Cultivating a Sense of Belonging at Work and in Life

Today’s DIVE In blog is an insightful conversation with Kranthi Remala, senior technical architect and staff engineer at Blue Yonder. A longtime associate with 12+ years of experience and in a role where it’s imperative to understand customers’ problems to drive meaningful innovation, Kranthi shares her expectations for a diverse and inclusive workplace, how she fosters inclusion while working from home and the benefit these efforts have on the tech industry.

What do diversity and inclusion mean to you, both personally and professionally?

I believe everyone should have equal rights. Diversity and inclusion are about recognizing each person’s strengths and welcoming everyone. It’s important today to respect each other no matter where we come from, how we look, etc. For me, diversity and inclusion have always been important and being accepted and celebrated is a feeling everyone should have. It’s about consciously valuing, understanding and respecting one another. Imagine the wisdom we could all derive if we look through a lens of learning with everyone around us and the conversations we have – it provides us a pathway of understanding each other’s life journeys and what made them who they are today. Unconscious bias continues, but we are getting better through education and becoming more empathetic.

What are three expectations you have for a diverse and inclusive workspace?

Acceptance, Trust and Freedom. Diversity and inclusion are crucial for every organization in parallel with their cultural values. It takes true human spirit, compassion and empathy to live these values.

It is also upon us to relentlessly keep building that value system. Thanks to our core values at Blue Yonder, inclusion is fostered organically here. Everyone has a seat at the table no matter one’s differences, with conscious accessibility practices, equal opportunities, and a healthy team spirit. I have always felt welcomed at Blue Yonder, from the beginning of my interview process on. Our leaders think about inclusivity and diversity at every part of our journey.

How do you foster inclusion while working from home?

It’s been nearly 20 months of being away from the bustling and vibrant office spaces! Life has been a roller coaster and working from home has evolved too. It is crucial that we respect each other’s boundaries and understand that flexible work is the new norm. At the beginning of the pandemic, it took all of us time to adjust to working from home. From “Sorry about that background noise” to “Ah, hello there!” now, we respect each other’s environment, support our teammates and, when possible, include our family and pets in fun Zoom calls. 

We’ve begun to operate with nearly no boundaries.  While that’s a good thing, I believe we all have one aspect to consider – do we really give the time and space to our family, especially parents? The major change of practicing inclusion for me has been to give that due time and respect to my mom and dad, which is still an evolving process.  One of the most important aspects of this new norm, which I think most of us can relate to, is giving ourselves the gift of experiencing nature while being flexible. Work from home has been frustrating at times, but we are all enjoying the fruits of our own space, and we should make the best use of it, while we have it!

How have you found diversity and inclusion to be beneficial in the tech industry?

I have seen great leaders arise from diverse backgrounds in the tech industry in the last few years. We are seeing significant growth in the number of women/other genders taking roles now that only men used to fill, even at an executive level. Today, all are stepping up and breaking glass ceilings and stereotypes of what women can and should do.

However, the percentage of female or other diverse leaders in board rooms across the globe is not very encouraging, and there is a huge scope for onboarding leaders belonging to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), AI/ML and data industries. What could potentially create a more inclusive ecosystem across these industries? The infrangible culture within an organization that drives the growth and success of every associate.

At Blue Yonder, I believe we are setting ourselves up to increase our diversity percentages in a progressive way, through diversity frameworks and awareness coaching. Internally, we recently hosted an AI/ML week which was co-produced by our internal women’s interest network. I absolutely take pride in the BYourself LGBTQ+ ARG (associate resource group) that Blue Yonder recently launched that breaks unconscious bias and enables inclusion.

It excites me that different perspectives enrich our objectives and key results and benefit us in a multi-faceted way. As you bring in the element of empathy to these perspectives, you bring in a strategy that is rooted in compassion.

How have the views of people from other cultures enhanced your educational, professional, and personal experiences?

I attended a session on culturally effective communication in the beginning of my career at Blue Yonder. I thought to myself ‘why am I in such a training? I’m good with my communication skills and I know that in India what people call “colour” is called “color” in the United States. Several other examples crept into my mind.

I know now that was sheer arrogance on my part. After walking out of that session, I realized that a hand gesture normalized in one culture could also be offensive in another part of the world. The profound value I gained when I began interacting and working with people from various parts of the globe is that we all are alike and equal. We all have similar problems and big dreams and views of a joyous life. We all yearn to make a difference with our customers or our community or ourselves and this continues to be a source of gratitude I have for the humankind.

Can you name a positive thing that has happened in your life since the pandemic began?

Valuing oneself, valuing life and humanity more than ever before!

Today, we are here in 2021 either having survived the most historic time in our lifetime or still waiting to see those whom we haven’t in years. If you observe, that someone could be you too!  I am immensely grateful to these years for it taught me a lot of things and, most importantly, it gave me time to spend time with my family while not discounting my work priorities. I have been able to reflect more about the human race and mankind and value the gift of gratitude even more than before.

I’ve also learned that each day we are given, we have the superpower to create a difference in the world. I also earnestly send a prayer to anyone who has suffered loss or hardship. I celebrate everyone who fought and is still fighting the virus valorously.

