Guest Blog - Women in Technology - Rajini Carpenter, IRESS
Rajini Carpenter is currently the Head of Product Engineering at Iress.
Rajini is a Technology Executive with 20 years of experience in Information Technology and Finance Industry. She loves creating world-class technology solutions and client experience that delights end users. She also enjoys working with people, which she calls People Engineering. She is a coffee addict, dog lover and enjoys long hikes.
1) Where did your interest in technology come from? How did you decide to form a career in technology?
My love for engineering and technology comes from my childhood. My Dad was a Mechanical Engineer and used to take me to his work, introducing me to tools, electronics and technology at a young age. I learnt many life skills fixing household electronics such as TVs, DVD players and bulbs. I was fascinated with new technologies from an early age. When it came to choosing what to do after school, I really wanted to study Electronics Engineering, but ended up doing Computer Science & Engineering, with heavy influence from my dad. My dad thought my hands were too precious to be tinkering with screwdrivers, soldering irons and capacitors.
2) What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?
I try to maintain a ‘glass half-full’ mindset and always keep open minded. Keeping in mind that I might not always be right helps me to listen to others and make better decisions, plus helps me to learn a lot along the way. I’m not afraid to talk about failures openly, and I believe firmly in practicing what you preach, and focusing on people over process. Greeting everyone with a smile and a little bit of kindness goes a long way in day-to-day interactions with people.
3) What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today and what do you attribute your success to?
Hard work, dedication and passion. I also have good mentors who have helped me along the way both personally and professionally.
4) What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?
In the technology industry it is way too easy to swim in intelligence and technical know-how, and at times I can be arrogant and struggle to deal with mediocre behaviour. The most valuable piece of advice from colleagues and friends I have received is to have empathy for others. This feedback has definitely played a role in my career growth, and helped me focus on developing soft skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered as important in the past.
5) As you transitioned to more Senior/Leadership level roles what was the shift you needed to make?
It’s important to let others make their own mistakes and not be over-protective. I had to shift into being a coach rather than providing solutions for people’s problems. This requires listening rather than talking.
6) What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
The tech industry is naturally dominated by male counterparts. I spent most of my university and work life amongst talented male engineers and leaders. I never experienced any bias or discrimination as a female from an Asian background. I just felt like any other engineer. It's very easy to lose sight of who you are when you are with like-minded people. It wasn’t until I was interviewing for more senior positions that I started to feel like a minority. There weren’t many female role models to show me the way. I was rejected in many interviews in the final round, to later learn that the role was given to a male counterpart. Whether they were capable or not was a matter of opinion and who you know. The lesson I learnt from these experiences is that it's not enough to just be good at your job. You also need support & sponsorship from senior leaders, plus a good working relationship with other management, peers and colleagues. I haven’t let these challenges affect me, and being resilient to failure is an important lesson I have learnt over the years. You learn and adapt.
7) What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career in Technology?
Technology is a fascinating, ever-changing industry. You can be part of the transformation and enable technology in the right way to assist people to have a better quality of life. I can promise you, you will always be learning something new. We need diversity of thought and problem solving skills to drive change. “Don’t hold back and start your journey in tech today!”
8) How can we attract more female talent into Technology in the future?
I think as female technologists we need to do more work in raising awareness in STEM education and also being a role model for young kids. This doesn’t take a lot of effort. You can start in your own family environment. Start with inspiring 1 girl in your circle to start her career in technology. A 1% change across Australia alone will have a big impact on growing female talent. Year on year this ratio will improve. (I learnt this fact from a book called Atomic habits by James Clear. A great read!)