The mentality that STEM jobs are not for women has to change: Priya Kanduri, Happiest Minds Technologies

The constant doubt of whether I am giving my best both at home and work was hard to overcome.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021, women make up 14 percent and 20 percent of the total workforce in cloud computing and engineering, respectively. The stats speak for themselves.

On Women’s Day, we look at the journey of Priya Kanduri, CTO and Vice President, Cyber Security Services at Happiest Minds Technologies. She comes with over 20 years of experience, having spent more than a decade at Happiest Minds Technologies and another decade at Wipro, in leadership positions in cybersecurity.

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Love for mathematics

“It all started with my passion for mathematics. It was my favourite subject while in school. It led me to take up further studies in Computer Science engineering. Back in those days, the idea of what computers could do in the future fascinated me and I wanted to be a part of that journey. Throughout my engineering days, I really enjoyed every subject of my computer science curriculum- mathematical logic, algorithms and programming. While pursuing engineering, the area of security sparked my interest. The whole concept of cryptography fascinated me, and this is what led me to the path of cybersecurity,” said Priya.

Solving technical issues, business problems and customer interactions at different levels kept Priya going.

“Never in my career have I questioned if I am in the right field, or I want to switch fields. Being a problem solver has been the motivation every day for the past two decades,” she said. 

Work-life balance

Though Priya feels she has been lucky in her career to have worked with wonderful teams, she didn’t always find it easy to strike the work-life balance. “I have two daughters and balancing work and motherhood, especially when my children were very young, was hard. I have always been in client facing roles and had to travel extensively. Though it may sound stereotypical, the constant doubt of whether I am giving my best both at home and work was hard to overcome,” said Priya.

Breaking stereotypes

“The emphasis on diversity has come to the forefront mainly  in the last four to five years. Before that there were very few women tech leaders to look upto. For example, during the early years of my career, I was one of the very few women or many-a-time the only woman in any meeting or conference. Making a mark in a field where women were severely outnumbered, has been challenging and yet rewarding,” said Priya.

Priya won the “Women in Tech award” at the 19th Edition of Asia Pacific HRM Congress and Awards. She counts the award as a recognition of her passion, diligence and commitment. She was also Recognized as “The Business APAC Visionary Women Leaders of 2019. Representing HappiestMinds at the Red Herring Top 100 – APAC event at Bangkok was another proud moment for Priya. 

Priya is all for spreading awareness around the importance of women in STEM. ‘STEM jobs are not for women’ is a myth, and should be debunked right at the early  stages of education, she said.

“STEM jobs give job security, career growth, and financial stability. While deciding for a career that will span over 30-40 years, these are important factors to consider. For the employers too, creating a friendly and diverse workplace is crucial for its success.,” she added.

Fixes

The field of cybersecurity is all about fixing things that are not broken yet. What does it take to become a good cybersecurity professional? Priya shares a few pointers:

  • Attention to details is key
  • Thinking on your feet and the ability to look at things holistically .
  • The desire and motivation to constantly learn as the field is ever changing. Keeping up with the trends and technologies and upgrading yourself is essential.
  • Think out of the box and have a hacker mentality.

Opportune time

One attack or a simple vulnerability is all it takes to bring down an enterprise. Cybersecurity professionals can prevent this. There has never been a better time to be in field of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is at the forefront of everything now. With hybrid work and rapid digitisation significantly increasing cyber risks, investments are pouring into this space and it will remain so for the foreseeable future. 

Cyber gurus on board

Earlier, company boards mainly had financial gurus, then tech gurus came in and now companies are bringing in cyber gurus to be part of the board

“In the future we will see more and more investments in making enterprises zero trust ready. Identity first is also going to be a big trend in the coming years. Entire concept of context aware identity & access management is going to be at the forefront. Data protection and privacy enhanced computing as part of digital transformation will also be focus areas,” Priya said.

More Great AIM Stories

Sreejani Bhattacharyya
I am a technology journalist at AIM. What gets me excited is deep-diving into new-age technologies and analysing how they impact us for the greater good. Reach me at sreejani.bhattacharyya@analyticsindiamag.com

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