“Women Leading The Way In Research & Development To Empower Innovation”: Patricia Moore, Donna Matthews, Swagata Ashwani, Raji Venkatesan with Boomi (Video + Transcript)

March 22, 2024

Explore the variety of traditional and non-traditional ways in which women at Boomi have navigated their tech careers, and what transferable skills they’ve brought to their careers at Boomi. Hear about how they have overcome challenges while building their careers in tech.


In this ELEVATE session, Boomi team members Patricia Moore (Solutions Strategist, Boomi Innovation Group), along with her colleagues Swagata Ashwani (Principal Data Scientist), Raji Venkatesan (Senior Engineering Manager), and Donna Matthews (Global SAP Ecosystem Manager), discuss their roles and experiences at Boomi, a company that empowers businesses with intelligent integration and automation.

Panelists talk about their non-traditional paths into tech and their accomplishments at Boomi, and discuss their future aspirations and the future of the tech industry, particularly for women. They emphasize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry and the need for women to be involved in decision-making and leadership positions. Panelists also mention the growing role of AI and the need for ethical considerations and input from non-tech individuals. 


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Patricia Moore ELEVATE quote no matter your career path its always like drinking from the firehose

Transcript of ELEVATE Session:

Patricia Moore: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening depending on what part of the world you’re joining us from. I’m so glad that you’re here for our session. It’s titled Women Leading the Way in Research and Development to Empower Innovation. So the four of us are really excited to talk to you about the traditional and non-traditional ways that we have come into our current roles at Boomi.

For those of you who are not familiar with Boomi, you should know that it is an organization that empowers businesses with intelligent integration and automation. So we have over 20,000 global customers. We have a worldwide network of over 800 partners and organizations turn to us and our award-winning platform so they can connect their applications, data and people to accelerate digital transformation in those organizations.

I’m a solution strategist for the Boomi Innovation Group based out of Richmond, Virginia. We also have Donna Matthews with us. She is our global SAP Ecosystem Manager. Raji Venkatesan is our senior engineering manager and Swagata Ashwani, who is a principal data scientist with us here at Boomi. We’re just going to dive right in. I’m going to ask the first question to Donna. Tell us how you got your start in tech.

Donna Matthews: Wow. Okay. I’ll try to keep it brief because it is very non-traditional. Probably you are the only one, Patricia, who has a more non-traditional path than I do. But I started many years ago in emergency services.

I was a 911 center communications manager, an EMT, an emergency medical dispatcher. And I knew nothing about tech. I couldn’t spell SQL, I didn’t know anything, and I was nominated as the newest supervisor in to be the admin for our brand new computer-aided dispatch system, which was just being implemented. But after two and a half, nearly three years of being in the server room for every single update, every change, and using the system day in and day out to do your job, I got to know it pretty well. And I was very lucky to be headhunted by the software company that built the computer-aided dispatch system.

Patricia Moore: Awesome. Swagata, you want to tell us how you came into your role in tech?

Swagata Ashwani: Yeah, absolutely. Hi, everyone. So grateful to be here with my amazing and talented colleagues. My journey was traditional at the beginning. I did the checklist items that typically an immigrant from India does. I went to undergrad under engineering and computer science, and then I decided I maybe want to pivot and do something a little bit unconventional.

My degree was a mix of engineering and design, and my vision was that I’m going to get into a tech leadership position after I graduate. But during my master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon, and if anyone in the audience is from Carnegie Mellon, they know that machine learning is like the buzzword. Anywhere you go in the campus, everybody talks about machine learning. And back in 2017, it was still like a buzzword even outside of Carnegie Mellon. I was very intrigued by what this is.

And by a fluke, I was forced by a friend of mine to take a class and it was called Introduction to Machine Learning, which absolutely wasn’t an introduction. It was way deep into all these… It was a PhD level course. But while pursuing that course, I was so intrigued and so amazed by technology and especially machine learning that I was like, “Okay, this is what I am supposed to do.” And it was a class I actually audited. It was not even part of my credit, but I then decided that this is what I wanted to do.

Luckily somebody after I graduated trusted me to offer a associate data scientist position at a pharmaceutical company. And that’s when my journey started in 2018. And since then I’ve never looked back and I’m glad to be part of Boomi as a principal data scientist now.

Patricia Moore: Awesome. And we are so lucky to have you. Raji, tell us how you got into tech.

Raji Venkatesan: Sure, Patricia. Taking off on what Swagata said, mine is a very similar story, but a few decades earlier. I grew up in India and my father was a scientist and there was nothing else I would do but study a STEM field. I started off, I studied math and I came to the US. I went to grad school for math. Drexel University where I went to also at that time, math and computer science were part of the same department.

