E30 - Lakshmi Sharma at Fastly

Holly Staff
Lakshmi Sharma

By Holly Staff & Lakshmi Sharma

On today’s episode, we’re joined by our host, Holly Staff and our special guest, Lakshmi Sharma, Chief Product and Chief Strategy Officer at Fastly. During today’s episode, Lakshmi shares the first-ever role she got into in the industry and what inspired her to explore the computer science path during her master's. Lakshmi also shares the part that mentorship has played in her journey and her experience being a mentee and now mentoring herself.

Lakshmi's journey in the tech industry began with a role as an engineer, writing code for GSM technology. It was a starting point she never thought would lead her to where she is today. Her story is as a reminder that career paths are often unpredictable. In Lakshmi's words, "It’s always been a journey, never a destination."

As a child, her dreams revolved around the world of medicine. She aspired to be a doctor, perhaps following in the footsteps of her family's entrepreneurial background. However, life often has a way of taking us in different directions, and for Lakshmi, that change came in the form of a close friend who sparked her interest in computer science. 

The Spark of Inspiration

When taking on her master's, a close friend became a source of inspiration. She convinced her to take the computer science course which she said was fiercely competitive, with only a limited number of spots available. Despite the competition, she took the leap and applied.

Navigating a Challenging Start 

Starting her career in the tech industry was far from easy for Lakshmi. As an immigrant woman of colour, she encountered various forms of discrimination and racism upon her arrival in the USA. These challenges could have easily deterred anyone, but she was determined to rise above them. Her parents taught her to constantly work hard, no matter what and it was this work ethic that became her guiding principle. 

Amidst the adversities she faced, she was fortunate to have a mentor who recognised her potential and was willing to offer guidance. Her mentor understood the struggles she was going through and took it upon himself to advocate for her. He noticed the unfair treatment she was enduring and brought it to the attention of a senior director. By actively listening to her challenges and providing guidance and support, he became a beacon of hope in her journey. This intervention not only saved her from a difficult situation but also pushed her forward.

She uses the mentorship she received and has taken it upon herself to be a mentor herself. For her, contentment is not just about personal achievements or career milestones. Instead, it's deeply rooted in her ability to give back to her community and help others succeed. She has discovered that the true essence of happiness lies in making a positive impact on the lives of others. Through mentorship, she has found a meaningful way to contribute to the success of future generations in the tech world.

Tune in on the 24/10/2023 to hear the full episode!