It was 2001 when Rina Sakhuja experienced the first great epiphany of her career. She had just been offered a leadership role by her executive director — who was impressed by her standout problem-solving skills and aspirational mindset. Joy, excitement and shock flooded her mind.
“I haven’t seen many leaders who look like me in these positions,” she remembers thinking.
“I accepted the role with a deep desire to help other women see what I couldn’t at the time: The many opportunities that are available once you look deeper inside yourself,” said Sakhuja.
Fast forward to early 2023: Sakhuja had just joined insurance and employee benefits company MetLife as VP of U.S. Group Digital Servicing Technology when she experienced another great revelation.
“I quickly realized that we at MetLife aren’t just talking about diversity and inclusion,” Sakhuja said. “This is the first time in my career where I’ve looked around a room and been pleased to see such diverse representation at the table.”
MetLife’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is a testament to how much the tech industry has changed since Sakhuja began her career. Even with this evolution, there’s still ample opportunity to elevate women in tech. MetLife’s VP of U.S. group digital servicing technology offered Built In her advice on how leaders can support women in the workplace — and the skills that are essential to building a long career in tech.
What are some common issues that women technologists face?
The biggest thing that comes to mind is imposter syndrome, which I’ve encountered several times. I’ve avoided raising my hand for opportunities because I didn’t think I could do the job. When I began leading a team, I quickly realized women were looking up to me. It was my turn to pass the torch and show each of them what they were capable of.
Liz Wiseman’s book, Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, gave me that gut check I needed and reassured me that it’s okay not to have all the answers. What matters is staying a forever learner and being open to continuous self-improvement.
“It’s okay not to have all the answers. What matters is staying a forever learner and being open to continuous self-improvement.”
There has been a lot of talk recently on future-proofing careers in light of the artificial intelligence revolution. What advice would you give a woman in tech on how to do this effectively?
Be open to change and be a forever learner. We must embrace change and always try to stay ahead of the curve. Having a strong work ethic and committing to your ongoing education is key to staying in the know. Tools like Udemy and Pluralsight can help keep your skills sharp.
Be analytical. As technologists, it’s in our nature to ask questions, and critical thinking will better position you for the long run. I always learn something new by simply raising my hand and asking hard questions.
Be comfortable being uncomfortable. One of my favorite things to do is surround myself with people who know more than me. Being around people who can teach you something is powerful and a great way to build a community. We all have something to share and learn.
Learning new skills has always been a requirement in tech to stay competitive, and the AI revolution is no different.
Do you have any advice for leaders and/or businesses who are looking to improve the ways they can support women in the workplace?
As leaders, we need to be intentional about ensuring there is diverse representation. Diverse representation creates a rich learning environment and is extremely important to providing safe spaces.
Speaking for myself, women sometimes don’t speak up unless they’re asked. By creating a safe space where diverse opinions are intentionally sought out, you’ll find that you’ve created a platform for women to stand on and voice their opinions.
Lastly, lead with empathy. It’s something we practice here, and I promise it will infinitely strengthen your relationships with your teams. Nothing feels better than having a leader who you know has your back when you need it.