Tag Archives: women

Tech Events this Week: iOS & Android in C#; Arduino Girls; PHP OOPS; Amazon Cloud

Here is a list of technology events happening in Pune over the next few days. To be informed of these events in advance, you should subscribe to get the PuneTech calendar event announcements by email. Click here to subscribe.

(Paid) Working with the Amazon Cloud Program – Developer Edition [Revised Edition] 2-day workshop

  • Date: 13-14 Jun
  • Location: Pune – Contact Organizer for details

This 2-day program from Cralina takes one through all the fundamentals of
cloud computing as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud and the
infrastructure services which comprise AWS through a delightful mix of
lectures, demos and hands-on exercises. By the end of the program one will
have enough hands-on experience with AWS to be able to deploy, configure and
secure one’s own scalable web application(s) on the Amazon cloud. This
program also covers the Amazon API’s useful for developers. The revised
edition of the program covers 70% of IBM Cloud Computing Infrastructure
Architect Certification and the program material covers 100%.
Target Audience:

  • Engineers/Leads/Managers who would like to get a jump start on programming
    using Amazon Web Services.
  • Engineers/Leads/Managers who intend to deploy applications or services on
    the cloud sometime in future
  • Software developers who wish to integrate Amazon cloud services into their
    own software
  • Industry professionals who would like to get an in-depth understanding of
    cloud computing using Amazon Web Services

About Cralina

Cralina provides consulting services and technology trainings in niche areas
to leading software companies and professionals with an objective to highly
improve productivity and skill levels. Cralina’s consultants have a strong
background working in a fast paced product development environment in Fortune
500 companies as well as successful startups.

Fees and Registration

This is a paid event. Check the event website:
http://www.cralina.com/upcoming-programs#Amazon for details.

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(Paid) 1-Day Workshop: Brand Management for Entrepreneurs

  • Date: Sat, 14 Jun 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Location: Training Room, Venture Center, NCL Innovation Park, Pashan Road

For Whom: Entrepreneurs with product/ service offerings keen on creating a brand, Brand Managers, Brand Consultants, Management Students, Law Faculty and Students


  • Why brands matter and How brands create value
  • Strategic branding to your advantage
  • Advertising and promoting your product/service offering with the help of your brand
  • Knowledge of designing your brand
  • Measuring brand value


  • Ms. Melamie Kini : MBA from SIBM, MS Advertising, NewHouse School of Public Communication Currently a Partner at Positron Consulting Services
  • Ms.Sonali Brahma: Independent Brand strategist, Creative Director, Writer and corporate trainer, Branding strategy and communication
  • Mr.Anant Govande: Chartered Accountant, Cost Accountant and Company Secretary
  • Ms. Nazima Munshi: Assistant Professor at IIPS, Mumbai (LL.B, M.Phil)
  • Mr.Manoj Kothari: Co-founder, director and principal strategist at Onio Design Pvt. Ltd

Fees and Registration

This is a paid event and fees range from Rs. 700 for students all the way up to Rs. 2000 for employees of large companies. For more details and registration information, see: http://www.ipface.org/workshops.php

About Venture Center

Entrepreneurship Development Center (Venture Center) – a CSIR initiative – is a not-for-profit company hosted by the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. Venture Center strives to nucleate and nurture technology and knowledge-based enterprises by leveraging the scientific and engineering competencies of the institutions in the Pune region in India. The Venture Center is a technology business incubator specializing in technology enterprises offering products and services exploiting scientific expertise in the areas of materials, chemicals and biological sciences & engineering.

Fees and Registration

This workshop costs Rs 1500. Please register here: http://em.explara.com/event/aime-pune

For more information, contact: Miss. Lipika Biswas, Venture Center, Phone: +91-20-20250934/64011024; Email: eventsdesk@venturecenter.co.in

See also: http://www.ipface.org/workshops.php

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>@PuneUserGroup and @CSIPune event: iOS and Android Development using C# with Xamarin

  • Date: Sat, 14 Jun 10:00am – 2:00pm
  • Location: CSI Office, Prabhat House, Damle Path, Off Law College Road, Behind INDSEARCH

Come celebrate Xamarin 3 with cake and food, and learning how to create iOS and Android applications in C#. Xamarin 3 was just announced including some amazing new features and enhancements such as the brand new iOS Designer, Xamarin.Forms, and support for Shared Projects. This month we will deep dive into iOS and Android Development in C# with Xamarin and all of the latest features that were just released. There will be something for everyone in this content packed meetup no matter if you are new or have been developing with Xamarin for some time. Here are just a few topics that we will cover.


  • Sharing More Code (10:00-11:00)
    • File and project linking are no fun, and that is where PCLs and Shared Code projects come in to alleviate all of this pain. Full support is now built right into Xamarin Studio for these projects and a brand new NuGet package manager makes managing apps easy.
  • iOS Designer & Xamarin.Forms (11:00 – 12:00)
    • We already share all of our business logic, but what about the user interface? That is where Xamarin.Forms API comes in. We will see how to create your first Xamarin.Forms app to share all of your native user interface and business logic between iOS, Android, and Windows Phone!
  • Introduction to MVVM Light (12:00 – 01:00)
    • Learn MVVM and advantages of it to build cross platform applications. Learn how to use MVVM Light to implement MVVM pattern and use blendebility, testability, extensibility in your projects
  • Pizaa & Networking (01:00 – 02:00)

About CSI Pune

Computer Society of India (CSI) is one of the oldest computer science user groups in the country, and CSI Pune is has been one of the most active chapters in the country by virtue of its numerous activities and contributions in various fields. It has helped the people in implementing computerized systems in various sectors such as Industry, Banking commercial, Public sector Research and Development establishments and Government departments. With several programs and a strong IT professional network, the Pune chapter has been a part of the growth of Pune’s IT industry.