I began taking some computer science courses and then decided to stay a year longer and get a master’s in both math and computer science. When I graduated, I had a five-month-old baby. The world was in the throes of Y2K panic, there was a lot of hiring going on. I chose to select a company that built enterprise software for higher ed universities. And at that time, the only reason I chose it was because they offered flexibility. And that was super important for me with an infant at home.

My first manager, although I started as a programmer analyst, my first manager saw something in me and she made me a tech lead within two to three months, of a very important project. I got a lot of mentorship from her on being a lead, amplifying my voice, forming allies. And I stayed on at the company for two decades and it was a very fluid role where I was a developer in some projects.

I was a tech lead sometimes and I was leading entire initiatives sometimes. I was able to build my technical depth, get some good instincts for development processes, and it wasn’t unknown when the senior VP of engineering would call me in and say, “Hey, this product was sold on the basis of a brochure. We need you to go in and we are lagging in development. We need you to go and do your magic and get it out.” But nobody could really articulate what that magic was.

And that happens to so many of us that play the glue role, that there’s so much going on, but nobody can really say what it is. And then I was able to formalize, bring all of those skills, formalize it in my role as senior engineering manager of API management at Boomi.

Patricia Moore: Wow.

Raji Venkatesan: That’s the whole arc. Yeah.

Patricia Moore: Amazing. My journey to Boomi, much like Donna was not a traditional path. I studied music business for my undergraduate degree. I worked in live music and concerts for the first five years of my career. And while I was doing that, I ran a nonprofit in New York City that worked with New York City public schools and teaching kids business skills so they could turn their art projects into fundraisers to fill the funding gap for arts education.

..Started learning about entrepreneurship and how to grow a business. I ended up working in a nonprofit here in Richmond after business school. When I stopped working in New York, I spent some time abroad in Malaysia. That’s where my mom is from. But ended up going to business school in Austin, Texas. Wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my MBA and at that point that sounds like where I might have pivoted into tech, but it wasn’t.

I went into nonprofit and was the director of a leadership development program and started another business. I had a small business doing tea party catering, which was a different part of my life working in food and beverage. But all of those entrepreneurial experiences led me to teach a class in product management and product innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University. That adjunct professor position in product innovation is ultimately what led me to Boomi. This is my first job in tech, so I have almost 15 years of work experience in other fields.

I’ve been at Boomi now for three years and every day is like drinking from the fire hose. The four of us were talking about this in preparation for this panel today. Whether you start in tech from the beginning or you find your way into tech through non-traditional means, like Donna and myself, no matter your path, it is always like drinking from the fire hose. We’re all sort of in that together. But we do want to talk a little bit about some of our major accomplishments. We all do quite different things at Boomi, so I’m going to toss it back to Raji. Tell us about one of your greatest accomplishments while you’ve been at Boomi.

Raji Venkatesan: I’m an engineering manager and I’m a team lead. I lead an awesome group of engineers, and the engineering team has added significant features to the API DNA of Boomi’s integration platform.

My team has added significant enhancements to monitoring within API management, and I also had the opportunity to lead a team in their final leg of delivering a brand new product for message queuing and streaming the Event Streams product and to add event-driven architecture, provide event-driven architecture for our users. And that brought in different set of skills that I had to exercise as a manager compared to an established product. As I said, a team enabler and an amazing group of engineers at Boomi and getting to exercise all my former skills.

Patricia Moore: Awesome. Yeah, we don’t launch new products often, but Event Streams when it launched just last year has gotten a lot of attention, so that’s super exciting. Swagata, what have you been working on?

Swagata Ashwani: Yeah. I think every day at Boomi, like you said, whether you’re in tech or non-tech or whatever background you’re coming from, but if you’re working in tech, every day is a new learning and that’s been the journey for me, especially with Boomi AI.

We’ve been launching so many features and working on so many things, but I think if I could think of one particular achievement that I’m definitely most proud of is our patent on AI-assisted integration process generation, which we build a feature long back and I was lucky enough to work in a team where we are encouraged to file for patents and do more inventions for the company and outside of it as well.

It not only got approved, it was approved at the beginning without any feedback or any changes required, which is not very common in the software industry. That’s been one of the most proud accomplishment with Boomi.

Patricia Moore: And as it should be. It should be mentioned that Swagata and I actually both sit on the patent committee now. That is new as of just a few months ago. Obviously Swagata can’t vote on her own patents when she proposes them to send through. But that has been a great learning experience just to see the different ideas that come from the different departments at Boomi and sort of work with those folks on those ideas so that they’re ready to send to the US patent and trademark office. Super exciting stuff. Donna, what about you?

