Ranjeeta Pillai is Continental’s Open Source Compliance Officer.
How I explain my job at a dinner party.
My job is to make sure Continental’s free source code software complies with all open source licenses. We focus on copyrights and how they have to be connected to their software architecture, and ultimately ensure Continental’s software is proprietary and remains proprietary. Our software is used to build the car dashboard display features many of us are familiar with, like audio, GPS navigation, phone, settings, and the clock.
Why I chose to accept a job that didn’t exist at the time.
I’m an engineer by education. I started in software engineering and gradually came to this field because there was a need, so I was the very first and currently only person to have this role at the company. Open source compliance is a very niche skill and it started in the last 10-15 years.
When the gap was identified, nobody wanted to take it up. It didn’t look interesting. But I said, okay, this is a new area to learn. I was skeptical, but I knew I was going to give it my best shot. It’s something I had to learn by going through the process. There aren’t really any books or anything and nobody was doing it before. I’ve had to learn a lot of legalities and that’s what I find very interesting – the fact that I learn something new every day.
On the challenges of recruiting a team to a brand-new area of expertise.
There’s much greater awareness of open source licenses now, but knowledge of what needs to be done is still largely unknown. I’d say 95 percent of my team were hired because of their openness to learn something new. They had no knowledge of how to bridge between the legal and engineering world, so I’ve had to teach them and ramp them up. It is still very difficult to find people with the right blend of skills for our work.
Why I chose a technology career.
I have always been interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field all the way back to childhood. My parents introduced me to all kinds of things. They didn’t really give me gender-specific tasks or activities. I had to learn how to keep my chores, but also change a tire. So, I was very fortunate, especially growing up in India. Looking back, I can definitely say for sure my upbringing increased my interest in STEM. It wasn’t something that I ever felt was not for me. I have always shown an interest in STEM fields and when I took my entrance exams, it worked out that I just ended up with engineering.
The future of women in STEM.
Traditionally, STEM has not been a woman-dominated field. But, when I look at the next generation of kids – my kids’ generation – there is no difference between how boys and girls are introduced to STEM. It’s my hope that when this generation is my age, we won’t notice a difference. There will be equal numbers. As little kids are encouraged to enter STEM irrespective of their genders, that should naturally get reflected in the number of girls entering the STEM field.
Our Continental Women’s Forum visits local high schools to talk about career options with female students. What I try to emphasize to them is to follow what they’re passionate about. Don’t worry about what others think. If you think STEM is the right choice, go for it. You might be the only girl there, but so what – go for it.
Why someone would enjoy working at Continental.
I would encourage anyone – man or woman – to work at Continental. One of the biggest advantages I have is the flexibility. As a parent, that is important. I’m the mother of two teenagers. My job is to make sure my tasks are complete and on time, but how I do it and when I do it doesn’t matter – and that’s a wonderful aspect of working at Continental.