Posted by Rohini Pandhi on August 13, 2016 at 4:29 PM
Hello fellow Preemadonnas!
My name is Rohini Pandhi - I'm an advisor to Preemadonna and excited to share my personal journey with you. I was born just outside of Mumbai, India. My family emigrated to the U.S. when I was 3 years old, and I grew up next to cornfields in a sleepy Ohio town. So while my ethnic background is Indian, I identify as an American from the Midwest. I correctly refer to soda as “pop” and am prone to altitude sickness at the slightest sight of a hill.
I got interested in tech as a kid tinkering with all the electronic “toys” my dad would bring home like mobile phones the size of briefcases, hefty 10-pound camcorders, and computer towers that were as tall as me (and probably still are). I enjoyed ripping apart floppy disks to see what was inside and getting “under the hood” of our PCs to install some extra memory. And of course, I vividly remember the exciting early days of the Internet, including the anticipation of receiving a brightly colored AOL CD in the mail. Once we were on the World Wide Web, creating webpages and learning how to code became my other favorite hobbies.
At the University of Michigan, I majored in Computer Engineering, which is an amalgam of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. It blended software and hardware, along with theory and practice. I also minored in Mathematics to fully surrender to my nerdy tendencies.
After undergrad, I stayed in the tech field but moved into a consulting role with Citrix Systems. I visited clients all over the world, from Des Moines, IA to Anchorage, AK to Tokyo, Japan. At the end of my fourth year of consulting, I realized I wanted to equip my technical knowledge with a formal business education.
So I went to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business where I concentrated in Finance and Entrepreneurship and worked in startups, both during and after. Business school was a fantastic experience for me. I had never even seen a balance sheet prior to grad school, but within those 2 years I pitched my own business plan to venture capitalists, took classes taught by Nobel Laureates, and met some of the most amazing over-achievers who are now some of my closest friends (including Preemadonna CEO, Pree!). Through that experience I also found my niche in tech startups and moved to the West Coast shortly after graduation.
Since moving out to the “Best Coast,” I’ve been working as a product manager at a broad range of tech companies. My first foray into the Silicon Valley scene was at a 7-person startup with Series A financing. Within a year, our company was acquired. After experiencing the ins and outs of an acquisition first-hand, I moved to a large company in Rackspace, where I created a completely brand-new analytics-based product called Cloud Intelligence. I am now in a lead product position at PubNub, where I’ve had opportunities to manage all of our product lines, develop strategies and goals across the business, build the product team, and see the company grow from 15 people to a team of 65 in the short time I’ve been here.
I love the product manager role because it’s an exciting mix between the technical and business sides of product development. In this role, I’ve had opportunities to develop completely new tech products, drive conceptual ideas into real market offerings, create and influence company strategies, speak at industry events, and advise other startups and entrepreneurs.
While I’m grateful for the enriching professional experiences I’ve had, looking back there were instances where being a woman in the field of tech made me feel like an outsider. For instance, it felt isolating to be one of only a handful of women in my major coursework in college and that trend persists in the professional realm. It was also frustrating when strangers spoke to me in a condescending manner or automatically assumed I was an assistant, instead of the conference speaker, product owner, or technical expert.
But when you find yourself in those situations, stay confident and remember that you are an integral part to changing the makeup of the tech field! Your voice matters. Don’t shy away from having your opinions heard, don’t apologize for being awesome, and above all else — be yourself and let your contributions shine.
I have also found such amazing people and camaraderie in the tech world, and know that you will too. I believe that those of us privileged enough to be a part of this field should tell our stories and mentor young women and men so that the future of our industry is more balanced.
Finally, if I could go back in time to give my younger self some advice, I would tell her not to dwell on what other people may be thinking and not to sweat the small stuff. Instead, it’s more productive to take time to listen to yourself and recognize when you feel like trying something else, leaning in a new direction, or simply taking a break!
Well, that’s my story… so far. I’m always learning every day, so all of this is (and will always be) a work in progress.
This post originally appeared on Medium!