Celebrating Women's History Month with Vidya Nagarajan Raman
Stephanie Wong and Debi Cabrera host a special episode highlighting the amazing accomplishments of our guest Vidya Nagarajan Raman as we celebrate Women’s History Month! With her more than 20 years of experience fostering growth and monetization in enterprise and education platforms, investing and working in the holistic lifestyle space, and earning her MBA while raising her two children, Vidya has certainly done a lot!
Vidya tells us about her latest blog post stressing the importance of being an event-driven organization. In this business structure, reactions to events are planned in advance and developers consider how services are integrated for maximum efficiency. With synchronous extensions, projects retain flexibility in existing applications as they work with Cloud Functions to extend to new areas. Vidya gives our listeners examples of how this works.
The journey from engineer to Head of Product Management was an interesting one for Vidya, and she describes how she got started in computer engineering. Her passion for connecting with users later pushed her to product management. She tells us about her contributions to Chromebooks for Education as well as other milestones during her time with Google. Vidya talks about the support system she credits with helping her along the way and gives our listeners advice for finding mentors in their fields. She touches on the challenges she faced, describes what it was like for a woman in the industry when she first started, and offers encouragement to women getting started now. Balancing work, continuing her education, and raising children was tough, but Vidya says that, along with her incredible professional and personal support systems, defining priorities is vital.
Vidya offers our listeners the insights she’s gained as she’s watched Google and workplace teams change and adapt over the years. Building an inclusive team, encouraging diverse perspectives, and defining a framework for settling disagreements are some of the pieces of advice she shares. Don’t be afraid to fail and be a risk-taker, Vidya says, because that promotes growth and learning. If you learn something new every day and have fun doing it, then you will be successful.
In her spare time, Vidya leads a charitable foundation that partners with organizations in countries like India and Peru to further education, build orphanages and libraries, and provide medical care for women. She is an angel investor and runs workshops on creating a holistic lifestyle to help others lead well-rounded, fulfilling lives.
Vidya Nagarajan Raman
Vidya Nagarajan Raman is the Head of Product Management for Serverless at Google Cloud. She is also an angel investor, advisor, and co-founder of a holistic lifestyle platform that empowers people to grow and transform their lives.
Cool things of the week
- Ready to solve for the future? Data Cloud Summit ‘22 is coming April 6 blog
- Visualizing Google Cloud: 101 Illustrated References for Cloud Engineers and Architects site
- Evolving to a programmable cloud blog
- Cloud Functions site
- Cloud Run site
- Eventarc docs
- Work Flows site
- Chromebook site
What’s something cool you’re working on?
Debi is working on Apache Beam series with Mark Mirchandani.
Stephanie is working on scripts for a series about getting into a career in cloud.
Transcriptshow full transcript
[UPBEAT MUSIC] STEPHANIE: Hey, everyone and welcome to episode number 298 of the weekly Google Cloud Platform Podcast. My name is Stephanie Wong, and I am here with my teammate, Debbie. What's up, Debbie?
DEBBIE: Hey, Stephanie. You know, the usual.
STEPHANIE: Well, now, you've been on our team for at least a few months now, and I'm super-excited about it. But what are your thoughts so far? I've loved working with you.
DEBBIE: Thank you. So far, it's honestly a lot of fun. We'll talk a little bit more about fun and work in this episode today, actually. But it's been a lot of fun.
I've been treating it like play as much as possible. I'm learning a lot, and I have a bunch of cool production gear in my house now. So that feels pretty cool.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, and we've been throwing you into all sorts of things, like this podcast. But you've been able to totally just kill it at everything. So why don't you go ahead and introduce what we're talking about today.
DEBBIE: So today, we will be talking about Women's History Month. And we'll be celebrating that by speaking to a really awesome, and career-driven, and family-driven woman. Her name is Vidya Nagarajan, and she is the group product manager for our serverless platform.
And we really just wanted to make sure to get a woman in on the podcast and kind of talk about this before the month was over, so we could properly celebrate Women's History Month.
STEPHANIE: This episode, I felt, was so needed. I think, I definitely would love featuring really successful women and get some advice from them just for anyone who's listening, because I think it applies to all people in their careers.
