-aware, leverage your own strengths, and work on the areas where you need to excel.

Currently, my role at NetApp covers two facets; the technology side where I am the face for the overall software quality of the protocol/product I deliver; I am equally responsible to be seen as a strong leader in the software quality community across NetApp. In order for me to be influential and ensure that I am well known across the board, I have been able to lead and drive opportunities, as they approach. I work closely with senior leaders at NetApp to represent my group across multiple forums.

Outside NetApp, I have also been a panelist for the “When She Speaks” Women in Leadership Series event, presented by Fountain Blue Organization. I am a big supporter for women to emerge as successful leaders and not shy away from showing their strengths.

“Use your strengths as your brand.”

You attended Jo Miller’s Poised for Leadership workshop in April. Would you mind sharing a few takeaways from the session?
First of all, I would like to thank Jo for giving me an opportunity to introduce her when she led this workshop at NetApp. 

I learned never to shy away from sharing your accomplishments with data, to use your strengths as your brand, and to always have a mentor and a sponsor.

Want to reach out to Monica directly? Connect with her via LinkedIn.

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