Celebrating Women in STEM: Padmasree Warrior

Padmasree Warrior is a great example of a woman in STEM living the American Dream.

Raised in Vijayawada, India, Warrior suffered from asthma as a child and was forced to stay inside. She developed a love for music, art and reading.

Warrior excelled in her lessons, and left home in 1977 to attend the Indian Institute of Technology. She was one of only five women in her class of 250 students, and met her husband, Mohan, while attending school.

Warrior completed her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering in 1982, and decided to take the next big step of her life: attending graduate school in America.

With less than $100 to her name, Warrior arrived at JFK airport on a one-way ticket. She bought all her textbooks in India, where it was cheaper, and dragged them to the U.S. in two large suitcases.

Unable to afford school without assistance, Warrior received a fellowship to study at Cornell University. She survived her first New York winter with a $10 coat she got from a garage sale.

Despite the economic battles, she finished her master’s degree in chemical engineering in 1984. In a 2015 interview, Warrior said, “The message here is if you work really hard and set your goals, you can accomplish a lot. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Warrior’s first job in the industry happened completely by accident. She was planning to finish her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Cornell, but attended a job fair with a friend and ended up with a job at Motorola.

Though she intended to only to work there for a year and then return to school, Warrior instead stayed at Motorola for 23 years. In 2003, she became Motorola’s chief technology officer (CTO) and the company’s first female Executive Vice President.

In 2004, Warrior accepted the National Medal of Technology Award from President George W. Bush on behalf of Motorola. In 2005, she was named the 11th Most Influential Global Indian by The Economic Times.

Warrior left Motorola in 2008, to be CTO of Cisco Systems. During her seven years with the company, she also held the offices of senior vice president of engineering, chief technology and strategy officer and strategic advisor.

Warrior was named one of the 15 Most Powerful Women in Tech by Forbes in 2013, and made the list of World’s Most Powerful Women in both 2014 and 2015.

In 2015, Warrior left Cisco to work as CEO of the electric car company NIO.

“I’ve always looked for opportunities to leverage technology to tackle big problems,” Warrior said in 2015. “Climate change and air quality are two of the most significant global challenges today. I believe that electric vehicles will play a major role in the overall solution.”

Today, Warrior continues to work in the tech industry with NIO. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Thorn, Microsoft and Spotify, as well as the Board of Trustees for Cornell University.

Warrior is a mother, an artist, a member of the Welcome.us organization for celebrating American immigrants’ heritage and a strong advocate for women in STEM fields.

“I always tell women to use the fact that we offer a different point of view in a room full of men, to their advantage,” Warrior said. “Because we often stand out, we gain a unique platform to demonstrate our knowledge and capabilities. Let us look forward to a tomorrow, when the ratio of women in the tech industry will truly reflect the number of women who have the ability to succeed.”

Are you interested in empowering women in the STEM fields? The Women in Science (Wi-Sci) group wants you! Meetings every Monday in the Women’s Center, 2 – 3 pm.

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