Maya Hari has made a name for herself as the second woman to head Twitter’s Asia-Pacific operations.
As vice president for APAC, she is responsible for overseeing the social media company’s tech operations, managing its business divisions, and increasingly, dealing with its sociopolitical concerns.
But the India-born engineer, who has worked her way up the tech industry, said reaching that position was all aided by discovering one “superpower” early on in her career.
“While I understood technology and engineering really well, possibly my superpower in retrospect was being able to explain the technology to people who didn’t understand it,” Hari told CNBC Make It.
“I realized I absolutely love technology, and that’s still my first love till date, but I could certainly make the best impact I could being that communicator,” she said.
Hari said that realization went on to become a “cornerstone” of her career, leading her to where she is today.
An engineer by training, she worked for several years in high tech roles in Silicon Valley, before moving to Singapore in 2005 to complete her MBA. Later, she returned to her native India, and spent eight years working in marketing and general management roles at tech companies, before moving back to Singapore to take on a regional remit.
For the last six years she has been at Twitter, holding progressively senior positions.
“Taking that risk at that point of time made me a person that had skills that I was bringing back to this region that were not common,” Hari said of her decision to leave the U.S. and move to Asia.
Indeed, “putting yourself in uncomfortable situations” is vital for providing both career opportunities and important learnings, she said.
That hasn’t come without its challenges. Hari said being a woman in a male-dominated industry has been tough at times, including being asked about her child-rearing plans by a prospective employer in India. But she insisted the situation is improving.
“Today, being a woman in tech is desirable and it opens a lot of doors, at least for a first conversation,” said Hari.
“As an industry, it’s much more meritocratic than most others,” she said. “If you persevere and you hold tight in the early days, when the differences between you and your colleagues are most obvious, I think over time, you add value and people look at you for what you add value for.”
Twitter, for its part, has laid out its goal for women to account for 50% of the company’s global workforce by 2025. Currently, the figure stands at 42%.
Hari, herself a mentor, acknowledged that challenges still exist for women today — particularly in Asia, where traditional societal expectations hang heavy.
However, she shared three pieces of advice for aspiring women.
- Look for a role model
Finding a career role model you respect and admire is motivating; finding one who’s relatable and in your professional circle is even better, said Hari. “You need to visualize someone you consider like yourself only a few years ahead of you. That relatability builds self-belief.”
- Have open conversations
Be honest with your managers and stakeholders about your career aspirations. In the past, Hari said it took her three or four conversations to ask for a promotion. But, over time, she “built the confidence” to have open chats with her manager and ensure they were on the same page.
- Gamify the process
Speaking up can be intimidating, but Hari advised women to make a game of the process. Set small challenges for each meeting or project, for instance, pledge to speak up in every team call. “That process can be very rewarding,” she said.
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