But the conversation was enlightening for me. It's great to hear her pathway and how it's not always straight. She had, more or less, a circuitous or meandering pathway. And that's totally fine, and she's ended up in a really incredible position today. So get excited for that.
But for now, we have a couple of cool things of the week. So let's jump into it.
DEBBIE: Yeah, so my cool thing of the week is actually a visualizing Google Cloud illustrated references book that one of our other teammates, Priyanka Vergadia actually just launched. It's a book of sketches across categories, like infrastructure, storage, databases, data analytics, and many others.
And all of these proceeds from the book will actually go to some folks at Wiley and the Akshaya Patra Foundation in the USA, which serves nutritious meals to children across thousands of schools in India. So not only a really useful and awesome book, but also going towards really great causes as well. So you can pre-order that now.
STEPHANIE: Yes, so many great visualizations that help you learn Google Cloud architecture. Now my cool thing of the week is that our Data Cloud Summit is coming up soon on April 6. And it is going to feature a number of leaders from Google Cloud's data and analytics space.
But you'll also hear about our testimonies from digital transformation partners such, as C3 AI, Databricks' Deloitte, Elastic, and MongoDB. And of course, we'll be announcing what's new for products like BigQuery, Data Studio, Looker, Cloud Spanner, Cloud SQL, and Vertex AI. So it is definitely our flagship moment for our data and analytics products. So register for that online and get excited.
But for now, let's go ahead and dive into our conversation with Vidya.
All right, well, Happy Women's History Month, Vidya. Thank you so much for joining us. Firstly, can you please introduce yourself to our audience?
VIDYA: Yeah, thank you, Stephanie. I'm so glad to be here. Hi, everyone. I'm Vidya, and I have over 20 years of experience building, growing, and monetizing platforms in the enterprise and education segments. I currently lead product for serverless and orchestration on Google Cloud platform.
I was on the founding team for Chromebooks in the education vertical. And I also founded the embedded Chrome OS platform that powers purpose-built devices, such as kiosks, meeting room hardware, and digital science. All in all I've had my hands on many different products at Google across Chrome OS, Android, Workspace, and Identity.
And I'm very grateful for the different opportunities that has helped me grow. I earned my bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering. I started my career in the tech industry as an engineer. And later on, I went on to do my master's degree in business administration, while balancing work and managing my two toddlers. We'll talk more about that later.
I'm also an angel investor and a co-founder of a holistic lifestyle platform. And we can also perhaps talk about that later as well.
DEBBIE: That is quite the repertoire there. Very nice. You've done a lot and in different places-- super-interesting.
STEPHANIE: So you recently authored a blog on the programmable cloud. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
VIDYA: So at Google Cloud platform, we're constantly looking at ways to improve the developer experience to make it straightforward for developers to bring their ideas to market. While harnessing the power of data is key to the success of organizations, in today's fast-paced landscape, you need to react to information on time.
Users expect action right away using real-time data and insights. So forward-looking companies need to think about building, not just data-driven organizations, but something that I call as event-driven organizations. So the basic premise here is everything-- absolutely everything-- and anything generates an event. So how do we react to those events to do something useful?
Another factor to think about here is how developers integrate services. It's too easy to introduce tight coupling, which grows brittle, and slow, and challenging over time, to debug and extend that. So the serverless products that we have, such as Cloud Functions, Cloud Run, Eventarc, workflows, they all allow you to integrate these services in an inherently asynchronous and a loosely coupled manner, thereby preserving the agility of each service, while still enabling rapid innovation.
And we also want to be flexible. That's our goal. So how do we support new integration patterns and enable new use cases?
So synchronous extensions is what we call it, and they allow existing applications running on Google Cloud to be automatically and easily extended with Cloud Functions. For example, we just recently launched in private preview the support for remote functions on BigQuery, where you just define a Cloud Function in node, or Python, or go, and then use it in any BigQuery expression.
So our vision with the programmable cloud is we would love to enable developers on GCP to easily extend and script the platform to accelerate their time to value easily. Not only that, if you've seen the latest total economic impact report from Forrester, organizations that use Cloud Run can deploy faster by 95%. They can reduce their infra costs by 75%, improve developer efficiency by 50%.
