Erasing stereotypes, finding your passion and public speaking - Q&A with Jinali Patel

 

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Jinali Patel, R&D Manager at MPC Film, joined us at this year’s Women of Silicon Roundabout conference. We talked to her about some of the biggest challenges she’s faced in her career, why we need more women in the tech sector and what motivates her to succeed. 

Tell us about what you do; are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you would like to share with our readers?

I am the R&D Manager here in London for MPC Film, a Technicolor company. The department I oversee is the enabler/provider of some of the slickest visual effects software tools used by our artists, who create Oscar-winning shots. The R&D department is comprised of software developers, engineers, leads, architects and project managers. The function I am heavily invested in is project delivery and the way in which technical projects are delivered, following agile frameworks as well as people and stakeholder management.

At present, the London R&D department is primarily focused on developing/enhancing software tools for the remake of the Disney movie The Lion King, set to be released in 2019. It is the R&D department’s job to ensure that the tools the artists use are on point. I can’t reveal any more on the work we are doing on the movie, but it’s incredibly exciting – Check it out July 19th 2019!

What do you enjoy the most about your current role?

Each day for me is completely different. Overall I enjoy the fact that I wake up and there is a new challenge waiting for me each day with new knowledge to be gained from it. I am big on knowledge, and learning should never stop, so this motivates me in any role I do.

At MPC Film I am surrounded by passionate people every day, which I love. Everyone that works at MPC Film loves what they do, creating visual effects for some of the biggest blockbusters out there.

You don’t just fall into this field, you’ve got to love the merge of art and technology to a level where you eat, breath, and sleep movies. This is present in the atmosphere within the office, locally and globally, a positive atmosphere, which creates healthy dynamics in the workplace which overall, makes it enjoyable on a day to day basis.  

I enjoy the stakeholder management aspect of my role. Being part of a journey where the actual creative vision is viewed on the big screen by millions is very fulfilling. I engage with my stakeholders (internal & external) via various channels across the globe, discussing new and exciting innovations that my department is requested to develop.

What motivates you to achieve great things in your work? 

Without making it sound like the typical motivational quote, it’s probably the fact that I never imagined I would get this far in my career, which motivates me to push myself further and surprise myself. Lesson learnt: dream big!

Never stop learning, if you read something, explore it, then have a go at applying it. If it fails it fails, learn from it and start again.  

Which aspect of, or period of time in your career do you believe has been the most valuable in terms of learning, and developing?

My early career period at Dell shaped my career and provided me with the foundations I have today. Prior to my experience at Dell, I had the opportunity of finding out what I didn’t like doing (Building PC’s/Networking) and what I wanted to do more of (Consulting/Project Management). 

I landed a role at Dell as an Implementation Consultant, working on behalf of BT Global services deploying healthcare systems within NHS trusts across the UK. This role was really the making of my career; I developed so many new skills such as stakeholder management, consulting, team management, and project management. 

After a successful stint as an Implementation Consultant at Dell, I was promoted to a Clinical Applications & Testing Manager. Here is where the people and project management journey of my career began. I had the opportunity to work alongside senior stakeholders at BT & HSCIC as well as managing a team of Implementation Consultants on a day to day basis. Operationally this role exposed me to the commercial side of the business which was a really interesting learning curve for me.

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You have been involved in public speaking in the form of giving talks – what was this experience like?

At first it was daunting. I think my close family members would agree that I am not really one for public speaking, growing up I was always the shy kid. However now it feels natural and flowing. The key is to speak about a topic close to your heart, embed into your mind that you are sharing your experiences and views, and for some this is new information and a key take away for their development. So whatever you speak about, do it with confidence, believe in it and others will believe in it too.

What do you see as your role in promoting gender diversity in your area of work? 

Tech is not just for boys. We hear this phrase more often these days. Back when I was studying my A ‘level’s, I was the only girl in my ICT class, and in university I was one of a handful of girls who were studying Computer Science related modules. Times have changed since then, and the recent A Level results indicated that more girls are taking STEM related subjects at both school and university- which is fantastic to see. 

Buzz words such as technology, or digital or IT, are very broad. These types of roles range from technical (engineers/developers) through to non-technical (project management/product owners) and there are a plethora of opportunities available within tech across all industries.

I am always continuously looking for ways to promote gender diversity within the tech industry, especially with my background of working within different industries- tech is everywhere! I hope I can influence young females thinking of a career in tech and removing traditional stereotypes.  

There are many working groups that are now actively being set up within workplaces and externally, being part of these enables me to reach out to mass groups. I find meet-ups are great as well; you never know when you are unlocking someone’s potential by just simply networking and talking to them.  

Why are women so crucial to the continued growth of the wider tech industry? 

Women make up the highest percentage of end users when it comes to technology/digital platforms, according to recent studies. So why not encourage more women to work in tech? 

When women are unleashed into the tech world, new ways of living, of seeing the world and of doing business reveal themselves. It’s all about empowering women, which needs to be supported by both sexes and it doesn’t have to just start in the workplace. There needs to be organized and continued efforts, from schools, to universities and workplaces, to encourage more and more women in technology careers.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in tech? Is there anything you wish you knew?

Do not be afraid to test out the waters early in your career, it took me a good 2-3 years after graduating in establishing what my strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes were (I’m still evolving).

I had an encounter at the recent Women of the Silicon Roundabout conference, where a young female graduate walked pass our MPC Film booth in the event space and asked me, “Wow, you guys do some really cool stuff, how can I get into this industry? I do not have a background in VFX”.

I get questioned all the time “How did you end up in the VFX industry with a background in computer science, and do you need to be technical to even be considered? Are you an artist?” The answer is no!

All you need is a ‘can do’ attitude, and a thirst to achieve beyond your own expectations. 

Did you have any role models growing up? How were they important to you in your career? 

They say surround yourself with like-minded people. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by those whom also have a passion for their careers and reach for the stars. Most of them are within my family and friends circle, so there is always someone I look up to for guidance in different aspects of my life.

Closer to home, my brother has been my role model growing up. We are completely different people character-wise, however we share similar career paths. He has always been my go-to person when it comes to my career, from calling random decision making meetings to helping me shape my CV, to listening to my work stories at the dinner table. He has achieved a lot in his career as well and has always been the one that sets examples for me to follow, which I am grateful for.