The stereotype remains strong: computer science folks are often seen as strictly technical, not at all artistic. But Manalee Panda doesn’t let little things like a BS in electronics and telecommunications, an MS in computer science, or a client-facing job as a Systems Integrator get in the way of her love for the arts. She writes, she paints—and she inspires me to start doing more (way more!) with my free time.
This March, we’re celebrating the badass ladies of Radiant in honor of International Women’s Month. With April in sight, we’re ending our series with a go-getter who blends technical knowledge, people skills, and a drive to do more with every waking hour.
Early Days in India
Born and raised in Keonjhar, in the state of Odisha, Manalee discovered one of her primary paths in the classroom: “I was introduced to computers, science, and technology back in high school. In India, we grow up learning those things, so we have a fair amount of exposure to the basics, at least.”
Even then, she was creative, balancing her growing technical skills with her love of writing. She entered a lot of writing competitions back in school, where she’d be given a topic, then write an essay about it on the spot or dream up a complete story based around just a few words. When it came to college, though, her technical aptitude led the way. As she explains, “I had good scores for an engineering exam, so I joined an engineering school and did my bachelor’s there.” Once Manalee graduated, she began working as a Systems Engineer at Infosys, one of India’s largest technology companies and a globally known brand.
Her time there was a shaping experience and prompted the next giant steps in her journey, with major changes in both her location and her area of focus. “Working at Infosys gave me more exposure and experience with computer science, and I thought I should explore more in this area and go for a Masters.” She took the GRE and was offered admissions to many different universities in the United States, ending up at the University of Texas at Dallas (y’all!).
Next Steps: Becoming Radiant
Once she graduated from UT-Dallas with an emphasis in data science and analytics, Manalee was eager to find her next great adventure. She hadn’t heard of Radiant Logic but when she came across a job listing for work at its headquarters in Novato, California, she was intrigued.
“I studied a completely different field than what Radiant Logic does, so when I came in for an interview, I had no knowledge of Active Directory, no idea about Identity and Access Management. But they liked my resume and my profile, and I had a background in Java, as well,” so she was hired in 2017.
When Manalee began at Radiant, she was part of the support team, where she had to be ready around the clock to be sure customer deployments ran smoothly. As Manalee says, “the learning curve was very steep in the beginning, the first year was really tough.” (At Radiant, we are proud to deliver world-class customer support and our commitment shows in our Gartner Peer Review ratings—but providing such dedicated service takes real knowledge, grit, and determination, so shout-out to our customer support superstars!) As she says, “back when I was in support, we spent our time troubleshooting issues with customers and it was challenging being on-call 24 hours a day, handling case escalations.”
Helping Customers Overcome Complexity
In her current role on the integration team, Manalee helps customers deploy our RadiantOne Intelligent Identity Data Platform and make the most of all its advanced capabilities. Her goal is to “keep customers happy and also provide them the most optimized solution using RadiantOne.” She really enjoys how focused her role is, handling one client and one project at a time. “It’s really fun to go between companies and get to know the players.”
RadiantOne unifies identity across disparate sources, but every deployment environment is as unique as a fingerprint. “We have to scope out the specific requirements of each client and then develop unique solutions for them, coming up with a design and deploying things within a very short timeframe.”
As someone on the front lines of customer deployments, Manalee’s work is very rewarding, but it can also be challenging. After all, our customers have some of the most complex identity data infrastructures on the planet (that’s why they turn to Radiant!) and navigating all that complexity takes insight, deep domain knowledge, and no small measure of ingenuity. As Manalee notes: “We face new challenges with every deployment and almost every single day there’s something new to learn.” That’s a plus for Manalee, since “I feel like I’m constantly growing at Radiant.” Almost every single day there’s something new to learn, because each deployment is unique.
She especially loves designing solutions for clients. “Every customer’s requirement is unique and that really gets me thinking, gets me into problem-solving mode.” I like to think that her work is one of the many ways she exercises her creative muscles, a different way to tell stories, to invent new worlds. But it’s not just the intriguing technical challenges she appreciates at Radiant:
“I honestly love working with the people here. Back when I worked at Infosys in India, there were major power differences between the people in the company, but everyone here is so approachable, so open to ideas and opinions. I just love that everyone is so willing to listen and willing to help.”
Always Learning, Always Looking Ahead
While she’s very experienced in the technical arts, Manalee has dreams of doing even more: “I want to grow into some sort of leadership role, because I feel like I have the potential to not just do great technical work but also lead a team of people.” (Manalee would be in great company here at Radiant.)
She has a vision for her future—and the drive to make it happen. “I want to do more courses to grow technically, and at the same time, I want to keep practicing my management skills, my organizing skills, my customer success skills, because that can put me in a good position going forward.”
As she says: “I’ve learned a lot of things at Radiant and even now, I learn a lot each and every day.” And for someone who’s hungry to know more, do more, be more, you can’t ask for anything better than that.
Putting Her Creativity to Work
Manalee still enjoys being creative, as well: “I love art stuff, design, traveling and I’m trying to come up with a blog or something where I could write articles, document my personal experiences with travel.”
Of course, I’d love to have her to write for this blog, as well, using her communication skills to share her deep knowledge of essential use cases and successful customer deployments. After all, she goes into huge companies and makes technical magic happen, so I’d be delighted if she comes for my gig!
Of course, she’s a tiny bit busy these days, vanquishing customer challenges—but I’d love to put her storytelling skills to use. Stay tuned! 😉
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