Smashing Spotlight: Poornima Nagarajan, Developer
Ever wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Poornima Nagarajan, Developer, to talk shop, why she believes creating accessible digital products and experiences is good for business, how a desire to create an app to track recipes and do grocery shopping became her gateway to Android development, why successful developers ask a lot of questions, and what advice she has for young women entering STEM fields.
You’ve recently been a part of a tight knit team here at Smashing working on our ReachNow engagement. In your opinion, what are some key aspects of a successful collaboration as you set out to accomplish great things?
I believe that being honest and trusting my fellow teammates are key aspects of working well together. As a team we strive to clearly communicate expectations and bring up any concerns and risks, which in return helps us achieve our goal. Establishing a collaborative environment around those principles keeps the team moving forward in harmony, and I am certain it results in improved productivity.
You are an advocate for designing and developing accessible digital experiences. Why is accessible – or inclusive – design not just good for the user, but good for our client’s business?
Accessible practices are good for businesses as it widens its reach to a larger pool of potential customers. A report prepared by World Health Organization and The World Bank say that about 15% of the world’s population have some type of disability. The DOJ has reaffirmed its position that The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites too. It is important for digital businesses to be compliant with ADA Title III.
People with disabilities depend on technologies and services to communicate, learn, and work. Everyone has the right to access technology no matter what their physical abilities are. Beyond business goals and the clear legal reasons, it is just the right thing to do. Overall, meeting accessibility requirements is a smart business decision!
Having worked for tech companies in both India and the US, what would you say is the benefit of an international perspective in this industry?
When I worked in India I experienced a completely different environment and work culture. I enjoyed working there and I was a very good team player. What I take with me from that experience is to be flexible and openminded when you’re working in a diverse team.
When it comes to collaborating with teams all over the world, I know firsthand how a team operates when working with a client overseas. It is important to find a way to build trust with a client or a team when you’re not in the same time zone or even continent as them. When you don’t get to look the people you are working for or with in the eyes it requires thought, dedication, and effort.
You are known to be a fast learner and a real problem solver. How do you stay up to speed when it comes to technology?
Being a software developer, it is important to stay up to date with technology. I keep an eye on news relevant to my field and I subscribe to blogs and newsletters so I can keep learning. In the studio all developers and teams meet regularly, and that constant communication also helps me have the finger on the pulse of the tech world.
As an android developer you once set out to write a recipe tracking and shopping app. What was your goal with this project? And do you have any other projects coming up like that?
At the time I was exploring different technologies to reenter the job market after a break. Android was my first choice with its vast opportunities, and I also had enough Java knowledge to back up my choice. I decided that I wanted to get hands-on experience with Android development and was looking for the right idea to move forward with. My friend asked me if I could make an app that would allow the user to store and share recipes. She also suggested that it automatically would update the quantity of the ingredients as the serving size changed.
I have a few ideas for future apps. The idea that sits top of mind, however, is to make an app that allows shoppers to find the best deal for any product they are looking for.
The most recent project you’ve been a part of has been focused on breaking new ground in MaaS (mobility as a service). Big initiatives require a solid strategic partnership for all parties involved. From a developer perspective, what are the key ingredients for building a successful client/agency engagement?
The most important thing is to align on expectations! A client usually hires an agency because they need a fresh perspective and expertise they do not have in-house. This means that we as an agency have a responsibility to clearly explain how we will help. It is important that we take the time to fully understand our client’s challenges, their KPIs and the results that matter to them. Listening and getting this right will build trust and open up for a long-term relationship.
The other important ingredient is to instill proper communication. Most of the time frustrations happen when things are not communicated thoroughly. As a developer it is important to ask as many questions as are needed to understand an issue completely and in return, clearly acknowledge how we can help.
You are a woman in tech, and while it’s exciting to see more women entering STEM fields, women are still underrepresented in tech-heavy roles. What can companies be better at to successfully attract, hire, and keep women in technical roles?
Studies show that there is a clear correlation between women in tech leadership positions and a thriving business that gives higher returns on invested capital and sales. Female employees also bring a substantial amount of emotional intelligence to organizations at all levels. But the tech industry remains baffled when it comes to finding, hiring and retaining women.
There are multiple reasons why women stay away from STEM fields: unequal pay, limited opportunities, gender dominance, biased leadership, etc. It was difficult for me to resume my career after having children, as I took a longer career break. I faced a very unwelcoming professional environment and prejudices before I found this great opportunity at Smashing. I know so many wonderful women who’ve faced the same issue and have switched into different fields.
Companies should address these issues head-on, not on an as-needed basis. Solutions could include offering flexible work schedules and making working offsite an option. I’d encourage companies to generally be open to improvements that would create a more women-friendly environment such as having more women on boards, supporting motherhood, etc. Companies that offer mentorship programs, continuous education and training foster growth and longevity – for both men and women.
Following up on this question, what advice do you have for women just entering this field. Anything you would tell your younger self as you were just getting started?
Get the training needed. Be equipped. Attend tech meet ups and conferences. Get out of your comfort zone, explore, and be sure to have fun.
If your life was a movie, which one would it be, and who would play you?
This is really a cute question. The movie’s title would be The Girl who believed she could. Deepika Padukone would star and there would also be a younger part played by my daughter.
How did we get so lucky that you ended up at Smashing?
As I went through the initial screening, Smashing Ideas’ openness and growth mindset really struck a chord with me. I think it should be everyone’s dream to work on things that matter and make a positive impact on the world. Luck worked on my side too.
What was your last smashing idea?
My most recent idea is to create an app that connects shoppers headed in the same direction, so they can offer a ride, do store pickups for neighbors and deliver it to them and make some money out of it. Something similar to Scoop’s business model, but for a different purpose.