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How Priyanka Became a Successful Woman in Tech

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Tell us a bit about what you do and what a typical day looks like.
I am a technical program manager (TPM) with Intel Corporation's Silicon Photonics Product Division (SPPD). I am responsible for the execution of leading-edge optical transceiver programs that deliver transformational solutions for data centers. I lead highly skilled teams through aggressive timelines with extraordinary commitment, resilience, and technical creativity, delivering these revolutionary optical transceiver products in record time. This requires stakeholder, schedule, and resource management resulting in timely product qualification and improved customer satisfaction. It is very rewarding to see the products evolve from concept to product launch, thereby adding to Intel's bottom line.

Did you always know you wanted to work in technology? How did you decide to go into engineering?
My mom was a middle school principal, and good education for her children was important to her. As a result, I was encouraged to pursue an education in STEM in elementary school. When I was pursuing my MS in Chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IITR), a professors introduced me to polymer science. I found my passion in polymer science and completed my Ph. D. in Polymer Physics from the University of MA, Amherst. Intel hired me for my problem-solving skills and material science expertise to help solve critical problems in Intel manufacturing. I picked up transferrable skills along my career journey at Intel which enabled me to transition from a process engineer to a TPM for the SPPD organization.

Many women in the tech industry feel that their gender has affected how they are perceived or treated. Have you also felt this, and how did you handle it?
When I started my career, there were instances where I felt that gender bias existed. As I reflect on overcoming these gender biases, I realized that empowering myself was the best way to address it. To empower myself, I started networking and that led me to join organizations like SWE and Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA), where I met some wonderful women engineers. These associations gave me a platform to chair, publish, present technical and non-technical work resulting in more visibility across the industry.

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
The ability to work on cutting-edge technologies and innovate is the best part of working in the tech industry. Inherently, women are skilled at multitasking, networking, and conflict resolution. These skills, in addition to technical expertise, can make women stand out while leading geographically diverse teams. It is exciting to be in an era where women break the glass ceiling and get into the "C" suite. They are perfect role models for the next generation of women leaders.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that's the case?
Yes. Two things that come to my mind when I think about women's representation in technology, one is the need for an increased focus on STEM pipeline development for girls and creating role models in leadership positions. To increase the number of girls pursuing STEM, we need to motivate and guide them to be excited about STEM careers. The second thing is, in order to see more women leaders, we need to focus on fixing the leaks in the pipeline where women fall off from corporate ladder. One of the things that I have been doing to encourage girls to pursue STEM is sharing my STEM journey through Education Empowers Inc. non-profit organization. There are several opportunities, such as Million Girls Moonshot, Scifest, and others organized by the Intel Foundation, to participate and make a difference. For professional women, it would be beneficial to provide leadership coaching and mentoring opportunities to help them grow in their careers. Intel has programs such as Career Connector, which I have utilized for career transitions and professional development. I encourage everyone to "pay it forward" so that the cycle of giving doesn’t break.

Many women in the tech industry consider themselves introverts. Are you an introvert, and if so, what is the most difficult thing about being an introvert in the tech industry? How did you overcome it?
I am not an introvert, and I enjoy being around people. I like to bring people together and work in a collaborative environment. When I started my career at Intel, I was a little hesitant to share my thoughts in large group settings. Gaining experience in leadership roles with organizations like SWE gave me an opportunity to hone my public speaking skills. This improved my confidence and now I can address large groups inside and outside Intel.

Is there a female technologist you admire who has influenced your career journey and choices?
I am highly inspired by Intel fellow Ling Liao in SPPD. I admire her technical brilliance, approachable personality, and willingness to coach the next generation of engineers. I have received constant support from her on technical presentations, Invention Disclosure Forms (IDF), and recommendations for awards. Her role modeling encouraged me to pursue a technical career path at Intel.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
Keeping your technical skills current is critical for professional growth in the tech industry. Establish credibility right from the start of your career by delivering projects of high quality and on time. Mentors play a big role in shaping one's career, and so my recommendation is to look for mentor(s) proactively. Finding my first mentor Rick Coulson (retired senior fellow, Intel), was a career-defining moment. I learned about working with integrity and high ethics and being direct from his mentorship. These values have kept me grounded while navigating my career.

Tell us about your recent patent and the impact your patent may have.
I have a total of 8 patents (approved/filed) on photonics packaging addressing new materials for future architectures, resulting in improved performance and reliability. Recently, I brought together a team of women engineers from different organizations to address laser stress reduction and thermal management in optical transceivers. We partnered with subject matter expert male allies, and this collaboration resulted in the filing of two strong IDFs in this domain. This patent filing validates the saying by Henry Ford, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

 

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