by Shyh-Mei Ho
As a girl in Taiwan, I was a bit of a dreamer. I loved literature and I thought I might become a writer.
But my sister encouraged me to pursue science. She went to the U.S. to get her PhD. in physics. I wasn't sure about going to the U.S. or science actually, but my mother also thought it would be a good idea for me to follow in her footsteps. So I came to Temple University in Philadelphia in my early 20s to study biophysics.
Not long after that, maybe 18 months, I had a huge wake-up call. My mother passed away. We were all so profoundly sad, and at first I thought maybe I should go back to Taiwan. Then, I realized that it was time for me to grow up. I was the youngest daughter of the family but I wanted to make some decisions of my own.
About this time, I met my future husband. He was a physical chemist, but he was using computers for his research and was excited about their potential. He encouraged me to explore computer science. So I took a lot of coursework to qualify for my master's program in computer science. I found that I really liked the logical thinking. I worked very hard, often staying up all night to get a program to work.
She definitely will
In the U.S., I quickly learned that my Chinese name, Shyh-Mei, was difficult for Americans to pronounce. So I tried using Mary Ann - a name selected by my English teacher back in Taiwan. But I had a colleague - a female lab technician - who kept asking me to teach her my real name. Every time we met, she would ask me to remind her how to say it. So I decided, I will use my Chinese name when I started my career. My father helped me decide how to transliterate it, and I was proud of this name.
My IBM colleagues at my first job struggled with the name too. Finally one guy said, "I know how to say your name! It's 'She may... or she may not!'" Everyone laughed. I felt horrible, humiliated. This went on for some time. I was quite timid then, but I gathered my courage and the next time the guy said, "She may... or she may not," I answered: "She Definitely Will!" Everyone was quiet after that. That helped me gain some confidence. Even now, if people ask me how I can be a leader even though I have a strong accent, I answer that it's all about confidence.
Although I work hard, the technology side of my career has not been the challenging part. I am inspired by the opportunity to work with clients, understand their challenges and jointly develop a solution to expand their business. I found this passion when I moved on from coding to architecture - because this allows me see the whole picture coming together, like a top view. I love to work with clients to solve their problems. I feel that whatever I want to do, I can figure it out. That is how I was able to get all those patents - I had the confidence and I was willing to work hard.
Once a male colleague told me, you're a woman, you should stay at home. But being a woman in technology is not the hardest part either. In fact, my most inspiring mentor was a man, an IBM Fellow who totally believed in me. I admired his technical knowledge, how he understood and conducted business, and his encouragement. I owe him a lot - he believed in me before I believed in myself! For me, the cultural barriers have been the biggest ones. Sometimes, I feel like I'm in a race, and I'm handicapped - so I need to work much harder to catch up with other racers.
I had left IBM when Infosys came to recruit me, and was thinking of retiring. But I realized I still have so much knowledge and there are so many opportunities. I'm still new at Infosys, but I am happy. The new working environment makes me feel refreshed and energized!
I give others the advice I give myself: stay open-minded, never lose the will to learn, and remain passionate about what you do.
by Holly Benson
As a Partner in Infosys Consulting, I’ve spent the past 11 years helping Infosys clients master the human challenges that accompany technology change. So I’m not a technology inventor or implementer – instead, I’m a change management professional who deals with the effects of technology on human systems.
Looking at human systems is a three-dimensional problem – you have to be able to see far-reaching effects of apparently-simple actions and decisions. The old “If a butterfly flutters its wings, will it create a hurricane half way around the world?” You have to be able to understand what drives human behavior, and know how to motivate people to evolve in a direction you want them to evolve.
Many change management professionals are organizational psychologists; I’m an armchair psychologist. But my academic and early work background trained me well in how to study, model and understand three-dimensional systems. My degrees, and the first decade of my professional work experience, were in petroleum geology, where the challenge was to develop a three-dimensional picture of the earth’s subsurface and predict where pools of oil and gas would accumulate based upon the relationships between structure, reservoir, source rock, and seal. This background taught me to think and see three-dimensionally. It also gave me the physical scientist’s love of data and experimentation, and gave me a structured way of looking at problems, formulating hypotheses and testing them – which is not so very different from what we call “prototyping” today!
