Women’s History Month – Gayathri Vaidyanathan

Women in Big Data is spotlighting amazing women during Women’s History Month.
Gayathri Vaidyanathan is a Lead Engineer at Target and works with the team that focuses on the Last Mile Optimization team within the Supply Chain Network division. Gayathri has a Masters in Telecommunications and Software Engineering.

Gayathri Vaidyanathan

My Journey…so far can be summarized:
“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”
Michel Legrand.

As I was brought up by my mother for most of my childhood, she has been my first reference for a strong, independent and hard-working woman. My career choice was largely influenced by the desire to make my mother proud, and taking up Engineering was a natural choice. I started my career with DE Shaw & Co and went onto work with Lucent Technologies (the current Nokia) for almost a decade in various capacities in the Telecom domain. As my career progressed, my family grew. In 2010, after twelve years, I decided to give it all up to be around for my young family, as the flexibility the industry offers today, including the option for women to work from home, were non-existent then.

While stepping away from my role of an independent career woman was not easy, being a full time homemaker was much harder than I had imagined. My respect for stay-at-home moms increased manifold! The time away from work gave me the opportunity and time to pursue hobbies, spend quality time with my family, as well as to explore avenues to skill up (not limited to just technology). While I had planned to return to work in a couple of years, life had other plans, and the break rolled on to seven long years!

As they rightly say, the biggest battles are internal: the hardest challenge while preparing to return to work was building up the confidence to put myself through the litmus test and, in some ways, start from scratch. There were other roadblocks, too; the technology landscape had changed a great deal, and with most companies preferring a younger workforce, it was difficult to decide how and where to start. In my effort to explore my interests, I learnt about Agile program management and the ropes of product management through a course at the Institute of Product Leadership. Upskilling on the technology front has become easier with the multitude of online learning platforms and communities available. The current ecosystem that promotes diversity at workplace also works in favour of serious pursuers.

Thoughtworks’ Vapasi program aimed at bridging the technology gap for women on a career break, came as a fresh breath of life. Being part of the cohort gave me the much needed confidence and direction. In 2018, I landed an internship through the diversity program of Target. I am now on the second innings of my career, stronger and wiser from life’s experiences.

My learnings through my journey thus far have been:

• Invest in yourself in learning transferable skills.
• Keep abreast of technology in any way possible.
• Network, network and more network, especially during your career break.
• Do not fear to challenge your self-doubts–that’s the only way to overcome them.
• Ask for help both at work and away; while we all like to be super-women, don’t kill yourself being one.
• Stop comparing your Chapter 2 to someone else’s Chapter 20.

Today, I am at peace with my life choices and count my blessings for the people and the opportunities that have paved my way back to work. I aspire to continue broadening my horizons and pushing my limits, and in my own small way pay it forward for women returnees to work. Reading, exploring new cooking techniques, learning scriptures are some of the things I do in my “Me time” to relax and recharge.

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