As we move into the season of internships, here is an incredibly inspiring story of a woman, Rashmi Char, VP of Engineering at Qualcomm, who started at the company as an intern, and whose work has been instrumental in the development and commercialization of cutting edge software technology that allows our smartphones to work the way they do today. Your ability to use apps at your fingertips like Lyft and Waze, and fast-stream videos, is around today thanks to innovative software that is created at companies like Qualcomm. Rashmi also shared that Qualcomm is gearing up to have over 400 interns this Summer as part of a pay-it-forward strategy to identify diverse new talent.
Julie@Twomentor: What’s a breakthrough in your career you are most proud of?
Rashmi: I began my career at Qualcomm as an intern and over the course of the next several years I worked as an individual contributor and technical lead over several technologies and small projects. While they all have helped shape where I am today, major breakthroughs in my career came when I got out of my comfort zone and took Engineering Software Project Leadership roles. It started with leading the commercialization of the world’s first LTE smartphone, followed by the Technical Software Project Engineer role of a next-generation Modem chipset. Just to give an idea about the scale and complexity of such projects at Qualcomm, a major engineering project is a 2-3 year effort usually involving over 1,000 employees. While the success of the LTE smartphone project was a stepping stone to leadership, the modem project helped hone my leadership skills further and solidified my position as a capable, trustworthy leader in the company. While I was unsure initially, saying “yes” when asked to lead those projects was a great decision and a very gratifying experience that I am immensely proud of.
Twomentor: A mentor is someone who speaks to you and advises, a sponsor is someone who speaks about you and champions you behind closed doors. Have you had a mentor and/or a sponsor in your life. What impact did this have on you?
Rashmi: Beyond hard work and experience, I attribute my achievements to great mentors and sponsors. We can’t see it all or know it all, and so we need someone who can help us navigate difficult circumstances and guide us to be successful. I would not have had the drive, the courage, the ambition, the confidence I possess or the success I have achieved if it were not for the mentors/sponsors in my life who made me realize my potential and helped shape the person I am today.
Mentors and sponsors matter, and having the right mentor or sponsor matters even more. I truly believe that mentor leadership is what helps an organization be successful by empowering, engaging, guiding and encouraging high-potential individuals, both men and women. In my organization, I make a deliberate effort to “pay-it-forward” by mentoring/sponsoring people to maximize their potential and reach their career goals.
Qualcomm’s Women in Science & Engineering (QWISE) group is one of our employee networks focused on promoting personal and professional growth and development of women by facilitating the connections, providing resources, and fostering future generations of female professionals. Through QWISE, we have the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) Mentorship program that is instrumental in promoting personal and professional growth of women at Qualcomm and in the community. It empowers our members to take ownership of their short and long term career goals, fosters higher levels of job engagement and career vision, and creates opportunities for our members to meet other leaders.
Twomentor: There is so much negative talk about Millennials in the workforce. I have Millennial mentors (they mentor me) and visa versa. What are some of the key things you have learned from our younger generation?
Rashmi: Different generations tend to bring different qualities to the workplace. Millennials now form a large portion of the engineering workforce in our industry. Besides the new ideas, fresh perspectives and positive outlook of a younger generation, I’ve found that Millennials’ ability to embrace change in technology is invaluable for my teams.
I attribute this adaptability to growing up in the unique period of the rise of the Internet and whirlwind technology advancement. Another attribute that has influenced me is Millennials’ acceptance of multi-tasking as an expected mode of operation.
The millennials with whom I work constantly are some of the best and brightest and most willing to do what it takes to get something accomplished. They are highly energizing! Working with and mentoring Millennials has encouraged me to take on greater risks and be more open to change.