Celebrating the STEMinists of NetApp: Barsha Karki
As a presales engineer, I connect people and technology within an innovative, dynamic, and ever-changing environment. This means wearing a lot of hats, the most common being that of problem solver.
For any problem, in any situation, my strategy is to first identify the issue: to acknowledge that there is a problem and to communicate about it. Next, I look at what we’ve set out to achieve compared to where we are now. Once we have that clarity, it’s easier to focus on the best solution for the environment.
I support customers within unique, often complex, environments, environments with shifting requirements and priorities. We might have very clear requirements from the get-go, or we might need to start with a high-level draft solution and create discussions around our options.
To create clarity around problems and solutions in these environments, it is crucial to have communication and accountability among the relevant stakeholders. You must have a constant finger on the pulse, so you can gauge whether a solution is relevant in the environment and move quickly to find alternate solutions if needed. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Solutions developed early in the pandemic were rendered irrelevant by mid-2020. Communication and accountability allow us to adapt as environments change.
Changing environments can be opportunities to foster growth and innovation, so it’s important to be curious and respectful as we work with people, both within our organizations and among our customers, friends, and families. Being curious allows us to maintain a state of inquiry, even when we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.
As we inquire, we build and expand the foundation of our understanding. Showing up at a meeting with a prepared set of questions and their potential solutions is limiting, but if you show up with a growth mindset—with curiosity—it can lead to new ideas. That is how we create a path for innovation.
Fostering innovation in a constantly changing environment requires data. The role of analytics and data science has never gone out of fashion, and it’s never been as relevant as it is today. In my role, I rely heavily on analytics and reporting coming in from different structures to allow me to work with customers on their business drivers, requirements, and solutions.
Even when I’m working with potential customers, I’m looking at publicly available data to create relevant solutions, targeted to that particular customer in that particular scenario.
As a data solutions engineer, it’s the analytics that drive my decision making and help me support the customer. It’s all about the data points along the journey: You start in one place, work with what you have, and add the data that you get along the way.
For me, solving problems and fostering innovation goes far beyond my role at NetApp. As a woman in technology, I believe in empowering women and girls to thrive in STEM fields, no matter where they are in their journey.
It starts with putting yourself out there. It’s important to be seen and heard, not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of other women. In my early years, I didn’t know many women who were pursuing STEM careers—or careers generally. To be someone that others can look up to, to be a role model for women at every stage of their education or career—that has a great deal of impact.
As women, we have to be available for each other. Whether you’ve been in your career for a long time or you’re just starting out, a single conversation with you might be all it takes to make a massive impact on someone’s choices and, ultimately, on their career success.
Every year for the past 7 years, I’ve mentored a female university student through a program offered by my alma mater. Programs like these weren’t available to me when I was in university; when I graduated, I didn’t even know that the role of presales engineer existed!
That’s why I take every opportunity to talk to high school students, especially girls, and show them what’s possible for them. I encourage them to pick STEM subjects in high school, so they don’t miss an opportunity to enter engineering and IT later on. It is especially important to show them that they don’t have to change the way they look or who they are. I hope they look at me and think, “If she can be there, so can I.”
The journey isn’t always easy. There aren’t a lot of people in my field who look like me or speak like me. There are times when I think “Am I supposed to be here? Should I just give up and do something completely different?”
But I’m not the kind of person to give up. The values instilled in me by my parents keep me going. They taught me that when you take on a task, you have to see it through. You keep going, and you make the most of every moment, because for every situation, good or bad, “this too shall pass.”
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Barsha speaks to the power of curiosity and a growth mindset to solve problems and empower others.