Vidya Srinivasan’s interest in tech was sparked at an early age. “Growing up, I was surrounded by family members (mostly boys) who pursued Computer Science and had great careers,” she explained. “A part of me was curious to explore that field.” After taking a few introductory Computer Science classes in high school, she knew this was the field for her. She went on to receive both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Computer Science and received an internship at Microsoft.
When Vidya arrived at Microsoft, however, she realized that she was the only woman on the team. “I was very intimidated because nobody looked like me, nobody spoke like me, and everybody knew so much more than me,” she said. She struggled with imposter syndrome and felt very much alone at her new internship.
Luckily, an opportunity came that changed all that.
“A Place Where I Belonged”
In 2012, Vidya volunteered to be a notetaker at Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC). She had heard about AnitaB.org (then known as the Anita Borg Institute) and closely connected with its mission to support women in tech. Once she arrived at GHC, Vidya realized the event was even bigger than she imagined.
“I was blown away,” she said. “I saw 4,000 other people who had something in common with me. GHC felt like a place where I belonged.”
Vidya also met one of her first mentors at GHC 12, with whom she still has a strong relationship. “I look up to my mentors and lean on them when I need guidance, and they have always been there to support me,” she explained. Seeking the support of her mentors helped her overcome her imposter syndrome, and she encourages other women in tech to do the same.
“Trust yourself and know that it’s okay if you don’t have everything figured out when you start,” she said. “Find yourself a community that you can rely on and start building your support group. You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities come your way because of your network.”
As for those who are looking to become mentors or allies of women technologists, Vidya has this piece of advice:
“Listen and learn, identify when you are in a position of privilege and how you can use it to support someone else, and, finally, build empathy. When you start building empathy, you want to become a part of the solution.”
Giving Back to the GHC Community
Vidya is now Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, as well as one of the founding members of SharePoint spaces, a new service in Office 365 that empowers anyone to build immersive and engaging mixed reality experiences. She has also volunteered at GHC multiple times, serving as the chair of various tracks and speaking at GHC presentations, panels, featured sessions, and mentoring circles.
“GHC has become an annual destination that many technologists, including me, attend to get inspired, energized, share our stories, and build our network,” Vidya explained. “I wanted to give back to this community.”
This year, Vidya was nominated to serve as the GHC 19 General Co-chair, an opportunity she was thrilled to seize. As an advocate for moms in tech, she was especially excited to be chairing GHC while pregnant with her second child. "It was quite empowering and made the whole pregnancy experience doubly memorable for me," she said.
“It is truly an honor to have an organization like AnitaB.org look to me as a thought partner," Vidya added. "I take this role quite seriously,” she stated. She has worked hard to ensure that our 2019 Celebration is just as inspiring — if not more — for this year’s attendees as it was for her back in 2012.
“We’ve introduced new tracks and intriguing focus areas and designed a very compelling program. The keynote and the featured speaker lineup are best in class. I am so proud of all our volunteers, especially the track Co-chairs and the thousands of reviewers, for bringing their expertise and experience to make GHC 19 the biggest and the best one yet!”
We look forward to seeing you at GHC 19 in Orlando, Florida!