Working at the grass-root level, the chapter has also contributed toward stronger computer education is various ways. With chapters in various colleges in Pune, CSI has a very wide reach amongst the students of computer science too.

About Pune User Group

Pune User Group (aka PUG) is a Pune (India) based not-for-profit organization, an association of professionals and students interested in Microsoft technology who are dedicated and devoted to the noble cause of spreading knowledge. It is a platform for you to share your experiences and educate professionals through the learnt lessons of the best Gurus in IT indutry….because “Knowledge is wealth..” and we “Gain Knowledge by Sharing knowledge…”

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here: https://onedrive.live.com/survey?resid=94C06BE0EDFD7DCB!714&authkey=!AJfrGdBhqS8QpcE

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Arduino Girls: Arduino event just for girls

  • Date: Sun, 15 Jun 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Location: Doo, 402A, Town Square, Above Dorabjees, Airport Road, Viman Nagar

Priya Kuber (https://twitter.com/beachbrake) & Ankit Daftery from Arduino India will be here to conduct the workshop.


  • Getting Started
  • Basic Electronics
  • Interfacing and controlling using the Arduino
  • Expand your scope

Fees and Registration

This event is free, but is open only to women. Please register here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1cuq0LxzPQ94ZxaC3tSE5t-E051qC0vzMTzaq0DrG6BE/viewform

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PHP Event: Object Oriented Programming in PHP

  • Date: Sun, 15 Jun 11:00am – 12:30pm
  • Location: Sacred World Towers, Jagtap Chowk, Wanowrie

Lets meetup on PHP OOPs various topics like –

  1. Inheritance
  2. SPL
  3. Magic Methods
  4. Autoloading
  5. Namespaces

This will be an open discussion to learn by sharing each other experience and knowledge.

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here: http://www.meetup.com/PHP-Jagruti-Meetup-Group/events/187851242/

Please double-check the date/time/venue of the event at the above link. We try to ensure that PuneTech calendar listings are accurate, but occasional errors creep in.

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RailsGirls Pune – The Gold and the Beautiful

(This event report of RailsGirls Pune – a one-day conference for women working on Ruby-on-Rails, first appeared on the Josh Software Blog, and is reproduced here with permission for the benefit of PuneTech readers.)

I was skeptical! Just from my experience of organizing RubyConf India and some local meetups, I was sure the turnout would be low and the event would be ‘casually boring’. If only I knew how crazily wrong I was!

A few days before the event, seeing about 250 registrations was itself a revelation. Then the turnout of over a 100 girls was exhilarating to say the least. I mean, how often does one get a chance to address a crowd at a techie event with ‘Hello Ladies!’. I am indeed lucky.

RailsGirlsJosh Software was one of the sponsors along with ThoughtWorks and CodeIgnition. It was great to see a LOT of mentors turn up for the event — which in my opinion was one of the success factors of Rails Girls Pune – EVERYONE got attention and there was never a case where someone was sitting idle or looking around for help.

The demographics of the crowd was varied – quite a few girls had come down to Pune for this event, some even travelling most of the night to get here!. There were a lot of girls with a prior technical background but none in Ruby. And there were 5 people who were entirely new to programming and they too managed to code, gleefully if I may add! It’s not often you get to hear an artist talk about controllers and methods. 🙂


One good cultural change that stood out was the kids running around an event with their dad’s baby-sitting them while the mom’s coded!

Proceedings were kick-started off  by Gunjan from ThoughtWorks. She spoke about Women in Technology and Leadership and why such events are so important for everyone.


After a brief introduction from other sponsors, all participants were divided among various tables and each table was assigned a mentor, though I saw at least 2 or 3 mentors at each table. Everyone was eager to help and answer questions.

RailsGirls3As the mentors were aware of the RailsGirls teaching process, it started of with getting familiar tryruby.org before moving on to other things like BentoBox and explaining basic concepts of Rails. Before long, everyone was busy working hard!

There were lot’s of discussions happening amidst kids running around, regular trips for getting more coffee or tea or some snacks. Before long, it was time for lunch and a breather.

chickendanceThoughtWorks organized an awesome lunch and after lunch, it required more than just Ruby to shake everyone up. What better than a ChikenDance for 5 minutes that started slow with a little bit of shyness among the audience but reached a crescendo with everyone joining in!



lighteningtalkThere were three Lightening Talks to get the crowd back into the coding groove. I spoke about why we love Ruby with the talk ”My Grandmother can read my code“.  Praveena  gave a talk on “Perks of being a Programmer” and Nishita gave a talk about “How the Internet works!”.

The afternoon was one busy session and everywhere you went, you heard only about Controllers, Scaffold, Bootstrap etc. – music to my ears!

Towards the end of the session, we had some participants showcase their work after uploading on Heroku. A few mentions of some really good work are  http://vast-mesa-2265.herokuapp.com/ideas and http://shrouded-cove-2185.herokuapp.com/

mentorsThe mentors did a wonderful job and got a lot of appreciation from all. Well, at the end of the day, a lot of people mad new friends. (Do not miss the “I <3 Matz” on the bottom right corner of the photo!)

Anup and Prathamesh wound up proceedings with introducing everyone to Pune Ruby User Group and after the prolonged networking that ensued, everyone called it a day and probably slept the night dreaming of instance variables!

A special thanks to Shilpa Nair and Hephzibah who did a wonderful job organizing RailsGirls. Hope to see more of these events soon. Do like the Rails Girls Facebook Page  and show your appreciation!

