(July 8, 2022) The US stock exchange depends heavily on several Indian-American CEOs – many of whom are female. Breaking the barriers of gender, these female trailblazers have been at the helm of some of the biggest firms in the USA. Their soaring aspirations and the will to fight adversities have encouraged several other women in the industry to thrive for success. In its eighth annual edition of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, Forbes has recognised five such Indian American female business leaders.
Global Indian turns the spotlight on these business executives, who have not only managed to take their companies to new heights, but also amassed a fortune for themselves.
Jayshree Ullal, CEO, Arista Networks
Born in London and raised in New Delhi, Jayshree Ullal studied electrical engineering at San Francisco State University and later pursued her master’s at Santa Clara University. Always ambitious, Jayshree worked in a few companies – including Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Fairchild Semiconductor – before joining the Crescendo Communications (later acquired by Cisco), where she grew to the position of vice president of marketing.
In 2008, Jayshree joined the Arista Networks, a cloud networking company as the CEO and President. Interestingly, at the time of her joining, Arista was a tiny startup, with not more than 50 employees. After years of hard work, the 61-year-old business executive led the company to an IPO at the New York Stock Exchange in 2014. Currently one of America’s wealthiest female executives, Jayshree’s net worth stands at about $1.9 billion.
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Neerja Sethi, cofounder, Syntel
A Delhi University graduate, Neerja Sethi was always interested in pursuing a career in the IT industry. She moved to the United States of America for a master’s in computer science at Oakland University in the late ’70s. Soon after graduating, Neerja joined the IT firm Tata Consulting Services. And this is where she met her husband, Bharat Desai. In 1980, after the couple tied the knot, they co-founded Syntel – an IT consulting and outsourcing company – in their small apartment in Michigan.
From starting it with a tiny investment of $2,000, the couple ran the company successfully till French IT firm Atos acquired it for $3.4 billion in 2018. Neerja received an estimated $510 million for her stake during the acquisition, and decided to not continue her association with the company. With a net worth of about $1 billion, Neerja was ranked 24th in the Forbes America’s Richest Self-Made Women 2022 list.
Neha Narkhede, CTO and cofounder, Confluent
A Maharashtra girl, Neha Narkhede went to the Pune Institute of Computer Technology (PICT), where she earned an engineering degree. Her quest to become a software engineer took her to USA, where she pursued a master’s in computer science from Georgia Institute of Technology. Neha started her career as a principal software engineer at Oracle, and later moved to LinkedIn, where she created the open-source software platform Apache Kafka, along with Jun Rao and Jay Kreps.
In 2014, the three engineers cofounded Confluent, a company for real-time data and Apache Kafka in Palo Alto, California. Although, she started as the Chief Technology Officer, Neha later also served as the Chief Product Officer of the company till 2020. In 2021, the company went public at a $9.1 billion valuation. Serving as a board member of Confluent, Neha presently advises several techno startups. With investment in several tech companies, her net worth stands at $490 million according to Forbes.
Reshma Shetty, cofounder, Ginkgo Bioworks
Synthetic biology is one of the fasted growing markets across the globe, and Utah-born Reshma Shetty was quick to realise its potential. After she received a Ph.D. in biological engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Reshma, along with four other scientists founded the Ginkgo Bioworks, in 2008. As synthetic biology was just an emerging technology at that time, the company was completely bootstrapped at the beginning.
Slowly but surely, things started to change and Ginkgo managed to raise $45 million in its series B funding. By 2017, Ginkgo became one of most well-known companies in the sector and went public in 2021. Since she found the company, Reshma has received several awards and honors, including the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture in 2019. Positioned at 97 in the 2022 Forbes America’s Richest Self-Made Women list, Reshma’s net worth is estimated to be about $220 million.
Indra Nooyi, former Chair and CEO, PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi needs no introduction. The former chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, this Indian-American business executive is ranked among some of the most powerful names in the corporate world. Born in Chennai, India, Indra moved to USA in 1978 to pursue a master’s in public and private management at the Yale School of Management. After working with companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Beardsell Ltd, Indra joined PepsiCo in 1994.
In 2006, she was appointed as the CEO of the multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation. In a tenure that lasted 12 years, Indra was honored with several accolades and awards, including the third-highest Indian civilian award, Padma Bhushan in 2013. With a net worth of $320 million, Indra is currently ranked 66th on the Forbes list.
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