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Guiding light

Navigating a tech career with mentors

Mentors helped Anchal Bhalla and Natalia Niziolek take a leap into the tech sector. Now, as mentors themselves, they are encouraging more women to do the same.

For Anchal Bhalla, senior data scientist at Capgemini Dubai, being a mentor means more than just giving advice.

“For a successful career in technology, mentoring is an essential ingredient,” she says. “Otherwise, the complexity of the sector can be overwhelming. It really helps if someone gives you a map to navigate it with.”

Pathway to a career

Anchal’s journey in technology started with a computer science degree at the University of Wollongong in Australia. After graduating, she got her first tech job with IBM, moving from development to pre-sales. In 2021 she joined Capgemini, where she now delivers AI and data science projects for her clients and supports bid teams to prepare proposals.

She is also a community lead at the Women in Data Chapter in Dubai and an ambassador for the Women in Data Science (WiDS-Stanford University) group.

“Joining Capgemini was my first time working at a consultancy,” she explains. “It’s quite a different environment, with a lot to learn. However, the best part is that everyone wants to support me and help me grow.”

Network of support  

Anchal acknowledges how much she has benefited from the advice offered by mentors during her career. “My mentors and managers earlier on in my career taught me hard and soft skills, and also how to navigate the company culture,” she says.

“I also have mentors in Capgemini, for example, my manager who has guided me through the world of consulting. Thankfully, people are really forthcoming here about sharing experiences from other industries and that helps you develop even more.”

For Anchal, these experiences helped to crystalize the importance of mentoring and motivated her to become a mentor herself. “One of my mentors told me once that whenever you receive knowledge or an advantage, you should offer something back to the community. I decided to follow this advice and haven’t looked back.”

Taking the first steps

In Krakow, Poland, iOS developer Natalia Niziolek works with the Capgemini mobile team. “My work falls in between the user and the mobile device itself,” she says. “My job is to make it possible for anyone using a device to be able to do the things the designers have planned.”

Like Anchal, Natalia has also been helping to grow the tech teams of the future by drawing from her own experiences, and by volunteering to mentor others.

“My career in programming began when I was in school,” she says. “It wasn’t an easy start. People said programming wasn’t for someone like me and that I should be studying sports or arts, but I wanted to know how it worked. A friend was a coach on a coding workshop for people who knew nothing about what is involved. I decided to go along.

“The workshops showed me I could code, and my mentors were fantastic. It led me to gain my Master’s in machine learning at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. After graduation, I applied for a job at Capgemini, and that’s how I got here.”

Passing on positivity

“My mentors gave me a positive mindset and the tools to develop my skills,” Natalia says. “I wanted to help others in the same way, and so I began mentoring in the same workshops where I’d started as a student. It has been so rewarding.

“To be a mentee and then become a mentor might seem like a small thing, but to me, it’s almost a rite of passage. I love helping people and it’s incredible to see them come into class, watch them learn, and start their journey to become specialists.

Anchal says that being a mentor also offers practical benefits.

“While it gives me a great sense of satisfaction to make a difference to someone’s life and career, speaking to my mentees exposes me to new ideas and technologies,” she says. “I also get to understand the challenges that others are facing in their regions – so it becomes a brilliant opportunity to learn.”

Anchal is glad to find that more women are contacting her about a tech career. “I get a lot of messages from women, especially university graduates, asking what their next steps should be,” she says. “This is where a mentor can be really helpful. I always advocate finding someone who can help you envisage your goals and find a way to achieve them.”

Natalia adds: “There are still stereotypes about programmers, but if you want to work in tech my advice would be to try it out and make up your own mind. With the right encouragement, anyone can give it a go.”

In summer 2021, Capgemini partnered with Teens in AI on an Accelerator program for young people to learn about AI and data science – and how it can be used to make a positive difference in the world.Over three weeks, 30 enterprising young people aged between 12 and 19 discovered more about how AI can help to improve health and wellbeing, provide better education, reduce inequality, and meet UN Sustainable Development Goals.The Accelerator is set to run again in summer 2022.

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