Jeevantika Lingalwar understands the power of mentorship. She started an International Women in Technology group that has grown to thousands of members who can support one another in their careers and in their lives. As an advocate for all women, not just those in tech, she also pioneered “Coffee Chats with Jeevantika,” giving people a chance to talk about themselves and their futures with her for 30 minutes while she listens and provides feedback. Jeevantika also extols and appreciates the mentors and allies she has had in her life, from her mother to mentors in her professional life. We talked to Jeevantika to get her unique perspectives on her Women in Tech group, what is holding women back in the industry, and how she envisions change.

1. How did your International Women in Tech group get started, and why is it important to you and the women who participate in it?

I started the International Women in Tech group in 2018 when I was a student of M.Sc. Cloud Computing in Ireland. There is a big personal reason associated behind starting this group. While studying, I was also doing part-time jobs to earn some side money because I took a huge loan in India for my education in Ireland. A lot of international students do that. While studying and working, I struggled to find a path for my next journey. There were a lot of consulting firms asking for money to guide me career-wise or maybe provide a mentor. Being a student makes you financially unstable to opt for all these services. When I got my first job in Ireland, the CIO of the company became my mentor, and that’s when I realized how important it is to have a mentor in your career growth.

This was the moment I started the International Women in Tech group to help international women come together and become a helping hand for each other. The group welcomes everyone regardless of age, gender, race, and religion. It is very important for me to help women and listen to them because there are not many times you get to share your thoughts, problems, or weaknesses. I wanted to be there to support every woman who needs me and help them in some way. I am not being biased here but we all know the tech industry is still male dominated and that is why we need to focus more on women’s growth and support them more, but that does not mean we totally ignore Gender Equality. After all, in the end, this is our mission

2. What do you think is the greatest challenge that women face in the industry, and what advice do you have to help women overcome that challenge?

There is only one thing that might stop woman to excel or grow that is ‘Lack of Confidence’. Sometimes we don’t believe in ourselves and expect others to believe in us, which is not going to work. Before judging the world, you should be your own decision-maker. You need to look inside and understand your worth and believe that “I CAN DO THIS.” I always tell this to anyone I meet: “Don’t be afraid of failure, be afraid of not trying.”

I keep hearing the words “Impostor Syndrome.” People say this as If this is some disease that they have, but I believe that is not a disease but just a psychological term that we have written in our dictionary. It is all mind games. Once you remove this from your head, you will feel so relaxed and already so confident. Impostor Syndrome is something that you yourself must fight. When you start fighting with your own fears, automatically you will start winning the world. This time won’t come back, so make the most out of it. Don’t waste it by thinking or believing something that you are not. Be bold and be brave

3. Who has been your greatest ally / inspiration, and what qualities do you hope to take from them?

I have said in many interviews that my biggest inspiration is my mother. I learned so much from her. She is a warrior. I have seen her struggle and fight for what is her right. I have seen her win the battle and sometimes lose, but her strong will kept her standing, and that is what I follow today. I tell my mom about every single problem. Even though she is not very educated, she somehow has answers to all.

I have many allies at work and outside work. I want to highlight Mr. John Shaw, who has been my biggest ally, my inspiration, my mentor, and my leader. I learned how to be a good leader from him. I also want to thank Mr. Tibbs Pereira for being such an amazing mentor to me throughout my professional career. I learn something from every single person I meet. There is a big list of people I wanted to highlight, and I want to thank everyone for always supporting me. I also want to thank people who have been negative towards me—because of you all, I got to know how strong I am.

4. What impact do you hope to have on the young women you mentor?

I certainly don’t want to become a celebrity for anyone because I am not. I am simply a human being who is trying to bring the change and be the change. I come from a country where at some places women are not allowed to work or they are forced to get married at an early age. Things are changing fast, but still there is a lot that could be changed, and that is my vision. I want more young girls to start being independent. No matter how rich you are, I believe every girl should be financially independent.

All I want from the women I mentor and everyone else is to be who they are and do what they like. No one needs to force you to do anything that does not make you happy. As I said before, be your own decision maker. Whatever I do, I want to make an impact on young girls and women. I want to be a role model, a helping hand, a support, and a safe place for them to share their problems that I can help them with or guide them to the right path.

5. How did your Coffee Chats with Jeevantika get started, and what do you think is the most valuable part of the chats?

Coffee Chat with Jeevantika started as a medium, a trust circle for people to talk about themselves, their likes, their dislikes. I saw lot of post on LinkedIn that said “Join us today to be a mentor or a mentee,” “You are now added to a waiting list for a mentee,” “Pay $100 and become a mentee,” etc. etc. I thought, “What If people can just click a link and get a mentor?” That’s when Coffee Chat with Jeevantika was invented. It was so simple, easy and free.

I started getting huge responses from people all over the world. It was so overwhelming that I had to take calls during weekdays as well, but I enjoyed them. It was so amazing to meet new people, know them, understand them, and listen to them. Some of the calls were just a coffee chat, some needed support, some were just exploring, and this is what CCJ is all about—a professional casual mentoring chat. The most valuable part of the chats are the people who take time and speak with me. Its amazing to see how wonderful people are and how amazing their dreams are.

6. What other questions should we have asked you? What other messages or info do you want to share above and beyond these questions?

I think the only message I want to give is to organization and Recruiting agencies. I want to quote here “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I took many calls that were about jobs: that their CV is getting rejected, or the job description says an applicant needs 10 years’ experience, etc. If you don’t give an experience, how would you get an experience. Graduates and freshers struggle to get a job. The skills and talent should be valued, and I appreciate a lot of organizations are taking steps to close this gap. We need more progress in this and support for young people to achieve their dreams.