Break ke Baad: Tips for Moms re-entering the IT-workforce after a break

(Last week, Persistent Systems played host to a week-long workshop by “Break ke Baad”, a newly created group in Pune which aims at helping women who are looking to re-enter the IT-workforce after taking a pregnancy/children related break in their career. As a part of this workshop, I was on a panel discussion about opportunities amongst startups and other smaller companies for such ‘break-ke-baad’ moms. This article is based on that discussion, and an email discussion that I had initiated on the Pune Startups mailing list)

Let me first start with the common concerns of break-ke-baad moms:

  • Cannot work full-time: Even when a break-ke-baad mom is ready to get back to work, in most cases, she cannot work full time. Typically she can work part-time (maybe 9am to 2pm – when the kids are in school), or she needs to work from home for a significant fraction of time. This means that she is unsuitable for some roles, and/or some companies will simply not consider her.
  • Out of Touch: After having taken a break (typically of 5 years or more), most are out of touch with the latest trends in their field, and would typically not have skills in the latest technologies. The fear is that they are less employable because of this.
  • Lack of confidence: Both of the above issues result in many break-ke-baad moms significantly lacking in confidence that they will be able to perform, or in fact even at their ability to get a job.

My experience is that none of these are real problems and break-ke-baad moms can not only get good quality jobs with flexible timings, but there are certain circumstances where companies might actually prefer them over other candidates. Here are some suggestions:

  • Target startups and smaller companies: Consider a typical small company with 10 to 20 employees. This will usually have a couple of co-founders who’re senior people, and most of the other employees would be freshers or juniors. They desperately need a few senior people in the company who can serve as team leads – for their maturity and experience. And they find it very difficult to hire senior people for two reasons – first, most seniors prefer to do jobs with larger companies, and second, many companies at this stage are not able to afford the salaries of seniors.
    This is an situation tailor-made for break-ke-baad moms. First, since they can only work part-time, their salaries will also be proportionately lower, making them more affordable to the small company. Second, larger companies are much less accommodating as far as the time-constraints of break-ke-baad moms are concerned and hence the small company and the mom are made for each other.
  • Be aware of your strengths: Most break-ke-baad moms are not aware of their own potential. Here is a list of skills that companies would look for because their junior employees are typically missing those:
    • Maturity – which pretty much any mom will have!
    • Team-lead skills – if you have any team-lead experience in your background, this is valuable
    • Communication skills – if your English is good and/or you’ve done presentations in the past, then you have a valuable skill
    • Ability to handle customers – the sad truth is that most junior employees in India are just not good enough to be allowed to talk to customers directly. So if you have some customer facing experience, or good communication skills, you should highlight this during your interview
    • Ability to help with hiring – Seniors at a small and growing company spend a very large fraction of their time in interviewing or other hiring related activities. So if you’ve any experience of that in your past, you will have a skill that most juniors don’t have. Even if you don’t have hiring experience, your seniority and experience put you in a position to pick up this skill easily.
  • Appropriately highlight your past experience: I’ve noticed that most break-ke-baad moms behave as if they are inexperienced juniors appearing for their first interview (or at least this is the impression I get). The reason for this is their break, lack of information about latest trends, and the general lack of confidence. However, this is a mistake. Any experience is valuable in some way or the other. I’ll just give two examples:
    • Suppose you’ve done 3 years of J2ME programming for mobile phones. You’re concerned that your J2ME experience is worthless because nobody does J2ME programming these days, and you don’t have any experience with Android/iPhone/Blackberry etc. However, you need to separate out the short-term, not so useful skill (J2ME programming) from the long-term, useful skill (domain knowledge of mobile phone development). Try to look for companies that are doing some mobile development (Android, iPhone) and they will value your past experience
    • Suppose you’re a teacher who taught herself programming (or did a core Java + advanced Java course) during the break. Now if you go looking for a regular development job, you’ll be treated as a developer with zero experience. This is a bad situation, and few companies will prefer you over a fresher out of college who’s willing to work until 10pm. However, if you approach companies building educational or e-learning software (and trust me, there are many of those), and tell them that you are a teacher who knows Java, they’ll probably start jumping with joy at having found such a unique combination that is ideal for their needs.
      My point is this – look at what part of your past experience has long-lasting value, and then search for companies that would value that. While doing this, don’t forget to take into account the skills from the previous bullet point (hiring, communication, team lead, etc.)
  • Approach companies through references: Most of the hiring at smaller companies happens via references. Sure, they have websites where you can submit resumes, and they have HR email addresses where you can send an application, and they even employ recruitment agencies. In spite of all of that, most hiring happens through references. Which means that if you’ve found some interesting small company, you should try to find someone who knows you, and knows someone in the company, and get them to forward your resume.
    How do you do this? Linked-in is your friend. I’m sure most of you have a linked-in account. If you have a very small number of contacts on linked in (i.e. less than 50), then focus on increasing it. Link with all your past colleagues. Link with your friends from college. Link with recent new contacts you’ve made in the industry (you do attend some tech events, don’t you?). Once you’ve 100 or 200 contacts (takes some effort, but not very difficult to do), you’ll find that searching for any company will give you some employees of that company who are “2nd degree” links in your network. This means that if you go to that employee’s profile, linked in will give you a list of people you know, who also know that person. Mission accomplished!
  • Learn about latest trends: Pick a domain or domains you’re interested in. Use some Google searching to find the top websites/blogs in that domain. Figure out how to use Google Reader (or some other RSS reader), and use that to “subscribe” to those sites, and read daily. A few months of doing this will make you almost as knowledgeable as someone who never took a break, and will boost your confidence significantly.
  • Be flexible about the role: It is very likely that given your constraints, the company might not be able to give you a role that is exactly like the role you had before the break. First, smaller companies tend to give more responsibilities to individuals, and hence you’re likely to be given a role with a combination of multiple responsibilities. Second, the company is likely to create a special role just for you, based on your constraints and their requirements. Hence, you should be willing to take on roles different from what you originally had in mind. For example, testing, quality assurance, training, customer support, are roles that you might be offered, and where you maturity and experience as well as your previous development background will actually help you do a very good job.
    Other areas/roles to look at would be documentation, pre-sales support, project/program management, content creation (writing articles / white papers), and KPO (knowledge process outsourcing).

