Komal Singh: Engineering Program Manager at Google and Author of “Ara The Star Engineer”
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Komal Singh to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Komal Singh: At Google, I work with teams that build some of the biggest software infrastructure of our time to solve planet-scale problems. In particular, I work on the Ads infrastructure team, which is tasked with serving trillions of ads to billions of users in split seconds.
I also created my personal passion project—publishing children’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) books that would address the lack of diversity in kids’ literature, and subsequently address the gender gap in tech. My team launched Ara The Star Engineer, which is now an international bestseller, being translated into more than 10 languages. This book features real-life, women engineering leaders of diverse backgrounds, and sets out to inspire minorities—especially girls—to explore the magic of STEM. This is also the first book of its kind that comes with a VR immersive experience.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
KS: I’ve had children, parents, and educators tell me that kids have been immensely inspired [by the book] to call themselves “troubleshooters” and “inventors” and are writing their own algorithms to solve problems (ie: feed the cat, go to school). In a time where girls start doubting their STEM intelligence as early as 6 years old, and less than 5% of books feature people of colour in lead roles, such books are very pivotal.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
KS: As a first time author, the hurdles I faced were committing time to a passion project on top of having a full time day job, being a parent and also pregnant with my second child! I overcame this by constantly reminding myself that this book’s mission and cause was much bigger than my own personal struggles. Kids needed to see and read this book. I also relied heavily on my family support system, especially my husband, to work with me as a tag team.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
KS: As a Googler, being around some of the smartest people, and building novel solutions that impact billions of people is very inspiring. As an author of a novel concept, being able to educate kids and adults on STEM concepts, and inspire them through representation in books is extremely rewarding.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
KS: As a minority woman in tech, a person of colour, a first generation immigrant, and a parent, I hope women can look at my journey and feel that their gender or race is not a detriment to their dreams. If a person like me can do it, they can do it too. So go chase your dreams, but first, have the will to dream!
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
KS: Our world is extremely diverse, and yet our tech workforce, or something as fundamental as children’s books, do not represent a true sample of that diversity. We thus lose the opportunity to have smart and sane voices that bring unique perspectives to solve problems at scale. Having women [in innovation] ensures that we innovate for the world, and sets an example to inspire the next generation of female leaders.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.