I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Mridulla, Akanksha, Sabreena, and Nikita expound on this—and in their own words.
Mridulla’s role in the company is unique: she’s a full-time Life Coach.
What motivated her to take this path? “When there’s no guidance or support available to you, you miss out on a lot of years and experiences of your life,” she says. Once she began coaching people, she started to see an immediate positive impact on her work relationships. So she knew she was onto something.
Today, she helps maintain the engagement and culture at Axelerant, empowering team members to create the lives and careers they want. She’s also a passionate advocate for women, and this passion comes from her having seen a lot of bias against girls while growing up in India.
She believes that: “Women in India don’t have much of a voice, and are taught that they don’t have any rights,” she says. It’s her opinion that although they may not express it, they (girls) grow up imbibing a belief that they are inferior. The oldest generation of the family might grieve when a girl is born. If a girl is abused, her family is unlikely to stand by her. “There’s a story being told to women that teaches them that they are second-class citizens,” says Mridulla.
As she became a Life Coach, her conversations with different people gave Mridulla a much wider perspective. “I learned that men also go through the same kinds of abuse. Now, I think I am equally passionate about all issues.”
She advises women to find ways to preserve their independence. “Start saving as soon as you begin earning. Even a small amount each month will give help you whenever you need it in life, to study, travel, or just have fun.” And also, to have courage: “Lack of courage makes you compromise on your self-esteem. Do what you think is right and stand up for yourself.”
She believes good workplaces have the capacity to empower people: “Axelerant is an equal-opportunity-for-all workplace. It’s a safe place to work at, free of any kind of harassment. Such an environment helps bring our courage to the surface and helps us work to our full potential.”
If you ask Akanksha what she thinks about women in the workplace, you’ll find she has a lot to say. For her, it all began in college... with a Counter-Strike club.
“In my first year of college, we used to have video game events for computer science students. All the boys would play Counter-Strike, and for girls? Angry Birds.”
She was really into video games back then, and the situation frustrated her to no end. She asked the college society for computer science why she couldn’t play Counter-Strike, and was told she was the only girl who was interested.
“All of that gets to you, no matter how hard you try not to let it,” she says. But it didn’t stop her.
By her fourth year of college, Akanksha was the president of the community and had created a separate section for girls. “And it wasn’t just Angry Birds—it was Counter-Strike too!” she laughs.
Since college, Akanksha has had good experiences personally, but has also seen women in management being treated with disdain. “I've always wanted to prove all those naysayers wrong, especially people who say women aren't good with technology—each day is a step in that direction,” she says.
Now, as a Drupal developer at Axelerant, she says she would like to make a difference industry wide. “I would like to be in a position where I can help other women to achieve something,” she says. “I want there to be a presence for women in tech, and especially here in India. We’ve a long way to go.”
Her advice to young women: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can do. You can do anything that you set your mind to. And let the haters encourage you. There’s no use in letting all this affect you in a negative way.”
In truth, for Akanksha, it was never really about the video games—it was about equality. “It’s my choice if I want to play a video game or not,” she says. “But no one should be able to tell me that I can’t.”
Originally trained in medicine and wanting to become a researcher, Sabreena switched over to Computer Applications during her post graduation. She believes this move was best, as she found it was much better to be in a field where she could implement her skills and support her family rather than just doing research.
Today, she is a front-end developer with Axelerant. Does she find it challenging? “It has always been tough for women to work in the software industry. But at Axelerant, remote work, flexible work hours, openness and transparency help overcome a lot of these challenges,” she says.
Women often need to be able to handle a lot of responsibilities across different domains, and may find that they’re not always able to accomplish everything they’d like.
“That’s okay,” says Sabreena. “We can’t do everything 100 percent.” But it’s important to keep trying.
Ultimately, though, it’s also important to recognize that working full-time while raising kids is just plain hard. “I don’t really know what to say when people ask: How do you do it all? Maybe the best answer is “I don’t.” So maybe rather than asking that, the question should be: “How do you make it work?” I give myself permission to have a sink full of dirty dishes and keep my baby at daycare,” says Sabreena. “The best advice I can come up with is: be flexible, lower your expectations, laugh at yourself and try to enjoy the little moments.”
A lot of women give up on their careers altogether because they can’t see how they will manage their careers after marriage and motherhood. Sabreena believes that it’s important to seize opportunities when they present themselves, and to stay adaptable. “You can always find solutions to these challenges in the future,” she says. “But if you have the opportunity and you have the skills, you should use them.”
All this is not easy, for sure. “But if you have reached here and you have the skills, sitting idle doesn’t make any sense. With time, things do become easier,” she says.
When Nikita is not at work, she’s generally out with her family or spending time with her 11-month-old baby, Mishti. Now that she’s a mom, work-life balance is more of a challenge to maintain on regular basis. “With greater responsibilities at work and at home, it can get harder finding me time as well as time for family and friends,” says Nikita.
How does she manage? Nikita is flexible, doesn’t believe in planning much, and handles challenges as they arise—all while making sure work-life balance is maintained.
She finds that her career as a QA professional affects her personal life in positive ways. “Being a QA professional is all about learning fast and implementing new ideas. It’s interesting because it throws new challenges at you every day,” she says. “You have to stretch your mind to understand new things, to find out how they should work and how they shouldn’t, in order to manage them effectively.”
Nikita’s work has taught her how to manage and prioritize tasks on a daily basis. She finds this helpful when facing challenges in her personal life, as it enables her to overcome them by prioritizing things and working on them accordingly.
When asked what it’s like to be a woman in her career field, Nikita replies: “Solving real-world problems, personally or professionally. And making sure quality is achievable in every aspect of life.”
What message would Nikita like to share with her daughter about being a working professional, or with other young women? “Work is important for everyone. It helps develop self-awareness and confidence in individual lives. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. It also teaches time management and teamwork, which are two skills that are always helpful,” she says.
Nikita’s three-year journey with Axelerant has been very exciting and interesting. “Axelerant is very supportive in each phase of my life. I am totally satisfied and motivated with the work I am doing here, which makes me feel proud,” says Nikita.
Also check out Chapter One and Chapter Three of the Women at Axelerant series.