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Anjali Ramachandran: Women In Tech, Be Ruthless With Your Time

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Kavi Guppta

For all of us that wonder how that woman in our life does it all, here's the answer: she knows how and when to say "no."

Anjali Ramachandran's main goal in all of her personal and professional endeavours is to make an impact; she's ruthless with her time so she can achieve more.

Ramachandran is the head of innovation at PHD UK in London. She's the co-founder of Ada's List, a group for women who work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and she also writes about innovation in the developing world.

Today, Ramachandran discusses how she stays focused to meet her goals:

What are you trying to achieve as head of innovation?

I'm trying to get companies to a point where they realize that investing in new ideas and technology can help them be future proof. This depends on the complexity of the client business, and they are all fairly complicated, involving operations, marketing, finance, procurement, and brand strategy.

I also try to figure out which back-end processes need to work together to enable a piece of front-end technology to work most seamlessly. Crucially, it's also about user research and ensuring that any product or service I suggest keeps with customer and market needs, and not just a vanity project for the brand -- that's harder than you might think.

Who did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to work at the United Nations. When you're at university studying the social sciences that's probably something that a lot of people want to do. My experiences in the years following university (a mix of non-profit and for-profit work) made me realize that at the time I could probably make a bigger impact working in the corporate world, and I've never looked back. My side projects now help me channel my desire to have an impact on society.

How do you stay focused to meet your goals? Give an example.

Earlier on in my career I'd meet with almost anyone who asked for a meeting, but now I'm a bit more ruthless with my time -- it's the only way to achieve what I want to, which is to make an impact in what I do.

I use Google calendar to schedule my time. I try and figure out what will take the least time but potentially enable me to make the most impact. I focus on my personal life alongside working on my day job and side projects. That's still a lot of (non-family) people to spend time with, and, in my case, interesting startups and companies I need to meet.

What are we not doing to help women in tech advance?

We're not funding them enough, not hiring enough of them and we can absolutely do more to help them get on boards and into leadership positions. I'm not talking about this issue just because it's the right thing to do - there's a clear business case for it.

Diverse companies are just more successful. Less than five per cent of VC funding goes to women-run businesses and even less than that goes to tech companies run by women of colour, so it's no wonder that companies like Google and Facebook are now actively running unconscious bias courses to tackle the issue at a hiring level. I was also really pleased to see the launch of the Boardlist over the last couple of weeks. Over the last couple of years there has been a lot of positive movement but there is a lot more to be done, and I think we're achieving some of that through Ada's List.

What else?

I'd like to encourage more people to spend time mentoring or sponsoring a smart, sparky female, whether that's someone who works in your company or your community.

I'd also like to recommend that people join a peer network around a subject they find interesting. Even if you're not an active member (and I wholly recommend that you be active if time permits), you pick up a lot through osmosis and simply listening in on conversations. That wasn't an opportunity I had access to when I was younger, so definitely make use of it. There are now so many communities to access online and offline through Google groups, meetups, and events.

Follow Anjali on Twitter.

I'm fascinated by creative women -- their passions, challenges, and contributions to society. If you know a creative woman to feature, please tweet @kmarano

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