So our newly released Cloud Functions second generation is actually powered under the hood using Cloud Run infrastructure. So it gives developers tremendous amount of benefits and the same flexibility that you've grown to love with Cloud Run.
STEPHANIE: Wow. Yeah, I mentor and coach some people that are interested in transitioning to cloud from a traditional engineering role or non-cloud role. And often, they ask me, what are some skills that I can work on that are very cloud native? And this is exactly what I talk about with them. It's a programmable cloud-- doing things like business process automation, cloud ops automation, change data capture, which you kind of mentioned here.
Now you are now the lead for the product group for serverless applications. You mentioned that you started as an engineer. Can you talk about what this journey was like?
VIDYA: Yeah, absolutely. So I grew up in Kuwait, a small, wealthy country in the Middle East that no one really knew about back then, and returned to India after the Gulf War in the year 1990. And I come from a family of doctors and remember loving biology while studying in school.
I took science and math coursework while in school, and everyone just imagined and assumed that I would also grow up to become a doctor, like the rest of my family. However, I have a little secret. And I'm absolutely terrified by the sight of blood, which quickly pushed away any aspirations that either I or my family had about me becoming a doctor.
And I love the aesthetics behind products of different kinds, both physical, whether they are buildings, or clothes, and hardware, and virtual software. And I also briefly considered a career as an architect. However, good design schools in India were very few and remote.
At the same time, the internet wave in the late '90s encouraged many young women like me to study information technology. So I pursued a four-year undergraduate degree in computer engineering in India. And I remember, in those days, it was so rare to find women in Indian engineering colleges.
So I later got an entry-level job as a software engineer in an internet consulting company that unfortunately went under during the bust of the early 2000s. And back then, if I remember, the concepts of a back-end developer or a front-end developer did not really exist.
Now, we have the availability of fully-managed serverless tools, just makes it incredibly easy for developers to focus your development efforts, purely addressing higher-value business problems, while cloud providers, like Google Cloud platform, they just take care of the rest to accelerate your time to market.
So as an engineer working in startups, where you tend to don multiple hats, I realized that I actually had my true love connecting with users and defining product features and the metrics behind it, which largely influenced my move into product management later on. So yeah, that was quite a big story, but that's essentially how I got here, starting my career as an engineer.
DEBBIE: So I have two questions. One, what was the most challenging piece of that whole journey? And then second is what was it like being a woman in the industry? And you can say then and now and compare as well. But it's super-interesting, you mentioned, there were almost no women in software engineering in India at that time. So what was that like as well?
VIDYA: Back in the day, there were hardly any women studying STEM. Things have definitely changed. It's a lot better now. We do have long ways to go, still.
But the conditions back then, women were usually homemakers, or if they did go to college, they were studying arts, or liberal arts, or humanities. And it's certainly been a lot easier today than when I started my career 20 years ago.
Today, there is so much of awareness-- just self-awareness-- around the issues faced by women and other underrepresented groups. For example, Google's own efforts around DEI greatly help close the gender gap. There are tools available, such as you take the unbiased training that makes one more self-aware.
And it's also really been encouraging that more and more women are attaining a degree in STEM, and the gap is tremendously reducing. I have two daughters, and my older daughter recently got accepted into a program on biomedical engineering. And so I was really happy, because it was a perfect amalgamation of doctors in the family, as well as she is studying technology.
So having more and more of the younger generation starting to look at STEM being a viable option and thinking about the applications of STEM in terms of the type of impact that they can create in society is really, really encouraging.
And the other thing I wanted to mention is very recently, I think, a few days ago, I came across this really inspiring tweet from Indra Nooyi, the former chairman of PepsiCo, where she said something like, pull up a chair. You belong at the table. And that really resonated with me, and I would like to encourage more women to live by it.
STEPHANIE: Absolutely. Great. And I think now, the stats show is that the number of women in colleges has surpassed men, on average. So I think there's just an even bigger pool of really driven women, who, if they decide to go into STEM, are going to make a huge impact in our future. You being a part of that as well. So thanks for helping blaze the path there.
Now it's interesting, because you're telling us that you started your career in startups, and you've since moved on to various roles. And you've had a long career at Google. So how have you been able to seek out those opportunities and decided to pivot?