There are also some common misconceptions that I would like to clear out.

  • Part-time doesn’t stay part-time: Many are worried that a company might promise a part-time job, but in reality expect you to stay late on a regular basis and it becomes pretty much a full-time job. This is not true in most cases. Most companies will honour the time-constraints as long as they were made very clear during the interview process. Once in a while, there can be a deadline due to which you might have to stay late for a day or a few days. But this would be an exception, and shouldn’t happen more than once a month or once in two months.
    There are a few bad companies where due to bad time management, or simply because the founders are evil people, everybody is forced to work more than is reasonable. Hence, it is important that you talk to the founders and/or your immediate managers during the interview process, and reject the job offer if you don’t feel comfortable about those people. Do not get desperate and accept a job just because you think you won’t get another one.
  • Late night calls: In most Indian IT companies, it is very likely that there will be some conf-calls with people in the US or UK; but especially with smaller companies, this situation is not very bad. My guess would be that in most cases, there would be an average of 1 or 2 calls of this type per week. Most companies will be OK if you take the call from home. Most companies will also try to accommodate your constraints, but it is not always possible, as the timing depends upon various factors. Most of these calls will be “regularly” scheduled calls, so you know their timing beforehand, and can make arrangements at home to be able to take the call undisturbed; once in a while calls might get scheduled at the last minute and you’ll need to scramble a bit. My experience is that most break-ke-baad moms manage this without causing too much of a strain on their home-life balance.

How to find interesting small companies where you might find a good role? If you’re in Pune, here are some suggestions:

  • Join the Pune Open Coffee Club. It’s free, and there are lots and lots of small companies represented there. Poke around on that website, the various forums there and sub-groups. You’ll find interesting people and companies.
  • Join the Pune Startups mailing list. Follow the discussions there. See who’s posting, and use google/linked-in to find out information about their companies.
  • Subscribe to the PuneStartupJobs mailing list and watch who’s making job postings. None of those job postings will be an exact fit for your profile, but this is how you find out about interesting companies who are hiring. You should then approach the companies directly and try to explore whether they might have a role for you.
  • Subscribe to the PuneTech Calendar to keep track of latest tech/startup events in Pune. Attend the ones you find more interesting. Most importantly, talk to as many people as possible before and after the event. Let them know your background and the fact that you’re looking for a job. Good things will start happening after a few months of doing this.

Last week, I asked a bunch of entrepreneurs on the Pune Open Coffee Club whether they would hire break-ke-baad moms, and what qualities they would look for. And, one of the most common answers I got was this: “We don’t care about time-constraints, and part-time vs. full-time, and other things. The most important consideration for us is the attitude and passion – everything else is secondary.”

So my overall recommendation is this – realize that you are a valuable commodity in the job market, identify and highlight your strengths, approach the right companies, and go with confidence.

(Thanks to Rajeshwari Godbole, Shekhar Sahasrabudhe, Santosh Gannavarapu, Arun Kadekodi, the “Break ke Baad” group, and the Pune Startups mailing list for inputs and feedback on this article. Note: I’m obviously not a domain expert in this area, so if you’re a break-ke-baad mom who has actually been there, and done this, your inputs would be very valuable – so if you have additional suggestions, please leave a comment below for the benefit of future moms.)

Interview with Dr. Chitra Lele: Pharma and Biotech outsourcing in Pune

(This is an interview of Dr. Chitra Lele, Chief Scientific Officer of Sciformix Corporation, by Pallavi Kelkar, a Pune based tech entrepreneur, who interviewed Dr. Lele on behalf of PuneTech.)

Dr. Chitra Lele is the Chief Scientific Officer at Sciformix Corp, a startup focusing on providing KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) services to pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies. Chitra has done her PhD in Statistics from Stanford University, and she has more than 15 years of experience in this area.

This interview of Dr. Chitra Lele gives an idea of some of the areas of outsourcing the the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, as well as some of the challenges of doing this out of Pune.
This interview of Dr. Chitra Lele gives an idea of some of the areas of outsourcing in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, as well as some of the challenges of doing this out of Pune.

Before this, she was an Executive Director, at Pfizer Global R&D, where she set up India’s first biometrics center, providing services in clinical data management, statistics, programming and medical writing, and she successfully grew it to a size of over 400 staff. She has also worked as a faculty member at the School of Statistics at the University of Minnesota, and IIT, Bombay. She was instrumental in setting up Academy for Clinical Excellence (ACE) at the Bombay College of Pharmacy (BCP). She is a visiting faculty member at University of Pune, teaching Statistics courses and supervising PhD students. She is one of the founding members of “Indian Association for Statistics in Clinical Trials”.

She is a lady who wants to do quality work, and to make a difference.

