Just prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, Neha Abbad got an opportunity to work as a part of a high performing team at MattsenKumar Cyber Services in Gurgaon, a top metropolitan city of India. Accepting the challenge meant being separated from her family for months during the country-wide, pandemic-related lockdown. While difficult, the new work greatly inspired her and the support and encouragement from her seniors helped her build confidence that she had the capability to deliver. In this edition of our blog, Neha explains that women should never doubt their abilities if only others realized what women bring to the payment industry.
How did you get started in the technology/payments industry? What led you to that career choice?
Neha Abbad: Technology is something which is ever evolving. I’ve been exposed to technology from the time I graduated in 2011. Being from a Computer Science Engineering background, I garnered experience in the field of Information Security and applied the same to assist customers in achieving Information Security Certification. Over the years, I’ve observed the security threat landscape change invariably and, accordingly, I have been working alongside the customers to better their security posture.
Being an integral part of growing technology companies, I capitalized on opportunities to apply my skillsets and started to deliver value to my customers. Rather than just being a technology person, I believe that one has to understand the business needs of a customer and guide them above and beyond a standard project responsibility; a “techno-crat” in the true sense. This is what has led me to take up a wonderful career in information security and audits.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date? What has been your most significant learning opportunity or challenge?
Neha Abbad: My proudest accomplishment would be to become a member of the cyberservices division of MattsenKumar (MK), a leading name in the Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, and with a slim team, being able to deliver many projects and contribute in generating additional revenue streams all in a short span of just some months during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this same period I became a Certified Information Security Auditor (CISA) as well.
My most significant learning opportunity came when I shifted to a Tier 1 city (Gurgaon) from a Tier 2 city (Nashik) to take on a challenging role. I owe this opportunity to my leadership within MattsenKumar Cyber Service (MKCS) and Mr. Sharwan Jha, who found me fit to take on this customer-facing role. This shift brought challenges wherein my family wasn’t able to move with me to Gurgaon and with COVID-19 reaching peak levels, the Indian government decided to lockdown the country. The few months away from my family were tough, but my new work and the overwhelming support from the management motivated and inspired me with lots of opportunities of learning something new and growing with each passing day.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that is the case?
Neha Abbad: When I started my professional journey, I did see an evident lack of women in the field of technology, especially when they were made to stay stagnant at a mid-management level and then, ultimately, would have to quit. Globally, there exist some mindsets which made women only focus on their personal lives and not pursue a professional career. However, with time, there has been a considerable change of thought across the industry and more and more participation from woman is being seen. Today many women executives have started to appear in technology and set the bar higher for women, allowing them to challenge the status quo. This made me more aware and determined to achieve what I’ve set out to on the professional front. Today, I’m happy to see increasing numbers of young women taking up mathematics, computer science, and engineering at colleges and universities, which is further encouraging them to pursue careers in technology and financial domains.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with confidence challenges that you have to overcome, for instance doubting your own ability? How do you overcome it?
Neha Abbad: I’ve observed the professional journey of many of my counterparts, colleagues, and friends and have found that it’s sometimes difficult to balance both personal and professional commitments. At any stage of your professional career, there will be times where you’ll question your ability to deliver and sometimes question the base foundation of your knowledge. It may be a result of a client perception or an unseen event or situation. What is important is to be clear about your goals, reboot your skills, and challenge any double standards which may exist in your organization or in the environment around you. Women would never have any lack of confidence or would ever doubt their abilities if only others realized what we, as women, do in the payment industry. We bring the perfect confluence of art, engineering, and logic in our work, which ultimately impacts the lives of real people in a positive way.
Many women in the tech industry have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
Neha Abbad: I’ve spent most of my professional time in a small city in India where there have been certain social barriers which have impacted women while they pursued a career in technology or any career at large. There have been numerous times where my capabilities to deliver were questioned by the end client with the perception that my male counterparts would invest more time and effort into their projects. Ultimately, I owe it to my organization and to my leadership who have always assisted me in battling such mindsets and delivering more than client expectations. And honestly, I’ve seen that paradigm shift in thought process across internal and external stakeholders where perceptions specific to gender have started to fade away, I believe.
What do you see – or hope to see - as the future for women in technology roles/payments industry?
Neha Abbad: I feel that there are so many opportunities out there for women who intend to work in the field of information technology. Companies are now beginning to wake up to the value of women in the industry, both as customers and employees, hence opening the doors for endless possibilities to explore.
While there are plenty of opportunities, I believe the future of women in the technology or payment industry depends on the industry’s ability to inspire young women to take up computer science and mathematics studies early in their education, and to steadily build on it through internships and practical implementations. The industry must continue to encourage women to be able to choose the industry when required and provide enough impetus to keep the female demography stable. Industry-leading organizations must pledge their support to boosting the presence of women in tech.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a famous quote that you live by?
Neha Abbad: There are many quotes which have inspired me to be a better version of myself each day of my professional journey. One such quote, from George Herbert, has always stuck with me:
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
I began my professional life in a humble manner, and I realized there isn’t a right time to undertake any endeavour. Time has always been of the essence; hence, it is important to improve yourself each day with whatever tools you have and keep on delivering what is required. Knowledge is that one tool always at your command which you shall always continue sharpening. It’s important to set goals, both short-term and long-term, and go all out to achieve them, one part at a time and one day at a time.
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payment industry or in a technology-based field in general?
Neha Abbad: The only advice I have for women in the field of technology is to always be knowledgeable about their core focus area and to always step out of their comfort zone. The moment we step out of our comfort zones, we learn more than we would’ve in a normal situation and deliver in a more professionally sound manner.