VIDYA: Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. So I had started my career as a developer. And while working in a startup, you tend to don multiple hats. And then I quickly realized that I really got satisfaction working and connecting directly with the customer and the user.
So to fulfill my desire further of being closer to the customer and user, after a couple of the startups went under, I moved to SAP business objects. And later on, I moved to Google as a technical account manager. So it was very deeply entrenched with the field.
And during this period, when I joined Google as a technical account manager, I was multitasking as a mom of two toddlers. I was doing my MBA on the side. And I was so excited about the massive opportunities opening up at Google.
This was the time in 2007 where there were so many new projects. Innovation was at its key. Google was largely a consumer company, but there was so many opportunities opening up to start taking our first steps into the enterprise and education market.
So I was like this excited child, who wanted to have it all. I was part of the founding team that brought Google Apps to enterprises, like Genentech, Johnson Diversey, Brady Corporation, the city of Los Angeles, and so many more. And a few leaders, we were fundamentally changing how users were looking at computing.
So I joined the founding team for Chromebooks for Education and founded the kiosk mode, which helped set up Chromebooks as the mainstream device for secure online testing and assessments in schools. And today, just seeing so many schools and businesses use Chromebooks is hugely gratifying.
So coming to answer your question, I think, my support network has been a critical factor, empowering me to grow through all these amazing opportunities. I could not have taken the driver's seat in many of these early-stage projects had it not been for the support network helmed by my husband and my parents, who I leaned into heavily.
DEBBIE: Another critical factor has been my network at Google and some fantastic mentors that I deeply admire and respect, and I'm very grateful for. Because these were the mentors who thought of me when these opportunities opened up, and they reached out to me. And each opportunity has been a stepping stone for the next one, because I started as a technical account manager and later, converted into product management across a variety of products at Google. And I'm really grateful for that.
So a lot of the time, I agree that mentors are such a crucial part of finding roles that are good for you, maybe even when you don't know that it's good for you. So a question that I think people ask a lot is, how do I find a mentor? Or who are the right people to be my mentor? Do you have any advice on that?
VIDYA: Yeah, so the way I typically look at this is it is not a set formula that I see this particular individual, and this individual can be my mentor. But a mentor can bring many different inspiring attributes that you can learn to imbibe and grow from it. It could be personality. It could be the way they lead, the way they talk, the way they inspire the team.
And so you kind of look at the type of attributes that call out to you in different individuals. And then it's more of a relationship. It's not transactional, but it's more of a relationship that continues to evolve. And you kind of think of you are business number one, and you are the CEO of your own life.
So how do I think about building my own personal board of advisors or mentors, who provide you a mirror that brings you clarity along very different aspects? And each individual will bring you clarity on a different item or a different topic. So the most important thing is you are trying to choose this board, or this set of individuals, who really want to have a solid personal and professional interest in seeing you flourish and succeed.
And it all starts with that initial relationship. How are you able to relate and connect? And it's not just about asking that person, can you be my mentor? It doesn't work that way. But it's that individual-- sometimes the mentor, the person-- sees something in you, and they want to help you.
And you are also offering pieces of accomplishment for that individual who wants to be a mentor, who feels fulfilled by wanting to help you out. So it is a very symbiotic, I would say, and a very organic relationship that evolves over a period of time. And you can find mentors anywhere.
It's just about in different settings. It could happen outside work. It could happen through different networks. It could happen socially. It could happen professionally. It could happen through different team projects that you are working on or where you have to present to leaders as part of a panel-- in conferences. So practically, I think, these relationships happen everywhere.
STEPHANIE: I really like that mental model-- building your own advisory board. And I totally agree that it can't be transactional. They have to have a vested interest in your future, as you said. And one of the tricks that I found is also joining organizations where they might have a mentorship program. And that kind of sets you up to start off that relationship with a warm intro.
STEPHANIE: One of the questions that, I think, a lot of women wonder about is how mothers are able to balance family and work. I mean, this goes for fathers as well. But for you, how have you been able to balance all of the responsibilities while also making your way through your career and becoming this incredible leader today?
VIDYA: I honestly credit that to having an amazing support system. And it's about having an amazing support system, not just at home, but also at work. And it's also about defining your priorities very clearly. Like what is important to you? What are your goals? What do you want to do?
