Mar 24, 2022
This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Week (IWW 2022) and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2022 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.
Each year, five inspirational leaders are selected to represent International Women’s Week. They are role models achieving a significant impact on our economy, community and society, and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWW.
Dimple Thomas wants you to embrace the opportunity in uncertainty.
As an Engineering Manager in Ericsson’s Cloud RAN Systems-DevOps, she does just that—with an eye to creating a high-speed, bandwidth and low latency future where Zoom calls might be replaced by life-sized holograms of your loved ones.
Committed to building systems that truly serve everyone, Dimple has also dedicated herself to empowering diverse leaders to succeed in tech as Theme Driver of Diversity and Inclusion at Ericsson.
Dimple shared why she’s never charted her career path, why you should take risks at work, and tech’s potential for transformational good.
Tune in to the podcast or take the time to digest each article found below. Regardless the format, there is stellar content in store for you!
Naomi Haile: I’d love for you to share your origin story with us.
Dimple Thomas: I grew up in Dubai and came to Canada for my bachelor’s degree at McMaster University. I did a co-op term at Ericsson and the rest is history. I love the company and I’ve been working there for the last six years.
Naomi: What was it like coming into such a large organization right after school?
Dimple Thomas: I was blessed with the technical expertise, work culture and friendliness of the experts I got to work with.
I haven’t charted my career in any special way, it has mostly been just me being open to opportunities that come my way. But there was also a conscious effort to stay curious and positive and take risks.
Naomi: In 2019, a 16 kilometer test track opened in Nepean for autonomous vehicle technologies at Area X.O, operated by Invest Ottawa. According to Invest Ottawa, it’s the only facility of its kind. What was it like being a part of that initiative?
Dimple Thomas: I’m super passionate about autonomous vehicles and the different applications of telecommunications and 5G. I visited the site last week—during the pandemic, a lot of our operations were remote.
It is a true four season weather track, which means we can test true winter, whiteout conditions. This enables the ecosystem for a lot of new players in the industry, like small and medium enterprises.
Innovative people across our sector get to come and plug and play with this amazing capability that Ericsson’s 5G network offers them. A lot of these amazing use cases are geared to towards innovation for good.
Naomi: The telecom space has gone through many changes, with customer and communications behaviour evolving from traditional voice to wireless, and the use of more data. Companies need to move quickly to keep up. How has being part of innovation hubs, and these initiatives, opened your view on the future?
Dimple Thomas: Invest Ottawa has enabled us to work across boundaries. We have this perfect mix of academia, research, industry partnerships, and government, in an incubation hub, where we may not have had this ability to co-create before.
This is valuable because it allows us to explore the full possibility of technology. We can see in practice how these products could be used and relate to our customer.
Naomi: How sensitive is this sector to technological and economic changes, and what’s it like to navigate as a leader in this space?
Dimple Thomas: I gravitate towards risk and the unknown. Uncertainty is appealing to me because it’s where you can explore and innovate the most. It shows us how much room we have to create something new.
It has this power to bring us together to fix problems. In the technical sector, and especially with an engineering background, fixing problems is what you love.
Naomi: What opportunities do you see for women in STEM?
Dimple Thomas: In addition to my technical role at Ericsson, I’m also the Theme Driver of Diversity and Inclusion. Demographics are changing. The world has changed. It’s important to have diverse voices and thoughts when it comes to product development and finding solutions to complex problems.
It is critical for us to nurture and grow diverse talent, whether it be technical or non-technical. Diverse talent pipelines are slowly but surely expanding.
What I often tell, especially to girls and women, is to not self select out. Apply, take the chance and when you see a job description, you don’t need to fulfill all of it.
As leaders we must create an inclusive environment where that talent has potential to shine. That comes down to retention. The job market is expanding beyond our imagination.
The only way we can fix and build technology for everyone is if it is created by everyone.
Naomi: As the Theme Driver of D&I initiatives, you facilitate high school and university outreach, as well as working with employee resource groups. What does this work look like?
Dimple Thomas: Ericsson’s employee resource groups center around a group of employees that share similar experiences or challenges, mobilizing them as one voice. These exist at all intersections of diversity.
These groups can work with external partners. In Ottawa, we have a very strong partnership with Carleton University with their women in engineering program. Those of us that are passionate and involved in the diversity and inclusion space tend to know each other. We are trying to make tech more inclusive. Part of that work is with high school groups, other diverse research areas, etc.
Naomi: In 2019, women made up 48% of the workforce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But they made up only 27% of STEM workers. Does that resonate with you or does it seem off?
Dimple Thomas: We’ve moved the needle quite a bit but we’re not there yet. It comes down to some of the previous things I was talking about with there not being enough people applying to job postings, etc.
We are working a lot with our diversity champions and partners to tailor our job descriptions to address the needs of more diverse talent.
Naomi: Can you talk a bit about some of the investments that you’ve made in yourself? What would be helpful for somebody who’s early in their career?
Dimple Thomas: We talk a lot about situational leadership. When you’re at any point of your career, one needs to know themselves. What are your strengths, your areas of development?
Create ecosystems and teams around you to get the best out of them. I’ve always looked at creating very diverse teams so the group succeeds.
What has worked for me is being really open to opportunities. When you get something, put your best foot forward, because that opens up even more opportunities. Taking risks in your career is extremely important, because it helps you grow.
Find what motivates you and gravitate towards it. There is a place for everyone. Take a seat at the table.
Naomi: What do you mean when you talk about taking risks in your career?
Dimple Thomas: I can only talk about my career, but it is about taking on roles and positions that I did not feel I was ready for. I have been blessed to have mentors that helped me understand that it’s about how you grow into a role, not about knowing everything when you take it.
This also applies to taking on projects where the technology is cutting edge and new. You may not have the answers, but that’s what makes it fun as you co-create with your peers and experiment.
You need to fail fast. Failure is okay as long as you learn from it and grow.
Naomi: What developments in the telecommunications industry are you keeping your eye on?
Dimple Thomas: There’s a lot that’s happening in the industry. The area I’m working in has to do with Cloud RAN, which offers cellular telecommunication networks on cloud native architecture and software. This enables us to do incredible things and use the full compute power of cloud based technology.
I’m also looking at Invest Ottawa and Area X.O. The pandemic has shown us the power of connectivity: between people, people to things, machines to machines.
Naomi: What does that mean for customers?
Dimple Thomas: As a customer of a cellular network, you get to experience the power of fully enabled 5G+ networks. Very fast speeds, low latency, and higher bandwidth. Zoom calls that don’t have interruptions or YouTube videos that download faster or a Skype session with your loved ones halfway across the world with no interruptions.
Maybe, into the future, holographic technology where you can actually see your family members right in front of you. There’s also emergency first response, telesurgery. So many use cases that used to sound like science fiction are not that far away.
LinkedIn: Dimple Thomas
An intrapreneur, consultant, and interviewer.
Naomi Haile is curious about people, their paths and what drives them. In 2017, she launched the Power of Why Podcast. Her guests have taken the non-linear path in business, venture capital and other creative professions to share their story. Each episode explores people’s philosophy on life and work.
As we all navigate our lives and careers, Naomi hopes that everyone she connects with – guests and listeners – can shape products, companies, and communities of impact.
Naomi is a consultant at QuakeLab. She is starting graduate school at Columbia University.
In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit www.investottawa.ca/women to learn more!