Succeeding in STEM: Anusha Jalla 

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By Karla Amador

In honor of National STEM day, Engineering Manager of Amazon Robotics Anusha Jalla shares her professional takeaways for succeeding in STEM. Anusha Jalla has demonstrated experience in the Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Technology Services industries. Prior to Amazon, Anusha was the Director of Data Engineering at Health Management Systems, responsible for its cloud and real-time engagement strategy. When not busy with technology, Anusha is on a mission to coach women in tech to rise and lead. She holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and is an Angel Investor. 

How to Be an Effective Leader

Anusha Jalla leads with over 12 years of experience in the Engineering space. She is instrumental in building data products at scale and solving real-world problems through technology, innovation, and automation. At Amazon, Jalla and her team play a vital role in the development of solutions and interfaces to control robotic movements within manufacturing; she gleans insights from autonomy and production data to optimize Amazon’s delivery service. If a leader is “people smart, shows humility, and is hungry” to achieve, Jalla thinks they have what it takes to be an effective leader. Here are a few more takeaways: 

  1. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is greater than Intelligence (IQ): Given that you do your job well, your attitude is far more important than your skill level, seriously.
  2. Your team is greater than Yourself: Put the people you manage first. Make sacrifices for them. Care about them as people. Provide feedback frequently and respectfully – both positive and negative. 
  3. Strategy is greater than Short-term wins: Effective leaders can influence other leaders and influence change in their organizations, and drive meaningful results.

Making STEM Inclusive for Aspiring Women

While there is room for women to continue forging ahead in STEM, Anusha is well-aware of the buy-in necessary from within the organization itself. From unconscious bias training to accountability protocols, Jalla suggests organizations implement these steps to make their workplaces more inclusive.

  1. Train and educate the hiring managers to overcome unconscious bias is a great starting point. 
  2. Lead the way with equitable policies supporting women. E.g. improving parental leave policies, examining the pay practices, 
  3. Providing opportunities for growth 
  4. Elevate leadership capabilities through mentorship programs. 
  5. Ask yourself: Do the approaches we use create opportunities for all women? Does it define a way to measure the impact of policies, procedures over time? 

Never Downsize Your Dreams

For women striving to lead in STEM, Jalla stresses the importance of grabbing “every opportunity to rise, lead, take charge, and create your own unique path.”  

“Early on in my career,” she continues, “I was not the first choice to lead high-visibility projects and I made a conscious decision to raise my hand rather than be a second choice. I had to prepare myself to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. This thought process [helped] me push past my comfort zone, realize my unique potential, and discover challenging opportunities.”

Defining Success on Your Terms

“At the beginning of my career, I did not know what success meant and measured it by the salary, number of projects, and hours I put towards my work,” Jalla explains. “My success definition has been ever-evolving and shifted through the years and has a new description as the pandemic struck in 2020. Today, success is getting to do what I love, embracing the change, realizing that the goal is a moving target, celebrating the journey, acknowledging little wins, and especially celebrating myself in the process.”

Being a woman of color in 2020 has been a unique experience. Between managing a whirlwind of emotions in ever-changing circumstances to being resilient, and putting up a bold face amidst a sea of negativity, I think it is more important than ever to be “awesome” in all aspects of your career as a woman of color; Let’s rise, lead, and grow to find our next challenge and prove our awesomeness.