And I think, when you have clarity in terms of what is important to you at different stages of your life-- like your priorities change at every stage of your life. It's not going to remain constant. And I think that's what happened to me.
So early on, when my children were very young, I was also a young mother. And I was trying to do multiple things, because I was trying to grow individually in my career, as well as have a family. And so my family really stepped up, and they provided me that cushion, that backing that I could actually go and travel and meet customers if I had to. I could take the driver's seat in many of these really early stage projects, which I could not have done if they had not been there.
At the same time, I also had an amazing support system at work. I remember, I would bring my nine-month-old to work, and she would sit in conference rooms and meeting rooms with me when I would talk with my colleagues. In some sense, I call her to be a Google baby. She practically grew up in the Google environment.
And also, having very supportive managers-- managers who see our potential, who see your value, and they want you to succeed. And so today, we talk about the concept of flex hours and hybrid hours with this whole hybrid work environment that is set up because of COVID and the pandemic. But this was not the case about 10 years ago.
The notion of having a set of fixed hours that you need to work from 8:00 to 5:00 was more of the industry norm. And having managers who are able to change the model then so that they can actually allow working mothers to thrive and work in an environment, so that they can meet and balance the needs of both their family, as well as their professional commitments, was great. And I was definitely fortunate to have some managers early in my career who actually encouraged that.
DEBBIE: Isn't that amazing that with a flexible schedule, you can get it all done? You just need a little flexibility.
VIDYA: Yes, absolutely.
STEPHANIE: Now I want to kind of zoom in on your stint at Google, which you're still at. You've seen so many teams operate in different ways. You've seen the onset of some brand-new business segments, and you've been at the forefront of them. So what are some of the critical differences in how you've seen teams operate?
VIDYA: Yeah, that's a very good question. So when I joined Google in 2007, there were totally about 100 people or so who worked on both enterprise and education put together across product, engineering, and all the different go-to-market functions. And as you can imagine, Google was essentially a consumer company back then. And we were starting to open up products to new markets in fundamentally disruptive ways.
So Google has always been a pioneer in engineering and innovation. We've always been and we are. In the early days, when we took Google Calendar, for example, to enterprises, it was very hard to influence teams to change their priorities to support enterprise requirements.
I remember, we were rolling out Google Calendar to Genentech, and they had a lot of enterprise requirements. And it was really difficult to convince the Google Calendar team, who was at that point rolling sports calendars for consumers, so that they can get more consumer adoption. In hindsight, we had no well-established prioritization or a decision-making framework to influence what type of priorities or commitments that they need to work on.
Today, customer empathy is foundational to everything that we do. In Google Cloud-- I think, in Google, as a whole, it's very important to us. And we stand by that. And it's so gratifying to see the tremendous progress we have made.
So I'd like to say that here are some of my key takeaways and learnings over the years, as I look at how teams have fundamentally changed in terms of how they operate. First is it's extremely important to invest in building a cohesive, and inclusive, and extended team. Encourage diverse perspective of all team members. Define a shared vision. Understand mutual interests, how certain priorities that they need to work in fits in with a larger organization strategy.
Define clear roles and responsibilities with a focus on ownership and accountability. Define a framework for managing conflicts and any kind of disagreements. Set up a process framework for prioritization. Incorporate feedback continuously and be willing to change. You may need to make changes as the market conditions change.
Invest in more storytelling. We don't do enough of that. So invest in more storytelling, more roadshows. Continue to reiterate the vision across different levels of audiences. And share more customer and field stories to build empathy. And lastly, I'd say, celebrate all wins-- small and large.
I feel, if we had even done, or incorporated, or imbibed many of these points that I brought up in my earlier days, some of those early projects that we were trying to land while we were trying to win the big deals could have gotten a lot easier and smoother. I'd say, those are some of the fundamental changes in terms of the way teams are operating and continue to operate, as we continue to execute and take our features to market, with customer empathy in mind.
DEBBIE: That was a great run-down. Thank you for all those specific tools. I totally agree with the celebrating the small and the large wins, because that really helps keep morale up also. And it just makes it more fun, in my opinion.
