Having worked at Honeywell for nearly 10 years, previously as Honeywell’s CTO for its fire and life safety division, Shrivastava is now the CP and CTO for Honeywell Building Technologies. Prior to Honeywell, Shrivastava held a position at Invensys, part of Schneider Electric, as its Engineering & PMO Leader where she directed its software and systems development. Shrivastava has also held positions at Cognizant Technology Solutions and GE Intelligent Platforms, where she was responsible for research and development as well as multiple product-lines for real-time systems in Industrial Electronics domain for discrete manufacturing, turbine controls and aerospace.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Udaya shared the top three building technology trends & innovations to watch out for in 2024, her professional trajectory, the biggest challenges faced by women in tech and what can be done to overcome them, significant career milestones, personal role models, future plans, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
What are the top three building technology trends & innovations to watch out for in 2024?
A major trend is that customers want to convert buildings into integrated, safe, and more sustainable assets. Other trends include offering tools that allow customers to use energy more efficiently – such as assisting with curbing carbon emissions and controlling buildings with software that is easy to use and, in some cases, usable remotely.
Udaya, please tell us about your professional journey. What led you to this point?
I joined Honeywell in 2014 as the leader of the Safety and Productivity Solutions team in India, where I drove strategic growth through next generation offerings. Previously, I served as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Commercial Fire Safety at Honeywell Building Technologies, where I led the launch of industry transforming offerings for improving life safety.
I have long been fascinated by controls and automation to build products for various real-time mission critical systems. Knowing that they help our lives be more creative and productive and make the world a safer, more secure, and sustainable place is truly impactful. And being the first woman in engineering in my family, I am always excited to pursue the next big challenge.
Brief us about your roles and responsibilities at Honeywell.
As Chief Technology Officer, my role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. Primarily, I lead the company’s technological innovation efforts which involve ensuring that our technological solutions align with Honeywell’s overarching portfolio to deliver organic growth goals.
A key aspect of my role is to maintain a strong focus on global new product introductions that prioritise sustainability. This involves driving the development and implementation of next generation technologies that can help achieve sustainability goals covering Carbon and Energy Management software, modern building management controllers, connected sockets to optimise plug loads and power-optimised fire notification appliances.
Which of Honeywell’s core values resonates with you the most and why?
All of our core values at Honeywell resonate with me, but three stand out as particularly crucial:
A commitment to integrity and ethics holds a pivotal position as it aligns with my own personal principles of doing what’s right, not just what’s convenient.
Diversity and inclusion are another value that I find meaningful as it is important to recognise that different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences contribute to a richer and more innovative workplace.
Lastly, workplace respect is vital for every company as it helps to create an environment where all employees feel valued, heard and appreciated.
I consider myself lucky to work in an atmosphere where these three values are encouraged and respected.
What helps you bring your most authentic self to work?
There are not a lot of women in the C-suite, so it would be easy for me to follow the status quo and not be myself at Honeywell. However, working in an environment that prioritises values like diversity and inclusion helps me bring my most authentic self to work. Feeling respected and valued for who I am allows me to do the best job possible. This is important to show other women at our workplace – we need to be ourselves. Staying rooted to my core values and being self-assured about strengths always helps drive my best work. I have seen this get me through some tough days throughout my career. At the end of the day, the value we deliver needs to be felt by our stakeholders, both internal and external.
From your perspective, what makes a great leader?
It is important to respect people for the unique strengths and experiences they bring to the organisation and make them feel valued for their contributions, small and large. I have seen leaders who accomplish this whether or not they are in your direct line of hierarchy. Leaders who are transparent, you trust to do the right thing and want to work for them. This can help establish a culture where everyone is inspired to bring out their best and true self. A leader is only as good as their team.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
It gives me immense satisfaction to be a CTO at Honeywell, and I am proud of my work in this role. I took a bet on the idea around digitalisation to drive operational efficiency in the traditionally conservative Life Safety industry. This led to launching transformational and game-changing offerings like Connected Life Safety Services and Self-Test detectors that drive assured compliance in fire safety. Witnessing the impact these technologies are creating in the customer community is a very satisfying achievement for me.
I am also extremely proud of the work I do to help young women and girls succeed in STEM. I strive to deliver meaningful contributions in all aspects of my life. Knowing that I do is an achievement that I am immensely proud of.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this gap?
In my opinion, one of the most significant challenges faced by women across all industries is the persistent issue of imposter syndrome. A KPMH study found that around 75% of female executives across industries, including technology, have experienced imposter syndrome at some point during their careers. This self-doubt can hinder confidence and overall well-being, making it a critical issue that needs to be addressed.
Overcoming this issue can be achieved by increasing the representation of women in leadership positions, especially within STEM fields. When women occupy key roles, it sends a powerful message that their contributions are not only valued but essential. This representation also serves as a source of inspiration for women aspiring to join the industry, as they can see real world examples of women with successful careers in these fields.
What books, podcasts, or people have been the most influential in your journey?
- Kick Some Glass:10 Ways Women Succeed at Work on Their Own Terms
- The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
- Jack Welch and the 4 E’s of Leadership
- Mary Kay: You Can Have It All: Lifetime Wisdom from America’s Foremost Woman Entrepreneur
- Winning Now, Winning Later
- Fish!: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results
- The Lean Startup
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
People at Honeywell who you look up to, but also perhaps a personal role model:
- Vimal Kapur, Honeywell’s chief executive officer
- Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chairman and CEO
- Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s former chairman and chief executive officer
What’s a leadership lesson that you’ve learnt that’s unique to being a female leader?
Oftentimes, you find yourself as the only woman at the table. It is important to be self-assured and look after yourself. Also, lean on your supporters – male or female. As women, we should look out for one another. We must mentor each other and constantly be looking to help grow and develop the next generation. I have been mentored and guided by such women leaders and I look to do the same for other women.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I want to drive as much impact as possible towards improving sustainability and life safety outcomes during my career. To do this, I hope to leverage emerging technologies like Generative AI and quantum computing to solve complex problems in the engineering world. I will also remain excited to contribute to not-for-profit organisations with inspiring STEM initiatives.