Seven Questions With Topia’s Neha Mirchandani
by Patricia Lundy
Our women in technology blog series introduces you to innovative women in business and tech, who are going above and beyond to transform their roles, companies, and industries, and inspiring others along the way to do the same.
Today, we hear from Neha Mirchandani, CMO at Topia, a global mobility management provider who empowers market-leading enterprises to mobilize global talent and deliver unparalleled employee experiences. Neha was the 2018 recipient of the Aragon Research Women in Technology Award for Marketing. She has over twenty years of marketing experience and has held senior positions at RingCentral, Cisco, Adobe, and Instart Logic.
Read on to learn from her wisdom and expertise when it comes to leading a team, building the right foundation for your career, and finding your voice.
1. Describe yourself in three words.
Focused, Loyal, and a Constant Learner.
People that know me both in my business and personal life often describe me as being hyper-focused. I believe that no matter what the task is at hand and how difficult it may seem, it’s achievable if you give it your focused attention and work hard to drive the best outcome.
I’m loyal to my team and being 100% aligned with each other is important to me. I don’t make decisions in a silo; I like to involve my team as much as possible. Finally, I’m a big believer in being a constant learner. We live in amazing times where technology is disrupting every facet of our lives. It’s energizing to learn new things every day and having this philosophy has served me well throughout my career and my life.
2. What do you find most interesting about the technology field in which you work?
There’s never a dull moment in the tech sector with its continued innovation and disruption. I’ve spent many years marketing tech infrastructure and at times in very commoditized markets, which has its fair share of interesting challenges. Recently, I joined a startup in the emerging global talent mobility space called Topia.
With people being core to business success and megatrends such as globalization, automation, and the war for talent having an impact on every industry, how you attract, retain, and motivate global employees is critical. Topia’s cloud platform enables HR teams to deploy, manage, and engage employees anywhere in the world, driving competitive advantage. There’s also a very real human element in what we do. Relocating is one of the most stressful endeavors an employee and their family undertakes. We leverage technology to make this process more transparent and seamless, enabling us to have a real impact on people’s day-to-day lives.
3. How do you find work-life balance, or what do you enjoy outside of work?
I don’t think there’s such a thing as work-life balance. There’s another term I’ve seen referenced recently that I think is more accurate: work-life integration. The more you can integrate your work into your life and your life into your work, the more successful you’ll be. The traditional norms of a 9 to 5 job are no longer applicable. Today work needs to accommodate your life and give you the flexibility for work-life integration and vice versa. The sooner we come to terms with this the happier we’ll be.
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I thrive on challenges, it’s what drives me to be a constant learner. Life would be boring if everything was easy all the time.
I want to highlight two key insights from different stages of my career that might have relevance for others. Early on in my career, I took a job as a Marketing Manager at a French-based company here in the US. Looking back, I think the main reason I was hired was that I spoke French! The job was glamorous (responsibility for all marketing in the US) but short-lived. It was my first job out of college, and I had zero real-life marketing experience under my belt. I very quickly found myself way over my head. After that experience, I took a step back to recalibrate and decided I needed to focus on learning the fundamentals first before I was ready to take on the limelight. Lesson learned: early in your career, it’s about finding learning opportunities and building the right foundation.
Now that I’ve had a few years of experience under my belt, I manage my career with a different mindset. There’s a Richard Branson quote that sums it up well: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes—then learn how to do it later.” If you’ve got a solid foundation and are a constant learner, take the leap and you’ll figure it out as you go.
5. Are there enough opportunities for women in tech? How would you assess the progress women have made in the tech industry?
I do feel that we’ve made some progress in the tech industry recently in terms of opportunities for women. Some functions see more women in their ranks such as marketing, communications, and HR. The biggest barrier that we need to overcome, however, is the overall mindset towards women. Many companies are still very much a “boys club” with very few women in leadership roles. The numbers are growing, but we have a long way to go for true gender equality in the tech industry.
6. What are some things you think should be addressed on macro, peer, and educational levels to encourage women to feel empowered in the tech industry?
The first step is becoming aware of the problem. A change in mindset towards women is critical, and this needs to start all the way at the top with the C-suite. From the tone that leadership sets, to company culture, we need to create an environment where women have an equal opportunity to thrive. Men also have an active role to play by being strong supporters. Men in positions of power need to more consciously create opportunities for women.
It’s unfortunate, but until recently, I frequently found myself being the only woman in the room. I had to be twice as vocal as my male peers and more aggressive for my voice to be heard. My ask of men and women alike is: next time you’re in a meeting, look around the room and encourage the few women you see to speak up, voice their opinion, and be part of the conversation.
We also need to double down on STEM efforts for young girls, because this will help build future leaders. Companies need to take an active role in this—for example, by partnering with organizations such as Girls Who Code that are making a real difference in the tech gender equality equation.
7. What’s your WIT call to action?
Men and women leaders: play an active role in driving the change in mindset and equality for women in the workplace.
Men: be supporters, cheerleaders, and sponsors for women.
Women: be advocates for yourselves and for other women. Pave the way forward.
Stay tuned to see who will be announced as a 2019 Women in Technology Award Winner by saving your seat for Aragon Transform 2019!