THE BLOG

Women in Business: Q&A with Devanshi Nikki Garg, COO of Icreon Tech

02/10/2014 12:13 pm ET | Updated Apr 12, 2014

Devanshi is responsible for the overall operations and business development at Icreon Tech. She was the first person on the ground in New York and has played a key role in growing the organization to the team it is today, in acquiring new clients and in building strategic partnerships. Devanshi has extensive experience helping organizations strive in change, from public sector organizations including the Ministry of Health of New Zealand, to non-profits including the New York Road Runners and the Robin Hood Foundation. With experience working at Cap Gemini New Zealand (CGNZ) and being part of the Strategy and Transformation team of Hewlett Packard, Devanshi specializes in the cusp of how technology can be leveraged to enhance and automate business processes of businesses.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I'm a product of movement across different cultures. I spent my earliest years in a discreet town in Iran during the Khomeini rule, and just before the Gulf War broke, we left for the United Kingdom. My parents were young, studying and figuring out their own lives, and amidst their nomadic lifestyle, I quickly learnt to accept the unfamiliar. I built a strong identity to be noticed in spite of being a perpetual "new girl".

That new girl in me knew how to navigate in new environments. She knew how to build new social circles and to get people excited about the new project she'd be working on - whether it was a play production in high school or a start up later in life. I was becoming a leader - as I was able to have people around me identify with my vision, get excited and want to be onboard for the experience.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the COO of Icreon Tech?
I think each of my past experiences has prepared me in some way for the role I play at Icreon Tech today. Founding and running a start up - I learnt the hardest lessons of them all. I developed softer characteristics of being creative, adaptive and most importantly - courageous, which were invaluable especially in the very early, defining stages of our time here in New York.

Experience as a TV Host sharpened my communication skills. Everyday, we have potential clients that have pressing technology issues that aren't being resolved. Half of the battle is effectively getting business and technology to speak the same language. Fortunately, I've gained the skills to become a strong translator.

Experience as a Management Consultant has given me invaluable experience into how business gets done on a global scale. Sure, Icreon Tech is known as an enterprise software developer, but I've always thought of software as a means to business growth. It's easy for some technologists to forget that - but not for me. I believe our clients want to work with us because they realize we're a team that understands that technology is a valuable means to an end. It's business first.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I make time for the things I love such as fitness; I'm an avid runner and on my lazy days, I do yoga. Metaphorically, if work and life are diverging forks on the road, I guess I've decided to drive straight. I've turned my team members into running buddies, and my friends will ask to be invited to Icreon's famous happy hours.

All kidding aside, I don't view the two as mutually exclusive. Work is just another part of 'life', and a very important, fun and rewarding one at that. It makes the decision between the two decidedly simple and often temporary.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Icreon Tech?
A typical day: At 8am, I'm working with one of the largest sports associations on developing 4 mobile apps on multiple platforms. At 11am, I'm on the phone explaining the various enterprise content management systems that we can implement for a Fashion Publication. At 2pm, I'm advising how to rollout custom software we've developed for a CEO's 500+ employee workforce.

These days, being a woman in tech is like a badge of merit. But when I first started with Icreon, I wasn't technical. To go from being an average computer user to now completely overseeing massive software projects in short order was no small accomplishment and involved a lot of hard work.

What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking a career in the technology industry?
Know business. Seriously. It's not enough to just play games on your smartphone or browse the web for hours. In my industry, there's a perception that technology companies are chock-full ofPing-Pong tables, endless amounts of Red Bull, and beanbag couches with USB ports.

Knowing how tech makes businesses more profitable, employees more efficient, and customers more engaged makes all the difference. When you understand the very real dollars and cents that businesses waste because they didn't know how to leverage technology better, you become invaluable.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Let's stop worrying about whether we deserve the positions towards which we aspire and go out and get them. We do. We're capable and accomplished. Getting over this fear of unpreparedness or inadequacy will be the fastest way to start to see parity in industries (like technology) where female representation is woefully underwhelming.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Her book was decidedly refreshing and poignant that focuses on the battles we fight internally as more pressing than those we fight against the world.

I like that her book sheds light on this issue in a different day and age. It highlights the common constraints that women use to hold themselves back in the workplace. While many of her constraints are women specific, I also like that her book is not for women alone.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
There is a story in Indian mythology that explains the mysteries of mentorship. Centuries ago, there was an archery student from humble lineage who was denied tutelage by one of the greatest archers due to his low standing in society. Determined to move forward, the student creates a stone statue of the archer in the forest, and teaches himself the skill.

Fortunately, I've never been rejected in the way that the student was. I've been fortunate to have a number of mentors who have helped me immeasurably both personally and professionally. However, the sentiment of the myth still resonates with me. There is a lot to be gained by surrounding yourself by people you admire and can learn from, just by learning and observing. Mentorship starts with a personal journey of seeking.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Rachael Sterne, the first Chief Digital Officer of New York City.

Not only is Rachel a woman leader, she was the first CDO for NYC, a position that is still missing in some of the largest corporates we work with today.

For so long, there has been the stigma of women having to fight to 'get a seat at the men's table'. Rachael's appointment flies right in the face of that. The fact that she obtained that position of leadership as the inaugural office holder is a subtle, yet important one.

She's a former entrepreneur,a key contributor to the New York tech scene, has a sense of civic responsibility, and is willing to fight an uphill battle against changing the perception around 'government' and 'innovation'.

What are your hopes for the future of Icreon Tech?
The future of Icreon Tech is bright (of course). We've just started an expansion into the West Coast and have already started servicing clients with large software needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because technology innovation has been coming primarily from the coasts in the US, our focus has been to solidify our presence in New York City as the top development firm for SMBs, while looking to replicate the same success westward.

Beyond business success though, Icreon Tech is more than just a team of software developers and process engineers. We've really invested in our company culture - and we've done this by constantly trying to find the right people for the long haul. We have extremely talented teams that come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and personal interests. It's one of the things that I'm most proud of, and our goal will be to ensure that we maintain our unique identity through this heady growth.