Life’s Defining Moments

Scott Welty, GVP global partner enablement at Blue Yonder, shares one of his life’s most defining moments – when he learned his child was diagnosed with non-verbal autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism-related catatonia. Her strength and resilience inspires him daily, while also reminding him to appreciate – and look for – everyone’s unique differences, characteristics and capabilities. His experience has made him a better leader, and better person.

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I live in Ohio, near Lake Erie. I have a 26-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter. And I enjoy all things on two wheels – motorcycle and bicycle included!

My daughter – Bailey – was born prematurely and weighed just over four pounds. She was developing okay until around two and a half years old. After speaking to many specialists, we had the conversation no parent is ever ready for about a diagnosis that will impact the rest of your life and theirs. She was diagnosed with non-verbal ASD and more recently, has also been diagnosed with autism-related catatonia. While there are many things she cannot do, she loves to be outside. She loves to shop. She loves to be with other people. She loves to hug people. She is caring and thoughtful and has never shown a dislike for anyone. She’s very happy.

What has your experience been like caring for your daughter?

It has been a series of learning year after year. Looking back, it was in a lot of ways, a wonderful experience that didn’t always feel wonderful, but now I can see the positive in it.  

Having a child with special needs, you appreciate diversity and ability of others, as there is a lot that my daughter cannot do. She can’t participate in a lot of the day-to-day things we take for granted. She’s non-verbal. She can’t write because she can’t hold a pen or pencil. Cognitive learning is very difficult for her. And she can’t live independently. It makes you appreciate everyone’s unique qualities instead of just seeing them as differences. You see the person, not the wheelchair, for example. And you appreciate more than anything those that take care of special needs persons. They are angels!

My daughter would easily be overlooked by some. And that applies to so many things in life, personal or career. There is always adversity in life, it is important not to let labels and conditions stand in your way. You’re more capable than you think you are.

What have you learned from being a parent of a special needs’ child?

You must have a lot of patience and I am naturally impatient! You gain a newfound understanding of compassion. Anytime I see anyone with special needs, I feel connected to them. And it helps you realize the importance of inclusion. Even if it’s a small thing. Walking by someone with special needs in the park and saying hello. Acknowledging them, not ignoring them.

I’ve learned to look at the person, not their disability. And to try to understand what it is like to be them. Until you truly interact with a person that is different from you and see their true potential and strengths, you realize that you have a diamond in the rough. Don’t overlook unique skills or talents.

I’ve also learned to recognize biases and to remove them. It helps you see the world through new and open eyes.

With that lens in mind, what characteristics do you look for in a team?

I’ve always been a team builder. I think it’s important to get inside someone’s head to understand them and learn how they work and think.

I look for people who are not afraid to take chances. I appreciate people who have been in over their head. Because I have, too, in every role I’ve been in. You must be comfortable being uncomfortable. You must be willing to swing for the fences – that’s when your true colors come out.

What are your expectations for a diverse and inclusive workplace?

You have to take this seriously. Do not pander. You must stand behind it and walk the talk. That’s the only time diversity and inclusion initiatives are successful.

I think about inclusion every day with my daughter in mind. She’s going to graduate high school. She will never not live with us. What will become of her if she has to be in the world by herself? What if she isn’t included? When I am not here, what happens? It scares me every day.

Can you share a time where you recognized how important empathy is?

I had to fly to London and landed early in the morning. I sat down at a table for breakfast and at the table next to me, there was a woman with two boys around 9 or 10. They had outrageous behavior. She had iPads out and everything to distract them. I went over to her and said “hey, I may be really forward, but are your boys autistic?” She replied, “Well yes they are.” I said “my daughter is too, and I am here for you and I understand.” She started crying and was really touched. She could have retaliated in any way, but I could tell she was struggling. You can apply that notion of empathy anywhere.

You cannot assume anything about anyone and that is where empathy comes in. Anyone could have sat down and saw the misbehavior and assumed they were just acting out.

Looking back, what’s one piece of advice you would give yourself?

I’ll take my own advice – I would have taken more chances. I took a lot of risks in life, however, there were times I was too conservative too.  

What is your proudest achievement?

As a matter of fact, there have been many times at Blue Yonder where I would claim it was a proud achievement. But, to be honest what I am most proud of is being afforded the opportunity to work at such an amazing company with incredible people and being a part of something so unique and wonderful.  All of us need to take stock of what we have here at Blue Yonder and never stop trying to achieve.

Do you have any regrets?

I try to really focus on the positive, and when I look back, I don’t see regrets, I see opportunities. Opportunities that can no longer be impacted, however the lessons can be passed on to others.  I have learned this now, later in my career. Business is about people, and when people soar, incredible things happen. It is so important to always be looking to help someone else even in a small way. The personal rewards are wonderful.

What makes a great leader?

I think there are three traits that are most important as a leader: strong communicator, passion, and vision. I love the quote by Peter Drucker which rings so true: “You manage things, and lead people”. You have to understand how a person ticks, invest in them, understand how they develop to accentuate the positive in their abilities. Personally, I am a leader that is very emotional, compassionate, and passionate. I try to understand emotionally, because how you feel drives how you work and think.

What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?

I had a manager while working for Levi’s who was such an inspiration to me, he used to say all the time, “If you’re not growing, you’re going.” It is such a simple point but applies to all of us both personally and professionally.  Always keep trying to get getter better at everything you do, trust me, you will grow.