Tell us more about Sciformix

My Company is positioned as a KPO and the primary domain is pharma & healthcare. Ours is a data management/analysis/interpretation related company. We work for Global Pharma companies, primarily based in North America, who outsource the work to us. There are four primary areas in which work:

  • Statistics & programming: Pharmaceutical companies have to conduct clinical trials before they bring new drugs into the market. These experiments / trials have to be designed statistically & analyzed. A lot of statistics & programming is involved in it. This includes complex statistical simulation, modelling and analysis. It involves extensive programming, primarily using the software SAS, which is the most commonly used statistical software in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Scientific Writing: We do all kinds of scientific writing that pharma companies need. For example, once a drug is in the market and consumed by a large section of a population, what kinds of adverse reactions are getting reported & what do they mean medically? We summarize that data and submit a safety report. All the pharmacological details of a drug, protocols and study result reports for the trials, medico-marketing literature and much more comes under scientific writing.
  • Safety Data Management (Pharmacovigilance): There is a toll free number present on package insert of medicines that are sold in the West. There you can report any issues regarding the drug. In the western countries, more so in North America, there is lot of awareness about this. Consumers as well as health care professionals, and pharmacists call that number to report adverse reactions. We run such call centres. There consumers might call to report adverse reactions to the drug, or any other quality issues with the drug, or medical doctors might call to ask if a particular medicine can be given along with other medication that their patients are already taking. We record such data, enter the data in Safety Databases, analyze and interpret it medically (for e.g, we assess if the adverse reaction is medically serious, and if it could be causally related to the drug) and submit reports to regulators around the world, including US FDA.
  • Regulatory affairs: We primarily provide document authoring and compilation services in the Regulatory Affairs area. For example, if there is a small change in the manufacturing process of the drug, it has to be reported, along with a pharmacological justification that this manufacturing change has no impact on the availability and action of the drug on the body. The report has to be submitted to regulators. When companies want to market their product in different geographies, dossiers have to be written, compiled and submitted as per the country-specific regulations.

Any specific problems you faced while setting up your office in India?

Well, although connectivity & other infrastructure has improved significantly over last few years, (smiles) it’s still not the ideal, optimal scenario. We had some challenges. For example, when we started our office in Mumbai, although we chose a commercial & industrial area in order to have good infrastructure, only one provider was available at that time (3 years back), who could provide connectivity from this location. We had to connect to the client’s domestic office in Mumbai, and the client didn’t want us to use this provider. However, we didn’t have a choice, and had to manage the client’s dissatisfaction. But now other companies are available to provide connectivity from this location.

Another, and a bigger, problem is about availability of skilled resources in the areas that we are focussed on. The entire area of pharmacovigilance was very new in India, and hence people were not aware of it. There are a lot of training institutes who train people in clinical research domain, so we do get people who have some basic awareness. But getting health care professionals to work in this area is not easy. In the west, it is common for certified nurses to work in pharmacovigilance. In India, it is not common for people having a degree in nursing to enter the corporate world. Not many MBBS doctors are willing to get into it. The clients often don’t want doctors with degrees in alternate medicine to do the medical review and analysis of safety data. So, to find the right people is the biggest challenge. And of course, we need to invest a lot in training these individuals once we hire them. The other problem area is statistics and programming. There is a pool of people in India who have a basic degree in statistics or who have done some course or certification in SAS software. But the average quality of these resources is not good, hence it’s difficult to recruit good statisticians and programmers.So we also recruit fresh graduates and train them form scratch.

One of the reasons we have our office in Mumbai is availability of experienced professionals in Mumbai, and we expanded in Pune because we can easily get fresh graduates here.

Do you find any difference in terms of quality of graduate students, between Pune and elsewhere?

Not really. One clear advantage of Pune is that Pune University’s Statistics department is very good. We don’t recruit hundreds of statistics graduates – we just need 1 or 2. We get them easily in Pune.

On a negative side what we have been experiencing is on an average, English language skills are significantly inferior in Pune compared to Mumbai.

In terms of infrastructure, what are the advantages and disadvantages of Pune?

Advantage: In Pune, it is easy to get office space. The scale of the city is such that you can reach anywhere in an hour. This is not the case in Mumbai.

Disadvantage: Every time they dig the road our phone lines are down. This is not the case in Mumbai. And of course, the biggest problem in Pune is the power situation, which is not at all an issue for us, given our office location in Mumbai.

One of the reasons to have an office in Pune is the low expenses. After accounting foreverything, it is much cheaper to operate from n Pune than Mumbai.

Being a woman in a team of men, was there any advantage or disadvantage?

I was in charge of my unit in Pfizer, my previous company. I didn’t find any disadvantage of being a woman at all, although I was the only woman in the senior executive team for quite a long period there. I was respected for my work, my capabilities. Even in my current company, I am the only woman in the senior executive team. Disadvantages, if any, are primarily due to personal biases of one or two individuals, and are not a general issue.

Advantage: In general, there’s a gender difference in terms of the style of management. Women have an advantage in some aspects, but I can’t generalize to say that there’s an advantage to being a woman manager. There are many men who are good managers as well.

There is a general impression that women take their work casually, have you experienced this?

I don’t think so. In fact, 2/3rd of my staff at Pfizer consisted of women, and even at Sciformix, more than half the staff comprises of women. The impression is created, mostly because of family responsibilities. Even today, in general the expectation is that women will take more responsibilities of house and kids than men, even though their husbands try to help. But women are able to deliver things in whatever limited time they have.

Also, there are enough examples of men taking their work casually, especially young graduates.

How do you balance the work-life cycle?

(Laughs…) In terms of work life balance, I don’t think I am doing a good job at all; I know I need to improve on that. I am a workaholic, working for very long hours on weekdays and working on weekends too. When you take an entrepreneurial route, it is even more challenging. There is no limit to how much you want to do & how much you want to grow.

