Passion

Being a woman in tech: how does it feel?

When somebody exclaims,” Oh you’re a woman in deep tech!” I have mixed feelings. I’m happy that I can do what I feel passionate about, but at the same time I’m sad that people are still surprised when women want to work in tech.

Social conditioning and prejudice aside, working in tech is something I’ve always wanted, just like many other women. However, most others are steered by their surroundings and society and don’t even consider it. This isn’t because women aren’t good at maths or science, but rather because they’ve been told they aren’t ever since they were little girls with infinite potential! I’m glad all of this is changing (though still too slowly!), and I’m glad I didn’t have to fight so hard to get where I am. It would still be nice though if I wasn’t the only female engineer in most places I’ve worked at so far, including R3Coms when I first joined.  However, things are changing for the better as we welcomed another female engineer last year. Hopefully I’ll see more women around the office in the coming years months (hints to HR).

How did I get into programming? Anyway, let’s talk about how I ended up in programming and network engineering, especially given how I hated the Computer Science elective in high school.  I only realised I actually liked coding when I’d almost completed my Bachelor in Electronics Engineering at Thakur College of Engineering in Mumbai, and from there on, life kind of changed a bit. I still wanted to be in tech but chose to transition to the field of Embedded Systems. The decision to pursue a master’s degree in Germany was initially an act of rebellion. Most of my classmates were heading to US like a herd of sheep, so I decided to try something different. I looked to Europe and realised I could study whatever I wanted and not end up with massive student debt. I got acceptance offers from universities in Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands, and ended up choosing a master’s programme that let me decide where to spend each year from a handful of countries in the EU. I chose Berlin the first year and Stockholm the second. The plan was not only to study but also to explore, and I’ve kept that going quite well so far by not only travelling but also by spending many of my weekends at hackathons in various cities.

How did I end up in R3Coms? R3 Communications is the second company I’ve worked at since coming here, though it wasn’t part of the plan at first.  It all started when I was a student research assistant in a telecommunications research group at TU Berlin. Initially I was interested in robotics, but while there I was introduced to sensor networks. The chance to work with communication protocols and the intriguing, untapped world of Industry 4.0 caught my attention and shifted my focus. I explored the field in more depth with my master’s thesis on implementing routing protocol and synchronisation schemes while working for a Berlin-based IoT company that develops location-aware systems. It was a great experience but after the thesis was complete  it was back to basic Embedded Systems. After two and a half years of working there, I was ready to quit, travel for a while and do my PhD.  It was then, in September 2018, when I suddenly got a call from R3Coms saying they found me on LinkedIn and thought I would like what they were working on. After listening to their pitch, I realised working on technology like EchoRing would fit perfectly into the field that I’d become so passionate about. I’ve now been here since November 2018 and not a single day has been boring. I have chill colleagues, challenging problems to solve and there is always something new on the horizon.

What’s different about the work cultures of India and Germany?

I’m past the word count limit already 😉

– Sonali

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