In celebration of International Women’s Day 2020, we’re proud to highlight one of our own premier women in tech, Sunny Azadeh. As GlobalLogic’s Chief Information Officer, Sunny has over 20 years of IT and business experience—as well as a strong reputation for building innovation and driving change.
What does it mean to be a CIO?
A CIO’s mission is to be a trusted and transparent partner as we help build out business processes and platforms for growth, compliance, and employee delight. My goal is to connect people and processes through technology, identify future opportunities to evolve GlobalLogic’s enterprise architecture, and mentor and develop leaders within my team.
Have you always wanted to work in tech?
I fell in love with computer programming during my very first class at San Jose State University. I enjoyed the challenge of working through logical processes to solve different problems. I saw technology as an art form, so I immediately changed my major to computer science engineering. In fact, I was one of the few females to attend the computer science department at SJSU when it was first established.
What has your journey to CIO been like?
I am what you call an “accidental CIO.” I started my journey as employee #1 in a startup as a software engineer. I then transitioned to a larger company as a software engineer, and during the economic downturn I transferred to IT at the same company—not even knowing what IT meant! During the many years of my career progression, I found that what made me the happiest in my career was the opportunity to innovate and transform, and to see the impact and value it delivered to the business. I exited my second company as CIO (one of the few female CIOs in the Valley at the time), and since then I have had several roles as sitting CIO. I also started up my own software company and two consulting companies.
What has been the most fulfilling part of your career?
The people who mentored and sponsored me in my own career were amazing, which is why building up the next generation of IT leaders is so important to me. I’m proud to say that three of my “mentees” have successful consulting companies, and another three are sitting CIOs themselves. I also helped develop a Directors Group as part of my membership with the Consortium of Information System Executives. This group has successfully helped members navigate the path to CIO for nearly 20 years now. Mentorship and community engagement are most fulfilling for me.
What motivates you to work in tech, and what do you think is the “next big thing?”
I love to build and learn, and I get to do both in my role—from developing people, to developing myself, all the way to developing applications and infrastructure. I believe the next big thing is the intersection of many technologies coming together, powered by connectivity over the 5G network. Connected anything via Artificial Intelligence is also on the horizon. However, I am worried that we lack the privacy, security, and rules of engagement for this next phase in technology.
What do you think needs to change to bring more women into the tech industry?
There is a lot of focus on gender, but I believe the focus should be on diversity, which includes many other aspects. That said, we need to create an opportunity early on in our education system for all students to explore computer sciences, and to empower our youth with choices. I am delighted to see so many efforts in this space today, from Girls who Code to AnnieCannons, a not-for-profit focused on transforming survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence into software engineers and entrepreneurs.
The second stage of getting more women into technology is ensuring equality in pay and career opportunities. There has been some progress made over the past 10 years, and there is a lot more good work to be done in this space. I encourage all leaders to step up and help; it requires a shift in mindset to purposefully build diverse teams.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?
One word: grit. Be passionate and persistent in following your dreams. Ask for help, find mentors and sponsors, ask for what you need, and build the path for both yourself and the next generation to follow. If tech is what you love, then tech is what you can do. Drive a career that is aligned with your passion, map out what you want to do, and be flexible to pivot as needed.