This is what “leaning in” looks like at Broadcom: An event of more than 150 people listen as an elite panel address the incredible dearth of women in engineering and in leadership positions across the country.
These women — some managers, some mothers, some inventors, all engineers — collectively hold nearly a dozen advanced degrees and more than 100 patents. Many have done foundational work in the communications technologies that are used by millions of people around the world each day, such as in-home broadband connectivity, touch controllers, GPS, set-top boxes and more.
The event, held this week in Silicon Valley, was part of Broadcom’s initial effort to “lean in” – a term that’s been popularized by a book of the same name, written by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. The premise within the book is simple: women should not hold back in the workplace. They should ask for what they deserve. They should be ambitious and fearless. They should pursue positions of power.
Around the world, the book has become an inspiration to professional women, encouraging them to meet and discuss the issues they face and the obstacles they encounter as they strive to move forward in their careers. At Broadcom, support of the movement has the goal of finding ways to increase parity in the number of women engineers. Consider that in a room of 100 engineers and scientists, only a little more than a quarter of them will be women, according to 2010 data from the National Science Foundation.
Some of the best discussions at this week’s event addressed work-a-day topics, such as how to achieve that elusive work/life balance, how to find a mentor, how to be a self-advocate in the workplace and how to develop a leadership style. Striking the right balance between work and play (not just family) also was a biggie – and each of the panelists admitted to having struggled with it to some degree.
“I can be a mother and I can be a high-powered person at work,” said Carolyn Walker, senior director of IC engineering in Broadcom’s Broadband Communication Group. “But there were a lot of days that I felt I was a bad mother, a bad manager, a bad wife.”
When her kids were young, Walker put all of her kids’ events on her work calendar, blending the two worlds to make time for both.
“I made it a priority that I was going to spend time with my kids,” she said, but also emphasized that it was an effort for her husband, as well. “We both have made concessions for our family. There is more to life than work.”
Monika Gupta, senior director of product marketing in the Mobile & Wireless Group at Broadcom, and Maryam Rofougaran, senior vice president of engineering in the Mobile & Wireless Group, both spoke about being self-advocates of their accomplishments and taking active roles in career development.
“Assertiveness and self-advocacy are essential for your career management,” Rofougaran told the audience. “But assertiveness is different from blind aggressiveness. And self-advocacy is different from self-congratulation. You need to proactively highlight your achievements and accomplishments and show why you deserve to get to the next step.”
Gupta, who has been at Broadcom for 13 years, said that being vocal is key.
“If you don’t have enough confidence to ask for the next job, how will your manager have enough confidence in you to know you can do it?” she said.
Niki Pantelias, associate technical director in the Broadband Communications Group at Broadcom, said that self-advocacy doesn’t have to be a formal process, but rather one that accumulates over time.
“I have learned the hard way that this advocacy is an ongoing process,” she said. “Don’t wait until you are in the same position for five years. Speak up, in little ways, on a regular basis.”
The women on the panel also put forth the (perhaps radical?) idea that ambition doesn’t necessarily need to have an end-goal. They supported the idea that one’s career doesn’t march forward in a consistent, upward climb and encouraged the idea that a career be more of a meandering path.
That non-linear career path is what pushed Walker into management, even when she was reluctant to leave the technical side as a design engineer. She advocates that sometimes women engineers might need a little push—or the opportunity to lean—in the direction of management.
“I think a lot of women are natural leaders,” she said.
Pantelias said it took a six-year detour as a bicycle messenger before she returned to MIT to finish her degree and headed into an engineering career.
“I had this belief that in order to be ambitious, I had to have all the answers ahead of time,” Pantelias said. “But I learned that an ambition is, by definition, something that I don’t already know how to do. It’s better to be alert for opportunities, not be afraid to learn as you go, and be willing to have it turn out different than what you expected.”
Maryam Rofougaran, Sr. VP, Engineering, Mobile & Wireless Group, is responsible for the development of all wireless radio products. She manages teams of engineers across the world. She was a pioneer in the design of a single-chip 900MHz CMOS transceiver. In 1999, she and her brother Reza Rofougaran co-founded Innovent Systems, a fabless wireless semiconductor company that developed Bluetooth technology. Innovent was acquired by Broadcom in 2000. She has more than 100 patents in the areas of wireless systems and IC design and is co-author of a range of conference and journal papers. She received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. She was born in Iran and traveled to the U.S. to pursue her education.
Carolyn Walker, Sr. Director of IC Engineering, Broadband Communications Group, leads a team responsible for set-top box security design and development and transport architecture and also contributes to set-top box video post processing and encoder development. During her 15 year tenure with Broadcom, she has been a driving force on a range of initiatives in set-top box (STB) security, export compliance and policy development and is credited with starting the company’s technology design center in San Diego, Calif. Her experience spans more than 30 years of innovation in VLSI design from her early start as a VLSI design engineer at Intel and TRW to design team and project leadership at General Instrument. At General Instrument, her design team was responsible for the development of MPEG2 silicon (video, audio and security). She holds four patents on set-top box design and security. She received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Louisiana State University.
Monika Gupta, Sr. Director, Marketing, Mobile & Wireless Group, leads marketing, business development, applications engineering and program management for the company’s Touch product portfolio. She has more than 17 years of semiconductor engineering and marketing experience in various technology segments including carrier class and consumer VoIP, optical networking, wireless LAN, Touch controllers, GPS and sensor technologies. She joined Broadcom in 2000 through the acquisition of Silicon Spice. She started her career at Texas Instruments in technical sales with focus on DSP and VoIP. She received a B.Sc. in Physics from McMaster University, Canada.
Niki Pantelias, Assoc. Technical Director, Broadband Communications Group, is a major contributor to multiple cable data standards. She has worked closely with Broadcom’s product teams and industry organizations such as CableLabs to create specifications including DOCSIS® 3.0 and Modular Headend Architecture (MHA) and was the lead architect for the C-DOCSIS standard.She also played a major role in the architecture, definition and development of many of Broadcom’s Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) MAC and PHY products, which are used by cable operators to provide home Internet to consumers. Prior to joining Broadcom in 2000, she held positions at Elastic Networks and Healthdyne Technologies Inc. She has more than 25 U.S. and international patents, as well as a number of pending patents. Her patents range from discrete chipsets for CMTS products to the overarching structure of cable data access networks. She is an active member of the IEEE and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and has authored or co-authored and presented papers at key industry events including SCTE Cable-Tec Expo and at the International Convergence and Transmission Conference in China. She received a B.S. in Electrical Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.