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Sheenam Ohrie, VP, Enterprise, Data and Mobile Engineering, Dell Digital

From the very beginning, Sheenam was very passionate about math and science, those were her favorite subjects at school and college. To her, it was always clear that she would pursue something like engineering. While growing up, computers were not even there yet. It was when she entered 11th standard that the Information Technology as an industry came up in India and then she decided that to move into the field of Information Technology and really get into coding and programming. That’s how she started her career.

Sheenam believes in creating opportunities for all employees to bring their ideas to the workplace in an environment that cultivates the exchange of broad thinking and inspires innovation. By embedding diversity and inclusion at every level, an organization can help ensure that they serve customers globally in ways that best meet their needs. 

To foster the uptake of STEM at a grassroots level, Sheenam at Dell has got many programs developed to encourage more young women to choose science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and courses so the world of STEM remains open to them for their future careers. Sarabjeet Kaur from BW CIO takes you through an exclusive conversation with Sheenam Ohrie, VP, Enterprise, Data and Mobile Engineering, Dell Digital, to understand how she is paving way for other women to come aboard. Excerpts:

BW CIO: With your interest in diversity and inclusion, what would you comment on workplaces across India embracing D&I? Are we there yet?

Sheenam: No, we are not, but India is definitely getting there. I do believe it will take some time, in my opinion anyway between 8-10 years. Hopefully a fine chance is that our children should not be talking about diversity at all. When I started my career in engineering, we were 20 girls in a group of 72. Today, I think colleges have much better intake of girls into the technology field. We see a lot of women in the fields of Computer engineering and Information Technology with keen interest in maths and statistics, trying to do a lot of work around analytics. I think the education system itself is encouraging women to get there and parents are encouraging their girl children to get into this kind of system. From an industry perspective as well, the industry has understood the value of diversity.

Diversity is having a mix of culture and a mix of background, ability and inclusion at all levels of the workforce. The business case for diversity is a fact that we need to build product which can be used by all of these people across the globe and if we do not have a subset of this present in organization then we are not building products that are emphasising enough and usable enough by all of the cultures and diversity that we want to sell to. It has been proved globally through various studies and surveys that an organisation that fosters gender diversity gives better result and financially has better employee NPS (Net Promoter Score), customer satisfaction.

BW CIO: What is the current general mindset of colleagues, organizations and senior executives? What examples can help put a stop to the contributors of this kind of environment?

Sheenam: I think it is about getting the process right. For example, I have hired close to 50% women at a grass root level so our intake of people with less than 3-4 years of experience is great, we are upward 40% in the diversity that we hired. Now what we are doing is trying to figure out where do we lose women? This helps in clearing the gap between the percentages that we should focus on.

There is an initiative called MARC which is ‘Many Advocating Real Change’ where you actually talk to all our people managers. It i mandatory for all our people managers to do two-day workshops which helps in eliminating certain unconscious biases that can be in the mind of both men and women alike and it helps the people managers to realize what they could be doing unconsciously and subtly and therefore may change to that.

Creating programmes that can empower women in their career sections to face things and develop skills which women even today are not very good at through programs such as ‘RISE’. It empowers women to maintain spot performance through training, delivering sessions and events, essays on technologies. This movement actually enables our women employees to become better at speaking, networking, thinking and leveraging opportunities available in the ecosystem. Then we do a lot of other things which help women to do better. Now we have started a program where we are changing the way people perceive opportunities. 

Beyond that we have a program on our technical side called ‘Edge’ which is open for all employees, not just women but we have 50% participation from women. So we are not just positioning women manager but also women into technology in terms of becoming architect or becoming program manager. Edge is a one year program which we have in partnership with IIM Bangalore where they talk about experience in learning on products and sessions with top leaders and we see a 50% participation of women there. The other thing we are doing is trying to set-up design workshop, recreate personas of women at different levels undertaking different aspects on how we as an organization can help and what could they want from us - small meetings through policies, guidelines, all of those things is something that we are working on right now.

BW CIO: Tell us about the 'Women In Action' group which is led by you? 

Sheenam: In ‘Women In Action’ ERG (Employee Resource Group), we run different programs and facilitate different things for women employees to grow. This is one of the thing that I am responsible for as a Chairperson.

Last quarter we ran the 'women return to work program’, where we launched high level initiatives and provided open opportunities to women who want to come back to work after taking a break. We had a walk-in of about 120 women for that event and we actually made 7 offers at that point of time. Now we are trying to seek how we can move women up into the next ladder in their career. We address questions of employees like - what do I need from the organisation to help me boost my career and move to the next level. Right now I and a couple of very senior women leaders across the organisation mentor a lot of employees within the organisation at regular intervals

There's another great initiative which is really the enforcement of women through platforms like Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN). We are committed to accelerating the increasingly powerful role that women play in driving global economic growth. Every year, through the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, we connect female entrepreneurs across the globe with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, giving them the power to do more. 

BW CIO: What are the ways in which inclusion can be incorporated practically at an organisational level ? 

Sheenam: I think one has to start with hiring. Build a very influencing hiring framework. At Dell, if you want to hire somebody at any position externally or internally, we ensure that in the last 5 selections we have at least two women who were shortlisted. That is like something we give out targets to our talent requisition team. We ensure we have women in our panelists, you start from there. 

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