Donna Matthews: Well, that’s difficult to follow. I feel like I was just saying, “When I was five, I learned to tie my shoes.” Because nothing really compares, “I have a patent.” Yeah, yeah, that’s wonderful. Swagata, congratulations. It’s phenomenal. I think for me, after being in IT for many years and then going into SAP where I implemented SAP systems globally in every type of greenfield, brownfield, minefield, you name it, those were all great experiences and I just built and learned and learned. And then when I got to one of our global system integrators, I was running the integration capability globally and I heard about Boomi and this new product that they had, and it was a product that allowed you to extract data out of SAP, proprietary database everybody, never been done before, not easily, and not at scale. And I was just like, “Wow, what is this thing?”

And I heard about it about three and a half years ago, and it was at that time very immature, but I was still like, “Oh my God, where was this when I needed it?” It could have changed so many projects.

Luckily a role opened up at Boomi, and guess what? It was the manager of the SAP ecosystem, right where I wanted to be. And it meant that I was able to get my hands around that tool and be able to go out and advocate within Boomi to say, “Look, this is something amazing and different that we have that nobody else has.” And now we are very lucky to have our entire Salesforce mobilized around Boomi for SAP and out there talking to our customers and helping them change their projects.

Patricia Moore: Yeah, SAP is a tough one. That’s BAPI code, right? I’m trying to learn the terms. There’s so many things that we’re involved in at Boomi, but that is definitely something to be proud of. That Boomi for SAP product that we have is unlike anything else out there and something I know the company is super proud of and looking forward to growing as we move forward.

Thinking about the things that I’ve done at Boomi, probably my greatest accomplishment would be a tool called High Five. For those that don’t know, Boomi used to be under the Dell umbrella. And so we carved out from under Dell about two years ago now. And so when that happened, we had to stand up all sorts of departments that we didn’t have at the time because we relied on Dell for those. So HR, IT, finance, those were departments that we didn’t have on our own.

The team that I am on now, the Boomi Innovation Group was formerly called Product Solutions. And so they came to our team and said, “We have some holes we need to temporarily fill in our processes and we would love to use the Boomi systems to do it.” And so for a while, our team was sort of tasked with what we call Boomi on Boomi projects. And so one of the projects I was assigned to, we called High Five, and the idea was that people would be able to give kudos, if you will, to their peers in the workplace. And that would help people sort of remember the projects that they worked on when it came to end of year reviews, which we’re currently doing right now. So reminder to my panelists to look at your high fives that you’ve gotten over the last year.

It was an interesting project for me because I wasn’t just a builder, I was a stakeholder in this project working, I wanted it to work, and I was both the builder and the end user at the same time. And I had plenty of people to sort of ask for feedback as we were building this tool. That was one of the first things that I built, not just at Boomi, but in ever, because this was my first job in tech. That was super exciting to sort of collaborate with other departments to see that come to life and then to see it be in heavy use for the next about a year and a half, I would say.

We just got an enterprise tool to replace what was built. It was always meant to be a stop gap, but I’ll always be proud of that because a lot of times when you build things, you don’t really get to see how customers use them, but for me that was an opportunity for me to not only see how customers use them, but also to use it myself. That was really, really fun. As we’re thinking about the future of our careers, what comes next? What are you all thinking about? Where do you see yourself in five years? What does the future look like? I’m going to toss that to Swagata first.

Swagata Ashwani: This question is very interesting because given how technology is moving at such a fast pace and I, being a technology level from the beginning, the first and foremost thing that I want to continue not just for five years but throughout my life, is to keep honing my skills as a technologist. And changes in technology, learning new skills, what’s happening in the world has always been something that I not just do for work, but also in my spare time. That’s something I always will strive to do. At the same time, I do see myself if I’m not getting too ahead of myself in making an impact at a leadership level, so maybe something as cool as Chief AI officer is something that I would love to do. And apart from that, I also want to play a role in mentoring and encouraging women to take up more roles in technology and be part of such wonderful events and host them.

Patricia Moore: Those are great aspirational goals. And you’re not speaking too soon. I think we all should be thinking about what could we be the chief of, right? No goal is too lofty. I love that. And now that you’ve said it out loud, and three of us are here from the company to sort of hold you accountable to keep striving for that. And if any of us hear that that becomes a role, we now know that’s something that you’re interested in and we can sort of raise up your name. I love that. For anyone who’s watching, if there is a role that you are aspiring to, tell people and keep working towards it because it can happen and for a lot of us, it will happen. So the only way we can do that is speak it into existence. Donna, what are you thinking about in the future?

