Variety is the spice of life for Rajinder Heir. The Women & Hi Tech Active Emeritus Board member and former Director of Corporate Sponsorships has led a life in STEM that weaves its way through a plethora of sectors and life experiences. Though Heir first joined the board of Women & Hi Tech in 2013, the Indianapolis-based C-suite tech executive has been familiar with the organization since its inception.
“I was on the membership roster several years before joining the Board,” said Heir. “I was struck by the professional breadth of members, as well as the opportunities for networking.”
Once Heir joined the board, she quickly found a home and purpose working to strengthen and grow the partnerships that help drive Women & Hi Tech. While the organization always knew the importance of the sponsorship process, Heir saw a chance to make a difference by revamping the materials used to cultivate sponsor relationships. “I saw a need for promotional materials that would put the organization’s best foot forward,” she said. “The foundation built by others was a good jumping off point. I set out to create a new stakeholder experience to communicate the value of engagement with Women & Hi Tech.”
When asked about her inspiration, Heir said one word comes to mind, “Empathy, “recalling how she felt for a governmental agency relying on IT services she was managing as COO during a data center shutdown. Similarly, “I immediately put myself in the shoes of these businesses and organizations, some of whom may not have heard of us. It was my responsibility to be a brand ambassador for Women & Hi Tech in the Corporate Sponsorships role.” In doing so, Heir utilized her leadership skills and professional relationships to help grow awareness and exposure of the organization resulting in increased corporate sponsorships for the organization.
Though Heir didn’t have specific STEM role models growing up, she found encouragement from her father who shared his early experiences as a new immigrant from India to the United Kingdom. “My dad arrived in the UK with no English language skills and endeavored to advance his family in challenging times. Myself, I didn’t learn English until I was 5, but it quickly became my favorite school subject, even in college. By happenstance, I met with an education and career advisor, who referred me to a technology program that I was accepted into.”
Heir said it didn’t take long for her interest in the tech industry at-large to grow. “I became consumed by writing code. The structure and logic of it resonated with me.” With a Bachelor’s in Computer Technology with Honors, Heir’s career to date has spanned a variety of fields, which include telecoms, insurance, a high tech software start-up, non-profit, consulting, and the government sector. In particular, after a professional stint in government as Chief Operations Officer of a large IT environment with over 7000 users, Heir has found her most recent position at ESI Technology Advisors, a local long-standing veteran-owned leader in IT solutions and consulting.
Heir’s professional leadership experiences also fueled her engagement in the Indianapolis community. Her insights about the local community were particularly enhanced by her experience in the competitive Stanley K. Lacy (SKL) Executive Leadership Series and the FBI Citizens Academy program. “I hold these two paradigm shifting community leadership programs in high regard. Each had an impact on my outlook, especially as it pertains to the local community.” In addition to her commitment to Women & Hi Tech, Heir has served on the board of Girls Inc., as Chair of the Technology Task Force and on the Technology Committee for Park Tudor School.
As a regular mentor to students pursuing STEM, Heir recently had a chance meeting with a young mentee that reinforced the current positioning of Women & Hi Tech. “I was mentoring a male IU student who was close to graduation. I thought about his desired career in tech, and realized that we need to meet men where they are, especially those aspiring middle managers.” “In more than one hiring capacity, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges of gaining a diverse applicant pool for roles, like Network Engineer, for example.”
Women & Hi Tech continues to recognize the critical importance of male allies in the leadership journey for women in STEM. Heir also recognizes and appreciates Women & Hi Tech’s current focus on increasing engagement of male allies in middle and executive management of women in STEM through its OperationALL program. In this regard, the organization has also created an OperationALL Male Allies Award that will have an inaugural presentation at the Leading Light Awards on October 1, 2020.
When asked about her hopes for the future of Women & Hi Tech, Heir said she wants to see men take advantage of the broad array of opportunities to get involved with this organization through volunteer, board, and/or committee positions. “We have an opportunity to shine a spotlight on men who endorse the mission of Women & Hi Tech; those that walk the talk and practice what they preach.” While larger corporations often have internal programs to support such diversity and inclusion efforts, we also need community organizations like Women & Hi Tech to engage and recognize our male allies in small businesses, startups, academic, governmental, and non-profit STEM sectors. Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are important for the benefit of all individuals and businesses in the Indiana STEM community.