So, what I do is that for 1/2 or 3/4ths of a Saturday or Sunday, I try not to work.

As an entrepreneur, what are the changes you had to make in your personality after starting a business?

Before starting my company, although I was doing a job and my employer was a large company, I was given the responsibility of starting a separate unit for them. I set up the group of 400 people. I had support, but lot of things I had to do myself. So, I had that experience with me, nothing was new for me in this aspect.

I had to change my personality quite a bit to bring in the business. Lot of persistence is required here. If I want to get some work from people then I have to keep following-up, and pushing people, which was new for me. Sometimes, I knew that I am much better than some of the people I am talking to, and I would wonder why do I have to give in to their whims and fancies…but I need the business, and they are in a position of providing me with that business, so I have to do it – this where I had to change myself. All such things require a very different mindset, persistence and aggression. Over the last three years, I think I have developed a good amount of skill of talking to clients. The way I talk now is very different from the way I used to speak before. Trying to market your company, talking about your capabilities now comes spontaneously to me in every conversation I have with the client. But I had to develop this very consciously.

How do you manage your stress? It must have increased compared to before.

Yes, it has increased. I try to manage by doing some exercise every day, which is a good stress buster for me. I have learned playing musical instruments. I do not play currently, but I want to start again – that can also be a stress buster. As I have already told, I try to be stay away from company work for at least half a day every weekend. Also, I have significantly increased the number of movies, plays and concerts that I go to. I catch one of these at least every other weekend. That is the stress buster too.

Did you think of giving up at any point of time for any reason?

Yes, such thoughts do come. When we have to deal with unreasonable customers, it is difficult. But things stabilize after a while. Sometimes, you have a difference of opinion with your peers and you strongly believe you are right, at that time it happens – but there has never been a make or break situation so far. I take it as a probably good learning for the future. The thing is, I look at the bigger picture.

I left my job because I wanted to test my credibility in terms of bringing in business and building an organization, without having a big company’s backing. I also wanted to do something that makes a difference to the environment. I think I have done a reasonably good job in this respect. This experience has given me greater confidence to encounter and mange difficult situations in the future. I believe that every experience, good or bad, teaches you something and makes you a better and a stronger person.

How is your family support system like?

My support system is primarily my husband. Ever since we got married, we have stayed away from each other a lot, in terms of being based in different cities, both in the US and in India. I took up whatever seemed to be the best opportunity at every stage of my career. He always believed that I should do what I think is good for me and has always encouraged me work where I can use my capabilities. Everything that I have been able to do and achieve has been possible because of his strong support & backing.

Was your career planned, I mean had you decided that I will do PhD and be in business after some time?

No, nothing was planned as such. By nature I am not the kind of person who decides what I will do 15 years down the road. At every point of time I did whatever I thought I wanted to do.

The only thing which was planned was my PhD. Nothing else was planned. So, if you ask me, what I will be doing after 3 years then I won’t be able to tell you that.

What are your hobbies?

Nothing unique. I like classical music; I am not practicing it now but I do listen to it, and reading and traveling.

Any guidelines for upcoming entrepreneurs?

I would say 2 things. First & foremost, be very clear about what you fundamentally want to do and achieve through the entrepreneurial venture that you undertake, and second, have the right kind of people with you.

Any regrets looking back & anything that you think of as a turning point?

Looking back, I think that every experience was enriching whether good or bad, so I have no regrets. The turning point for me was, when I decided to go for BSC in mathematics. I was a good student throughout my academic years. So it would have been natural for me to go in for medical or engineering degrees. I thought at that time that I liked Mathematics and Medicine. After the 12th standard, I chose to go in for BSc instead of trying to get into medicine or a field related to medicine I am convinced that it was the right decision. Though my parents were disappointed at that time, they are now happy that I chose this path.

About the Interviewer – Pallavi Kelkar

Pallavi is a co-founder of Krishna Infosoft, a software services company based in Pune. She has 3+ years experience in programming & development, and she works on .NET technologies, PHP etc. Pallavi is involved in design and development of customized desktop and web applications, and enterprise applications. Pallavi is also a co-founder of TechMarathi, a non-profit venture, where you can find information in Marathi for everything related to Tech.

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Breast cancer awareness drive needs help from Pune’s techies – Please help

(Monday, 8th March, is women’s day. PuneTech has decided to use that excuse to start a new series of articles highlighting inspiring stories about Pune’s women. For this purpose, we are roping in women techies who are active in the Pune tech community, and asking them to interview women who have great career stories and can serve as role models. Basically, by Pune’s women, of Pune’s women, for all of us. See this TechCrunch article by Vivek Wadhwa to get an idea of why this is important to do. We’re hoping that this will not just be an article or two in March, but a continuing series. We already have a number of interview candidates identified – but we need more interviewers. If you’re interested, please get in touch with us.

Normally, we expect to highlight women techies – those who have achieved something in the tech field. However, for the first post of this series, we’ve chosen a non-techie; but one who needs help from techies. We are hoping that Pune’s tech community will rally around her. Also note: women bloggers, twitterers will get a chance to interact with her at the Pune women’s blog/tweetup on Sunday 7th March.

This article has been written by Poonam Sharma, an instructional designer at an e-Learning company in Pune, and a prominent blogger.)

Dr. Capt. Ritu Biyani is a breast cancer survivor. Based in Pune, this lady has earned several feathers in her cap: ex-dental surgeon in army, first lady officer paratrooper from the army dental corps, a mountaineer, skydiver and a thorough nomad.

