Overcome Challenges, Interview with Roshni R. Sharma Part 2/2
In the first part of this interview, Roshni talked about her professional journey and the geospatial global mentorship program that she founded five years ago. You can find and read the interview part 1 here
Interview with Roshni R. Sharma Part 2
What challenges have you faced through your career journey as a woman working in the geospatial industry with great leadership skills? And how do you overcome the challenges?
One of the big challenges I have faced and continue to face is how people automatically put me in a box in their minds. I look like really young because of my features but also, I like to dress colourfully, I don’t wear black all the time. If I am going to the conference, I like to wear big earrings and bright lipstick. When you are in a room where people generally wear a blue shirt and a suit, you stand out. But I have tried really hard to embrace that. The way I think about it is that we want to be ourselves and we can’t be what we can’t see. I hope that I feel like I can wear clothes, be girly and look feminine in an industry that historically is quite traditionally older white male dominated that there is a girl looking at me somewhere going “Maybe I can wear my bright shirt tomorrow”. It’s a little thing like that but it means a lot to me. So, I tried to challenge people, unconscious biases about me but also about women and what capable of, and women of colour and what they are capable of. Often, I have been the only brown person in the room. Sometimes I made a real effort to just talk a little bit more than I am comfortable just to feel like I can say something and they notice me.
In the past, I experienced bullying and racism and a lot of quite uncomfortable scenes in some workplaces. I know it was often because I was not looking like the majority: brown skin, young female but also quite active in the industry, and they didn’t like that. I still don’t quite understand how they found it threatening but I understand they did. I just didn’t really fit in there. But in those sorts of situations, I also have realized, sometimes it is better to just gracefully exit, and try not to burn any bridges. There are so many workplaces out there, you may not feel you have options but you do! It’s worth trying to find a workplace culture where you’ll fit.
Another common struggle is that young people are afraid of going up and talking to people. Honestly, I love networking because I see that I can just ask questions. I don’t need to say anything but if I can show curiosity to somebody and ask them about themselves, what they love about their job and what they look forward to in the future of the industry, people talk. It can be just five minutes but it helps a lot. Networking definitely helps you understand who you are working with, in the industry and also helps you identify how you can bring your uniqueness into the industry. Because you have to know what is already in the industry to be able to know how you want to fit in.
Can you tell us more about your “Discomfort Zone” podcast and why you started making this podcast?
“Discomfort Zone” started in Covid times when I was doing a Women in STEM Leadership Program and I am still doing it. I realized it is very powerful that Women in STEM come together and talk about things that either we don’t get a chance to talk about often or that we feel are a bit too blue. I reached out to some of the other women in Homeward Bound which is the Women in STEM Leadership Program and we brained storm some ideas we would like to talk about. So we just got together and talked about them. The podcasts were on pause for a little while because our voyage to Antarctica which is the end of the journey got postponed because of Covid. But recently, we find out that is going to happen in November this year, that’s very exciting.
I have been getting some of the materials for the Discomfort Zone podcast again and we are going to record other episodes in the next month or two. What I love about this podcast is the participatory as anyone can show up in that. I am really hoping that this year and next year I can arrange a podcast that any woman anywhere in the world can be involved in the episode. I just feel that it will be so powerful for us to be able to talk about the issues that we have. And I don’t want to be exclusive, I think there is enough exclusive stuff in the world. And I guess my personal leadership style is really participatory and I want everyone to feel like they have a level playing field and we all can come together and support each other no matter where we are.
Thank you, Roshni, for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!
Thank you for having me!