Donna Matthews: Well, for me, it’s a totally different end of the spectrum. I’m going to be 60 next year, which is very difficult for those words to come out of my mouth, but I say next year, it’s this year, it’s August, it’s upon me, but I don’t see myself stopping. I want to continue and I want to continue to make an impact. I want to continue to make a difference. I still want to aspire to greater things. And I don’t have any concept at the moment of retirement because I think I would go nuts, actually. I think I’ll always do something. And I’m kind of a natural-born mentor, and this is one of the first jobs I’ve had that I’m an individual contributor without a team and I love having a team. I think of maybe doing some business coaching or maybe some inspirational speaking or motivational speaking, that kind of thing when I leave full-time employment.

Patricia Moore: Yes, yes, yes, yes. And this is a good start. You can have this as part of your repertoire portfolio that you can put out as you start your speaking career. We’ll all be-

Donna Matthews: [inaudible]

Patricia Moore … on the lookout for more opportunities that we can pull you into. And I’m holding the audience accountable to that too. Donna wants more speaking invites. Raji, what about you?

Raji Venkatesan: I’m just so inspired listening to Donna as well as Swagata. I want in the next five years to see her dream come true. I want to see my mentees empowered at that time as well. My team. It is such a great question because we have to keep evolving. We don’t stop. Whatever phase, whatever stage we are in our career. And as Donna said. What do I want to do in five years? I’ve always been in a traditional tech role, and with AI accelerating, I have no idea what’s in the future, what kind of careers could open up. I’d love to get into a non-traditional tech role, and that’s what I’m going to keep my eyes open for.

Patricia Moore: Oh, I love that. I love that. We will also keep our eyes open for you for these non-traditional tech roles. I think it’s important for us to think about ourselves as fluid beings. What we do today does not define who we are as people. As somebody who has transitioned between different types of industries. In my career, my job could never really define me because I’m constantly evolving almost like a chameleon. And when I think about five years from now, I mean who knows? I’m always open to new experiences. I think a lot like Donna, I would like to do more speaking. I love doing things like this and passing on knowledge and giving back. I also want to do something AI related, so maybe sort of a combination of Donna and Swagata’s future goals. Working on the patent committee at Boomi has opened my eyes to a lot of things.

Also, I work in the Boomi innovation group, so a lot of my more technical peers are constantly teaching me things about the future of work and the future of workflows and what does that look like and what role does the human play in that. And so I think when I’m looking ahead, I would love to sort of pair what I’m doing now, which is a little bit of translating between business nomenclature and more technical jargon.

Being that liaison between those two worlds and applying that specifically to AI, because I think that there are so many people out there that are scared of artificial intelligence, they don’t understand it, and because they don’t understand it, there’s a fear there, but we can’t be afraid of it because it’s not even coming. It’s here. Instead of being afraid of it, we have to get to know it and understand it and understand how we can work alongside of it, because it’s not here to replace us, it’s here to make us better.

It’s here to help us work faster. I have this vision that we will all have a four day work week, if not a four hour work week, once we get this thing harnessed, and then we can spend more time with people. I would like to sort of gear my career towards helping that happen. And I think the more people that we can get educated around AI, the faster that we can get to that reality. If we’re all working from the same base level of knowledge, then we can all work more quickly. So thinking of-

Donna Matthews: Patricia, sorry just off the back of that. It’s here, right? If any of you are Boomi customers, you can get Boomi AI and you can actually see it working. We now have the ability to just through text tell the system that we want to connect SAP and Salesforce. “Okay, fine here’s how I know how to do that.” It’s just like, “What? Do you know how many years I’ve struggled making those types of things work? And now you’ve just… I’ve typed it and you’ve said, ‘Cool, I got it.”” It’s amazing.

Patricia Moore: And this is just the beginning, right? There’s so much more to come. Sitting on the patent committee, I hear these ideas that right now are just ideas, but I feel like everything’s moving so quickly. Today it’s an idea. But tomorrow, it could be a reality. It could be a reality in the Boomi platform, but anywhere else as well.

As we’re thinking about the future of the tech industry, I’m thinking about how do we get more non-traditional folks in? How do we get them trained up to work alongside AI? Donna, maybe I’ll throw it back to you. What do you envision the future of the tech industry looking like? And maybe even specifically, what do you feel like it looks like for women?