The Significance of Steady Studying

Michael Prim runs the Service First initiative at Blue Yonder, which aims to provide guidance to key players within Blue Yonder on what it means to be SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). A student worker at Blue Yonder in 2009 while receiving his PhD in physics, Michael shares his background with Blue Yonder’s strategic advisor Michael Feindt at university, his experience as a boomerang and valuable advice on the importance of learning to make big challenges feel smaller.

Where did you go to school, and what degrees do you have?

I went to high school in my local town and then moved to Karlsruhe for a masters of physics, followed by a physics PhD, focusing on particle physics and data analysis. I was in the same group as Blue Yonder’s [founder] Michael Feindt at university.

When did you join Blue Yonder? What did you do before that?

I rejoined in September 2017. I first joined the original Blue Yonder in 2009 as a working student to get some industry exposure in parallel to my PhD. Michael Feindt was really inspiring at the start of my career journey as he showed how to apply learnings from physics to the industry, but I left in 2012 to focus on finishing my PhD.

After my PhD, I spent nearly four years in the mobile advertising industry, building a massive scaling data management platform for high frequency, real-time trading of advertisement placements.

What was your first job at Blue Yonder? How did your career progress from there?

After rejoining Blue Yonder in 2017, I took a SaaS operations lead role, owning our customer-facing service desk and the operations of SaaS services. Although I owned that critical piece, it was a horizontal role without any direct reports, which may sound very strange to many people, but I joined shortly after Blue Yonder made the decision to focus on SaaS for retail. To succeed, we needed to bring development and operations even further together and create an environment that allowed us to ship changes and value to our customers in a high frequency. We established a virtual service desk organization that was staffed with developers in rotating shifts and massively improved our efficiency. I still remember the moment when a colleague said he deployed all customer systems to the latest release during the duration of his lunch break. That was the moment I knew we had established the right processes to go fast but not break things.

After Blue Yonder, JDA at the time, acquired Blue Yonder, I was involved in different things to bring the companies together, and around platform topics.

Since last year, I’ve been running the Service First initiative that aims to provide guidance to key players within Blue Yonder on what it means to be SaaS. I really like the SaaS business model as it allows us to own the entire value stream, giving us the ability to provide great services to our customers as the best-in-class operator. Sharing knowledge and experience will hopefully contribute to success in it.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you tackle them?

To succeed and stay successful as a company, you need to constantly change and adapt. To change, you not only need to understand where you want to go to, but also where you are. Only then will you know what to do. I think the challenge of change management was and still is the hardest for me, long before any technical or other challenges I have faced.

What usually helps me is to go back to the learning. For example, learning from books on the domain itself, and listening to people on the current situation and what’s preventing them to change. Combining all that yields new insights into what step to do, how to communicate it, and helping others to do it.

In general, if a challenge feels big, learning helps to make it look much smaller.

Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?

Leaving Blue Yonder and the physics bubble to do something else. Not taking the Blue Yonder offer back then gave me a totally different view on many things, on IT topics in particular. As a physicist, I am often used to IT, but I’m not a computer scientist. I learned so much in that time as I was exposed to a different environment.

Where do you see your career headed? What’s next for you?

To be honest, I never really had a real career plan. I like problems and challenges. They allow me to learn. I am an extremely curious person by nature, which is probably what got me into physics in the first place. I am confident that there are enough problems ahead of us and that there will be some left for me.

How has empathy as our core value resonated with you over the past year since the pandemic? Any lessons learned or words of advice?

Totally independent of the pandemic, I think empathy is an important value. It doesn’t matter if in personal or professional life, empathy creates mutual trust and is foundational to every healthy relationship.

Luckily, I have experienced empathy from all my managers throughout my career journey and am now trying to be empathic myself. I admit, it is not always easy and needs practice. As a tech person, it sometimes feels far away from my core competency, but I’ve yet to see a single high performing team that doesn’t practice empathy. Therefore, as a leader in technology, it is important to give equal attention to people, process and technology. People create the culture we work in and write the software that creates value for our customers.

How have the views of people from other cultures enhanced your educational, professional and personal experiences?

During my PhD, I had the pleasure of sharing an office with the only female PhD student on the floor and she was from a different cultural background – totally different office conversations than in the rest of the floor. Additionally, I spend time in Japan during my PhD and later joined a U.S.-Swiss-German start-up. From there, I rejoined the German Blue Yonder, which was bought by a U.S.-India company.

For me personally, the biggest learning out of all this was the different ways of communication among cultures. Germans tend to be very direct in their communication, myself included. It took me some time to understand the cultural differences in communicating and I am still learning every day.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned and really taken to heart?

If you want to lead, you need to be followed. As a leader, you need to make sure that you communicate your thoughts with the people you lead in mind. That may be difficult if most of your thoughts are around your vision, but those you are leading are tied to reality. It’s even more important to be emphatic with those you want to lead and understand them to guide the way.

What podcasts are you listening to right now?

I tend to fall asleep when listening to audiobooks or podcasts and sitting somewhere, so I only listen to them while cycling. My favorite is Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell. It is about events, people, and other things from the past that deserve a second chance to be looked at.

I Don’t Like Equality

Who would argue against everyone being treated the same?

