In the middle of all the busy planning and preparations for the Grace Hopper Conference India (GHCI) 2016 Conference, we got the opportunity to catch-up with one of the dynamic Program Chairs of GHCI 2016 – Chitra Gurjar. Chitra shares with us her exciting journey as a woman technologist and her infinite passion for technology.
Chitra: I started my career as a Network Engineer for Crompton Greaves Informatics where I worked with customers to design networks and network layouts for large companies for their campuses. I then joined Daimler (then known as Daimler Benz Research India) as an Avionics Engineer. I worked extensively in the area of avionics for landing systems in commercial aircraft as well as military helicopters. This helped me gain tremendous experience in understanding embedded systems software as well as inculcated discipline in terms of writing code that was simple, testable and maintainable.
I later worked on creating simple dashboards and business process workflows using Java which was then a new language using Object Oriented paradigms and design. I transitioned to Novell software and began working on pure software for Identity Management built using LDAP protocol on Netware Operating Systems. I worked as a Systems Test Engineer for the IPv4 and IPv6 stack of Netware and then developed deep expertise in the area of Firewalls and Identity Management. My work offered a diverse exposure on VPN protocols for both clients and servers, competitive analysis with different firewall products, usability design, performance characterization and other non-functional aspects of Product Design. I published several papers at international conferences and was a presenter at many.
I then moved to NetApp to manage the protocol stack for the Data ONTAP operating system and then became an Engineering Leader for two products in the Virtualization space. My areas of work included working with various stakeholders, customers, operations and business. I now work at AmberTag analytics as an Engineering and Business Analytics Consultant. My technical journey continues as a learning through working in this field.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a technologist and what has been your favorite part?
Chitra: I see technology as an enabler for people. Whether it’s in airlines, banking or business, technology enables these to move faster and more efficiently while providing a sound base for operations. Most functions that we know today have existed for hundreds of years without technology. So realizing that technology is an enabler is key to adding true value to an end user. For example – we can store pictures or share them anywhere and anytime. This could only be enabled by distributed storage and applications that are interconnected through a vast network and enabled each way with technology; yet – the experiencing the simple joy of enabling a photo share or store for an individual is the real takeaway by being a technologist.
Do you have any advice for women who have or are keen to have a career in technology?
Chitra: Take each event or day as it comes and give it your best. Technology changes fast – so don’t be overwhelmed or resort to comparing and competition. Stay focused, present and grounded while keeping the true value of a technology in mind. Try and touch human lives with it, in which ever way is possible.
Keep the mind always open to learning and listening. With only knowledge or skill – nothing can happen, actually do something to experience how it works as well as how it can touch life.
Keep on experimenting, discuss your work and ideas and don’t be put off because it’s yet another idea. Work on it and test it locally among friends, in your neighborhood and then you have the experience of truly building technology that you know works.
How is the experience of being associated with GHCI?
Chitra: I’ve been associated with the conference for over six years now, since it first began in India in 2009. From a small conference with 600 attendees, I am amazed at the way it’s grown. I have seen diversity in topics and new technology and ideas spring up all the time which is fascinating. The energy of people at this conference is high. The best part has been the people I’ve worked with and got to know deeply during my association and work with GHCI. It’s an experience that is rewarding beyond words. I’d like to see it evolve and continue to be a different experience for anyone who attends it.
What do you like to do in your ‘fun’ time?
Chitra: Be with myself, family and friends. Take long walks and eat a variety of food.