Priyanka Kodikal, Product Designer
Tell us abit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Priyanka. I was born, raised and educated in Mumbai. I grew up around artists, so to pursue a career in the arts was an obvious choice for me. I studied graphic design in college and got my first job at an entertainment startup. I immigrated to the US twelve years ago, six of which I spent designing at a non-profit in Austin, Texas. Before moving to the US, I spent a few years in New Zealand. I currently live in the Bay Area and work as a product designer at WhatsApp.
How and why did you get involved in tech
I got my start at a non-profit in Austin. I was mostly doing print and web design when I was tasked with designing some icons for a mobile app. I didn’t know much about app design, but as I looked through the screens I saw an opportunity to improve the interface. Long story short, I ended up working on the product for two full years — just learning by doing. It was really rewarding to see people use a product I’d helped design. This experience of solving problems through technology and design left me hungry for more product work. But I also realized I had a lot to learn. Eventually, I decided to join a tech company, and so began my journey to silicon valley.
What is your experience being a POC in Tech?
As a WOC in tech, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with people who believe in me. But when I just started out, I experienced imposter syndrome like never before. I was the only woman on the team; I was conscious of my accent and appearance; I didn’t know many women designers whom I could go to for advice. As I started to get comfortable with my new team, I realized this feeling that I didn’t belong was mostly in my mind and it kept me from learning and growing as a designer. Tech or not – we work with people. We all have similarities and differences. Our differences make us unique, and I learned to embrace mine.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to enter tech?
Embrace what makes you unique, and believe that you belong here. Being a POC is an advantage; you add a diverse perspective, which is critical for building products on a global scale. Don’t be shy to ask for help. Make an effort to connect with people you look up to and seek their advice/guidance.
Lastly, when you *make it* in tech, pay it forward. Remember, you can’t be what you cant see. Be seen, and guide those trying to follow in your footsteps.