Data Center Tech Blog

It takes all kinds of people to create innovation and it can happen in any function or area. Nithya Ruff talks to ten women who are making a difference, shaping SanDisk's technology and business culture through innovation.

SanDisk® women and men were at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) this past week. If you are not familiar with this event, GHC has become a premier technical conference and a celebration of women in technology. The week was both inspirational and a great team building time. It gave me a chance to see how this group of women contributes to innovation across SanDisk as a whole.

GHC15 celebrations at the Astros Ballpark

GHC15 celebrations at Astros Ballpark – Ronit Ronen-Karpol, Harini Elayavalli, Kyoko Sasahara, Janet George, Nithya Ruff

It takes all kinds of people to create innovation and it can happen in any function or area. This group of women has come from legal, engineering, support, business operations, strategy, HR, learning and development and have come to the event even as far away as Japan. These women are making a difference, shaping the company, technology and business culture. They are leading innovation.

I took the opportunity to talk to these women about innovation @ SanDisk. Here’s what they had to say, and why they’re #WomenYouNeedtoKnow:

Janet George presenting

Janet George presenting at GHC15

Diversity and Inclusion are the Lynchpin Of Innovation!

Janet George – Chief Data Scientist/Big Data Fellow, Memory Technologies

Let me start with Janet George who was a plenary speaker at GHC. She spoke on the main stage to over 9,000 women and men, inspiring them with her talk on Big Data and diversity. Everywhere we walked at GHC, we had people coming up to Janet to tell her how much they enjoyed her talk.

Data is the lifeblood of businesses and analyzing and creating new insights from data is Janet’s job. As Chief Data Scientist, she is working on breakthrough and disruptive innovation. Whether it’s the development of new core competencies or embracing radical new technologies, skillset and capabilities she’s enabling SanDisk to compete, close gaps, and harness the ability to leapfrog everyone else in the market.

“In my job function, I am implementing breakthrough innovation with building brand new core competencies across the globe in Big Data, data science and machine learning. We are using radically new bleeding edge distributed computing technologies, advanced machine learning, data science/pattern matching and implementing Big Data platform infrastructure from the ground up, with bare metal. Diversity and inclusion is the lynchpin of innovation! The more diverse the team, the more value creation ability for disruptive innovation. We need diversity of intellect, teams, cultures and thought leadership in order to propel breakthrough innovation. It’s our core strength and fuel.

Innovation is Not an End Goal But a Series of Learnings

Priyanka Kamat – Director of Corporate Business Development, SanDisk Strategy
Being in the strategy team, Priyanka’s role is to look ahead and to solve problems that have never been solved before and to create value where value did not exist. “Innovation is central to how we progress as an organization, as a community and as a race. Innovation happens on multiple fronts, be it through transformative business models or simply game changing technologies such as flash memory. It can either be very simple or extremely complex, but it has the ability to create impact. After all, innovation is not an end goal but a series of learnings that help us become better. A diverse and inclusive workforce generates innovation through diversity of thought. For SanDisk, which is a global company addressing a multitude of cultures, lifestyles, customers and geographies, innovation through diverse thought helps us understand our customers better and creates a key competitive advantage.”

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Innovation Is Discovering New Ways Of Doing The Same Thing

Shveta Miglani – Sr. Manager, Learning and Development
Shveta drives Learning and Development across SanDisk. To her, innovation is collaborating with diverse minds to solve a problem. “The most important aspect of innovation is learning through mistakes and successes to discover new ways of doing the same thing. I’m always looking for innovative ways of presenting information and getting commitment from leaders at SanDisk. Innovation comes through both individuals and team efforts. Through our work we are able to support the growth and development of these individuals and develop programs emphasizing the importance of building and growing a team that represents diversity in every way possible; It’s diversity that leads the innovation of processes and products.”

Doing Things Smarter

Harini Elayavalli – Sr. Manager, Firmware Engineer Management
To Harini who is an engineering manager, innovation is “any new ideas that can help me in performing my job more effectively and efficiently. I always try to find things that can be automated instead of the manual way of doing everyday tasks. Doing things smarter and more efficiently is how I contribute in to SanDisk innovation.”

Innovation is About People

Ronit Ronen-Karpol – Head of HR, Israel and EMEA, D&L Leader, PR & Site Deputy
HR at SanDisk plays a pivotal role in creating an environment for innovation. “Innovation is a collaborative process in which people from various fields contribute to the implementation of new ideas. I like this quote from Steve Jobs ‘It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.’ (From a 1998 interview with Fortune). This is accomplished by attracting and keeping the most innovative employees, constantly improving their skills, creating a platform and a culture of innovation. By valuing differences and encouraging different ideas, perspectives and experiences we can ultimately provide better products to our customers, solve problems better and best develop our talents.”

Creating New Experiences

Kyoko Sasahara – Staff Process Engineer, SanDisk Japan
Kyoko works out of the SanDisk Japan office and looks at Innovation from the lens of being in a dynamic location . “Innovation is being agile and responding to change quickly. It is also about creating new experiences for the next generation and breaking from conventional methods.”

Innvoation is in Simple Things that Can Improve Lives

Urvashi Sheth – Sr. Director, SanDisk Global Services
Urvashi and her team support SanDisk customers all over the world. “Innovation is improving human lives across the world. Simple things that make life a little easier, like flash memory in a smart phone that store important information or memories. Innovation is the key for us to keep operational cost down and offer new channels of communication for our very culturally diverse customer base.”

Innovation Through Operation

Maitreyee Mahajani – Sr. Director, Wafer Fabrication Management
SanDisk is a vertically integrated company. From designing memory technology to the end products that use flash to serve consumer, enterprise and data center customers. This makes for a complex and sophisticated business operations structure. “I drive innovation in the operation process, and it’s a fundamental way to contribute to SanDisk’s innovation.   For personal as well as business growth, one needs the ability to identify a problem and then come up with a solution that addresses it. An example from my field is finding more efficient business processes to improve productivity, and innovative strategies to keep the supply chain flexible and agile while keeping cost and cycle time low.”

Innovation is at Every Level

Marilyn Glaubensklee, Sr. Diretor, Sr. Legal Counsel
Even on the legal team, Marilyn is inextricably linked to innovation involving the creation of legal rights that are associated with the very inventions that establish and maintain a company’s strategic and technical lead. “I marvel at how it takes diverse teams from all over the company to create the award winning portfolio of SanDisk innovation”.

Open Innovation

As for me, working in the CTO office, I am passionate about open innovation; about collaboration within as well as outside the company and working with diverse teams across to drive innovative thinking. Open Innovation is about solving real problems and to be customer and market driven in solving problems.

For all of us, GHC was an innovation boost with its technical sessions and the sheer energy of joining so many other women in computing. The enthusiastic and bright faces of young women at the event reminded me of why I got into computing. SanDisk is in a good place for innovation and it is made possible by contributions throughout the entire company and business units, and other amazing women.

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