Artificial Intelligence

Women in Tech: 3 Questions for Merlyn Mind Engineering Leader Sandhya Patil

Merlyn Mind
October 30, 2023

How did you know you wanted to go into computer engineering?

When I was in high school, computer engineering was totally new, even more abstract than the Metaverse today. I felt this was the best choice for me to explore something new in college. I joined computer engineering as one of two girls in a class of 30 students.

I like music and the creativity that an artist goes through when composing music. I find building software to be similar, and the creativity of building something new has always fascinated me. In many ways, I feel I have been lucky to get opportunities to work on many challenging software projects spanning across infrastructure, data, applications, and machine learning engineering throughout my career.

What has your experience been like as a woman working in tech?

During final-year campus interviews in India – when I was one of two women in the class – I was not allowed to appear for an interview due to a company’s policy of not hiring women. I remember marching to the principal’s office along with other girls and complaining about this.

Now, being a leader in the U.S., I sometimes still pause and think before expressing myself. I worry about how others might think of me as a leader. Would they call me assertive or aggressive if I said this? People may not be doing this intentionally, but the biases still exist, and it is difficult for them to recognize and accept what they did by calling a woman assertive just because they are not used to seeing women in leadership positions.

Over time, this certainly is getting better. I feel inspired by women leaders like Amy Chang, who was the EVP at Cisco, Stanford Professor Fei Fei Li and her contribution to AI, and my mentor Danielle Pham, Head of Architecture at Verint, who I had the privilege to work closely with. As a woman in tech, I have an obligation to make it better for the girls who are coming to the industry so that they don’t shy away from the fantastic opportunities this industry presents.

How does it make you feel to be where you are in your career?

After many years in the tech industry working as a software engineer and leader, balancing work-life-family, I feel that I caught up with my career. I continued my passion in AI and natural language processing by going back to grad school at Northwestern, completing a master's in AI & data science, in the middle of my career to give me the confidence I needed that I could succeed as a leader. At this point, I feel the opportunities are limitless.