This post was originally posted on Shakti Collaborative and republished here with permission.
Meet Rashim Mogha, a thought leader and women in tech evangelist with an extensive career portfolio including leadership roles in prominent companies such as Oracle, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and VMware. As a business leader, Rashim has built four high-performing teams from scratch to support over $2 billion dollars in cloud businesses. She is passionate about empowering women leaders to discover, visualize, and actualize their success through her new venture, eWOW (Empowered Women of the World). Her thoughts on leadership, innovation, women in technology, and enablement strategies have appeared in publications like Forbes, Association for Talent Development (ATD), and Thrive Global. Her new book, Fast-Track Your Leadership Career is a #1 Amazon best-seller. Read on to learn more about her journey.
“I come from a Rajput family with a royal lineage, and my dad is a doctor and my mom is a homemaker. My mom was studying to be a doctor, but when she realized she was pregnant with me, she decided to give up on her dreams and bring me into this world. In a typical Rajput community, women would go to school and be educated, but often wouldn’t have a say in what their lives would look like. We were three sisters and I was the oldest, so I had to be a role model.
I went to Catholic school and had exposure to communities outside the one I grew up in. I realized pretty early on that I wanted to live life on my own terms.
At the time in India, you’d either strive to be a doctor or engineer, or you’d be a nobody. I unfortunately fell sick during 12th grade, didn’t do well in my medical entrance exam and missed the waiting list by two points. I was devastated and reluctantly enrolled for the Botany major at Delhi University.
Seeing how disappointed I was, my mom stayed on the lookout for other opportunities and found a scholarship opportunity to study computer science at the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT). She really wanted to make sure I didn’t give up on life because I couldn’t get into medical school, so she encouraged me to take the test and I ended up getting the scholarship!
The scholarship was the beginning of my journey into computer science. As a part of their professional practice year, NIIT would absorb their best students, so that’s how I got my first job at NIIT. I like to think that I was born and raised at NIIT!”
Starting a Career in Computer Science to Climbing up the Corporate Ladder
“Everyone who starts in computer science usually wants to be a developer, so that’s how I started thinking about my career. But I had an opportunity early on to write a technical course at NIIT, and as I wrote the curriculum, I realized how much I loved doing this. I loved spending time learning about new technologies, writing about them and figuring out the use cases – it seemed like a perfect match with my passion for writing. I then spent the first ten years of my career at various roles in the Learning Technologies division of NIIT.
Later when I moved from India to the US, I started exploring opportunities in the Bay Area. LinkedIn was a new tool at the time, but I found my first sponsor on the platform and she helped me get a job at VMWare. About 6 months into my role there, I got the opportunity to build a team which was a great experience. I immediately said yes and then figured it out from there. I’ve since scaled my career to lead customer enablement for Amazon Web Services and am now a Senior Director of Product Management at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
I’ve made it my goal to consciously invest in myself and continuously prepare for the next role. I think we often are so busy excelling in our current role that we forget to prepare for our next role. Also we don’t invest time in finding sponsors to support and recommend us for leadership positions. It’s important to identify your superpower, build your brand, and have a support system. Speaking with other women leaders who have gone through similar experiences has helped me bounce back from setbacks or failures and focus on what I can do to consistently invest in myself.
There are a couple factors that have helped me elevate my career: 1) knowing what I bring to the table, 2) having the right set of sponsors, 3) keeping current on technology and 4) building a great emotional and intellectual support system.”
On Leadership and Influence
“I often see a lack of confidence among women in putting ourselves out there. We usually think that we need to be excelling in whatever we do before we put ourselves out there, but the reality is that with the pace of innovation, we can never know it all. You have to be comfortable putting your opinions out there and be inviting for other opinions as well. Don’t wait for yourself to be at a certain job/role level before you build a brand.
Moving up in your career is about saying yes to the opportunity that comes your way, and then figuring out how to be successful at it. Know that you will never be 100% ready and prepared for a new role. Continue to invest in yourself and up-skill yourself. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, don’t take too long to get started. With all the technological support out there today, so it’s easy to put an idea out and test it before going full steam. I’ve realized that we have many opportunities to fail fast without losing years of time or millions of dollars. So don’t postpone the opportunity to innovate.
