Interview with Ms. Tenzin Bhutia
Ms. Tenzin Bhutia is currently a technical program manager at Aktana, previously having worked at Intel and Narvar. She does program managing and technical projects. I got the opportunity to sit down with the amazing Ms. Bhutia earlier today and interview her upbringing in India and experience as a women in STEM.
Through the interview, I learned about her time growing up to refugee parents in India and her journey through multiple jobs, whether it be business oriented or technical.
"Well, thank you for this opportunity... I love being around younger women who are interested in STEM. It is really something I'm passionate about. "
Q: Could you please introduce yourself? How did you get to where you are today?
A: "I am a technical program manager at Aktana...
My journey has been a little bit interesting. I was born and raised in India, I'm ethnically Tibetan. So my material grandmother and grandfather escaped from Tibet after the Chinese occupation and settled in this really small town up in the Himalayas in Northern India. That is where my siblings and I were raised. So I have an elder sister, an elder brother, and a younger brother. "
Growing up, my parents were extremely kind to make sure there was no distinction between my brothers and my sisters. We were given equal opportunities, whether it be in school, or extracurricular activities.
Q: Did you ever notice the division between males and females interested in STEM? If so, what were your thoughts?
A: "It wasn't so stark during my high school years, and there was decent representation. It wasn't until university that I realized the difference. In my class of 40 students, there were about 8 or 9 girls. In some departments, such as IT, even one or two girls was considered a success."
In addition to being one of the few women in her university class, Ms. Bhutia was also different, culturally. She was the first student, male or female, from an area not in East India to go to her school. With this in consideration she was in an entirely new environment. A quote she gave about feeling alienated:
When I first started university, it wasn’t just my gender but the way I looked. I didn’t know the local language. I felt really alienated. The textbooks were in English, but the local language was used to explain. I learned the local language in 6 months. Because I was born to refugee parents, I was in constant adapting mode…
As we branched out of the questions in the interview, I learned more about her thought processes and her journey of confidence.
Despite there being many people who doubted her technical abilities, she received much support from coworkers, both male and female, that helped her build her confidence throughout the years. In her time working at Intel, she noted that there weren't many women in technical, but many business women in leadership positions that encouraged her.
She also spent a lot of time listening and understanding different perspectives, including those from coworkers. She still keeps in touch with one of her mentors that she used to work on projects with, deeming it a good for her to interact with someone at this level.
One is to know your stuff, the other is to articulate. Be confident! It's okay to make mistakes.
In addition, some of the doubt from people turned into motivation to do better. Even now in Aktana, she regularly attends meetings that only have one or two women. She often brings this up to leadership.
In the midst of this, she also had a couple of things to say about supporting not only women but girls in STEM.
Step One: How do we set up our young girls? Step Two: Why do we see so many women drop out of the workforce, out of classes? This is an area we have to address.
Thank you to Ms. Bhutia for sitting down with me, and you, the reader. I learned so much about being "different" - whether it be gender or culture, and I hope that you did as well. It was genuinely such a pleasant experience. Ms. Bhutia is truly a wonderful woman full of determination and encouragement.