Parul Saini’s transformation began with a bicycle ride. She was cycling to school in New Delhi, and her scarf became entangled in her bicycle spokes. She was too shy to ask for help, so she stood near a tea stall until a man came toward her and untangled her scarf. He then looked her dead in the eye and said, “You’re stupid because you’re a girl.”
“That was the moment I started noticing this long pattern of being overlooked and underappreciated,” Saini remembers. “That moment made me realize that simply being a woman instantly puts me at a disadvantage because of social norms.”
That moment made Saini realize that she did not want to be relegated to the background or conform to the norm simply because that was what society expected.
Saini, who now serves as head of business and enterprise applications at Uber, has cultivated over two decades of intense tech experience. That included roles at Adobe, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Zuora, and Splunk prior to her arrival at the most well-known name in rideshare technology. The executive is also a member of the Athena Alliance, an organization dedicated to getting more women into the C-suite and creating an environment where women can connect and share their experiences.
Early in her career, Saini set herself apart—literally. While working as a junior engineer at Adobe in India, she continually went so far above and beyond that the organization offered her a senior role in their US business line, an unheard of prospect.
“No one in IT had ever moved to the United States before because IT was seen as a cost center,” she explains. “While the opportunity to explore better job prospects in US was available to software engineers, until this point it was not an option for IT. Given the unprecedented nature of this offer, I had to face many obstacles and constantly prove my worth. But nevertheless, I stood my ground.”
Everything changed for Saini in the States. “Suddenly, people wanted me to voice my opinion in meetings,” the executive remembers. “People wanted to hear what I had to say. That hadn’t been the case in India.”
Saini blossomed in the US with an inner drive that no longer had a ceiling on its potential. And both at Uber and through the Athena Alliance, she is making sure that no one in her circle is ever made to feel how she was earlier in her career. She wants to make sure that women feel confident in the choices they make, and that they know support can come in unexpected ways.
“I always ask people to push to their limits,” Saini shares. “Taking chances is so important. If you don’t see how far you can go, you will continue to stay inside the box you’re in. I’m always challenging my teams to think about what’s next for them.”
The executive is regularly sought out for advice, and Saini is typically mentoring five or six people in her role. She’s ever mindful of women in the space who may be unwittingly holding themselves back, and she’s there to push.
Saini might be an engineer at heart, but she’s a mentor in her soul. While on her own journey to continue to demystify technology and make it more adaptable and integral for everyone, Saini is helping an entire generation of future leaders know their worth, their value, and their potential.