Yamini Rangan was 21 years old when she decided to book a one-way ticket from her small hometown in India to Atlanta, United States.
“I was terrified,” Rangan told Yahoo Finance. “But excited.
“Very early in my life I decided I was just going to get out and be independent, and so I think there was much more excitement than terror.”
But moving from India to the US didn’t come without its challenges, she recalls.
“I came from a super small town in India,” Rangan said. “My parents did everything - two girls, took care of everything, we barely did anything, and then I came to a new country.”
Reality swiftly settled in. “After I paid my first month’s rent, I had $150 in my pocket and I realised, ‘Oh, I guess I need to work.”
Her first job was in a restaurant serving food and drinks in a football stadium, which to her was nothing short of shocking.
“I grew up watching cricket, and then I was watching American football and people were just going crazy – it was a complete cultural immersion.”
But Rangan took everything in her stride.
“I didn’t want to go back to my parents and ask for money every month.
“It taught me a tonne of resilience, and I had to quickly adapt to figuring out how I was going to fit in work, a new job, my next internship – I really learned a few life lessons in terms of believing in yourself.
“There was never giving up, it was always trying to be the best every single day, and forgetting all of the imposter syndrome things that we say.”
A fierce advocate for women in STEM
Rangan is now the chief customer officer at HubSpot after a stint in the C-suite at Workday and DropBox. She describes herself as something of a “rebel” after she chose to pursue a different path to medicine, like her sister.
“My sister became a doctor, so I didn’t want to become a doctor,” she said.
Instead, she’s the ultimate advocate for women in STEM, having completed a Bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering and a Master’s degree in computer engineering.
“When I started engineering back in 1990, there were eight women in a class of say 250 to 300 men,” she said. “The numbers did not stack up at all.”
Though she left her coding days behind to pursue an MBA at Berkeley and eventually land roles in the sales and marketing side of tech companies, she strongly believes in women pursuing STEM roles.
“We make being a doctor, being a lawyer, really interesting and attractive to girls. We need to go back to schools and make STEM exciting,” she said.
And having strong female role models in these jobs already would be an advantage, she said.
“We need people like me who’ve done this, going back to schools and encouraging girls to look broadly, and this needs to continue as women enter the workforce in a tech company.”
And she reminds me that you don’t need a tech degree to work in tech.
“Part of it is that we, as women, tend to put a lot more stringent requirements on ourselves than what is needed – we try to check every single box in order to apply for a job,” she said.
“Employers need to make sure that we are actually inviting people to apply for the job, and that it doesn’t look like you need to tick all the boxes.”
Rangan was recognised as one of the most influential women in business in 2019, but rather than discuss that, she prefers to focus on how she’s influenced peers and colleagues to succeed.
“Honestly it makes me uncomfortable, because I’m not sure why they would name me,” she said.
“I think more than the honour of [most] influential woman in business, where I get a tonne of fulfilment from is when someone that I have influenced gets a big promotion, or lands the job of their dreams, or the business school of their dreams and I've inspired them to do that.
“And they write back and they say hey you helped me do this, you helped me believe in myself, that makes you know all the difference to me, rather than a great title which I'm thankful for.”
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