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Chawla, Seema

Seema Chawla is on a journey. After growing up in Canada and India, she came to the US. That’s when she found her true calling. She took software courses and landed a position with a leading Silicon Valley IT company. More opportunities followed.

After several years, she saw the downside of the intense product-centric cultures at IT companies that were not meeting the needs of most companies. Corporate IT environments had become inefficient because of fragmented solutions delivered through “must have” software products not designed or installed to work together. At the same time, Seema also felt firsthand the toxic aspects of Silicon Valley culture. She experienced pay inequality and career roadblocks.

Seema could no longer stand by and watch the struggles of businesses that had been sold software solutions that did not put their interests first. Although a significant risk, especially for a woman of color, she decided to build her own talented team to deliver the customized IT solutions that companies need in an environment where people could thrive, regardless of gender or ethnicity. 

Seema founded TekValley and has been successful, but she still has to fight every day for opportunities and to overcome biases.

Recently, a prospective client said TekValley was too small to become a preferred vendor even though the firm has been delivering projects for them for nearly 10 years. Knowing that the prospect was discounting TekValley’s capabilities, Seema persevered by insisting on a review of completed projects, highlighting quality and cost efficiency. Additionally, she showed other client testimonials and case studies. The prospect commented, “I am very impressed with the way you work. You work like a man. You just don’t give up.”  

Regardless of the challenge, Seema always pushes forward. Her journey took an unexpected turn early on. Now she’s moving ahead on a path she loves. 

Since its founding in 2000, TekValley has grown into a full-spectrum provider of IT services focused on digital transformation, with offices in 4 countries. The firm’s revenues have grown an average 15-20%% annually. It has served more than 25 companies, many of whom are returning clients. 

This growth comes from Seema’s vision that TekValley would leave no gaps around adapting the right technologies and service model to its customer’s business, especially for accelerating digital transformation at financial services companies. 

Seema knows that to harness the potential of technologies to transform and streamline, her teams must relentlessly focus on customers’ business requirements. This means listening and meeting customers’ needs in areas such as how much software to custom build, whether to use open source or commercial technology, and whether to deploy in-cloud, on-premises, or hybrid. TekValley also brings expertise in rolling out critical knowledge and content management tools. To enable this work, the firm has developed deep specializations in forward-thinking development and orchestration methodologies, such as Agile, DevOps, SaaS, and microservices.

The journey has not been easy. Seema took a leap of faith to create a firm that allowed her and other professionals to escape the toxic aspects of Silicon Valley. For Seema, who knew the realities of financial hardship growing up, giving up a stable corporate paycheck was definitely a very real risk in a field where few women were advancing, much less becoming start up founders. 

Seema’s other early challenge was convincing talented professionals to join an unproven firm. Through her own drive and passion, she persuaded many that TekValley would provide them benefits and challenging work found in a proven company, as well as a positive culture and greater opportunity. Today, many are still with TekValley, which has an average retention rate of 10+ years.

TekValley keeps ahead of the curve by proactively building a deep body of knowledge and skills as its primary asset. Rather than finding temporary staff and capabilities after clients sign a contract, Seema recruits seasoned professionals and sponsors training and development initiatives to ensure their expertise is tracking with the latest technology trends. This approach sets TekValley apart from competitors who retain temporary professionals after winning an assignment. As a result, TekValley has a deep bench of professionals ready to go, along with a portfolio of deployed solutions as proof of their capabilities. They are ready as niche technologies emerge into mainstream solutions. 

A commitment to looking ahead to identify trends that will shape their work is embedded in TekValley’s day-to-day practices. In addition to regular review of tech publications and podcasts like GigaOm and Coding Blocks, best practices to keep the team looking ahead include weekly internal meetups and bi-monthly technology collaborations to showcase a trending topic.

Also, the firm has established an R&D budget that will support development in Cloud Computing, AI and Big Data and Web Technology; ensure participation in leading technology forums; and encourage team members’ creative side projects.

Today, with the explosion of artificial-intelligence powered solutions, TekValley is laying the groundwork for future growth by building competencies and deep skills in areas such as Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and advanced AI injunction. Seema plans to create a product that consolidates and leverages the team’s expertise in machine learning, data science and automation. The company projects that this field alone will drive 200% growth for the firm over the next 2-3 years. This will accelerate Tek Valley’s growth, which already has been on Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies in America list in 2016 and 2018, and SF Business Times’ Top 100 Women Led Businesses in Bay Area in 2018 and 2019. Seema was recently honored by US Congress and state senate and city of Pleasanton for “ Women as economic Drivers”

Seema has built TekValley into a firm committed to inspiring and encouraging the current and next generation of engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs – especially those who want to break the glass ceiling. These values guide the firm in its hiring and development practices both locally and across borders.

Seema has worked with her team to help women and girls break into the industry. For 5 years, a TekValley program has invited women and girls of different age groups, to engage in training on the newest technology skills. Participants have gone on to work on TekValley teams and at companies such as Cisco, Apple, Wells Fargo, Gap and Google. Seema encourages participants after the program to keep in contact and expand their networks of other women in tech by reminding that “we have to be the change we’ve been waiting for” globally and not just in the US.

This development philosophy extends to TekValley’s employees as well. Seema and her leadership team supports employees through classes and professional coaching. Approximately 40% of TekValley’s staff participate in the skill building program.

This commitment to training enabled a key win a few years ago. A client was developing an interactive voice response product. While the client’s team was proficient on the systems and initial programming, they lacked front end product console knowledge. The TekValley team already included experts in the platform, and they developed the portions for which the client’s existing team did not have sufficient expertise. 

In the process, TekValley trained the client teams in and completed a hand over with the client’s professionals being proficient in all aspects of their product development. The client executive was very appreciative of TekValley’s services and its transformative impact on its team. This wouldn’t have been possible without the TekValley commitment to ongoing, proactive skills building and education.

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