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VentureFizz Lead(Her) Series Features Anupama Sharma, VP of Engineering at ALICE

The VentureFizz Lead(H)er series celebrates women leaders in the tech industry. They recently featured our own VP of Engineering Anupama Sharma in this Q&A.

Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

“Class, we have a new student joining us today” describes my childhood in a sentence. Due to the nature of my Dad’s job, we moved almost every year. I lived in different states of India and in Bhutan and loved being in a new city and a new school each year. As a kid, it was very exciting to make new friends and learn new languages. There was a time when I could converse well in seven Indian languages and read and write in five of them. These initial years of travel fuel my passion for traveling and exploring different countries and learning about their culture and people.

Anu Sharma ALICE VP Engineering 1

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I did my Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from my home state of Karnataka, India. During that time, Bangalore (capital of Karnataka) was growing into the technology hub of India. This brought in students from all over the country to study and work here.  I had an enriching experience learning with a diverse group of students.  I came to the US to pursue my master’s degree. I completed my Master of Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).  My first job out of college was as a software engineer developing medical informatics software for US Department of Defense and National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

 I started out as a Java Developer and grew to the roles of Tech Lead, Manager, Director and now, VP of Engineering. I have built high performing, global engineering teams to deliver strategic business outcomes through software innovation. I have always been curious, challenged the status quo, been an eager learner and never shied away from taking on more responsibilities. I love to focus on the big picture and take on end to end ownership of initiatives.  My leaders recognized these strengths in me and gave me opportunities to grow and succeed.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

As the VP of Engineering at ALICE, I lead the global Engineering, DevOps and InfoSec teams. ALICE is entering a new phase of its journey with its recent acquisition by ASG. The vision is to build a unified platform for all hospitality backend operations. This requires partnering with the Product Team to define and prioritize the business outcomes, along with hiring and retaining top engineering talent and focusing on automation.

Anu Sharma ALICE VP Engineering 2

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

When I started out as an individual contributor, I didn’t imagine being in this role. Being an introvert, I thought I was not cut out to be a people leader. But as I took on the role of a technical lead, I started enjoying my interaction with the teams. I thoroughly enjoyed guiding teams, working closely with Product to translate business requirements to technical designs and delivering innovative solutions to our clients. I continue to grow as an individual and as a people & technology leader and cannot imagine any other role that is more gratifying. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Be open to learning, be open to taking on new opportunities and challenge the status quo. Define your core values and ensure that your company’s values align with your own. Network and seek out guides/mentors from different functional areas of the company. Form a holistic view of the company’s goals and determine how you can make an impact. I recently heard a conversation with Indira Nooyi where she mentions that we should start preparing for the next level role – “observe 2 levels above you and see how they act and the maturity they show”.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Ability to lead the teams through change is an important skill.  Change is constant and everyone handles change differently. Guiding teams with openness, clarity, purpose and empathy is very critical for any leader. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

Coaching and mentoring team members is the most rewarding and purposeful part of my work. I am very passionate about 1. building a highly cohesive, engaged and a motivated team and 2. recognizing talent and growing the next generation of leaders.The most challenging are the times when we are unable to retain talent. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

One of my fairly recent accomplishments is building an internship program at one of my previous organizations. I set up a partnership with University of Dallas at Texas (UTD) to build a pipeline of talent into the organization. In the Summer of 2020 when most companies cancelled their internship program, I was able to guide the organization to pivot to a remote internship program. This was a huge success and the organization was able to leverage the interns to deliver some key deliverables. We were able to train the interns on coding best practices, automation and give them an incredible hands-on experience. I advocated to build a two-way partnership with UTD by encouraging the Engineering team to speak at Virtual tech talks hosted by the UT Dallas Computer science Outreach.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I am a member of the DFW-ATW (Dallas Alliance of Technology and Women). Until recently, I was a board member at Bold Idea, a nonprofit education organization which imparts computer science education (STEM) to elementary kids.  I continue to be an ardent supporter and champion to this organization and STEM education for young girls. I have been a mentor to kids teaching them coding through the Bold Idea mentoring program.

Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my family, running and reading (both fiction and nonfiction).

Anu Sharma ALICE VP Engineering 3

How do you manage stress?

Running and meditation help keep me calm.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

I don’t drink coffee, Indian chai is my source of caffeine. 2 cups of chai a day!

Any book or podcast recommendations?  (professional or fun)

I highly recommend Radical Candor by Kim Scott and Dare to Lead by Brené Brown.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Take risks, don’t be afraid of failure – raise your hand to take on new opportunities even if you are new to the functional area. These are great learning experiences. Travel and explore different countries and cultures.

Learn more about the ALICE team & current openings to join us.

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