At some point – as I half-jokingly, half-seriously quip to friends – I just decided that people were more interesting than rocks. So I began an on-the-job practical study of human systems and organizational dynamics that utilized many of the thought processes I’d developed as an earth scientist – and that ultimately brought me to where I am today.
My interest is in large-scale human systems – like those found in the Fortune 500 companies that dominate Infosys’ client list. When I look at what drives change into organizations, nothing is more influential, nor more pervasive, than technology. Infosys lives on the cutting edge of technological change – so I can think of no better place to ply my trade. As a primary innovator and developer of new technology, and as an implementer of game-changing partner technologies, Infosys is helping to push the frontiers of the digital economy – meaning that change management practitioners at Infosys get to be on the front lines of seeing how those technologies change jobs, organizations, and even corporate cultures. Working here is a chance to get “ahead of the curve” in my own profession.
I’m proud of how Infosys has incorporated the human elements of technology change into its offerings – that it’s had the breadth of vision to understand that unless people fully immerse themselves in new technologies, those technologies will fall far short of their intended impact. What I hope for Infosys in the future is an even deeper partnership between the resources who think about machines and code, and the resources who think about how humans will take up new innovations and use them to amplify individual and corporate performance.
What woman in technology inspires me? Leilah Janah, founder and CEO of non-profit Sama, whom I heard speak at a mindfulness conference in San Francisco this winter. (Janah and Sama were also featured in FastCompany’s “50 Most Innovative Companies” this year – March, 2016 issue). Harvard-educated, former management consultant Janah is a woman on a mission. Her organization goes into impoverished communities around the world and trains people to do digital work, to lift themselves out of poverty. Using a radical new funding model, she is simultaneously changing the face of social entrepreneurship by creating a fully self-funding non-profit – and changing the face of the communities where she creates digital-age jobs for the poor. “Every human being you help is an infinite victory,” she notes.
by April Wang
I’m a designer here at Infosys.
Most people who think about designers picture someone working on computers, designing screens, working with pixels, colors, and text. Of course I do these things, but that’s not necessarily what a designer does..
For example, one of the projects we are working on at the moment is about trying to build sensors to gather data from plant growth. We are using machine learning to figure out the different variables – such as pH value, nutrients, and watering schedule -- to see what the optimal values for all components are. Based on that we are changing the schedule and automating the plant care process.
Ever since I was a little kid I liked making things. When I was in first grade, I started my first circuit by soldering things together. I used a breadboard, turning on LED lights, and I made a little present for my first grade teacher. I also liked making very feminine things like stitching, sewing, knitting, and crochet. In elementary school I was knitting my first scarf and other things for my friends and relatives. I had different phases of making and learning, whether it was making jewelry, doing woodwork, building furniture, or even twisting balloons for kids. I guess I was always into making things, and design in the broader sense is just that – problem solving and making.
I am passionate about my job because design is really what I’m interested in, and I just can’t stop myself from designing things and making things. I think everyone should be following his or her passion and that’s what I did. Why would anyone not be passionate about something? It’s almost like asking why do we exist in this world? If you exist in the world, there must be something that’s driving you. For me, that’s designing and making stuff.
I bring the design approach to every project, including our CEO’s client engagements. When he is supposed to meet with the CXOs of our top clients, I will come up with a special design to make the meeting memorable and meaningful. Not long ago, Vishal was meeting an executive from a cosmetics company. We repackaged makeup foundation and on the packaging we talked about Infosys offering platform as a service and our IP and other things, which mapped their product, the foundation and our platform as a foundation. That’s something we haven’t been doing before, something quite new to us and we got a lot of positive feedback from our clients.
I wish that we would be able to change people’s perception of Infosys as an Indian outsourcing company. We are global, we are offering IT as a service, we’re a consulting company, and we’re here to help our customers and be their partner in IT. I’m trying to contribute to this change of perception by executing projects like prototyping agriculture in digital space, and showing our clients that we are innovative thinkers about the future of digital technology and that we have creativity and innovative spirit.
A woman in technology who inspires me is Ada Lovelace, a 19th century mathematician said to be the first programmer. I like that programming, or the first computer in the world actually came from a weaving machine, something that’s considered very traditional and feminine, turning to a computer, which is considered the masculine kind of object and model.