Donna Matthews: I think that it truly is…the world is our oyster when it comes to AI, but we have to be involved and shape it. I think that’s important. We just can’t wait for somebody to go, “It’s ready.” Like you said, it’s here. And so we need to interact and we need to be able to provide feedback and say, “No, that isn’t a good thing.” I totally agree with the idea of guardrails, and some… We’ve got to harness it, right?

We’ve got to make sure that it is used for the greater good a lot more, because we know in the hands of the bad guys, it’s going to, just like everything. When we first got cell phones, if somebody said, “Oh, you’re going to get spam one day.” “We just learned what spam was two minutes ago, and now you’re telling me I’m going to get it on my cell phone?” Right? Of course, it’s just every day to us now, right? Things like that are going to happen, so we need to make sure that we protect ourselves, but that we are involved right now in this very nascent stage where we can really make a difference.

Patricia Moore: Absolutely. I attended a panel in DC recently. It was the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee to the White House. That is a mouthful. But it was really interesting just to hear people from different parts of the tech industry sort of weighing in on what is the guidance that we should be giving government, federal government around artificial intelligence and the future of how we’re thinking about tech and how it influences things like law enforcement.

There was a whole subcommittee on law enforcement. It was really, really interesting. And I think it’s something we all should be thinking about is we can use these tools for good, but just the same people can use them maybe not for good. And what is the role we can play in putting up some guardrails or helping to advocate for policy that will put up guardrails to ensure that this is used in a way that is positive and constructive.

Donna Matthews: And I think this is where we can get non-tech folks involved, right? Because we, as a technology perspective, you look at it in a certain way, but somebody who’s just out there living their life and is on Facebook and does this and does that, and they go, “Well, wait a minute.” Look at it from their perspective. Where they think, one, it’s going to help, and where they think that we should put some stoppers on and say, “No, that should always be an individual.'” And if we get those people from the outside the tech industry giving their input, I think that’s very important.

Patricia Moore: Yeah, super powerful.

Raji Venkatesan: And it’s important for AI to reflect the population that it serves and 50% of the population are women. And with all these non-traditional roles coming up, one doesn’t have to be studying computer science in school to come along. One doesn’t even have to go to universities and get higher education to get involved in some of these non-traditional roles that involve ethics and so many things that are open.

I would envision, I’d hope more women come and are involved with on-the-ground decisions, not just in the leadership positions, but on-the-ground positions.

Patricia Moore: Yes, absolutely. Swagata do you have anything to add?

Swagata Ashwani: Yeah, I think to add on what everybody said is I think this is such a golden period where diversity like DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion has been a serious agenda for so many organizations. And look at us. We didn’t apply for this panel discussion, but we were encouraged from the leadership.

I think leadership is focusing a lot on encouraging women, potential women leaders to rise up to the occasion and take charge. I think the outlook of the society is also changing where women are not just their primary role being caregiving, but they’re also taking equal stake at workforce. I think the future is very bright for women, not just in AI, but in general tech.

Patricia Moore: Absolutely.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi ladies. This was absolutely enthralling. You see the comments on the chat panel, there is a question. Christina asks, “Curious about what enterprise-wide tool replaced what you built?” We can just take this one question and then we’ll wrap. Who wants to answer that? I think this is directed to you, Patricia.

Patricia Moore: Sorry, can you repeat the question?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Christina asks that she’s curious about what enterprise-wide tool replaced what you built?

Patricia Moore: Oh, that’s a good question.

Raji Venkatesan: High Five.

Patricia Moore: It was called Bonusly was the tool that we use. And so it’s pretty easy. It integrates with Slack, but I think a lot of people, myself included, use it from the desktop. It’s B-O-N-U-S-L-Y. I can type it into the chat so people can see. You get allocated a certain number of points at the top of each month and you can give those out to your coworkers and everyone in the company can see the things that you’re giving and talking about. I actually just peruse the Bonusly feed sometimes to see what kind of projects people are working on to see if there’s something that might be helpful to our part of the org, things that we can contribute to and help sort of move forward.

One of the things I really like about it is if I were to give Swagata 10 points, let’s say, for a project that she helped me with, then Donna could come behind me and add five more points to that. Then once you accumulate a certain number of points, you can trade those in for gift cards, but you can also trade them in to give more points. And I do this a lot.

If I run out of points to give each month, I can trade the points I’ve been given to give them to someone else. And you can also use your points to give back to the community. You can use it to donate. I always love when there’s a community giving component, too.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Wow, that’s wonderful. Well, we have to wrap unfortunately. Thank you all, wonderful ladies. I absolutely appreciate the time you’ve taken out to share your insights, your knowledge, and your experience with everybody. Thank you.

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