Artech Information Systems CEO Ranjini Poddar put it bluntly:
“There’s a certain perception the (tech) business community still has of women, and being a woman of color is a double whammy.”
Though Poddar hasn’t been impeded on her firm’s climb to the Top 10 in IT staffing companies anywhere in the country, she’s a leader in an industry that she admits is growing faster than it is becoming more diverse.
Since its 1992 founding, Morristown-based Artech has been compiling an internal database of available IT staffers that runs around 10 million strong. The $330 million company is No. 2 in the state in terms of minority-owned tech companies.
In 2014, it was ranked No. 39 on the Women Presidents’ Organization 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies worldwide.
NJBIZ spoke with Poddar at length about what it means to be an Indian-American woman and be among the tech world’s major players.
NJBIZ: Let’s start with the early history: You were 8 years old when your parents immigrated to the U.S. What was your childhood like and how did it influence your business perspective?
Ranjini Poddar: My parents’ motivation for moving was primarily for more opportunities. My family has always been very entrepreneurial and has had been involved in business enterprises.
My father had gotten his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the U.S., actually, but then had returned to India. They decided to immigrate 10 years later. In terms of my upbringing, they really struggled the first couple of years. When he emigrated here, he was highly educated but had to do different, small things to support our family. He started a business importing and distributing products from India, and then eventually China. … He had a home office for the first three or so years, and I would help with filing or minor tasks, even when I was 9 or 10 years old. Later, I started doing invoicing and reports and analyzing his customer base for him.
I saw what it was like to run a business. I was young, but old enough to see the time and effort, the work ethic my parents both had. That really informed my personality and the way I look at work today.
NJBIZ: Did your upbringing also somehow inform your decision to pursue computer science studies?
RP: I did gravitate toward computer science because it was something more practical. When I proceeded to college, I questioned what it was that I wanted to do. But I felt as though I could use that degree for something after graduation.