100 Women of Impact | In conversation with Neelam Dhawan

by | May 24, 2024 | 100WomenofImpact, BD Voice, Leadership, Woman of Influence | 0 comments

Neelam Dhawan is an Icon in the tech industry for more than four decades. She has held influential positions in some leading marquee companies as a board director and as an executive council of NASSCOM, and many other government-related positions with IIIT Delhi. Despite not having an engineering degree, she entered the tech world by joining HCL as a sales and marketing professional. Neelam broke glass ceilings to become a game changer in the tech Industry. Neelam believes that one’s career may not be the same as what one studied, and being open to new developments can lead to exciting opportunities. In the rapidly changing field of technology, she became passionate about new developments and found a career in the tech world. “I always thought I’m making a career in marketing and not in tech. But, technology was such a fast-changing field in those years and I got excited about the new developments, and the new tech. So from being a marketing person who can go from one industry to the other, it became clearer that I should be a person who understands technology and hence, be a part of the tech world”, explains Neelam Dhawan.

Neelam Dhawan’s journey into the tech industry without an engineering degree raised questions of self-doubt. In this interview with Sarika Bhattacharyya, she admits that not having a tech background was a regret initially. However, over time, she realized that understanding technology was not just about the technicalities, but also about understanding the domain and the issues that technology solves. Dhawan also speaks of her experiences being the only woman in a male-dominated room, where the first reaction was to question the lack of representation of women. “When you walk into a room full of men, the first reaction is why are there so few women in this meeting room?”, exclaimed Neelam. But instead of dwelling on that, she focused on the subject being discussed, emphasizing the importance of subject matter expertise and knowledge. Despite these challenges, Dhawan has emerged as a respected figure in the tech industry, holding influential positions in leading companies and government-related positions.

Neelam Dhawan’s advice for younger women entering the IT industry is that women should follow their passion and not just take a job because it’s a good job. “First, I say follow your passion. If you are excited about the technology industry, please be in that place. There’s no point being in a job or in an industry which you’re not passionate about”, emphasizes Neelam. She says that they will spend many years in the industry and should be passionate about it. She also advised women to speak up and let their managers and leaders know what they are doing, what they are passionate about, and what roles they want to take on. “Managers have larger teams to manage and may not know how well someone is doing in their current role, so it’s important to communicate and not be a silent performer,” says Neelam. By doing this, women can ensure that they get the right job opportunities and the right increments. 

Neelam Dhawan believes that calling out the need for diversity in the room is important and she still does that in her role as a board member. She believes that diversity is critical and that women have the same capabilities as men but are more imaginative and diverse in their thinking. She stresses that having the right attitude and thinking in a room or a company is extremely important, and diversity is good for business. “Women are more imaginative and more diverse in their thinking and hence, having the right attitude towards diversity in a company is extremely important” – Neelam Dhawan

Listen to the interview here.

About Neelam DhawanNeelam Dhawan has 38+ years of experience in the information technology sector and has held Managing Director positions with MNCs including Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Microsoft. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Stephens College and an MBA from the University of Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies. She is a member of the boards of ICICI Bank, Ecosystem, IIIT Delhi, Skylo Technologies, and Yatra Online. She has received accolades from Business Today, Forbes, and Fortune as one of the Most Powerful Women in Business. Neelam is a mentor and icon in the field of technology, and via her talks, she teaches companies how to adapt to the “new reality” of technology and prosper in it. She also discusses how technology has the potential to transform industries like healthcare.

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