I was 8 years old when I discovered one of my father’s secrets—he had taken a few glider lessons after he landed his first job. My father grew up as a farmer in India. He was 14 when he lost his father; as the eldest of four kids, he had to support his family. Years of drought made life difficult in his village. So he turned toward the nearest city to study and get a job. He dreamed of becoming a pilot, but he could not complete his training because money was tight.
Ever since I discovered his unfulfilled dream, the idea of flying a metal bird through the air amazed me. There was a mystery and thrill surrounding the experience of piloting an aircraft.
I fulfilled my dream as well as, in some ways, my father’s dream when one day I was able to pilot a plane with my father and mother along for the ride. Through the ups and downs of learning to operate this revolutionary mechanical wonder, I also learned to make good decisions, display confidence in command, and hold myself responsible for my actions and outcomes.
As a woman from a world where the expectation was to serve, I carved a different path for myself and believed you can combine unconventionality with curiosity and focus to achieve almost anything. Women constitute a mere six percent of all pilots in the world. I am one of them.
When I became a pilot a decade ago, professionally I was a senior software engineer. Today I am a senior director of engineering in the heart of Silicon Valley. I found that skills like perseverance, focus, curiosity and self-confidence were cornerstones to my success in aviation and as a technology leader.
I hope that I can share some insights about the overlap between commanding an airplane and leading an organization.