Her story is not important only because she is a cancer survivor, but because she chooses to dedicate her life for cancer awareness activism.  In her zeal to reach out to people around the country, she has driven solo across the country!

solo driving map
This is a map of the road trip that Dr. Ritu took across India with her daughter. They personally delivered breast cancer awareness workshops to over 26000 people in the remotest corners of India. Click on the map for a larger picture.

Along with her then 14-year-old daughter Tista, she drove to the four tips of India in a Ford endeavour for 177 days!

Together she and Tista (her daughter) hold the Limca Book of Records for first mother-daughter duo  expedition on cancer awareness across the country.

You can also read much more details about her story and her initiative at her full interview at the Visceral Observations blog, to know her cause and why another road trip.

On her first expedition, Dr. Ritu reached out to 26000 people. She plans to go on second expedition this time focused on North, Central and South India. However, for her endeavour, Dr. Ritu needs our help in several ways to make this expedition happen.

What is the foremost thing you need help with to make your expedition happen?

The first I need is a sturdy car, preferably 4X 4, since this is a road trip. A SUV with good ground clearance is a necessity. As a woman, safety is an additional concern.  I do not want to be stranded with an unreliable car that breaks down in a remote, distant inaccessible place. Last time I travelled on Ford Endeavour, which served well for the purpose.

Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani-Joseph and her daughter, Tista, with the car they used for their breast cancer awareness roadtrip.
Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani-Joseph and her daughter, Tista, with the car they used for their breast cancer awareness roadtrip.

This time I am looking for sponsors who believe in the cause enough to arrange funds for a car and other necessities like a data card and BSNL connection on roads. BSNL is the only one that works everywhere and phone is the only way I keep in touch with my family while I am on roads.

I would further need volunteers who can help me organise workshops locally during the expedition.

So you must be in touch with organisations that carry out corporate social responsibility initiatives?

Yes, I have few leads. But I am required to submit proposals. Since I have no prior experience in drafting such proposals, I am counting on help from your readers who are adept at this sort of thing. Further, any leads on possible sponsors are encouraged from the PuneTech readers.

What social media networking Websites have you been using to connect with possible volunteers for your cause?

I rely mostly on my email and phone. Thankfully, so far I have had considerable media coverage, all such articles carry my email and phone. People contact me through both. Then there is a Web site for my foundation Highways Infinite, which I admit requires an overhaul to reflect teh details of my work. I aim to add a section there where anyone can interact with the cancer experts.

I have never used social media networking, but yes I am waking up to its benefits. I am planning to open a twitter and facebook account. My challenge is that due to my schedule, I might not have enough time to manage these profiles. Moreover, I have a long way to go before I can be called ‘web savvy’. J

Perhaps it would help if we had volunteers who manage the twitter and facebook accounts for you. You mentioned something about requiring volunteers to organise the workshops.

Yes, though I have not yet planned my itinerary and exact date of my trips. It would be great if some local volunteers in different parts of India could step forward to organise the workshops in their area. Key assistance required is that they can coordinate and get together people from their community.  I also want to identify few volunteers, who could further be trained to conduct workshops in their own. This way even after I am gone, cancer awareness will continue.

This, as I understand, is a call for the volunteers in other parts of India, especially those living in north, central and south India along the central axis, the route on which you are planning your second expedition.  Is there anything that the volunteers from Pune can help you with?

Yes, I can think of at least two ways. I have been meaning to create a documentary of my first expedition and the recent cancer walk conducted in Pune. The latter is a short-time task. I have video footage that needs to be edited. I am learning to edit my videos, but any help in this task is appreciated.

However, creating documentary out of hours of amateur footage (me and my daughter have shot mostof it. )  is tedious. It requires more work. I also hired an video editor but it did not work out. Hopefully, through your readers I can find me someone who can help me with this mammoth task.

You mentioned a second way Pune volunteers can help you?

Yes, when I conduct workshops on my road trip. I would like to leave behind some posters on cancer awareness, facts and myths. I need help from some creative people who can create as many posters as possible. I have few templates for some such posters, but more creative ideas for the same are also welcome.

So there you go, techies and creative folks, you have it from Dr. Ritu herself as to how you can be part of her noble cancer awareness endeavour. You can brainstorm and suggest web-savvy ideas/strategies to spread her work, organise fund-raisers, and arrange for people who need workshops. Please step forward and extend your helping hand.

In case you want to contribute to Dr. Ritu’s project financially, you are more than welcome. NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL. Her foundation is called Highways Infinite. All donations are exempted under 80G [5] of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Dr. Ritu is a guest speaker at Women’s Day Tweet up in Pune on this Sunday , 7th March, 2010). If you are a women in Pune, you can register here and participate.

Contact details of Dr. Ritu Biyani

  • Email: missionhighways at gmail dot com
  • Phone:  +91 98812 32744

About the Author – Poonam Sharma

Poonam Sharma is an instructional designer by profession. She is a bibliophile, movie and theater lover, who doesn’t think twice to take up social causes. She calls herself a small-time activist and blogs at Visceral Observations.

(Editors note for those planning on helping out: Remember that Dr. Ritu is doing a lot of work by just herself. As such, she does not really have the time to do all the things that really could be done. So, rather than simply offering guidance, it would be better if you could actually offer to do things for her. For example, guiding her on how to use a facebook fan page to reach people is of limited use; much better is if you volunteer to not only create the fan page, but to run it (with inputs from Ritu), for the next 6 months. -PuneTech ed.)

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Motherhood and Entrepreneurship

Todays article is a guest post by Aparna Kalantri, a Pune-based mum-preneur. See the end of the article for more about her.
Today's article is a guest post by Aparna Kalantri, a Pune-based mum-preneur. See the end of the article for more about her.