Well, I would actually. I don’t like equality. Treating everybody exactly the same way sounds like a good idea, but when you suddenly find yourself disadvantaged or excluded because “it’s the same for everyone,” then you realize that at best, it is a lazy way to appear to be fair and at worst, it creates discrimination and exclusion. It is my personal experience that, sadly, people frequently use equality as an excuse to not make the extra effort needed to include someone in certain circumstances or someone with particular needs.

My eldest son, now an adult, has profound multiple disabilities (PMD) and as a family we battle prejudice, discrimination and exclusion every single day.

Following are a few situations we have experienced:

We had booked tickets to a show at a local theatre. The few wheelchair-designated spaces were sold out, but because we can transfer my son from his wheelchair to a seat, we booked seats at the end of an aisle. When we arrived at the theatre, we were told that they didn’t allow wheelchairs into that section because they wanted to keep the passageways clear. “We don’t allow pushchairs or prams either. Everyone must walk to their seat. It’s the same for everyone.”

We wanted to book a family photoshoot. The company explained that we needed to pay in advance and that this was not refunded if we cancelled within a day of our appointment. We explained that my son has epilepsy and regularly had seizures, so there was a quite a high chance he would have a seizure that day and we would not be able to attend. “There’s nothing we can do – it’s the same for everyone,” we were told.

We were staying at a holiday resort. The main evening entertainment was on the first floor of a building. There was only one lift with space for just one wheelchair. The problem was that when the building opened for the evening, everyone would rush in, run up the stairs and occupy all the seats and tables, so anyone with a wheelchair could never sit anywhere near the stage – if they could find a space at all. When we complained, we were told, “It’s the same for everyone. It would be unfair to everyone else if we let wheelchair users in first.”

In each of these cases, my son was severely disadvantaged because of a rule that was applied rigidly to everyone. In each situation, however, a simple reasonable adjustment could have been made so that he had the same opportunity as everyone else.

Of course, it’s not just people with disabilities that can be denied opportunities because of equality. How about:

“Everyone must write their name and provide proof of their address to vote.”“To join this club, you must be registered to vote in the local area.”

These exclude travellers those who are homeless or those with an inability to write.

“No one is allowed to be away from work for more than two weeks.”“Working hours are strictly 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.”“Everyone must attend the monthly team building weekends.”“You must be able to travel anywhere at short notice.”

These disadvantage parents with family at home, and anyone with caring commitments, or those who have had or are planning to take parental leave.

“Everyone must wear a safety helmet.”

This would mean Sikhs, people associated with Sikhism, a monotheistic religion, could not ride motorbikes or work on construction sites because those of the Sikh faith where turbans an integral part of their religion and a turban cannot be worn under a helmet.

“No religious insignia or emblems can be worn or displayed.”“No beards.”

These preclude people of various religions.

“Payment in installments are available only to those in full-time employment.

This would frequently penalize pensioners, for example, or poorer families surviving on welfare.

In the UK, we have the excellent Equalities Act, which describes this as “Indirect Discrimination.”

Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule that applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. A practice, policy or rule can be formal or informal. It can be a one-off decision or a decision to do something in the future and includes like arrangements, criteria, conditions, qualifications, or provisions.

Something is indirect discrimination if it has a worse effect on you because you have a “protected characteristic” such as:

agedisabilitygender reassignmentmarriage or civil partnershippregnancy and maternityracereligion or beliefsexsexual orientation

Unfortunately, in the UK, if you have been discriminated against, then you need to take the matter to a Civil Court for justice, which is complex, expensive and time consuming, and therefore, in itself, is indirectly discriminating.


I have always felt that what we should strive for is fairness and equal opportunity.

For example, in the UK, there is specific legislation that exempts Sikhs from wearing a safety helmet on constructions sites. This is a great example of a reasonable adjustment that creates equal opportunity.

If you are creating a set of criteria, a list of requirements, a process or a set of rules, ask yourself, ‘Who might I be excluding by implementing this? What reasonable adjustments can I make to include everyone or make this fair?’

Dealing with Burnout

The other night I couldn’t sleep. I had irrational worries about things I thought I should have completed the day before at work. I laid there thinking about this and other things swarmed in alongside it. I remembered I had forgotten to put my dustbin out for collection the next morning. It took a good hour before I fell back to sleep. I woke up tired before the day started.

Many times, I walked into a room and forgot why I had gone in there in the first place. I snapped at my family for no real reason other than I felt interrupted when I already had a million things I was managing in my head and couldn’t cope with another one. Some days it was a real challenge just getting out of bed, and once I did, I kept putting off opening up my laptop until my first meeting required me to. I wondered, what on earth was wrong with me, and then it hit me – I’m burned out!

Everything I was experiencing were signals that it was time to take a break. Feeling anxious, irritable, isolated and exhausted, but unable to sleep. Being forgetful or cynical on a regular basis. Procrastinating more than normal, not wanting to get out of bed, and health issues.

Excessive prolonged stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained, like you are unable to give any more of yourself. With COVID-19, political drama, back-to-school, holiday limitations, work stress – things start to pile up. Burnout can lead to a lack of motivation and a withdrawal from the world. It’s important to sort out where that is rooted. Knowing where in your life you’re feeling burned out will help you figure out why you’re feeling the way you are.

So, what causes burnout? It could be:

Lack of control: Feeling like you have no control over your future or the position you are currently in.

Difficult environment: Being in a physical workspace, home, or relationship that is negative or chaotic.

