"This is not the time to be wallflowers and wimps!"
That was the message that keynote speaker Radha R. Basu delivered here yesterday to an audience of close to 1,000 IT women at the opening day of the Professional Women's Summit sponsored by Women in Technology International.
The growth of the Web, together with the recent economic downturn in the US technology and business environment, puts women's skills at a premium, according to Basu. These skills include collaboration, juggling multiple tasks and prioritising, as well as the ability to function well in an atmosphere of uncertainty and to move forward without a lot of information, she said.
"These leadership qualities are absolutely essential in today's technology and business world," Basu explained. "And these are qualities that come naturally to women."
Basu is the winner of the 2000 Leader of the Millennium Award from San Francisco's Women on the Web, which recognised her contributions to increasing the number of women on the Internet. She is also CEO of Support.com, a provider of Web infrastructure software.
Basu shared the lessons she learned during a decades-long career in IT. As one of 17 women out of 2,700 engineering students at the University of Madras in India, she learned that specialisation can make one indispensable. "Become an expert at a few things," she advised. "That will provide an anchor in a difficult economic environment."
She also stressed the need for each woman to take responsibility for her own career, explaining that 20 years at Hewlett-Packard and her experience as a mountain climber taught her never to whine. "You are responsible for your own performance, career, skill sets and results," she said. "When you have problems, pick yourself up, dust off and move on."
Basu advised her audience to focus on four things: innovation in technology, processes and thinking; customer service; increased efficiency; and especially calculated risk-taking. "Decide the few things that are really important," she said. "Focus on those, step up and take risks."