So speaking about fun, actually, you've hopped around to a few different roles, and you've landed in product management now. Can you talk to us a little bit about what you really love about working in product management?
VIDYA: You know, I really love the process and the energy that goes into envisioning and realizing products-- the journey of taking a concept from an initial elevator pitch, to a series of wireframes, through validating a prototype with actual users, who would use the product. And finally, seeing it used by everyone is unmatched. It's just incredibly fulfilling to see something that was once just an idea become a product that improves millions of lives worldwide.
Everybody has a very different philosophy or a definition of what product management means. There are so many courses in product management today that are being taught. If you just go YouTube it or Google it, we will see a different definition of what product management means to everybody.
But my definition of product management is it's fundamentally about thinking on your feet. It is a fine balance of art and science. And it needs to be a really good cooking recipe, like how when you make a pasta, or a pie, or something, and you need to have these right ingredients in there. And they need to be mixed well and cooked well.
Very similarly here, art and science need to be imbibed and mixed really well in order to get the right degree, or quality, or effectiveness of product management. So you need both to be successful. And the reason you need both to be successful is we can't afford to invest in time-consuming, lengthy, expensive product design and development in highly competitive markets, only to completely fail once it hits the market.
Nor can we design and create products that completely lack customer empathy-- there is no respect for the user-- or products that completely fall short in its own unique personality. So I love this recent quote I just saw yesterday on LinkedIn. And it said, "ask yourself, how can I test customer hypothesis with zero engineers?" Isn't that amazing?
If I could just test the validity of a particular concept with actual users, and I know that this is going to have a great product market fit before I actually put engineering time on it, how amazing would that be? So that I would then have complete confidence that my product that I'm going to be launching and investing in is going to be very successful.
The other thing I want to add is prioritization. I believe a lot in prioritization. And prioritization is probably one of the most important attributes for a product manager to be successful.
It is where art and science meet. So we may apply different prioritization methods to come up with this spreadsheet, where we have these different projects, and they are stack ranked based on different goals, and OKRs, and so on. But actually choosing, after you set this framework and formula, which project to work on next is where your artistic license is required.
That's where you as a product manager, you're taking that leap of faith. You're making a decision that involves your gut, your intuition, and fortitude. Because if you don't do that, then you're always going to be in this no man's land, where you're wondering, did I make the right decision? And that's where I say that the combination of art with science goes hand in hand.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, and based on the story you've already told us, it seems like product management is so well-suited to all the little things that you've done leading up to this point-- starting as an engineer, and then moving into becoming one of the first technical account managers at Google, understanding customer empathy and the product side.
And now, you're here. So it's just really incredible to hear that. And I think it gives people who are earlier in their career-- women specifically-- some really good confidence that they need to trust the process along the way. So looking back on your career so far, what do you wish you knew when you started that you know now?
VIDYA: Yeah, there are actually so many, and I'll highlight a few. So first, I kind of touched on this earlier. It's about definitely think of having a personal board of advisors. Think of having that personal board, who provide a mirror that brings you clarity.
Number two, absolutely don't be afraid to fail. Be willing to take risks. And you might have heard this quote before. "Failure is life's great teacher." And that is what helps promote a growth mindset, because you're here to learn, and you're here to grow.
And you're not always going to see successes. You're going to see some failures. And you're going to see those failures because you took the risk. And you're going to learn from those mistakes. | you can use those learnings to then get better the next time.
And third is look out for emerging trends and don't be resistant to change. Sometimes we can get too comfortable in our zone. And taking that leap of faith and making that change can be a step change, even if it is difficult and going to require you to work much harder.
Looking at just my own career, thinking about it, if I hadn't made the switch from technical account management to product management-- that was a major change-- that wouldn't have gotten me to where I am right now. Similarly, if I hadn't made the switch-- I had gotten too comfortable within my zone of being with Chrome OS-- and if I hadn't made the switch to moving to lead identity, which was a completely different space for me, and I would not have learned to apply the skills that I had learned while I was in Chrome OS.
But I was now able to apply it to a completely different setting. But I learned completely new skills. And then again, I made the change and switch when I moved to serverless, where I was able to use all those previous experiences and bring it to a completely different setting.
