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Anjali Menon, VP Technology with Morgan Stanley, sits down with Rebecca Knight at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
Growing up in India, Anjali didn't need to look very far for female role models in technology. She and her two sisters all had a knack for math and science and ultimately pursued careers related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
A native of Bengaluru, a hub of technology and home to many startups, Anjali remembers learning in first grade to code in Basic, an elementary programming language, and using it to maneuver a digital turtle around a screen. In primary school, she learned other programming languages, such as Pascal and C, and then—as she put it—was on her way.
Anjali earned a BE in Computer Science and Engineering from C.M.R. Institute of Technology in Bengaluru, India, and an MS in Computer Science from the Courant Institute of Mathematics, New York University.
How did your love of technology lead you to Morgan Stanley?
I always had a real aptitude for mathematics and sciences—it's definitely a family trait. I was placed in a mathematics and sciences track in high school. In India, children—girls and boys alike—are often encouraged to enter STEM-related fields, such as engineering, medicine, and computer science, as there's always a need for those types of positions.
I came to New York City for graduate school, and it was there that I heard about Morgan Stanley and its three-month Technology Analyst Program. The program, known as TAP, involved intense, classroom-based training in application development, as well as in our various proprietary technologies. I liked the on-the-job training aspect of it, as well as the rotational structure, so I applied and was accepted to the program in 2011.
I was first placed with Field and Client Technologies in the Wealth Management division and worked primarily as a client-side developer on various reporting dashboards for Branch Managers and Financial Advisors. I later moved on to the capacity-metrics team, where we analyzed server metrics and reported on the health of the sector's infrastructure.
Now, after seven years, I'm an IT systems owner in Capital Markets, and I oversee development of the equities and options order-entry applications, as well as the syndicates validation engine. They're systems that our Financial Advisors use to validate and process stock-order placements, and they are essential to Morgan Stanley's trading operations.
Over the course of your career, have you noticed a sea change for female technologists? Do you see more women entering the field and rising to leadership positions?
Over the past few years at Morgan Stanley, I've seen the gender gap in technology narrow. We're very fortunate to see more and more women applying, and being hired, to TAP.
Representation is so important to young women in school and university. It's our responsibility as women technologists to be the change we wish to see in the world, so we need to actively reach out to these women and present ourselves as role models to develop a consistent pipeline through events like the firm's Women in Technology panels, internship opportunities, and our Girls Who Code summer immersion program, to name a few.
You're an active participant in the firm's annual delegation to the Grace Hopper Celebration, an international gathering of female technologists. What do you enjoy most about the event?
Without question, I enjoy being around so many other talented female technologists and seeing what they're working on in terms of research, either as academics or professionals in private companies. When I was in graduate school, men always outnumbered women, generally 60/40. So when you're at a conference surrounded by other women with similar backgrounds, interests, struggles and achievements, it's simultaneously comforting and inspiring.
As an experienced member of the firm's delegation, I'll be doing a lot of formal and informal interviews with students who approach our booth at the conference. With 20,000 people scheduled to attend, we anticipate a lot of foot traffic. When I chat with students, I talk to them about their specific interests in technology. Seeing what candidates are interested in and what they can bring to the firm is always exciting.
What do you say to students who are interested in entering STEM fields?
It's so important to know yourself as a person, in terms of your preferences and the environment where you'll be happiest. Develop a strong background in computer science, and remember that first impressions are often based on how you present on paper, so make sure all of your key accomplishments are reflected on your resume. Also, keep an eye out for important opportunities, from information sessions to internships—anything that can lead to someone or something that can open a door.
Asking questions is also a big part of any job, so don't be afraid to speak up, especially if you're a woman. In addition, advocating for yourself is a big part of advancing and, ultimately, getting to where you want to go. It's always wonderful to have colleagues who will speak up for you, but a fundamental skill is learning to speak up for yourself, highlighting your own accomplishments and showing what you've personally brought to a team effort.
What are some of your favorite things about working in tech? What's been the most fun for you?
Technology evolves constantly—it's a vast engine that powers our business. Morgan Stanley computer scientists, in essence, build and curate that engine. Personally, I love the diversity of frameworks, languages, and platforms available to do so. As a result, there's never just one cookie-cutter method of solving a problem, and it's the process of deciding among the myriad of possible solutions that I find the most challenging and, subsequently, most fulfilling.