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Anushree M Bag - Public Sector CIO

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Public Sector CIO | AHA Woman of Impact Nominee | Leading, Innovating, and Transforming Government through technology transformation

Ruhi Ladwa #GirlPowerUnleashed in Conversation with Anushree Bag

Ruhi Ladwa : Hi Anushree, thanks for taking the time to be on the Girl Power Unleashed podcast. To start off, tell us about yourself and your journey so far.

Anushree Bag: Hi Ruhi, I am really excited to be on this podcast. I am an executive director in information technology, and I work for the state of Indiana. I was born and raised in India, and I was always interested in STEM and went on to study electrical engineering. I have two degrees in electrical engineering, and I've done a variety of things in my life and have been in a number of industries such as robotics and ecommerce, energy management, healthcare, nonprofit and, at this time I work in government.

Ruhi Ladwa: What are some of the most interesting things you are working on and how will that create an impact on women in government technology?

Anushree Bag: I love this question, I lead a number of teams, one of them is in the field of governance and compliance and risk management and the other works in the field of business continuity and disaster recovery. All of these activities are to keep our state government safe and compliantwith rules and policies, and to have a plan to manage the risks that our enterprise faces. I also founded an affinity group called Government Women in technology. My goal was to see many, many more women in technology roles at all levels, mostly at the higher levels, you know, because those are the tables where the important decisions are taken. I had the goal of empowering and enabling and elevating capable women in technology. Because I love to create a tribe of high caliber women. I wanted to inspire not only other women but also young girls like you to pursue gainful employment in technology. So that is a really fun group that we have created and its having a lot of impact.

Ruhi Ladwa: What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome and any specific learnings from them?

Anushree Bag: I've always been a minority in the professional field. You know, there were very few girls in my engineering classes, both in my bachelors, which I did in India and also my masters which had been in the United States and as I progressed to the professional roles, there were very few women in the technology roles. And even more as I, you know, started growing through the ranks. It's like a pyramid. There are still very little woman at the lower ranks. They are very, very few and far between, and today I am an executive in information technology at the state of Indiana, and there are, just to give you an example. There are 20 men in comparable roles, but there are just two women. So, as human beings, we have this natural tendency to affinity wise, you know, we are always looking for people who are alike and it becomes harder when you are a minority. It just becomes harder to get your voice heard in the right way.

It's harder to take risks. It's harder to become more creative with problem solving because you know you're more hesitant to try approaches that you have not tried before, and maybe no one has tried before you have this great idea, but you're a little hesitant to try them because you feel like you have less permission to fail, right? Because if your idea doesn't go through then there is not much support as there are not a lot of people like you… But lots of learning. First of all, never take no for an answer. Find people who are like you, they may not be readily available, but they are out there, and you just have to do your due diligence to find them.

There is strength in numbers and if you do not find what you need, take a shot at creating it, such as this group that I founded. I wanted to join a group. There weren't any, so I wanted to start one. And they said, well, 'you can't do this'. I mean, nobody has done this before and I said, 'why not?'. I started this group and 15 months later. We're up to a group of 100. We meet monthly, and we share our stories, and we share, different strategies on how to succeed in the field of information technology and with our work we have, inspired the National Association of State CIO's to start a group at the national level.

We are mentoring girls in technology at high school and college levels. We're inspiring women who have come out of incarceration from Indiana State prisons. We are providing them with technology mentorship. We are also mentoring people who are from the LGBTQ community, youth who are facing homelessness because they've just come out as teenagers and their family is not accepting, so they're in transitional housing and trying to find their next footing.

We are inspiring a lot of them to pursue careers in technology, .

Ruhi Ladwa: What's your secret to success? Are there a few key qualities that helped you attain success?

Anushree Bag: I am sure there are a few qualities I come up with. Let me talk about the top three that come to mind. First thing I would say is confidence, right? I am very confident in my own skin. I've never felt the compulsion to be like anyone else. I am a woman leader, and I don't feel like I need to copy some of the qualities that men lead with.

I just feel comfortable in my style. For example, I have a style of building relationships before getting the work done, and I feel like that's a great strength that I have. I feel like I am comfortable becoming uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to make a hard decision, so that's OK. I am confident, I can speak up because when everyone else is silent on a difficult topic. For example, even a lone voice alone, confident voice can be pretty powerful. So being committed to a cause and being confident about pursuing that commitment is something that leads to success.

And the second thing I would say is courage. There are times when I felt terrified, but I have had to overcome that and force myself to get the courage to get that difficult work done because I think courage is an essential trait of leadership and the boldness of courageous leaders can inspire and energize the organizational and society. I feel like every leader needs to find the courage to use their authentic voice, and that's been a priority for me.

The last one that comes to mind is compassion. I like being empathetic. I like knowing the whole, the 360 degree of an issue before I form an opinion or pursue any kind of solution. I feel women are naturally more empathetic because they deal with their families or kids or aging parents. So, women's expressions of compassion are often manifested in nurturing and bonding. Sometimes that is considered a very soft approach by fields which have more men. But I disagree with that. I would like to go ahead with my way of approaching with compassion, with empathy being kind in approach because I feel compassionate leaders can become instrumental in forging new paths where you know maybe none exist.

Ruhi Ladwa: What would you tell the girls who want to become the next generation of leaders?

Anushree Bag: I'd like to start with the girls like you who are clearly, are budding talents and new generation of leaders that dream big. Don't be afraid to dream big, nothing is out of bounds for you, but also be prepared to put in a lot of work to enable your dream and be disciplined in your approach because you can be interested in a lot of things and try them all. Give it a shot, right? But then choose a few. A handful, maybe two or three things.

Don't try to do a lot of things, all of them at the same time, because you need to find your calling and find what you're really, really good at. I would also say don't chase success. Alternatively, I would say chase happiness. See what makes you happy, what is your passion? If you choose to pursue what makes you really happy and you choose to spend a lot of time and energy on it- success will follow. You don't have to chase success, it'll follow. So, some people say 'let me chase success, so that will make me happy'. That's not the case, I would say find your happiness. Find your passion, chase that and successful follow so and choose a handful of things. For example, Zyla Avant Garde, who just won the spelling bee national Spelling bee, she is also a basketball star. Once you learn the concept of perfection in one field, you can apply it to multiple areas. So, try a few things. Pursue one or two with passion. Learn to put in the work.

Ruhi Ladwa: Do you have any closing thoughts?

Anushree Bag: One closing thought is look beyond just your own self in whatever you do, think what would help a group of people. See how you can make a difference in the lives of others, and that is group that I founded. I told you about the government feminine technology, the model that I have on the tagline - We all rise! So that would be my, parting advice.

Ruhi Ladwa: Well, thank you Anushree for those inspiring words and taking the time to share your thoughts and advice, really appreciate it.

Anushree Bag: I am glad to be on your podcast and thanks for the opportunity. It's really nice meeting you.

Ruhi Ladwa: Nice meeting you too!

Anushree Bag: Take care bye!

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