Monica Bajaj is a seasoned results-driven technology leader who is passionate about Engineering innovation, building cool products, and bringing engineering, business and strategy together. She's currently VP of Engineering at Auth0.
As a leader, Monica focuses on growth mindset, transparency, empowerment, and engineering effectiveness. She likes to build inclusive teams and invest in developing individuals within team and outside teams.
Especially for the WomenTech Network, Monica agreed to give an interview and share her story.
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Congratulations on winning a WomenTech Network Mentor of the Year Award! How did it feel when you found out you had won?
Thank you for this great honor. I am just amazed at the impact the Women Tech Network community has made across the globe, bringing so many women across the world. When I learned about this award, I was attending a meeting at work. I was surprised and really honored at the same time. I have been mentoring for several years now and it was indeed a proud moment when I learned that I have won the award. Over the years being on several mentorship platforms has given me an opportunity to learn from other mentees and connect with other mentors during this journey. The Power of Mentorship is huge: Mentorship is not just a word around teaching or sharing your experience, it’s about engaging yourself with passion, revealing the skills and strengths of a mentee.
Tell us about your background, journey in tech, and what inspired you to develop your career in this direction.
I grew up in India in a city called Indore and did my high school and Undergrad in Computer Science. Math and Science was always the boys club during that time. While I was growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to be in my career except for being independent and having a decent job. My family’s support was incredible which led me to pursue Math and later into Engineering. Every step I took in my career, I and my family were being questioned if this was the right thing for me. I was always being taught “Dream big and work hard”. Fighting against all odds, I went for my Master's at IIT, Mumbai and it was a game-changer for me. I was the first female engineer in my entire family.
Initially, I started my career as a faculty in Computer Science. I had a dream to work in Silicon Valley and that dream led me to where I am today. 22 years back, I moved to the US and started working as a Software developer. My past experience has been primarily with leading global teams and technologies in multiple industries such as Consumer/ Enterprise (Workday, Ultimate Software), Infrastructure (NetApp, Perforce), and Security (Cisco). Currently, I serve as a VP of Engineering at Auth0 (An Okta company focused on building an Identity solution at scale) leading the efforts for building Developer experience. I also serve on the Board of Women in Localization, a global non-profit organization focused on promoting Women via mentorship as a Technology and Chief Compliance Officer.
What has inspired me all in my career are two things: The people I have worked with and being able to bring engineering closer to the business and hence customers. In my previous engineering leadership roles, I always had an opportunity to build and scale global engineering teams. My prime focus has always been facilitating creativity, collaboration, and camaraderie—all in the service of customer value. In order to build cool products and strong engineering teams, it is important to bring the business acumen and technology together. I love mentoring, coaching, and investing in people (technically and in leadership roles) whether it is at work or as a volunteer where I am able to learn and give back both at the same time. The biggest inspiration I continued to have in my journey was “Always believe in yourself and you would be surprised that you will make miracles”.
Any advice you would like to give to girls in STEM on pursuing their dreams?
- Shatter stereotypes and instill confidence: Do not hold yourself and lose confidence in how the world is trying to shape you every day. You need to have confidence in yourself and not worry about all kinds of stereotypes and notions around you.
- Find your inner warrior: You are your best friend and the inner warrior is the one you should compete with. Life is full of ups and downs. Some phases of your career can be challenging. Just stay strong, have patience, and belief in yourself. You will come out much stronger than you would think.
- Be comfortable while feeling uncomfortable: This is super critical since the moment you become comfortable, you are no more a learner. This will allow you to push yourself, take new challenges, be more creative, and be willing to take calculated risks.
- Continue to build a strong network and community around you which is also a safe space. Consider this as a way to invest in yourself
- Last but the most important one: “If I can do it, so can you”.