In 2012, Ellen Lapham, Carol Muller, and Kathy Richardson set out to memorialize the spirit of inspiration that their close friend Anita Borg brought to their lives. The original project, a community blog known as Anita’s Quilt, showcased the array of people whose lives Anita influenced and energized. This year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Systers—the online community that Anita Borg founded to support women in tech—by republishing some of our favorite Anita’s Quilt stories and adding new stories to the mix.
By Vidya Kabra
My journey so far has been very interesting, taking me from a traditional Rajasthani family — where I struggled to convince my elders to let me pursue my engineering studies — to key roles at to leading organizations like Toshiba, Wipro, Fiserv, and Intellect. Today, I serve as Global Head of Quality and Testing for Core Banking at HSBC Technology India, but at the start of my path, my mother was upset when I went against the family’s wishes to pursue my education.
I performed very well in Computer Engineering, but campus recruitment focused on manufacturing/automobile industries, and there were no jobs in Computer Science. I chose not to compromise and decided to start my own company. I took on all aspects of projects — including developing software and field deployment —single-handedly. Since I also had no funding support, everything I earned was continually reinvested in my little firm. I was unable to break out of this cycle and I felt stuck. At times, it was immensely frustrating, but the learning was incomparable.
I continued to keep up to date with technology changes, taking courses while teaching at the same institutes. And then, after 7 years, I finally decided to take a job with no salary in order to add industry experience to my own business background.
As IT started picking up in India and Bangalore companies began recruiting, I joined a firm as a Project Lead. I decided to work hard and take on as much work as I could. Within my first year, I led three large programs from different regions —an uncommon task. Running a company had given me invaluable hands-on experience managing projects end to end, from acquiring the business to delivering the end product, all on my own.
After spending 2 years in delivery management, I took on a quality process consulting role. Our industry was suffering under old, heavy processes carried over from the manufacturing industry — our software development processes needed drastic changes. Using my development abilities, I designed simple and lean processes for the Bangalore Toshiba Software Center. Toshiba management appreciated my practical perspective and solutions-based approach, and I was chosen to lead the company’s worldwide Software Engineering Process Group, deploying simplified processes across the network.
That was a turning point in my career; I’ve played multiple roles in development and delivery for 10 years. For 16 years, I worked in strategic functional leadership roles in the areas like quality process automation and software engineering automation, working from requirements management through to testing covering code quality.
In 2001, I made the move to process consulting and quality automation— an unpopular function at the time. It surprised many of my colleagues that I would move into this area when I was advancing well in technical delivery roles. I automated lot of process aspects, simplifying with Lean and Agile principles. I moved to lead the Software Engineering Tools group at Wipro, where we developed software engineering tools for requirement management, code generation, code review, UT, and functional testing.
My passion today is software engineering automation. It comes naturally to me; as a child, I always looked at the big picture and was curious to discover the ‘why’ of everything. I’m also driven by a sense of ownership, which makes me also aware — as a developer — of the efforts and quality tracking by various teams.
I’ve learned that my experiences change me, and I am thankful to have had those experiences, because I chose my many paths and persisted along the way, despite the odds against me.
Do you have a story of persistence that honors Anita’s legacy? Share it with us for a chance to be featured here.