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Giving Back to Other Women in the Industry

Sudha Raghavan

SVP, Software Engineering at Oracle

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Problem

Women are rare in some parts of this industry, often due to a lack of a sponsor or a voice of advocacy at the table of executive leadership. Sometimes, once you cross that middle management level, opportunities to advance further can be difficult to come by. If the person above you is not interested in inviting a woman to fill a position of power, the talent that your company represents will inevitably go to waste.

I have been given so many opportunities to excel through my own mentors and leaders. Sometimes, as women, we do not have the confidence that it takes to transcend until we, ourselves, are sure that we are capable enough. We are afraid to begin unless we are 100% sure that we are able to perform at that next level. I always try to be the person who is able to help the women around me meet their goals.

Actions taken

Outside of my day-to-day activity at work, I am very active in a number of committees devoted to the advancement of other women in my field. At Microsoft, I was part of a women’s committee within the company. We led both new and experienced employees through mentoring roundtables; we felt that it had a significant impact on our employees’ abilities to connect with one another, even across departmental lines.

We wanted to enable the group as a whole to learn from each others’ mistakes and to be there for one another when possible. Strengthening these bonds and this interconnectivity made the work that we were doing together much easier.

After eventually leaving Microsoft and joining my current company, I found myself suddenly in this little start-up. There was no internal committee of women at that stage; there was no need for one in such a small company.

I really missed that aspect of the job. In my current company, there is a centralized group of women that spans the entire company, and each area’s office has its own local chapter, as well. I was part of the division in Seattle, one of the founding members of the group. Six months after stepping into the role, I started to conduct female leadership and empowerment sessions.

I love the feeling of being a part of these types of efforts; that’s why I ended up joining Plato in the first place. I wanted to connect with other women personally across the organization. More importantly, I wanted the few women working in my office in Seattle to feel a sense of community with one another.

Since then, I have played the role of both mentor and mentee many times. I am such a proponent of learning and giving back to others continuously. I would not be where I am currently without this circle of support. They have helped me grow immensely.

Lessons learned

  • To me, it always comes back to mentoring. Networking is a totally different thing. For me, connecting with others is a very natural thing. I shy away from the word “networking”.
  • When we find success, we tend to cloister ourselves in our areas of expertise, never venturing outside of what we know after establishing ourselves. When I started to become more involved in the global community of women in this industry, I realized that I should be extending myself outward.
  • You need to have somebody willing to sponsor you from above as you advance in your career. This person should be somebody familiar with your strengths and where your aptitude lies. They will be able to suggest your expertise when a new challenge presents itself or a position of leadership becomes available within the company. Connect to your leaders whenever possible. Show them what you stand to offer the organization.

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Sudha Raghavan

SVP, Software Engineering at Oracle


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