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Spotlight Series: Rajani Rao, Principal Technologist, AVEVA

Rajani Rao

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Meet Rajani Rao, Principal Technologist at AVEVA. She sits down with us to chat about her career into tech, walks us through an average day, finding support through LeadersPlus, and her advice for other women in tech.

Rajani Rao, is a Principal Technologist at AVEVA. With over two decades of technological expertise, she has exemplified transformative leadership in her field. 

She specializes in creating scalable web and IoT solutions in the Cloud and has demonstrated meaningful technological change and innovation.

Apart from her professional role, she is a devoted mother to two young girls and dedicates her spare time to empowering women and staying at the forefront of technological advancements.

As an active speaker and panelist, Rajani contributes her expertise to various industry discussions, focusing on technology, engineering, and the advancement of women. 

Her skills also extend to her role as a technical advisor at Pixuate, a female-led startup tackling real-world problems using AI and machine learning.

In her capacity as the Director of WomenWhoCode London, Rajani mentors and inspires fellow women in technology. 

She leads initiatives in technical skills, career progression, and book clubs, nurturing a supportive environment for personal and professional growth.

Her commitment to empowering future generations of women led her to the role of fractional CTO at WInvest, a company aligned with her values of empowering women in financial investments and fostering a more inclusive financial ecosystem.

Rajani’s vision is to shape a globally inclusive, innovative tech landscape.

Her efforts have earned her the Philips Golden Leaf Award and Bupa EveryWoman finalist for Innovation.

How did you land your current role? Was it planned?

I was headhunted. The opportunity to join AVEVA came unexpectedly, but I was immediately drawn to it. The chance to interview with exceptional minds and experience the diversity at AVEVA was impressive—a first for me in my engineering career here in the UK.

What are the key roles in your field of work, and why did you choose your current expertise?

For me, it’s all about crafting innovative solutions that bridge embedded devices with cloud services. I initially started as an embedded engineer, but an exciting opportunity led me to the UK to assist a spinout of NXP Semiconductors, Geotate. Here, I developed web services for software GPS solutions in cameras, transitioning into server technologies in the process. Introducing AWS cloud services opened up new horizons, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I thrive on the unique challenge of developing cloud services tailored for embedded devices—it’s my niche, and I love every bit of it.

Did you (or do you) have a role model in tech or business in general?

Indra Nooyi is at the top of my list. She’s relatable, authentic, vulnerable, yet strong. I admire her honesty about her leadership journey—it’s truly inspiring.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far? 

I’ve been fortunate to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. For me, it’s all about driving digital transformation, building high performing agile teams, and sparking innovation! One major highlight has been securing a patent and building an innovative solution that reshaped how we distribute precise location data. Check it out here!

I’m deeply committed to fostering a tech landscape where women stand at the forefront of innovation. Achievements like these serve as reminders of the endless possibilities, inspiring others to break barriers in tech.

What does an average work day look like for you?

On a typical day, I’m collaborating with teams, designing and coding with C#. I work with Azure and Kubernetes, so yeah, it gets pretty technical. But that’s the thrill of it! It’s about making cool stuff happen, innovating, and not just keeping up but staying ahead. Every day is about tackling new challenges, learning, and pushing tech to do more. That’s what I’m here for.

Are there any specific skills or traits that you notice companies look for when you’re searching for roles in your field? 

While technical competency and certifications are important, it’s your ability to solve problems, collaborate effectively, and continually learn that truly captures employers’ attention. Being adaptable and staying ahead in the ever-evolving tech landscape are key to standing out.

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive? 

Absolutely not! The question is: why would they? Demonstrating the mutual benefits of any training can sway decision-makers in your favor, with budget constraints being the only likely hurdle. My experience at u-blox is a testament to this. The company was exceptionally supportive, enabling me to participate in two transformative trainings: LeadersPlus and LeadersWhoCoach. These programs didn’t just enhance my skills; they completely altered my career trajectory, setting me on a path to leadership and innovation.

Rajani Rao

Applications are now open for the Leaders Plus Fellowship – a programme helping parents to progress their careers into leadership. As part of the 9-month Fellowship, you get a senior leader Mentor, expert career development support, group coaching, a supportive cross-sector network of peers and practical tools to overcome work/life hurdles.

Applications close on 20th March 2024.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

I haven’t encountered insecurities or anxieties beyond what’s typical, yet I’ve certainly wrestled with the issue of career progression. It often feels like women must work twice as hard to be heard and to have their ideas taken seriously. In this regard, LeadersPlus has been an immense source of support, helping me navigate these challenges effectively.

Entering the world of work can be daunting. Do you have any words of advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed? 

Starting in a new field can be overwhelming. If you find yourself feeling swamped, take a moment to breathe. Break down the task into smaller, manageable chunks, and tackle one small piece at a time.

On my first day at my initial job, I was handed a book on electronics—despite being a computer engineer. Returning home that day, I confided in my mum, unsure if I could hack it. Her response has been a cornerstone in my life. She inspired me and supported me unconditionally, advising me not to let the overwhelm take over. “Take it one day at a time and have the grit to push through,” she said. Most importantly, she encouraged me to believe in myself. To this day, I carry that advice close to my heart, reminding myself of the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. With belief, I’m convinced I can achieve anything—even building a spaceship 😀

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology?

In my experience, we often find ourselves stuck in a little bubble, fixated on securing a promotion at our current job. But it’s crucial to remember that there’s a world beyond that bubble—activities outside of work that can provide both satisfaction and growth. As the director of WomenWhoCode London, CTO at WInvest, and Technical Advisor at Pixuate, to name a few, I’ve discovered the immense satisfaction and growth that come from looking beyond my immediate job environment.

Step out of your bubble and consider volunteering, joining advisory boards, or becoming a Non-Executive Director (NED) or trustee. These roles don’t just expand your experience and network; they deepen your understanding of strategic leadership and governance. They challenge you with new perspectives, enhancing your ability to lead within the tech industry. Furthermore, seeking speaking opportunities to share your insights and experiences can greatly elevate your visibility as a leader and inspire others. Embrace the diversity of these opportunities to enrich your career, widen your influence, and contribute meaningfully to the tech community.

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