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Spotlight Series: Veena Rao, Head of Portfolio Development, Global Accelerators & Innovation Programs at Boeing | Aerospace Xelerated

Veena Rao, Head of Portfolio Development, Global Accelerators & Innovation Programs at Boeing | Aerospace Xelerated

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Veena joined Boeing in 2019, working on teams across Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), Boeing Defense, Space, & Security (BDS), and Boeing Global Services (BGS).

She believes that it is important to understand and embrace disruptive innovation so it can be viewed as an opportunity, rather than a threat. She is passionate about fostering innovation through exploring global startup ecosystems and working closely with startup founders through Aerospace Xelerated. Veena is currently based in Seattle, Washington.

WE CHATTED TO VEENA ABOUT HER JOURNEY INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY, WHAT AN AVERAGE DAY LOOKS LIKE AND HER ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN IN TECH.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED? 

I started at Boeing as an intern in their Laser & Electro-Optical Solutions site in Albuquerque, NM, and then got selected into a highly competitive, cross-functional rotation program at Boeing called the Business Career Foundation Program (BCFP) in Seattle. That rotation program brought me to my current team and Aerospace Xelerated. Nothing was planned, I just knew that I wanted to be in a global role and sought out opportunities that would give me the best learning experiences. I was fortunate to be surrounded by amazing mentors that steered me in the right direction.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

I am most proud of myself for choosing the career path that I wanted and instead of the one that others wanted for me. I started out as a pre-med student in university and quickly realized that my passion was in business.

I think there comes a time in your life where you have to choose what you want, regardless of external noise (other people’s opinions).

Those moments will define the trajectory of your life. If I chose to stay in medicine, I don’t think I would have been as happy as I am now.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

An average work day includes hitting snooze on my alarm clock around 6 am (love global time zones!) or 7 am if I get to sleep in. Then I usually have some meetings with my team in the UK where we are usually planning on how best to support our portfolio companies that week. As Head of Portfolio Development, I usually have multiple meetings on my calendar with Boeing stakeholders on securing proof of concept opportunities for our startups. I usually try to take some time for lunch and take a walk outside, because I tend to also have some later meetings with my team members in Australia or Asia, so I try to spread out my day. After all the meetings of the day, I end most days deep in Outlook trying to zero out my inbox.

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

I think I have definitely had my fair share of imposter syndrome throughout my career. I don’t think I have fully overcome it, but with more experience and time, I think it becomes less front of mind as you gain confidence in your abilities and your track record.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

My advice is always to take everything one day at a time! And don’t be afraid to fail, it took me a while to figure out that failure is the only way you can grow.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY? 

My advice would be reach for the stars, vocalize to yourself and others what you want and don’t stop until you accomplish your goals.

Sometimes some typically male-dominated spaces feel unattainable for women, but you just need to remind yourself that you have every right to be there.

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