I am in the process of setting up my own small business after my maternity break (is the break ever really over? :-). I have always been a high achiever in life, was doing very well in my career (IT in Oz), and had a steep career graph going for me. After having my baby, I decided to consciously take time-off. Now, the 9-5 (or is it 9-9?) routine does not suit me. But I still wanted to fulfil my individual potential and live out my best life, and would like to work professionally, but at my own pace. So now I am in my ‘onramp’ stage, and would like to share some of my thoughts on ‘Entrepreneurship after having kids’.

First in my series is – ‘The soft challenges of doing part-time entrepreneurial work’ (esp. with limited human resource even if you count the baby in 🙂

  • Ideas-Focus: The problem is not lack of ideas (as one would have expected), but rather too many of them. When I started, there were too many ideas that I wanted to do all at once. Having worked in a fast paced corporate environment (pre-babies of course), I was efficient at using the current working system to make the ideas happen. The shift now is to develop a new system on your own to make things happen. It takes time to adjust to the ‘new working you’. What can we do about this?
    • Learn to focus on and develop a few (couple) ideas. Need to analyse what is going to be my niche. Once the core idea sets in, then you can work on the allied services.
    • Need to use the strategy of ‘release and review’ with your customer base. But here we need to understand the effort/ output ratio. Come to a satisfactory stage/ get initial reviews from industry experts/ and release. Update and chart your course as per the feedback.
  • Instant gratification: Remember the pat-on-the-back by your boss for an excellent presentation/ or the extra-bonus/ or the successful release at 4 in the morning/ or simply the cheers at the morning coffee run? As trivial as they may seem these are important things. As a part-time mumpreneur, there may be no-one to provide this encouragement. These advantages of working in a collaborative effort are missing. Also, initially success may be slow in coming (incubation and setting up period more). This for a mother is more challenging due to the internal pressure she faces in order to succeed (to justify her effort away from her family).
    • Very simply – ‘Pat yourself’ 🙂 There are times when only you know how you’ve gone through that difficult day with being a mum, home-maker, wife etc. and have still managed to complete that little work. Be kind to yourself.
    • Surround yourself with positive people. Get honest feedback from the ‘knowers’.
  • Perceptions: Ever heard the expression ‘Just a mother / housewife’ – that is what I’m talking about. When you are doing a job, it’s easier for others to understand the structure of your life. So (generally) the expectations & their perception of you is very different. Our society, I feel, is quite biased in this regard. (That’s another discussion for another day). Since I work mostly from home, and schedule around my toddler’s timings, people don’t know where to draw the line with expectations. They tend to take our time for granted a lot more, and also do not understand that the work we do is as important (if not more). I am sure that this is probably something to do with the signals that we give out, but nevertheless it is an issue.
    • Highlight what your efforts are, and what you have achieved through them. Sometimes this doesn’t come naturally to us, especially if what we have achieved is not as much as before. You need to be able to tell people and believe yourself that it is important and a priority.
  • Being immersed in your work/ Losing flexibility: Remember the reason why we chose to do this type of work? We wanted a lifestyle of flexibility and independence in terms of time and accountability. In order to make it big fast, or to fuel the great early success, we tend to work on this more than a full time job. The work takes over our mind & time, and we find it difficult to switch-off when we need to. The goal of being more present (physically & mentally too) for our family / or of leading a more independent lifestyle is lost. For this we can apply various time/ priority management strategies.
    • Do not try to ‘have it all’ by doing it all. You must to understand when the business is big enough for you to recruit / partner with a team and delegate. Apply appropriate task management strategies.
    • These priorities in life may change depending upon various factors – there may be busy and slow periods. From time-to-time ask yourself and your loved ones – ‘Is this working for me?’/ ‘Are we happy with this?’.
  • Networking: I remember I had wanted to attend a Pune Open Coffee Club forum presentation. It was 45 minutes from my home. I was looking forward to it. During my maternity leave, this was an event to look forward to. To connect to my non-mummy/ non-nappy conversation mode 🙂 I observed that for most of the other participants it was just another casual meeting they had made way to after a busy day. Just one of the things that they did. For me, this meant pre-arranging for baby-sitting, making sure the feed/ nap times are taken care of, and arranging for stuff so the baby stays happy. Phew!! All this for a free forum meeting (which turned out to be really good, BTW). Now you understand the effort that we have to go through with networking. And I haven’t even talked about the soft-networking aspects (the golf games/the tennis games/ the tweet-ups/ the catch-ups/ the evening beer meetups etc. 🙂
    • Sometimes you just need to take that break from ‘mummyhood’ in order to connect to your other self. Even if it is a lot of effort, do take the time out to network. When you do make sure you don’t let the mummy-brain take over your personality 🙂
    • Use technology. When you cannot physically go out and network, use the abundance of technology at your disposal. Be careful that you are networking effectively and not just being part of groups which add no value to your goal.

So the above are some of the few things that I have tried and have worked for me during my on-ramping experience. Would love to hear what you all have to say. There are a lot more things in this series to talk about – we’ll see how we go :-).

About the Author – Aparna Kalantri

Aparna has recently moved to Pune. She has studied B.E. (computer science) from Pune University and then moved to Melbourne. There, she completed (with top honours) her Master’s in IT from Swinburne University. After her degree she worked in Melbourne & Sydney in banking domain doing various IT roles. After having spent seven years in Australia, she (along with her husband and a little baby) moved back to India (Pune).

She is in the process of setting up her own ‘Personal Excellence Centre’ for women. She is passionate about self-development activities, and has been involved in many such workshops in her corporate career. She aspires to help women achieve their full potential and live their best life. She too believes in living consciously and freely.

You can follow her on twitter at @aparnakalantri