And it has taught me resilience. It has taught me to be persistent. It's taught me that everything is very learnable. It teaches you how to learn. And just the skill of learning how to learn is so important, because the environment is changing constantly.
The world that it was 20 years ago with the kind of developer tools I was using, it's so different than what it is right now, with tools like CI/CD coming up. And there's so many different web development stacks out there. Everything is changing.
And you have to be at your feet, and you have to be agile. And you need to have that mindset to learn, and want to learn and grow, and experience that. So I think that is the most important skill that I would want my girls to learn is continue to love to learn. You need to love to learn.
And the last thing is think of the big game. Oftentimes we just get sidetracked by small things. Am I getting promoted from level three to level four or level four to level five? We don't think about the big game.
Think of the big picture. Be persistent. Eventually, you will reach your destination, whatever that may be. And there's no right or wrong answer for what a successful career looks like. For example, looking from the outside, I'm sure people may think I may not have had the perfect career arc, because I have made so many changes. I have a meandering circle.
But what keeps me going are two questions that I ask myself every morning when I wake up. Am I having fun? And am I learning something new? And if the answer for both of that is yes, then I think I am really happy. I am in a really good place.
And I try to look at every interaction that I have with the mindset of is this a new opportunity that helps me grow? And I think that's most important also for leading a very content life. Otherwise, we can just get completely caught up with various issues, which can appear to be huge, but are actually so small in the large scheme of things with everything that is going on out there.
STEPHANIE: Thank you so much for all of those great points. Some of that is really, really impeccable advice. And it makes me think of when you said, everything is learnable. If you have the ability to learn, you can really be successful at everything.
There's this great book, called "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck, that I read a few years ago. And it touches on exactly that, on the idea of a growth mindset versus just trying something or saying, I've never done that before. It's not for me. Let me just stay on my path, and then I'll reach that "destination" in air quotes.
So I really love that you're saying, no, I switched. Because the opportunity was open to me, and because I knew I was going to learn, and most importantly, like you said, have fun while doing it. So I think, if you take anything away from this recording, that one point you made is so great.
VIDYA: Thank you.
STEPHANIE: Great. So obviously, you've done a ton of amazing things inside of work, inside of your career. What are some of the things that you enjoy doing outside of work?
VIDYA: Yeah, this is my favorite question. What keeps me really excited are the many things I do outside work. I firmly believe that education levels the playing field. And uplifting women so that they can also have a seat on the table are two things, or areas, that really give me a sense of purpose and meaning in life right now.
Maybe I'm growing old, but that really gives me a sense of purpose. I lead a charitable fund that partners with other 501(c)(3) organizations worldwide. And right now, we have been looking at projects in India and Peru across a range of causes, such as building schools, orphanages, libraries for children, providing medical care for women and kids.
For example, we've been looking at providing cancer treatment for women in this city called Chennai in Southern India to providing free surgical and dental care for kids in Peru. We also supported India's COVID-19 relief efforts last year by donating oxygen ventilators when COVID-19 was at its peak in India.
I also want to change the power equation for women. So I'm also an angel investor in women-led minority businesses. And that's something I'm also very passionate about. How do we make sure more and more women are entrepreneurs, more women have the confidence, and they have the resources to start their own businesses, which also grow to be powerhouses?
And I believe in practicing a holistic lifestyle to be the best version of myself. And I regularly run a series of workshops almost every weekend, actually, that provide tools for participants to use in their daily lives to help them lead a well-balanced life, promoting physical and emotional well-being.
And last but not the least, travel gives me immense joy. And I love to discover a new culture, new places. Probably in a past life, I might have been an archaeologist or an anthropologist, because I just love a lot of history and tradition. And I've been to over 150 countries. And I'm hoping I'll be able to visit every country on this planet. That's my aim.
STEPHANIE: Wow, you are doing so much. I'm like, how do you do it all? But the key is you've had support. It's all about flexibility and just having that advisory board to push you in the directions that you might not feel prepared to go yet.
That's super-impressive, because that's something that I want to push myself to do as well is try out all these things outside of work, make sure that I feel fulfilled, both in and outside of my career. Because as you said, it's how you feel so content and fulfilled.