Lack of balance: Too much work, not enough play; too much parenting, not enough solo time; and giving too much in a relationship and feeling that it is not reciprocated.

If you can recognize the signs, you have a chance to control your path and reverse direction before you hit burnout, hopefully avoiding it altogether. During and since lockdown, I have experienced several symptoms of burnout and found some successful ways to address and combat the feelings to get back on track to being myself.  

Things that I found useful include:

A change in routine: Introducing new things to your routine can be daunting and overwhelming, especially when you’re already in a space of exhaustion. Don’t implement everything all at once – you’ll be more likely to quit all of them. Introduce one at a time and once your body and mind realize how good you’re starting to feel, introducing another task will seem more doable.

Diet and supplements: When you’re burnt out, one of the first things to suffer is your immune system. I was diagnosed with shingles within a month of lockdown, triggered by stress and low immunity. You’re not eating properly, you’re not sleeping properly, you’re exhausted and just not taking care of yourself. It’s hard to make yourself a priority. I found I had zero iron, vitamin B12, folate or vitamin D based on my blood test results, therefore supplements were essential for feeling myself again. Watching my diet to get these things naturally was important. If you’re feeling tired, low, etc., consider asking your doctor to check your levels.

Exercise: I got a dog so that I have to leave the house and walk every day. You don’t have to get a dog but scheduling a daily walk helps you get fresh air and clarity of thought away from work. This can be much needed when working from home. I also started to work out with my friend via Zoom. When it was in my diary and I knew someone was relying on me to show up and I was more motivated to exercise. In turn, exercise helped me sleep better, feel better, lose weight and clear my mind. I encourage you to pick an exercise you like so that it is enjoyable.

Sleep: I didn’t proactively do much to improve my sleep directly. It came naturally after eating better and exercising more. However, I did consciously try to ensure I was asleep before 11 p.m. if I was working late, doing jobs around the house or even watching Netflix. It wasn’t too difficult to stick to while working from home during lockdown, so this is probably one to be more proactive on as lockdown lifts.

Social, emotional and self-care: Close connections are important to your well-being. Lockdown made many of us aware of this. Since lockdown has been lifting, getting enough face-to-face time with friends and family has really helped. Also, being able to engage in activities such as sports again brings back a level of mental stimulation that might have been missing during lockdown. It’s important to have healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness. Emotional self-care may include finding the time to journal your feelings or talk to others, which help you acknowledge and express your feelings on a regular basis. I didn’t realize I was failing to address my feelings until I wrote them down one day and felt lighter as a result. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help:  I encourage you to make an ongoing list of things that you need or want to get done and identify any that can be done by others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I asked for help with household tasks, which were difficult to manage around work, and immediately felt less stressed. Release control, tuck your pride away and ask a friend, partner, colleague, even a therapist. Have someone that you’re comfortable checking in with and make sure it’s someone who helps you feel good.

Finally, remember burnout is real. If you’re one of the thousands of people who are feeling the strain of burnout, you’re not alone. Here are a few of the best quotes from people who know what burnout feels like and how they deal with it.

“Tough times never last. Tough people do.” —Robert Schuller

 “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” —Banksy

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” —Bob Marley

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” —Finding Nemo

Wholesome Habits are the New Regular

When I applied for my internship at Blue Yonder, I was excited to meet the team and work in the office with new people, but, like everyone else, I was required to work from home for my internship, given the COVID-19 pandemic.  Working remote with a team I’ve never met before has been strange, but everyone has welcomed me and helped every step of the way. I feel very lucky and grateful to work and learn in such uncertain times.

Despite that, it has been hard to achieve a healthy work/life balance at times. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way, so I wanted to share some of the tangible ways I struck the right balance during my internship and first full-time (and remote!) working experience.

Due to COVID-19, my brother and dad were furloughed and my mom, a teacher, worked from home while my sister, a student, studied from home. Our three-bedroom home was certainly not meant for three people to be working on Zoom calls all day, all at once. I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been difficult. There have been plenty of family arguments over struggling to work from home. Many times, I have been on a Zoom call while my sister is in a lesson and we both disturb each other and struggle to focus.

I know I’m not the only one who has experienced a few Zoom bloopers with people walking into the room not realizing you are on a team call! During the November lockdown in the U.K., I found working from home so difficult that I decided to lockdown at my boyfriend’s house during December to give me the opportunity to work better in a less congested space. Although I was able to concentrate more at his house, my mental health was affected by being away from my family for so long. I knew I was doing what was best for my work and my sister’s learning, but I missed my family and the comforts of home so much.

Life became repetitive with not much to look forward to and no ease of COVID-19 restrictions in sight. I would roll out of bed 10 minutes before work, turn on my laptop, watch TV during lunch and do nothing productive in the evening. I realized I had to take control and make changes to improve my mental health. I started waking up earlier and going on runs. I began slow running and walking in minute intervals and with perseverance, I built up to running a 5K in 30 minutes. Instead of watching TV at lunchtime, I started going on walks and stepping away from my laptop for half an hour to get some fresh air and clear my head.

We are all guilty of grabbing a bite to eat and sitting at the computer during a busy day as we feel we don’t have the time to get up and have a break, but I found it extremely helpful to get up and away from the computer during lunch. Ensuring I have a proper break allows me to return in half an hour refreshed and ready to give 100% to my work again. It’s impossible to work eight hours straight when you are tired and hungry! In addition, I started using my evenings to prepare meals for lunch each day and taking advantage of my spare time to learn new recipes. Fueling my body with nutritious food prevents me from getting lethargic while I sit at a desk during the day.

