June 20, 2022

10 traits you need to engineer success as a leader in STEMM

leadership in STEMM

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As a Senior Director of Engineering at Qualcomm, Pratima Pai is a true inspiration to all women thinking about, or already embarking on, a career in STEMM. We look at the ten personality traits that have led to her success and impact as a leader within the field. 

#1 A love of problem-solving

It will come as no surprise that as an engineer, Pratima loves to tackle tricky problems, and it’s an aspect of her current role that provides great satisfaction:

“I enjoy challenges that keep me mentally stimulated. Problem-solving provokes my lateral thinking and energizes me to search for solutions.” 

Through developing creative actions, Pratima says she can add “new value to the business” and provide support for her teams.

“Adversity and problems bring out the best in me. I am motivated to resolve them – and, in turn, help people, teams and organizations succeed.” 

#2 The ability to working well in a team

Part of Pratima’s responsibilities involve leading Qualcomm’s Bristol site, which she “established from the ground up”. She says the small site has a real “sense of family,” and she feels she has “grown with the team.” 

“The sheer joy of working with this team is an integral part of what makes me happy at work every day.” 

In addition to the on-site team, Pratima interacts with many cross-functional teams around the globe. 

“Every day I work with brilliant engineers to conceive innovative system solutions. I interact with an amazing team of program managers, and I partner with engineering managers to bring teams together on project developments. The sheer diversity of experience and interaction keeps me driving in tenth gear.”

#3 A reflective mindset

Living at such a fast pace, Pratima has found she needs to make time to sit down and take stock of her accomplishments – and to keep checking she is on the right track. 

leadership in STEMM

“Hours, days and months can breeze by frequently, and I must take a step back to absorb and feel proud of what I see in the team accomplishments.”

Returning to a reflective exercise she encountered on a business course allows her to identify how in balance her life currently is. Based on a practice by Fernando Flores – a renowned business leader – the process considers the thirteen main areas of our lives and asks us to “come up with actions to maintain their balance.” 

Through these kinds of reflective moments, Pratima has learnt to seek help where needed and be willing to let go of ideas or behaviors that no longer serve her. It also stops her losing a sense of what is truly important:

“Success for me is about being happy with what I have achieved and having no regrets. I always try to enjoy living in the moment, while keeping a focus on the future.”

#4 A love of learning

To stay at the top of her game, Pratima spends a “significant part” of her weekends “reading technical, business, leadership, strategy and management literature.” She is also pursuing a Master’s degree with Warwick Business School. Pratima is always learning, and encourages everyone to do the same:

“Be invested in a lifetime of learning and transform familiarity to knowledge and expertise in relevant domains.”

Another way Pratima seeks to expand her knowledge is through travel, which is a key passion she ensures she makes time for each year. Pratima is grateful that her career has given her the opportunity to live and work abroad.

“I have lived, worked and experienced the cultures in India, Singapore, Canada, the U.S., France, Italy and the UK. I have had a fantastic time travelling and visiting many places in this world.” 

Did you know Qualcomm offers enriching leadership development, coaching and mentoring programs?

Find out more about this and their other employee benefits.

#5 An open and receptive nature

Pratima describes herself as “open and receptive,” which she sees as an essential trait in a good leader. With Pratima, what you see is what you get:

“I am to people what they see me as. Recurrent feedback I get is that my thoughts, my expressions, my actions speak it all.”

She hopes this makes her an “authentic, strong leader” – one who is “a truth-seeker, a guide and a builder.”

#6 Resilience

Another key strength Pratima has found to be a successful leader is being able to “recover quickly and easily from setbacks.” Pratima is happy to own her mistakes and sees them as another opportunity to learn:

“I am not afraid to fail nor am I afraid to accept where I go wrong.”

#7 A strong work ethic

Graduating from NIT Calicut in India with a degree in electronics and communication engineering, Pratima has always aspired to be an engineering leader. She encourages her team to set goals to drive their ambition and provide stability for their career progression. 

Even in her formative years she says she had a “strong work ethic,” which has stayed with her throughout her career – and today she says she “absolutely gives it her all every time.”

Pratima believes that keeping focussed on your goals can lead to great things, because if people know where you are headed, they will help you in the right direction:

“For those who are determined to create and succeed, there are opportunities for them on the horizon. So, keep going!”

#8 An altruistic spirit

Pratima is proud she can “be there for people and help teams and organizations succeed in their ambitions.” 

“I enjoy working with teams from diverse backgrounds, and I like helping people, organizations and the business to become successful.”

Continuing to grow her experience, Pratima’s role has evolved since joining Qualcomm over six years ago. As a systems architect and engineer working with her teams on wireless communications, she says “it’s rewarding to see products the team has worked on in the marketplace.” And, as a true role model and strong leader, she says:

“Success for me as a leader lies in seeing the success of others.” 

#9 Having an empathetic ear

Pratima leads large teams of 250–300 people, spread all around the world, in different time zones and from widely varying cultures. Leading such a diverse group requires constant “energy and commitment” in order to “uplift people.” 

To do this, Pratima strives to be an “empathetic listener” so that she can “understand people’s concerns” and “bridge their different worlds.” 

#10 Adaptable to remote ways of working

While working in a small satellite office has its many benefits, it also brings its own challenges. For Pratima, these include ensuring the site and her team always stay “engaged with HQ.” Without being able to rely on “rich face-to-face interactions,” Pratima seeks out other ways to feel heard within the company. 

“My focus is on speaking through my actions and outcomes. At the same time, I must constantly create new ways to expand my networks.”

Any final tips for success?

Despite all Pratima’s impressive achievements, she says she used to be a “very shy person” who once “had doubts she could build the confidence to get to where I am today.” She wants her story of courage and ambition to encourage other people to: 

“Remain true to your passion, to learn about yourself and your environment – then there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

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About the Author
Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job. Check out the latest job vacancies with Qualcomm