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WiC: We Can Have It All

Jun 13, 2016

Shweta Latawa of NXP Semiconductors shares her thoughts on the Women in Comms event, co-sponsored by ONF during Light Reading’s BCE.

womenincommsI am excited to write about the Women in Comms event that I attended in the heart of Texas – Austin – on May 23 as a part of the Light Reading Big Communications Event (BCE). The first-of-its-kind conference investigated the challenges and opportunities for women in the next-gen communications industry and had participants from Intel, AT&T, Dell, Flex, Fujitsu, and others.

ONF co-sponsored the Women in Comms event, which was free of charge and hosted by Women in Comms (WiC), a not-for-profit, independent initiative established by Light Reading in January 2016 to provide information, networking, mentorship, access to jobs, and support for women in the next-gen communications industry. Light Reading is a leading media partner for ONF.

The half-day conference was open to all and featured a luncheon with opening addresses from Intel and other WiC members. It also hosted two powerhouse panels tackling the realities of being a woman in the communications industry, how to improve gender diversity, and how men can get involved with the cause. In support of WiC’s commitment to offer increasing opportunities for women, the luncheon was followed by a job fair for women, providing direct access to jobs at leading communication companies.

This event offered me an opportunity to dive into my own thoughts and perspectives as a woman in the communications industry. I work in the Digital Networking business unit at NXP Semiconductors, an ONF member company that is closely following SDN and NFV evolution and its influence on the semiconductor ecosystem.

With growing technology access at work and home, I resonate with Sheryl Sandberg’s conclusion that “there’s no such thing as work-life balance.” Work-life balance actually becomes work all the time. As a mother of two, and a professional woman seeking “it all” – a profitable career and a happy family – can be challenging. There are various compromises that a working mother makes for herself personally, aiming to juggle a high power job and family responsibilities. But there are practical things women — and, importantly, men — can do to help women succeed in their careers and make a challenging situation work better. A spouse who supports your ambitions, not only by offering words of encouragement, but by doing half of the work at home, from changing half of the diapers to doing half of the laundry, serves as a pillar of strength. Being able to manage both work and home well offers the overall fulfillment and satisfaction that we expect from our lives, in comparison to just achieving one or giving higher priority to one over the other.

During BCE, one of ONF’s training partners conducted a training class leading to SDN skills certification. ONF offered the training and test free for women of member companies. I was fortunate to attend this training and successfully earn the SDN Associate credentials. This gesture reinforced the fact in my mind that organizations and society in general do wish to enable women. It is on women to tap such opportunities and make the most of them. We cannot just continue to say that there is a problem and not work toward ways to make the situation better. After all, men, too, slog and pave their way out with consistent effort.

I appreciated some valuable points that Lynn Comp, the senior director of Intel’s market development and network platforms group, made during this event about the importance of focusing on a direct, collaborative approach, keeping the business case at the core of decision making and making a conscious attempt to educate oneself in the latest technology aspects. It’s really important to encourage continued interest in STEM, beyond establishing initial interest, since life happens and career challenges can derail women from their primary goals. It is important to keep going beyond that mid-point of the career. A common problem is that we don’t ask; we assume we have constraints, so we don’t volunteer for opportunities. We may not realize that we are natural multi-taskers, often efficient and organized, and will do well anyways. We should look for practical options like flexible work hours, support systems, and any such means to make ourselves successful.

After all, we OWN our careers, family and all!

– Shweta Latawa, Strategic Marketing Manager, Digital Networking Products, NXP Semiconductors