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WITI Women | Sonia Bhanot

1. What was your first job in technology?
In 1984, after my second year as an engineering student, I enjoyed a wonderful experience as a summer intern with International Computers Ltd. (ICL, the U.K. based firm). Of course, I had to walk 2 hours uphill, in the snow, both ways, but then everyone has that experience. Actually, my programming job at the manufacturing plant of ICL was located in Pune, India, which did require a 2-hour train journey from my hometown.

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
Unfortunately, the male-to-female ratio of engineering students at Punjab University in the early eighties was weighted heavily on the male side. Consequently, I am a big proponent of having some kind of a mentor program available for qualified women. This will go a long way in guiding many talented technologists in their personal quests to greatness.

Although these were not direct mentors per se, there are two people of distinction who were role models for me: Grace Hopper and Walt Disney. Adm. Hopper was a trailblazer who paved the way for women in a male-dominated military while simultaneously creating a programming language that helped one and all communicate. But Walt Disney is a personal favorite because he was able to transcend business by sharing a love of fun and fantasy with a broader audience worldwide. His ability to enjoy his job and help people make him among the most admired of entrepreneurs.

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
As a woman, I am well aware of the glass ceiling but believe it as real as my own ability to see through it. I have been fortunate in my career and have moved beyond the traditional barriers women face. It is important to find that single opportunity where you can take ownership and prove yourself. At Hewlett Packard, the tremendous number of opportunities across a variety of areas enabled me to leverage skills, business situations and management experiences. Each produced successes that built upon one another.

Sonia Bhanot answers these questions:
1. What was your first job in technology?
2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
6. What strategies do you use to maintain balance in your life?
7. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?

On the lighter side:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
2. Define success in 10 words or less.
3. If you could only subscribe to 3 magazines, what would they be?

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