Madhavi Kotecha has worked for Ocado Technology for almost five years now, progressing from Project Engineer to now Principal Project Manager in Retrieval Robotics. She came for the opportunity to sink her skills into the latest innovations in technology and robotics. But from her first day, she realized it was the people, their comradery and their brilliant minds that made her feel like she truly belonged here.
Tell me something about yourself you think it would surprise others to know?
“I don’t know if it will surprise anyone, but I used to get called quite bossy when I was young. I guess you could say I’ve been preparing for a leadership role my whole life really.
I can also deadlift 82kg! I’m working my way up to eventually get to 100kg.”
How did you get into tech?
“Problem solving has always been my forte. I started out loving the creative and intricate elements of engineering. With the world looking towards autonomous systems, there are so many problems yet to be solved. My passion in technology is seeing a project from concept to realization and the journey in between. The real thrill comes from knowing we can always do better and how technology can be transferred from one area to another to create benefits in a different way.”
What was the moment you knew you’d made the right decision to work at Ocado Technology?
“I went to my first interview expecting the projects to be like my studies, but they were on completely different and brilliantly new technology paths. It was then I knew how much I wanted to work here.
But then I met the people, and everything got 100x better!
The atmosphere was amazing. The way I was accepted and included. I was the only woman who had joined that team at that point. But my opinions, the experiences I brought to the table were so accepted. That’s the moment I knew I had made the right decision, the moment I felt like I belonged.”
How has Ocado Technology supported you in your career development?
“For the last 5 years, I feel my knowledge, my confidence and my journey has been on a parallel road together with Ocado Technology. I am looking forward to a long fruitful career here, and am currently undertaking a Masters degree in Technology Management, to ensure my skills continue to grow as the business does. The people at Ocado Technology are some of the most intelligent, ambitious, and diverse I have ever met. We are challenged to do better, learn fast and keep striving within a supportive environment. Ocado Technology recognizes that if it supports its people, its people will continue to make the business what it is.”
How do you manage a Masters Degree and senior position at Ocado Technology?
“At first, I didn’t know if I would get the support to take on the extra study since I still had to work. But I had a very supportive manager and I spoke to them, and they said go for it. I study part time, and just finished my exam block for my first year, for which I was able to take some time off to complete. It was hard, but there is never a right or easy time to start an undertaking like this. But if you really want to get there, you just have to decide to get on with it really. I’ve learned so much already, and it’s all been directly relatable and transferable to my work at Ocado Technology.”
What advice would you give women in technology interested in leadership?
“We work hard, we come up with great ideas, and we can do great things! So why not show up and lead? In my career I have faced my fair share of challenges as a woman in a leadership role, so I know first-hand it’s not all rosy. But I have noticed how much confidence seeing another woman lead and working with other women gives me. It makes me feel great when I see other women around me doing well, and I want it to spread. A woman in leadership acts as a catalyst for another woman in leadership, so we all need to step up and push forward to act in the roles that we want to be in.”
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
There is not a single piece, if I am honest. As my career progresses, I learn so many things, meet so many people and get so many bits of advice. The truth is we can listen, but I know I have learnt the most from the mistakes I have made, and the great things I have achieved.
So, what are some of your proudest achievements?
“I think that just being in the position I am – and how hard I worked for it is a great achievement. I get to make a difference within Ocado Technology. I’m also super proud of taking on my Masters degree.
I’m also proud of the way I’ve stood up for myself and for others in terms of mentoring them to know their worth and ask for it. In the past at other companies, I’ve discovered I wasn’t being paid an equal wage to others for the same work. I don’t want other women to go through what I went through in terms of fighting for that equality. Ocado Technology has been amazing on that front. They have supported me with mentorship, and equal pay, and as I have worked on my Masters.”
How do you think we can get more women into tech?
“I think everyone has a role to play in this. Firstly, normalizing seeing women in management roles, leading large groups in engineering and technology, because they can! Secondly, to get women to apply for roles, we need to be conscious and eradicate job adverts ‘worded’ to target men. Another element is working with the younger generation to ensure they know the benefits of working in tech and the diversity involved. Lastly, we need to ensure the women that we already have in Tech feel valued in their roles (equal pay, equal opportunities) so they can encourage more women to join, after all, women inspire women.”
Who inspired you?
“I think for me when I joined in my first role, I already had strong women in leadership here at Ocado Technology for me to look up to. Seeing women in these roles, the role I’m in now was very inspiring. And when it comes to other strong women in my life, I can’t go past my mum. She’s played a huge part in my success.
But I’ve had male role models as well. I learn a lot from everyone I talk to here at Ocado Technology, and by watching senior management and my peers. Watching and learning from other people has helped me figure out who and where I want to be.”
The moral of the story…
The first day of work is foundational, setting the tone for your job going forward. For Madhavi, her first day lit a spark that ignited a powerful sense of belonging, allowing her to feel supported as she’s grown through success after success. Madhavi is an amazing example of the possibilities for growth, career development and leadership for all women with Ocado Technology.