Women In Tech: Megha Yethadka – Director, Program Management, Tech, Uber
Over the days, Express Computer has been doing relevant coverages on women in the field of technology, and in the IT sphere. The interviews though yielded different perspectives, yet exuded one commonality - victory
Gender discriminations and biases have made headlines since times immemorial, and are certainly not a novelty contemporarily. Yet, what’s to be celebrated, is the continuous endeavours by corporates in shunning this disparity, and placing everyone at par. One of the most commendable efforts by most of them often set examples, by placing women up in the hierarchy.
For today we have Megha Yethadka, Director, Program Management, Tech, who tells us about her journey into the tech space, and the milestones she has achieved everyday.
Knowing that gender biases exist, how difficult is it to be a woman and thrive in your specific field?
If gender biases exist, for a woman it is really important to know these biases and challenge them through your thoughts and action. For example, I was in my third trimester when I was approached for this role at Uber. In my mind, I was preparing for the biases that were there for a woman going into the third trimester and being a mother soon, but I was committed to challenging all of them. It took some support from my family members to open up the canvas and explore the role. I have spent four and a half years at Uber, and I always feel a deep sense of satisfaction looking back at my journey here. But there are several times in your career, even as women we are unconsciously conforming to the biases, so challenging the biases whenever we come across any is something that we need to focus on. Beyond that it’s a level playing field where you need to pay attention to your skill set, focus on increasing your contribution, impact & value to the company and then you thrive in your field.
What role do you think technology plays in contemporary times?
Technology plays an important role in primarily three different ways. The first way is to enable and empower – technology has created tremendous opportunities and exposed millions of people to it. For example, we wouldn’t think of anyone getting a car on the press of a button, but Uber has enabled it through the technology we have developed. The second thing that technology does is accelerate – accelerate means increasing productivity, speed and delivering more things to more people. We at Uber focus on automation, machine learning, AI and so on to enable Uber to accelerate our productivity and speed. The third thing that technology enables is to connect and collaborate. This makes the world a smaller place and if we look at the communication channels and platforms that we are using, they enable the same connection and collaboration. In a nutshell, technology enables and empowers, accelerates and helps to connect and collaborate.
Can we rely on technology solely to be the panacea for all problems? If so, how?
At the heart of technology is an understanding of the problem we are trying to solve, an empathy for our users and customers and creativity to look at things with a different perspective and solve in different ways. As of today, something that distinguishes people from machine and technology is the heart and brain behind it. In the foreseeable future, too, that distinction will be important and human empathy, understanding, and problem solving are going to be the important levers that will help build, enable and accelerate technology. Technology will be the means to deliver it in more forms and deliver it to more people.
What are the immediate and long term milestones for Uber-like?
The immediate time that we live in, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and this unprecedented scenario across the world, the primary priority for Uber is safety. Safety of people who use our platform — our drivers and riders. Reinventing how we think about safety is a big priority and doubling down on our core technology platform, whether it is mobility, delivery of essentials, all continue to become an important investment. In addition to that, we are figuring out how we can be a force that enables the healthcare system globally. We have Uber Medic and Uber Essential that are supporting the healthcare workers globally. In the long-term Uber wants to become the operating system of any city that is enabling the movement of people and things in the matter of a tap on the screen. Enabling those seamless experiences and being at the heart of the local ecosystem of every city is what Uber is striving towards. To that end, how do we integrate and enable several opportunities on top of that platform, and how do we create magical experience for our customers is the journey that we are on.
Challenges are an inevitable part of the business. Could you highlight on some you had encountered?
One of the constant challenges over the last several years has been ‘change’ itself. Change is now constant, but it has come in various different forms, whether in technology or the communities, and as a result societies have evolved. The needs of our customers have changed, the expectations are fast evolving and of course the pandemic itself has brought up its own challenges and changes along with it. As a leader, and personally too, what I have faced is that we want to adapt to the change as best as we can and yet enable and empower our team to adapt to the change. The intent is to not just embrace it but drive the change forward. This is the muscle that most companies have built but it is constantly evolving, and we are learning new techniques by the day as the changes and challenges come along.
How can we have more women joining the bandwagon?
I think starting at the grassroot level, it is a lot about equal opportunities and upskilling. We still see in the world of technology that there aren’t enough women in engineering colleges. Once you are in the workforce, I think there are two or three important things we need to do in the field of technology. The first one is to support. Knowing that everyone goes through different life stages and demands, especially women, building a workplace that is flexible, supportive and enabling a support system through various means is going to be an important part to retain and encourage women to continue in the workforce longer. Building a culture across the organisation where we are not just aware of biases, but we are challenging them on a daily basis and creating an equal opportunity workplace for everyone is something companies are trying to do. Another crucial aspect is to sponsor, mentor and recognise women in the field and encourage others to create their own journey in meaningful ways. In a nutshell, it is going to be about skilling, supporting, sponsoring and creating a culture that’s fair and equitable.
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