Published March 7th, 2022
Anuradha Srinivasan is senior director of the Silicon and Systems Prototyping Lab at Intel Labs. Her team is responsible for building hardware and system prototypes as proof points for next-gen product technology.
We live in a world of connectivity; but what about connection? If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that these two things are not the same. Connectivity is a means to an end, but connection fuels every part of our lives. It gives us a sense of purpose, community, and self-value. It energizes and inspires us. And if we don’t get enough, it can feel as though we are treading water, personally and professionally.
I think that is what moved me to start the Women@Intel Labs (WIL) program in partnership with a like-minded co-chair, Anne Matsuura. The idea came to me just over a year ago, when Intel had been remote for about six or seven months. Working from home I found I was very much missing simple hallway interactions, the occasional lunch with a coworker--all those subtle things that are woven into an organizational ecosystem.
I wasn’t alone. Linda Patricia Osuna Ibarra, SW Engineer at Intel Labs in Guadalajara, Mexico, and a regular participant in WIL, sums up what I think so many of us have felt over the last year and a half:
“What I’ve realized is that happiness and joy are not whole until they are shared. I don't just miss laughing but laughing with someone. I don’t miss smiling; I miss being smiled at. These things recharge my happiness battery. It is difficult to get happy energy from a work call or a work email. How much small talk can you make before you feel like you are hijacking a meeting and wasting somebody’s time?”
Support, Growth, and Interaction
Beyond this inner sense of loneliness that so many of us were experiencing, I began to think how hard this must be for those who came to Intel shortly before or even after the pandemic began. I, at least, had the advantage of having built up a support network within Intel years before the pandemic struck. How difficult it must be, I thought, for new employees who had never personally experienced an Intel office environment to build these types of organically grown connections, which play such an important role in developing key networks, accomplishing tasks, and even developing soft skills.
And so, with the help of several wonderful Intel women, including Nicole Beckage , Jingyi Ma , Lenitra Durham , Srikathyayani Srikanteswara , Helen Tian , Darlene Miller, Jean Moran, Gabriela Cruz Thompson , Chaunté Lacewell, Lara Babarinsa and Anne Matsuura , WIL was formed in March of last year.
Shortly after forming, we began hosting a series of weekly meetings and events. Although still virtual for the time being, these events are live and interactive and have focused on topics such as career development through mentorships, social networking, and leadership.
For example, this month, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Dr. Maria Bezaitis, Intel Fellow and Chief Architect of Socio-Technical Systems, will host a fireside chat with acclaimed social scientist, coach/mentor, and organizational executive, Dr. Ellen Konar. During her decade-long tenure at Intel, Dr. Konar’s research and marketing efforts supported the company’s rise to become the 5th strongest global consumer brand and earned her the honor of becoming Intel’s first female Fellow. The two women will discuss their perspective on Intel culture “then and now,” covering topics including Intel’s Technical Leadership Path (TLP) and promotion process, the role of Fellows in technical leadership decisions, and the role of female social and professional networks.
These are the type of enriching programs we strive for, while also maintaining an informal, friendly atmosphere where women can simply be themselves.
Pioneering a Sense of Community
In some ways, it is easier to define WIL by what it does for its participants than what it is. On paper, we are an organized group of women who meet regularly to expand our networks, share ideas, and grow professionally. We strive to make Intel Labs a place where women thrive equitably and have direct access to mentors and/or sponsors, developmental opportunities, and members of the Intel Labs community.
But the net effect of our organization goes further, especially at this moment. We are pioneering a sense of community in an environment now lacking in the traditional social hubs--the hallways, the breakrooms, the coffee stations—where connections form organically. And connection is a wonderful stress buster. I know that for me, personally, I come out of our WIL meetings feeling refreshed.
This is what other Intel women have had to say about their WIL experiences:
“WIL has been a wonderful place to get that workplace comradery and interaction that makes Intel a great place to work. What I really like about WIL is that it is so much bigger than just women. It has also been a platform to bring up issues that relate to all of Intel Labs and adds value to everyone.”
Srikathyayani Srikanteswara, Principal Engineer
“I recently joined Intel, so the WIL events have been like the traditional coffee machine at the office, as they have provided great opportunities to meet Intel colleagues that are outside my team.”
Charlotte Bonte, HE Cryptographer
“WIL has been a very special platform. It has given me a better overview of the Intel community and helped me understand the various perspectives within that community. The activities are wholesome and give us a chance to showcase many sides of our personality - fun, creative, professional, etc. I cherish the education, experiences, and networking opportunities! ”
Shreela Dattawadkar, Component Design Engineer
“Hallway conversations were always a boost to my morale and motivation, which I very much miss now. On the bright side, I feel networking with strangers [via WIL meetings] is sometimes easier to do virtually than face to face.”
Poonam Shidlyali, Research Scientist
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