Well, this was absolutely amazing celebrating Women's History Month with you. You've clearly made your stamp in Women's History and helped blaze a path. But is there anything else that you would like to leave our audience with before we wrap up?
VIDYA: No, thank you so much, Stephanie and Debbie. I had a great time. And I think the one key takeaway should be do what is fun to you. I think that's the most important thing. And make sure that you feel whatever you're doing is leaving an impact, and it's giving you joy and meaning in life.
And you define your own career and what that means to you. And success means different things to different people. So do not get affected by another person on the exterior definition for success. You define success. The person outside you does not define that.
And that's the most important thing. Because oftentimes, we as women, we get carried away by somebody else's definition. And they provide all sorts of definitions for everything, and that can really have a huge bearing on how we look at ourselves as women.
And we all need to uplift ourselves. And it first starts with doing it for your own self. How do you look at yourself internally is how other people also perceive you outside-- as the confident woman, as the bossy woman, as I like to call it.
STEPHANIE: Well, thank you so much. I love those lasting words for everyone, because that's something I have to remind myself of every single day. But thank you so much for joining our podcast again, and we hope to have you back on soon.
VIDYA: Thanks. Bye.
STEPHANIE: So first of all, Vidya has done so much in her career and outside of it. So I'm still amazed at how she fits it all in and how she's been able to do it. But I think the key message was that, first of all, you don't have to do it all. But also, you just have to do what makes you happy. And I loved what she said about defining your own success.
DEBBIE: Yeah, I 100% agree with that. I was having a conversation with some of my friends about what is success. And she made such a good point that it really is different for everyone. And I also loved her point about not being afraid to fail and not being afraid to move around. That just because you're on one trajectory-- she started as a software engineer, and then became a technical account manager.
If she would have stayed in those paths, maybe she would have been higher up than she is now in her career. But she said, great thing that I did make those changes, because then I never would have found my way to product management, which she really loves now and enjoys.
So the fact that she said that was a super-important point that I want to highlight, for everybody, but especially for women. Don't be afraid to take those chances, even when you have young kids. Try and get that support system and that board of directors in your life that helps you get to where you are. You don't need to do it alone.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, and I think, getting to a higher level is subjective, because you might be at a higher level at a certain point, but you might not be happy in it. So taking those pivotal changes in your career is important for you to discover the next thing that's going to give you both fun and those learning moments.
So I walked away from the conversation with a lot there. I think, both of us can easily say that there's so much to look forward to in our careers. And you just got to trust the process and feel fulfilled outside of work. So yeah, great conversation.
So, Debbie, we're just talking about Women's History Month. But I know that we are both working on some exciting things on this team as women in tech. So what are you doing these days?
DEBBIE: Right now, I'm actually working with Mark, who is a co-host often on this podcast. Actually, he was my first host for podcasting that I did with the Looker episode. Him and I are working on an Apache Beam series, which has been super, super-interesting.
Apache Beam is a flexible and open source tool for processing data. And I think these videos are going to be so useful, because it does a really great job of breaking down all the different pieces of Apache Beam. Because it is quite complex. So for me, it's been really eye-opening to kind of see all the possibilities with it and the ins and outs. So that's been super-fun for me. What are you working on?
STEPHANIE: Well, I just want to say, that's a great teaser. Because we are going to have engineers from the Apache Beam team on next week on the podcast. And Mark and I are hosting it, so get excited for that episode. As for me, I am working on a couple of scripts that are related to what we talked about today.
It's part of a series about cracking your cloud career, and I'm going to be covering topics like how to transition into cloud from a non-technical background and also as a woman in tech. So these are slated to be released, I think, in the next coming months. But yeah, I thought it was really relevant to our conversation that we've had today and applies to anyone that is listening to this podcast.
DEBBIE: Totally. I'm excited for that, actually. I can't wait for that to come out.
STEPHANIE: We have people within Google Cloud still trying to make transitions, too. All right, well, thank you so much, Debbie, for hosting with me. And sorry to say it, but we're probably going to rope you back into this more.
DEBBIE: Oh, please, any time. Thank you. This is so fun.
STEPHANIE: Thanks, everyone else, for listening, and we'll see you next week for our Beam episode.
Stephanie Wong and Debi Cabrera
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