In this ever-changing world of technology we live in, the fact that a diverse workforce adds to the strength of an organisation goes undebated. Organisations can no longer progress unless and until women are appointed as equal stakeholders, and are allowed to contribute to its growth. One such woman leader who is making a difference in the field of technology is Megha Yethadaka – Director, Program Management, Tech, Uber. In an interview with DataQuest, Megha talks about her journey to the leadership role, how things have changed for women in technology, and what Uber has to offer for women.
DQ: How has the perception towards women in tech changed over the years?
Megha Yethadaka: Excellence in any particular field is not dependent on gender. To work in technology, you have to have passion and a drive to create world-changing products. Over the years, we are increasingly seeing women being vocal about what they want and going after it, especially in the space of technology. As per various industry surveys, traditionally the technology industry has always suffered from a skewed gender gap, especially in engineering roles.
But recently, a larger number of women are opting for careers in tech, perceptions have certainly gradually changed across the globe of what it means to be a ‘woman in tech’. The more we normalise women being inclined towards technology, the greater is the chance of further cementing that perception. It is also heartening to see companies deploying widespread efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in their workforce.
DQ: Why in your opinion must companies entrust women with leadership roles
Megha Yethadaka: While entry-level roles see a huge number of women employees, that number gradually reduces as they move towards middle management and leadership positions. While excellence in a job role does not depend on gender, yet any modern workplace should have diverse representation to create a culture of inclusivity, collaboration and innovation. By overlooking women and not enough representation at varied levels and functions, companies are missing out on a large talent pool. Companies must realise this, evolve with changing times and entrust women with the roles they deserve. Women, in general, are known to be experts at multitasking. They are also credited to have a larger emotional bandwidth, and this goes a long way in managing large and complex teams. It is in the best interest of every company to leverage the strengths of a diverse workforce.
DQ: How can women be encouraged after coming back from lengthy maternity or other personal leaves
Megha Yethadaka: While maternity leave or any other prolonged personal leave is designed to provide support to women, companies must also realise that initiatives are to be undertaken that help women ease back into daily work. While the employee will do her bit to get back to the hustle, teams must cooperate by providing necessary aid.
Ensuring equal opportunities, flexibility and support after a maternity leave or long leave are essential. I was hired at Uber in my third trimester and it was reassuring to be part of a company that welcomed me in that phase. I had the flexibility to manage my work and family responsibilities, while I was entrusted with greater responsibilities too. That was good for me. Support systems and mentors at work played a huge role in helping me navigate being a new mother and new employee.
DQ: What must women do while they are on a break to ensure that they are still valuable when they decide to make a comeback
Megha Yethadaka: Rejoining the workforce after a break does not always have to be a challenge if done the right way. While women taking career breaks should focus on their personal pursuits and responsibilities, I encouraged them to continue upskilling themselves for staying abreast of new technologies. While there are several community forums and online modules to keep one abreast of emerging technologies and trends, women should not feel this pressure. Having buddies at work, assimilation and training programs on returning and mentors to guide through a comeback helps one ramp up quickly. Catching up with your network from time to time helps you stay connected. Building your confidence and resilience is more important than the hard skills you develop.
DQ: How has your journey been in your organisation?
Megha Yethadaka: I lead Uber’s Global Scaled Solutions (GSS) which runs scaled programs for multiple products and businesses including Rides, Eats, Freight, Advanced technologies and micromobility. GSS is a team responsible for transforming Uber’s best ideas into agile, global solutions.
GSS accelerates/enables Tech and innovation at Uber through focus on three domains. In this role, I lead teams across Bangalore and Hyderabad focussing in the areas of Digitization, Product development services and Globalization. I am based out of India, but lead a global team and charter spread across San Francisco, Boulder (CO), Amsterdam, Mexico city, and Hong Kong.
DQ: What are some of the gender-inclusive policies in your company?
Megha Yethadaka: At Uber, our diversity and inclusivity agenda is an organizational priority. We want to create a workplace that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of communities we serve. We are continuously working towards building a community of inspiring women across the company and especially in our Engineering Centres. With a vision of building multi-modal mobility products and solutions shaping the future of urban mobility, we believe inclusive and diverse teams will play a pivotal role in building innovative solutions and better results. Committed to diversity, globally and in India, Uber Engineering teams are led by women leaders who have been at the forefront of high-impact innovations.
Recently, we launched a diversity and inclusion sponsorship programme for women in India. This is a 6-12 month Sponsor/Sponsee engagement programme with the intent to further develop and advance a mid-level female employee in their career. The program is Sponsor-led whereby an Executive Leader initiates the discussion and action planning with the candidate for their career development. This is a research-proven program that taps into career growth for our women and underrepresented members of our teams. We also have the She++ program. The initiative engages with early-in-career women in Tech to encourage and mentor them for a career in Tech. Senior tech leaders in the company are actively involved in this program.
Another initiative a Uber is ‘Women in Tech’ and ‘parenting@Uber’ employee resource groups to build a strong community. We have invested in mentorship programs and coaching circles to support employees through their career and life journeys.
Furthermore, we have a flagship initiative called Returneeship (U4Her) to help women employees transition back to workspaces. With this initiative, we want to empower women to join the work environment by providing them opportunities at every stage of their life and work together to create a conducive environment for personal and professional development. Women returning after a sabbatical or career break can re-enter the active workforce through a 3-6-month project immersion. This is for both tech and non-tech roles across Gurgaon, Bangalore and Hyderabad.