Vidya Srinivasan breaks the stereotype of moms in tech with her empowering pregnancy challenge. Connect with Vidya on her website and Twitter.
What is your current position and background?
I am a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft in Redmond, WA and I have a Bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering and a Masters in Computer Science.
What inspired you to get into Tech?
From a very young age, I was fascinated by technology as a medium to creating something impactful starting from just an idea. To date, I find it very empowering and fulfilling to see my ideas come to life and help others to do and be their best.
When pregnant with your daughter, you set a goal of doing one empowering activity each month of your pregnancy. How did this make you a better tech mom?
I got this idea because I found that pregnant women for some reason are sometimes seen as a fragile people who are not interested in their careers anymore. I wanted to prove to myself (and others with this incorrect notion) that pregnancy is in no way a reason to limit my potential, and motherhood is an option one can pursue without having to sacrifice their careers or creative interests. I basically did all of the things I liked doing and have done in the past, such as speaking at tech events, hacking, singing, chairing tracks at conferences, and of course my day job. Doing everything I did with my daughter (inside me) made my pregnancy so much more memorable. My daughter attended her first hackathon conference and heard her mom sing at concerts and speak at events even before she was born.
What advice do you have for moms who want to pursue careers in Tech?
In today's world, technology has become omnipresent and has unparalleled opportunities; having foundational tech skills has helped me in ways that I did not anticipate. One of the reasons I hear women (and moms in particular) hesitant to pursue tech is because we are still a minority. This is slowly changing, and with every mom who pursues tech, YOU are helping change the landscape further. In my opinion, moms are some of the strongest, most courageous, and hardworking people in the world. So, you already have all of the qualities to succeed - you just need to make a conscious effort and give it your best.
What is a hackathon? How did you first get involved with one?
A hackathon is an avenue for creativity and self-expression using technology. People from diverse aspects of technology such as design, engineering, and product come together to take a concept from just an idea to a tangible product, service, or app. I learned about hackathons during my Masters but got involved in my first hackathon soon after joining Microsoft. I got hooked to the idea of creating something usable from scratch in just 24 hours and working with hackers from different aspects of technology. I now regularly participate in the OneWeek hackathon that Microsoft hosts every year and love working on hacks that use technology for social good. Some of my notable projects include working on an eye-controlled wheelchair for people with ALS and an app for people with invisible disabilities (such as PTSD) to express their emotions privately.
What have you learned from your experience with “Skype in the Classroom” for inspiring young women to pursue computer science?
Skype in the Classroom is an amazing initiative by Microsoft in Education that focuses on bringing the world to every classroom. As a guest speaker, you are invited to speak with students across the world on a topic of their choice. It was a fantastic experience getting into the mindset of students; it's untainted, full of optimism, and sometimes they really ask questions that make you think hard. My favorite memory was receiving a package of 40 handwritten 'Thank You' cards from a class of 5th graders in Delaware!
What are ways you stay current? Do you have any favorite websites or podcasts?
I read books and am a huge fan of podcasts as it's more driver friendly. These days I listen to "How I Built This," "Masters of Scale," and "Women in Tech" podcasts.
How do you create balance in your life?
My husband and I are equal partners and parents, and we do our best to support each other. Family time is very precious for us, and we balance everything else around it by making sure we understand each other's crunch times at work and priorities at home. I make lists (lots of them) and plan our calendars in advance, and outsourcing things that don’t fit in our schedules helps free up time for other things. Relying on our support system and not feeling guilty for being a tech mom who loves her career have also helped me live a more balanced life.
Is there anything else you would like to share with Moms Can: Code?
Tech can sometimes be intimidating and overwhelming yet exciting, and that is precisely the beauty of this field. Take one step a day and someday you'll look back on the amazing journey you’ve traveled. Communities like Moms Can: Code are doing a fabulous job in encouraging, supporting, and connecting moms to the right opportunities. Do not hesitate to reach out to me to chat about anything I do or something you want to do.