Sometimes, I feel like I waited too long to startEmpowered Women of the World (eWow), my platform to provide an intellectual support system to women globally. My goal is to empower over 100,000 women in 2019 by providing various resources for women to succeed in their careers. Our resources will cover leadership development, technology, finance, mindfulness and more. As our first step, I launched a micro-podcast series where we pick one topic for each episode and explain it in less than 10 minutes. At the end of each episode, we provide a tip or a free resource that you can use to be successful. I understand how hard it is to find time to learn something new, so I’m a big believer in distilling insights into short pieces.”
On Being an Author
“I was speaking at the Women Transforming Technology conference last May, and after my session, a few women came up to me and asked if I’d written a book on leadership. I was so humbled by their question and said, ‘No, I don’t yet have a book, but I’ll have one soon!’ And that’s when I started writing Fast-Track Your Leadership Career which was released in Sep 2018.
It took me two and a half months to write Fast Track Your Leadership Career and the rest was all in the publishing process. I’d been a woman in tech evangelist for several years, so I was able to leverage a lot of the content I had created for my sessions at previous conferences. The biggest challenge for me while writing the book was to be able to open myself up and share my personal story, but I got immense support from my network in doing so.
I remember seeking leadership advice myself and turning from one book to another to understand what I could implement in my professional and personal life. So with my book, I decided to take a holistic approach and ensure it served as a one-stop-shop, where the content translates to actionable steps.”
Love and Family on Her Terms
“I moved to the US to run away from an arranged marriage. When I grew up, dating was not an option. It was all about when a guy and his family would say yes. I wasn’t cut out for a life that was chosen by somebody else for me, and it was very important that I had an opportunity to do things I wanted to do. I didn’t think I would be doing justice to myself if I let go of the individual side of me.
For a couple of years, our house was a battlefield. I was constantly butting heads with my dad on an arranged marriage. I now realize how difficult this must have been for my dad coming from a Rajput family with such rigid expectations for girls. I knew that if I wanted to be a person of my own, I had to move out of the house. That’s when I chose to move from India to the US and build my life here.
Fast forward to today, and my family is a great blend of cultures – my husband is part Nicaraguan and part Iranian. He’s born and brought up in the US, and has always had the mindset that we both need to contribute equally in the house. The fact that we both work in technology helps because he understands the pressure of being in tech and the need to continuously keep yourself updated. We focus on understanding each other’s needs and setting the right expectations.”
“I don’t really believe in the term ‘work-life’ balance – sometimes, work takes priority and other times, family takes priority. It’s not always easy to switch gears between both, but a huge part of it is building trust with your team and your family and setting right expectations.
When you commit to something, ensure that even when you’re not physically there, you’ll get the job done. For example, right before my unscheduled C section, I texted my team letting them know that I was going in and sent them a handover document that I had already prepared. My team was completely supportive and appreciated that I kept them updated real-time.
To women today, don’t put any life decisions on hold — there’s never a perfectly right time to say yes to a promotion, or to get married or have a child. Today is as good as any other day is going to be. If you’re postponing decisions due to other obligations, don’t succumb to the pressure of figuring out the ‘right’ timing. You can figure it all out one step at a time.”
ON RACISM AT WORK…
“If you ever experience racism in the workplace, you want to address it without being confrontational. Find the right way to call it out without being confrontational. About 2 years ago I was sitting with another woman leader of another ethnicity and talking about performance reviews for my team. The woman leader asked me, “What’s up with you Indian women?” I was taken aback that she was labeling Indian women leaders as aggressive go-getters! I looked at her and responded right back, “Wow, what is up with us Indian women? Can you elaborate on that?” That totally took her by surprise and she didn’t know how to react.”
“I carve out 30 minutes for myself each day to do something creative. This year, I started building voice experiences for Amazon’s Alexa around short, positive affirmations. These Alexa “skills,” are quick 10-second ways to practice positive affirmations or quickly detox. I also build in gratitude and some form of meditation in my daily schedule.”
Just for Fun