These small changes have made a positive impact on my mental health and consequently have motivated me to learn and work to the best of my ability. My renewed enthusiasm at work led me to volunteer in a group charity event with other associates at Blue Yonder, which involved all group members cycling a total of 100 miles each in a week. This challenge gave me a goal to work toward and a feeling of accomplishment when we achieved the goal. The charity event gave me the opportunity to meet new associates I hadn’t met and expand my network, which was something I struggled to do since joining the team virtually.

Although it has been a difficult year to start a new job, I’ve adopted many healthy habits for dealing with stress. It is integral for me to have a consistent workplace in the house so that I can be in the right headspace. It is also important that I log off during lunchtime and at the end of the day in order to create a clear difference between work and home life. I have learned it is okay to get up and take a break in order to increase your productivity when you return. Personally, I found it very useful to set goals for myself, even if they are small, and to celebrate each achievement. It is so important to take time to look after yourself. In the same way you would if you broke a bone, take steps to care for your mental health so you are happy at work and at home.

Celebrating Ladies in Engineering

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is a special day for women engineers to celebrate their achievements! Since recognizing women in engineering, the field is growing in popularity with the goal of equal representation of people from all walks of life working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) roles. After you read this blog, check out this LinkedIn Live!

In honor of International Women in Engineering Day, Richa Yadav, Senior Data Scientist at Blue Yonder, shares her point of view as a woman in tech and her goals for a future without gender bias.

Over the last 40 years, women entering male-dominated roles has increased considerably – a milestone to celebrate! Despite the progress that has been made, discrimination is still prevalent in the technology field (STEM) and can end up encouraging a lot of women to leave.

I’ve often found it difficult to speak my mind at work, especially when I was just beginning my career. I was surrounded by men who were conditioned to believe their voices were powerful and that their opinions were more valuable. It’s an awful and unfair stereotype, but it is something we as women continue to encounter in the tech space. Other examples of gender stereotypes I have encountered in my career include no credit when credit is due, and men generally being promoted based on potential while women being promoted only after proven performance.

While there are reasons to think the workforce is moving in the right direction, many women are not yet experiencing the benefits. So, how can individual women thrive in male-dominated industries?

Before we explore the steps women can take, I want to mention a few challenges we experience and I have experienced working in a male-dominated industry: feeling incompetent, lack of trust in leadership skills and/or technical skills, lack of opportunities, lack of support from peers, etc. My least favorite is being made to feel incompetent!

As women, we often feel we need to continuously prove ourselves and our work to avoid feeling that way. At a previous role, my boss would immediately reject my work because he believed my male coworker would do a better job! How can we change this learned behavior? Although this must be a two-sided effort, we can focus our energy on doing our bit and take control of our career through action!

At an organizational level, many initiatives are underway to improve hiring patterns, gender diversity and gender bias. However, we can still do our part as women in STEM. Below are takeaways from my journey, which have helped me build confidence while working in the technology field:

Trust your skills: If you don’t believe you have anything worth saying, how will others have confidence in you?Don’t wait to get what is rightfully yours: Male colleagues vocalize the opportunities they want, why not you?Seek out male coworkers who can be your ally: Even in fields that are male dominated, there are men who want to be an ally to the women they are working with. Be on the lookout for these coworkers and don’t be afraid to ask them for mentorship and advice.Find a sponsor: A sponsor is a mentor who will promote you in your organization.Support women in your workplace: Everyone is at a different stage in their career. Women are looking out for support systems and a lot of them don’t feel able to voice their concerns.

As you work to counter stereotypes and exceed expectations through these tips, you may be perceived as bossy or aggressive. We all go through this phase and trust me, it is going to be okay! Lean on your support system, stand your ground, and that feeling will fade away. On the contrary, if you conform to gender stereotypes, you are likely to be perceived as less competent. The ball is in your court.

Gender bias ends up hurting everyone and most importantly, organizations not working to combat it. If females don’t feel confident sharing their thoughts in a boardroom, the right ideas may not come to the forefront. Women have made an impressive and significant impact in male-dominated industries, but there is still more to do to improve our position in STEM presently and in the years to come. Believe in yourself, speak up, reach out to peers and mentors for support, and then pay it forward by helping the women entering your career field after you. In these ways, women can excel and enjoy successful careers in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Commemorating Juneteenth

Care, conversations, and a commitment to action. These words highlight Blue Yonder’s response to ending racial injustice. We are now in the month of June 2021; we remember the historic day of Juneteenth celebrated on the third Saturday of this month. Juneteenth (June 19, 1865) is a very symbolic date that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved black people in the U.S. On this day, hundreds of thousands of people were made aware of their freedom when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and issued an order to officially free them. Please keep in mind that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, which means that for more than two and a half years slavery continued in our country illegally.  

