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Thriving As A Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry: Sheela Benjamin of Serviceaide On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

In the United States in 2022, fields such as Aircraft piloting, Agriculture, Architecture, Construction, Finance, and Information technology, are still male-dominated industries. For a woman who is working in a male-dominated environment, what exactly does it take to thrive and succeed? In this interview series, we are talking to successful women who work in a Male-Dominated Industry who can share their stories and experiences about navigating work and life as strong women in a male-dominated industry. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sheela Benjamin, Director of Engineering at Serviceaide.

Sheela is one of the original co-founders of SunView Software and original architect of the ChangeGear product suite. Sheela has over 17 years’ experience managing product development teams from ideation to inception. Sheela manages the entire product lifecycle of ChangeGear and new AI-based features in Luma. Before SunView, She worked at Quark. Inc, Denver. She has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Colorado. Sheela enjoys skiing and pushing herself by hitting new speeds downhill or reaching new heights climbing mountains.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

Growing up in a rural seaside town on the southeast coast of India, far away from the buzzing metropolis’ where computers were a relatively novel concept for me, I did not think my career path would be in the field of computer science and engineering.

I am naturally curious and always dabbled in new things as I grew up, aided by the encouragement and support from my parents. I was fortunate to go to the best school in town with dedicated and vibrant teachers from all walks of life, striving to not only impart their students with knowledge but also imbue in them the necessary skills to explore, adapt, and be comfortable in their own shoes. Although my favorite subjects in school were physics and geography, I was captivated when a new course was made available, named computer science. I really did not think about my career or my future at that point, but I was excited to try new things, opted into it, and never looked back. I love the field, the excitement, and the challenges that come with building software that benefits others.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women in the engineering field?

First and most importantly, getting more women involved in the engineering field starts at a very young age. It is incredibly important that people are encouraging girls and women to take chances and to provide them with opportunities to get involved and learn. This includes parents, family, educators, community leaders, etc.

My advice for women would be to not shy away from this field because it seems daunting or because it traditionally has not been a field women prefer. If there is even a glimmer of interest , explore it and try to narrow down a passion — be it designing a building or programming in the field of computer science. It is most important to know what you want, to have confidence in yourself, and to believe that your work will have a positive impact on others.

Although there remains quite the disparity and shortage of women in the field, it is heartening to see more women pursuing this field in the last decade or so with some of them reaching new heights and being a constant reminder to the rest of the us that with passion, competence, confidence and work, women can exceed expectations and stereotypes.

Women are effective workers and leaders who can set strategy and vision, direction and make tough calls. The industry and the field today are for sure lacking more women at the C-level and as more women enter this field, this must pave for more women role models in this field.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your team?

One of the aspects of leading a team that I have learned is to ensure there is adequate communication to keep everyone informed. This was evident during the acquisition of SunView Software by Serviceaide and the changes that usually accompanies an acquisition. By keeping an open communication channel, as a team we were able to accomplish a smooth transition and keep the team morale high.

It is equally important to manage product expectations for the different organizations in the company and not overwhelm the team by over promising and not being able to deliver. There is always so much to do and as a leader I feel it is important to not shy away from taking calculated risks.

An approach in providing leadership to the team for me has been to put myself in my team’s shoes and think through the expectations I would want and trying to the best of my ability to provide that.

Building a product is very much a team sport where it is crucial to bring team members together and play to their individual strengths. This requires the team to understand each other and more importantly for me to have good relationship with each one of them and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This has been a goal which I have had good success on but also a work in progress to ensure the team is well and are able to meet our goals. This also makes the most important task which is trust and delegation easier.

To me, every decision may not lead to a successful outcome, failure is never a stopping point or a period but a pause to choose a different path.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There is not just one person but am grateful to have had a few people influence and provide guidance in my personal and professional growth.

I am grateful to my parents, who shaped me in my early years and gave me the independence and courage to take risks early on. They never discouraged me from trying out anything whether it be art, writing, yoga, karate, and others. This broad exposure and knowledge gained from many different avenues has contributed profoundly to not just my personal growth but later in my professional life.

In my career, I have crossed paths with couple of great technical managers and mentors who have taught me valuable lessons of staying true to myself and being open to ideas and criticisms. This has been serving me quite well over the years.

I am extremely appreciative of the support from my family when I must work long hours to meet deadlines or assist with challenging and time critical problems.

I am also grateful for the support from my team and the leadership at Serviceaide.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Digital transformation in workplaces has been accelerated by COVID-19 and the continuing shift to a hybrid work environment has made the managing of IT Assets in a corporate network critical for effective IT management. With this in mind, Serviceaide just released Asset Discovery Expert (ADE), a powerful, lightweight, and agentless software solution that provides instant visibility and control of all technology assets in a corporate environment. This solution is available as a standalone product and can be easily integrated to any application. It is also available as an add-on with our ITSM (ChangeGear) and ESM (Point of Business) solutions).

The recent acquisition of SunView Software by Serviceaide has led to the merger of product portfolios, including the award-winning Luma Virtual Assistant (Luma VA) — powered by AI to provide a conversational experience in understanding and solving customer issues. We are excited to make available the integration of ChangeGear with Luma Virtual Assistant for the upcoming ChangeGear release in June 2022.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the service management industry? Why?

  • Service management is widely powered by AI and ML, which is highly beneficial in a digital workplace, resulting in efficient and faster resolution times
  • Digital transformation in workplaces has forced the industry to continuously look for innovative ways to ensure 24/7 business continuity and availability
  • IT Service management now plays a key role in Employee Experience (EX), accelerated by the hybrid work environment brought on by the pandemic
  • With customers wanting their service management solution to be an all-in-one solution, there is an increasing desire for solutions to be built by citizen developers who know their business needs
  • IT Automation and Orchestration have become a necessity for an efficient digital workplace

What are your “5 Things You Need to Create A Highly Successful Career In Engineering Industry?

  • In this fast-paced space, it is essential to continually learn and keep yourself updated in the field you are working. Be prepared to share and receive knowledge from peers, co-workers (reverse mentoring), and from mediums like articles, blogs, and podcasts.
  • Business goals and vision are critical along with the understanding that success is the sum of many individual parts, and you do your part to the best of your ability.
  • Be pragmatic. Setting an expectation and delivering on it is more important than over-promising.
  • As the saying goes, “If you find yourself constantly trying to prove your worth to someone, you have already forgotten your value — Unknown”. Instead challenge your own work and do not hesitate to change your approach based on the new facts you may have learned.
  • Most importantly, make sure you enjoy and love the work you do, strive for a good work-life balance, laugh, and take care of yourself.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.