Neha Dave, a Director with the Personal Investing business at Fidelity Investments, India, re-joined the workforce five years ago after a career break and since then has not only earned two patents, represented Fidelity at external conferences and participated in hackathons, but also loves to work on new, emerging technologies. Here, she shares some of the most satisfying milestone moments of her career.
Tell us about your career journey.
I still vividly remember the moment when I saw a computer for the first time. My father bought one as my brother was about to begin his Bachelor’s degree program in Computer Science (CS). It was a moment that had a huge impact on me, and I instantly developed an interest in CS. I knew that this was the area in which I wanted to build my career. With this aspiration in mind, I completed a Bachelor’s degree course in CS, followed by a Master’s from Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey.
I began my career working with start-ups, and then in 2003, returned to India to work with Intel in Bangalore. I worked on Linux, C++, and several other server-side management software during that period.
After four years, I took a break to take care of my son. My priority was clear: my child should reach a comfortable age before I take up a full-time job again.
During my break, I kept myself engaged by volunteering with the Association for The Mentally Challenged (AMC), consulting for start-ups, and even taking up some freelance gig assignments at Upwork, a platform for gig workers.
What made you join Fidelity?
About five years ago, I joined Fidelity as a RESUME associate. RESUME is Fidelity’s flagship program that offers women who are on a career break an opportunity to re-enter the workforce.
The program appealed to me since I had been on a continuous break for three years and had worked only sporadically as a consultant with start-ups or as a freelancer after the break period.
This was also a time when I had begun to get comfortable with the idea of re-joining the workforce full-time and began looking out for job opportunities. I already knew about Fidelity through my husband, and so I thought it would be a good starting point for me to re-enter the workforce.
Could you tell us a little about your current role at Fidelity and your journey with the Firm so far?
I began my journey with Fidelity as a Lead – Software Engineering and Scrum Leader. As a Scrum Leader, I was working across teams in the US, India, and China. The mobile Scrum team I was a part of comprised Android and iOS developers, design professionals, and quality experts. Our team was responsible for delivering solutions that would have an impact on Fidelity’s customers.
As someone who is curious by nature, I was fascinated by new, emerging technologies in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and began exploring the space. To my delight, I got an opportunity soon enough to work on a project that involved these technologies. I kept exploring the space and over time moved to the fields of data engineering and data science quite organically, working on different projects for the next three years.
In December last year, I joined the Customer Knowledge and Strategic Insights (CKSI) team for the Personal Investing (PI) business and have been delighted at the opportunity to provide customer insights through data analytics and science.
Tell us about some of the attributes and aspects that define you as a successful leader at Fidelity.
At Fidelity, one of our guiding principles is customer obsession, and I completely subscribe to it. I believe that to succeed in Fidelity, customer obsession needs to be your north star. True to this belief, I am passionate about pitching new ideas that have the potential to have a positive and long-term impact on our customers.
What is the best advice you have received as a professional?
Never give up, be a lifelong learner, and take intelligent risks. These attributes have helped me re-join the workforce after a career break and build a career that I am quite proud of.
Tell us about the attributes you would look for in a person you would want to hire for your team.
For me, trust and empathy are of the utmost importance. Another important aspect that I look for is the ability to bring diverse perspectives to a given problem.
What has been your most memorable moment at Fidelity so far?
I have a few that I could mention. Among the most satisfying moments for me at Fidelity was when I earned two patents in a short period of time since joining the Firm.
Another is, in 2021, when I got an opportunity to present a talk at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration India (GHCI), a conference for women in computing.
I have also taken part in two external hackathon events representing Fidelity, one organized by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM)—the leading trade association of the Indian IT and business process management (BPM) industry—in association with Paytm, an Indian multinational financial technology company specializing in digital payments, e-commerce, and financial services. The other was organized by global management and strategy consulting firm Zinnov. Our ideas were well received, which was most satisfying.
Describe a hurdle that you were proud of crossing.
It was not an easy task getting back to work after a career break. It required a lot of hard work, learning, and grit to carve out an identity for myself over time, something I am definitely proud of achieving.
What is your favorite quote, saying, or song?
The following quote by Sudha Murty, educator, author, and philanthropist, and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, always inspires me:
“Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. Nor are there model answer papers.”