What does Juneteenth mean to associates at Blue Yonder? A few share their sentiments on what Juneteenth means to them and why it’s an important day in U.S. history:

“Juneteenth, in my mind, is known as Jubilee Day! Easily just as important to U.S. history as the Fourth of July, Juneteenth is the true celebration of freedom in America as all people were finally free.  It is a day to celebrate Black lives, to remember our history as a country, to learn about the injustices that still exist, and take action.” – Aida DeJonghe

“It is important and necessary for Juneteenth to be celebrated as a milestone in America culture. It needs to have more recognition across the nation, particularly in light of the current events of racism and police brutality. By celebrating, we are acknowledging the history and the continued struggles in our communities today.” – Jolene Hilden

“As a Black African born-American woman I have lived in the United States, mainly Texas, for over 25 years. I looked at life through rose-colored spectacles, not that this a bad thing, but in reference to this piece of Texas history – the plight of my brothers and sisters birthed from slavery in a country now theirs, but so far removed from their origin. I come from a country once colonized. The difference is that when we got our independence, the colonizers left and as a country, we reclaimed our land, maintained our culture, heritage and most importantly our name – a symbol of one’s true identity and story. African Americans in the U.S. did not have this same ‘luxury’ and were forcibly ripped from their family and home. Enslaved in captivity, their names were stripped, culture and heritage denied, then when freed were supposed to “carry on,” but how, when the playing field was uneven and rose tinted? Today we still face the consequences of a brutal history. Taking off the rose-colored spectacles allowed me to reckon with the scars for the first time! Juneteenth to me means acknowledging and cementing a clear understanding of a people’s raw history well enough, to bridge a divide, heal, and celebrate what ought to be, in my very humble opinion, a national holiday.” – Lucy Chepkoech Tapletkoi Sum-Reber

“My family, as well as my husband’s family didn’t celebrate Juneteenth growing up.  It wasn’t because we didn’t want to but rather because it wasn’t widely taught or talked about. It’s unfortunate Juneteenth hasn’t yet received the same glitz and glam as the 4th of July, because its historical reference is just as important to the history of this country. However, I am delighted to see more visibility and education on this moment in the African American culture.  Juneteenth means freedom and pride to our people and we will continue to highlight our significance in the world!” – Kellie Allmon-Davis

“Juneteenth needs to be as important/celebrated/revered as the 4th of July. After all, it signifies the true freedom of everyone in the nation. It took 87 years after our independence from Britain to abolish slavery, and an embarrassing two more years before every person was free. Personally, I didn’t know these facts, I wish I didn’t have to look it up.  Slavery is a dark part of our nation’s history, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. People were brutalized, tortured, mistreated, and deemed less than because of the color of their skin. We must pay our respects to those and their families and celebrate when they were finally free. After all, it’s the least we can do.” – Jessica Shilling

“What does Juneteenth mean to me?  It is both complicated and bittersweet.  Indeed, I am happy that this day serves as the end of chattel slavery for Black Americans, albeit two years post the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed in 1863. But it is sad because freedom in this context still did not equate to equality.  Consider that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, 89 years prior to June 19, 1865 granting that all men were created equal.  So, while Black Americans were indeed free of total ownership by another, they still were not equal and able to take part of all the protections and freedoms guaranteed to America’s citizens until many years later. And still, the fight for equality and equal protection under the law wages on. However, I recognize that as a first step, you must first be free. So, on this Juneteenth, I will celebrate my freedom and humanity while we continue to persevere for freedom and equality for all.” – Leslie Martin

“Juneteenth is a very important day in American history – one that is not often talked about in our schools here in the U.S. It’s not only a day that should be celebrated and remembered, but also a day to educate ourselves. We need to look at the systemic delay and oppression that we see echo from this time – freedom did not mean equal, it meant that enslaved people were no longer seen as property. As we have seen, we need to continuously look at how these echoes have affected people in all areas – from education, finances (redlining, etc.), healthcare, safety and justice – the list is long. It’s a reminder to look deep at the difference between equality and equity.” – Amanda Groger

This Delight Month, I’m Respecting the Privilege of Coming Out

Every year as Pride month comes around, I talk a lot about courage. As a gay man who grew up on a dirt road in rural Louisiana during the ‘80s, I’ve needed enormous amounts of courage my entire life — the courage to stand up to bullies, the courage to come out to my conservative, religious parents, the courage to move across the country and live a life that’s open and free.

Being myself has meant life-long anxiety, years of therapy, and cutting off friends and family who insisted I was going straight to hell. So I’ve always thought, “If I can do it, anybody can.” 

All they needed was just more courage.

This past year in isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions has given me a lot of time to look myself in the mirror and face some monsters I didn’t even know existed. Yes, I’ve had struggles, and yes, I should be proud of being courageous. But I’ve also had to acknowledge that coming out was a privilege. Growing up solidly middle class, getting an education, having the financial resources to support myself, and surrounding myself with caring, accepting people made my life today possible. 

And as kind, loving, and non-judgmental as I have always tried to be, I’ve realized that I’ve held an implicit bias against those who aren’t out. Parades, rainbow flags, holding a significant other’s hand… none of that was for them. Somewhere deep down, in the dark place we don’t like to acknowledge, I’ve kept these people in a second-class LGBTQ+ status. 

They weren’t worthy of Pride — they hadn’t earned it yet.

I’m embarrassed it took me so long to see just how wrong I’ve been. Who was I to think I was somehow superior because of my struggles? Where were my empathy and compassion? Why did I think life was a competition for who had the toughest journey?

