How a coder climbed the tech ladder
There’s never a dull day for Padmaja Kota, engineering manager at Salesforce responsible for driving product development at the cloud-based software company.
Not only does she have to provide the right opportunities for her team, but she also has to make the right business decisions and manage multiple priorities while meeting her commitments.
A supportive workplace with flexible work arrangements certainly helps, along with support groups like the Salesforce Women’s Network that help women in business succeed in tech wherever they are on their journey.
In an interview with Computer Weekly, Kota, Senior Director of Software Engineering at Salesforce India, shares more about her career in software development, the benefits of a diverse workforce, and what can be done to fill the gap. gender gap in coding.
How did your career in software development start?
Kota: I was born and raised in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh and have a background in Computer Science and Engineering. After the dotcom era, it was a dream career to be an engineer for most of us.
Growing up, I was always keen to pursue science and technology in my studies or as a profession. This led me to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering at Rajiv Gandhi Technological University.
I started my career as a software engineer at Infosys and eventually migrated to New Zealand after getting married. During this period, I learned the difference between product development and service engineering. Exposure to creating a product at scale and serving multiple customers with a global mindset has also enhanced my skills.
Padmaja Kota, Salesforce
After my time abroad, I returned to India and joined Prokarma, where I had the chance to experience and apply my learnings and expertise in a service company in the field of transport and locomotives. In the following roles, I gained a working knowledge of all the steps involved in product development.
In 2014, I joined Salesforce. My role here has given me the opportunity to expand my abilities on a variety of fronts, both personally and professionally. Over the past eight years, I’ve gone from Director of Engineering to Senior Director of Software Engineering. All in all, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore a variety of product development roles across all industries in India and globally.
What exactly does your job look like during a typical 24-hour day? Do you work in the office or in a team, who could you be with, where could you be and what could you do?
Kota: In my current role at Salesforce, I’m focused on engineering excellence and delivering customer-critical functionality, which also drives innovation. As a leader, it is my responsibility to provide the right opportunities to the team, make the right business decisions and manage multiple priorities while meeting commitments. I intentionally work to leverage my experience over the years to effectively manage my priorities and my team.
The work of companies, teams and individuals has changed more in the past two years than at any other time in history. Regardless of an organization’s return-to-work strategy, whether in-person, hybrid, or fully remote, digital infrastructure is replacing physical headquarters as the backbone of work. My team has embraced Salesforce’s introduction of “Flexible Team Agreements,” which gives us all the flexibility, choice, and balance to choose when and where we work, based on our unique needs and projects.
How is your development team organized? Who are the members and what are their responsibilities?
Kota: My engineering team follows an agile approach where each Scrum team has an identified Scrum lead. We work closely with Product Managers, Shared Services stakeholders, Customer Support and many other functions to successfully deliver new products and enhancements.
“I had a wonderful opportunity to explore a variety of product development roles across all industries in India and globally”
Padmaja Kota, Salesforce
Salesforce’s “success from anywhere” approach has increased our productivity. During the pandemic, we have redefined the way our teams work together with flexible team agreements. We empower teams to decide how, when and where they work, including how many days a week they come into the office and what type of work they will continue to do from home. Initiatives such as the “asynchronous week,” “focus time,” and “setting boundaries” are being experimented with to provide co-workers with ways to increase their productivity and prioritize their well-being.
An essential ingredient of the hybrid workspace is the creation of a digital headquarters, a hub where everyone can collaborate easily and efficiently, wherever they are. By seamlessly bringing together the right people, the right information and the right tools, this technology helps businesses become more connected, productive and innovative.
What strengths do you think women can bring to software development?
Kota: It’s no secret that diverse workplaces enable greater innovation and success. A diverse workforce brings new perspectives, broader viewpoints and better knowledge at all levels. Particularly in software development, the perspectives of a diverse workforce, regardless of race or gender, helps companies embed unbiased executives in technologies, while helping to better understand the needs of other stakeholders.
Yet the biggest challenge to advancing gender equality in the tech industry is to address the underrepresentation of women in emerging roles, such as engineering, cloud computing, data and technology. artificial intelligence (AI). Given this, Salesforce has made great strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the communities in which we live and work.
Part of what makes Salesforce an amazing company is our belief that business is the best platform for change. We constantly strive to eliminate bias at virtually every stage of the employee journey. From the initial interview, through integration and training, to the departure of the employee. Salesforce isn’t afraid to invest in equality. We also have a program to help women get back to work after a break.
What do you think can be done to close the gender gap in coding? What do you think can be done to encourage more women to code?
Kota: In India, currently more than 50% of IT graduates are women, who make up 34% of tech workers. Today, conversations about diversity, equality, and inclusion have become important board discussions. However, there is still a long way to go before we can say with certainty that women are fairly represented in the tech industry.
Organizations need to change the narrative when it comes to women in the workplace. We need to highlight the opportunities for women in this industry, but looking at it from the perspective of the talent gap is one-dimensional and misses the big picture.
Padmaja Kota, Salesforce
Greater diversity, especially gender diversity, has many benefits for an organization beyond simply solving the talent shortage. Creating a culture of equality is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the smartest thing that empowers us to innovate, connect more closely with our customers, and ultimately become a better company.
When I joined Salesforce, there were very few women in my office. I was one of the first members of the Salesforce Women’s Network in Hyderabad. Through the Women’s Network, Salesforce has ensured that women have the opportunity to improve their skills and take advantage of the benefits offered by the digital economy. Today, I’m very proud to be part of this network that creates intentional career paths for women to enter and succeed in tech, wherever they are in their journey.
Salesforce is also committed to providing equal pay for equal work. We assess salaries on an annual basis to close any gender gaps globally. To address any unexplained pay differentials, more than $22 million has been spent to date to ensure our global workforce is paid fairly.
Are certifications important for advancing your development career? If so, what types of certifications should you look for?
Kota: While certifications are important, having the skills to meet the demands of today’s digital transformation is a top priority. In the current scenario, we cannot assume that new employees have the same knowledge and skills to adapt to emerging trends. Developing a virtual communications and resource library that provides training and subject matter experts accessible to everyone is just one example of how companies can help employees at all levels succeed.
According to information from the recent Salesforce launch Digital skills index, collaboration technology skills, such as Slack, are considered the most important skills businesses need today. In India, digital marketing was ranked as the top workplace skill, but only 39% of respondents rated their level of workplace digital marketing skills as “advanced”.
Our new digital world presents a major opportunity for businesses to rethink what agile teams look like. Companies like Salesforce have a central role to play in closing the skills gap by rethinking education and training initiatives. By creating tailored training programs based not on what they think workers should know, but on what workers want and need to know, companies can create a flexible work culture that allows all employees to connect, learn and progress from anywhere.