Women in Tech | Sakon
Sakon, a global cloud-based device and network management solutions provider, held its annual Town Hall meeting in Pune, India in December. After two years of virtual global summits, “Sakonnected” provided an opportunity for the U.S and European leadership to get back together in person with their talented colleagues in India.
In keeping with this year’s "Dare, Dream, Deliver” theme, the afternoon session featured the “WIT” (Women in Tech) roundtable discussion. The Sakon WIT initiative is led by Emine “Em” Bolohan, Vice President, Strategic Account Management.
At Sakon, Em has worked with the executive team to drive programs that help women advance their careers and success within IT. Em also is Sakon’s ambassador to the AOTMP (Association of Telecom, Mobility, and IT Management Professionals) WIT program. The two organizations have jointly created material that will support a larger mission of female empowerment (including web conferences, training materials, and a mentorship program). New programs will be introduced over the course of this year.
It's important work, because as Em noted in kicking off the roundtable, women comprise only about 28% of the global workforce in STEM fields.
Everyone Doing their Part
Em opened by introducing the idea of participation. Sakon leadership recognizes the great contributions women make at the company and want to do everything possible to provide growth opportunities for them through programs for professional development, now and in the future. As such, everyone must do their part to advocate for women in technology, a lesson Em learned throughout thirty years in network engineering, telecommunications, and global IT service delivery. Over the course of her career, she’s helped mentor and develop young women just starting out as well as women looking to advance their careers in the technology field.
With that, Em handed the microphone to John Venditti, Senior Vice President, Client Services and Delivery, to moderate the panel of selected female leaders comprised of: Rohini Bhure, Manager HR (three year tenure); Cleta Lobo, Director Accounts Payable (seventeen year tenure); Kartiki Chalke, Manager Invoice Management (nine year tenure); Jalaja Sandesh, Director Project Management and Tech Support (thirteen year tenure); and Arati Kulkarni, Associate Director Product Engineering (three-plus year tenure).
John, the father of two daughters pursuing tech-related university degrees, began by suggesting two essential truths: first, the women of Sakon are a big part of why the company has been so successful; and second, when it comes to driving the WIT initiative, it’s not just about women; everyone at Sakon is expected to do their part. In that spirit, the rest of the panel contributed their thoughts and developed a set of compelling ideas….
Water find its way
Cleta centered the audience of 800-plus attendees with a reminder that women have long been the real strength behind Indian society, even as that society has often struggled with gender equality. It’s a core truth that every day the women of India make many of the most important decisions at home and at work.
All told, more than half of Sakon employees worldwide are women, managing both their work and their families Through it all, women have developed one very special competitive edge – they tend to have finely-tuned listening skills. It’s what makes women uniquely capable and is a key part of their success inside the workplace and out. That skill has allowed Cleta to build difference-making relationships with coworkers. She also noted that
“One distinct quality Sakon offers its employees is a flexible schedule that allows women to tend to both work and family, each in their proper measure”
Cleta was building to a crescendo of sorts. The women of Sakon, she pointed out, have big dreams and are willing to dare. As such, all they need are avenues of opportunity. She then harkened back to her school days, when students first learned about the property of water in science class, the fundamental law that “water finds its own way.” So too do women find success if provided the openings
of opportunity to reach new levels of achievement. The point was clear – there is no limit to what women can achieve in technology. And with more initiatives like those at Sakon, the tech industry will soon present “a sea of opportunity” for women.
“Friends & Philosophers”…Fresh Perspectives
At this point, John brought Kartiki into the conversation to develop another essential idea – that we all have to encourage more women in leadership roles because women bring fresh approaches and unique ways of solving problems. Kartiki added another key theme – the talent of the individual and how it can impact a larger community or organization. In that sense, each woman at Sakon has a responsibility to follow her specific set of interests and learn as much as she can while delivering good work so as to help move Sakon forward. As Kartiki noted, nobody can fail to respect such a course of action. Being able to follow one’s passion while being willing to learn and contribute is one of the engines propelling Sakon forward.
Rohini then took the microphone and went so far as to suggest that the corporate culture at Sakon is superior to other tech companies in India. How so? Rohini recalled that when she first got to Sakon she realized there were more women leaders as compared to other firms in the industry.
“From the get-go, she understood that women at Sakon are encouraged to learn and grow while also being given the flexibility to pursue goals in their personal life”
Emine immediately confirmed the nurturing company culture, a workplace that helps develop employees to their full potential. In fact, she added, everyone has a seat at the decision-making table. The organization encourages and listens to new perspectives, even craves them. Women should see themselves as champions of ideas.
Next, Arati jumped in and added that in fact everyone at Sakon should be seen as “friends
and philosophers.” It was a wonderful turn of phrase. In that sense, everyone can benefit from having a mentor, or being one. Not only is mentorship important for the individual, but it helps establish succession planning at any organization. Learning from peers should be a part of the employee mindset.
The theme of mentorship proved a rich topic of discussion. Jalaja added that it doesn’t have to be an official process – always take initiative and reach out to that person who knows things that can help one learn and grow! There are many such people willing to help at Sakon. And remember too, said Jalaja, that even people that are new to the company have things to teach the veterans, simply because of the different experiences they bring to bear. Mentorship is not just about someone at a high-level giving direction. As a concept, there’s so much more to it. Every human being can learn from everyone else around them. Each person must be willing to seek direction. And by so doing, they help move the entire organization forward.
John concluded the discussion by asking the audience what more Sakon could do to support women professionals. Jalaja suggested a good start would be encouraging more women to take those leadership courses offered by AOTMP. She also reminded the audience that mentors can be women… or they can be men… that opportunities are out there, it’s up to each individual to step up and grab them!