Whether a person comes out today, or in 10 years — or never — is none of my business and definitely not something for me to judge. I can’t know what situations may be in another person’s life. Maybe they live in a place where it’s unsafe to be out; maybe they don’t have the resources to live on their own if they’re rejected; or maybe they simply don’t want to.

I never discount the amount of courage queer people need in order to be their true, authentic selves. It takes a lot… trust me. But this year, I want to also acknowledge my privilege of being out, and I’d like to speak directly to the LGBTQ+ community who aren’t:

I see you. You’re perfect exactly the way you are. I’m deeply sorry for my past judgments, and I hope you feel every bit of love I’m sending you. Pride month isn’t about wearing a rainbow tank top, dancing to Lady Gaga until sunrise, or even kissing the love of your life — it’s knowing everyone is worthy of respect, no matter their journey.

I am proud of you for having the courage to be here.

Specializing in What Issues Most

Gaurav Behere works in product development at Blue Yonder and share some of the most impactful learnings he’s had while living – and working – through a pandemic. From adjusting to working from home for the first time, and realizing what matters most in life (hint: it’s not ‘things,’ but family, health, life), Gaurav lives with empathy, gratitude and an enthusiasm for his job (with a little drumming on the side!).

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and brought up in a middle-class family in a city called Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, India. I had an amazing childhood, played a lot of cricket, made a lot of friends and studied a lot too.

I am a very spiritual person and I believe being honest to yourself and to people around you is the right thing to do and it always pays off.

I’ve also always been interested in music and wanted to play but didn’t have the right resources. During my first job I learned drumming and after I moved to Bangalore, I started a band. We did a few stage-shows. Now drumming is an integral part of my life.

What is your role at Blue Yonder? What’s your favorite part?

I am a UI architect. I love the fact that I am learning and challenged every day. This is the part that keeps me motivated and excited about my job. The design challenges, UX inputs I can give where I get an opportunity to empathize with the users and wear an end user’s hat to propose solutions makes my job worth it!

What did you do before you came to Blue Yonder?

I was managing a product team at PayPal. I was a bit hesitant to take a management role as I love coding and designing solutions and I wanted that to be the dominant part of my work. But I took the opportunity as I wanted the management experience. My job included talking to customers, understanding their pain points and incorporating their feedback in the product.

I had a team of seven developers, and focused a lot on their career paths, and was spending a lot of time in 1:1 meetings. I found I was moving away from what I really loved – coding – and was doing more management. While I learned a lot during that role, it made me realize I wanted to get back to my core career focus.  

There are silver linings to be had in strife, and this pandemic has certainly caused a lot of strife. What have you learned by experiencing a pandemic?

I realized that the things which we were caring about most are very materialistic and when the dire need comes those are not the things you will need. You need people, relations, good health and empathy. The pandemic changed my outlook towards life. Working from home has brought me a lot closer to my family and friends. I care about them much more than before; this is something that is going to continue from now on.

What has it been like to work from home for the first time?

Initially it was not going well. There was an infinite loop of meetings which was very difficult for me to adjust to. So I started prioritizing work and which meetings I took and which meetings I recommended turn into a Microsoft Teams chat or email. I also realized I did not need to attend every meeting and I started taking short breaks during the day and that helped.

Empathy has been a huge theme over the last year. How have put this into practice?

Many times, people around you need your time and they need you just to listen and understand what they are going through or how they have been. I now take more time to talk to people around me, relatives and friends I haven’t talked to for a long time. You realize that people feel better when they know somebody is listening and there is somebody around to talk to. I reached out to friends on Facebook I hadn’t talked to in a long time. We have reconnected and are actually having video conversations now. It is nice!

What’s one piece of advice you would have given your younger self?

Invest in your health. Money can still be earned.

How has your life experience made you who you are you are today?

My family and I lacked resources while I was growing up. That experience has helped me understand the value of resources. We tend to take things for granted when those things are readily available to us. I had strong moral values ingrained in me which helps in making the right decisions in life and I feel I have a lot more empathy towards others.

Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?

I was working at a company called NDS (currently known as Synamedia), there I got to learn HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript while this stack was just beginning to grow and become popular. I was lucky enough to learn these skills just before they became the hot trend. This expertise helped give me an edge in an industry that had a lot of demand and competition, and I was ahead of others in learning HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript when others were just beginning to learn it

Have you ever realized you had an unconscious bias? What did you do about it?

It always made me wonder why somebody is not able to work at the same speed I could. I realized I am biased. I understood people have their limitations in terms of knowledge, resources, ability to understand things and implement them. We all work and learn differently.

I realized this bias when I was challenged to work on Scala which is a backend technology and not my forte. I struggled to understand the concepts of Scala and felt I was inferior in discussions on it. This made me realize that when we are put into a new situation, everyone is uncomfortable and doesn’t understand right away and I shouldn’t be biased about it.

What makes a good leader?

A good leader is someone that you look up to and aspire to become.

How do you practice wellbeing?

I do yoga regularly. I practice drumming. I love cooking and I try new recipes during weekends.

What’s one fun (or surprising) fact about you?

I have watched so many time travel movies and documentaries that I strongly believe one day I will really travel through time.

This brings me to my fun fact – I wanted to join the Army. I appeared twice and flunked both the attempts. In one of the attempts I answered the final question to the interview poorly and that question caused me to fail the test.  If I had a time machine I would like to go back in time, change my answer and join the Army!