Er. Jhilmil Kochar: The woman of Substance
She represented the school and Jodhpur district in the high jump, 400m relay race, and 200m in classes VII, VIII, and IX. Got the opportunity to represent Rajasthan in class X in National level sports camp, but her father refused due to Boards that year. She was the school sports captain in Class XI. Since childhood, an avid fiction reader, and sketcher, all the walls of her house used to be decorated with her sketches. She would draw cartoons of her teachers in class, and get punished. Just before the examinations of the XI-th board, she suffered from Typhoid and was forbidden to touch books for more than 25 days. Everyone thought she would barely scrape through the boards. But when the results were out, lo and behold, she not only cleared the examinations with 94% but bagged 3rd rank in the merit list in the science stream in Rajasthan Board. Earlier, in the X-th board she bagged 7th rank in merit list with 90% aggregate; in B.Sc. First-year, she was the topper of her class. The protagonist of our story is immensely talented, versatile and an accomplished professional Er. Jhilmil Banerjee Kochar. MBM alumnus, Er. Kochar completed her BE in the year 1990 with a gold medal in Electronics & Communications branch. In this edition, we have chronicled the fascinating and inspirational journey of Er. Kochar.
Childhood and Schooling:
Born on 24th Feb 1970, to educationist and meritorious parents, Jhilmil has been an all-rounder since childhood, excelling in sports, arts, and studies. Her Father Dr. S.K. Banerjee was a Professor of Physics at Jodhpur University and her mother Mrs. Bani Banerjee was a lecturer of English in Somani College Jodhpur. “Having teachers as parents at home has its own advantages. I got the right kind of direction and guidance and that paved way for my better academics throughout my career. I have always looked up to my mother as my role model. One interesting fact is that I was born at IIT- Kanpur campus when my father was doing a Ph.D. in Quantum Physics there and I was the by-product” chuckles Jhilmil. She was always the first to participate in Science quizzes and fairs. She completed her schooling at the prestigious Saint Patrick’s Vidya Bhawan, Jodhpur, and then completed her B.Sc. – First Year from Lachoo Memorial College, Jodhpur.
Another anecdote she recalls is that her father did not want her to study Mathematics or Engineering at the onset as he felt that “girls are not good with Maths”. It required 96/100 in the subject in Higher secondary for him to let go of his bias.
College and Higher Education:
Er. Kochar completed BE in Electronics and Communication in the year 1990 and topped the branch with 82%. After that, she pursued her M.Tech from IIT- Delhi in Electrical systems stream with a major in Communication and Radar Engineering with a CGPA of 9.5 and another gold medal. She appeared for the Engineering Services and secured an all-India rank of 13 but did not join a job in Railways which was considered to be very prestigious at that time.
Professional Journey :
In her professional career spanning more than 28 years, Er. Jhilmil Banerjee Kochar has worked in various companies in leadership roles. She has extensive experience in leading mid-sized India product development centers for US IT multinationals across disciplines like Engineering, R&D, QA, Product Management, HR, Admin, Operations, Finance, and IT. Her technology breadth spans embedded and enterprise with domains including Telecom, Networking, IoT, Cybersecurity, Gaming, Semiconductor, and Multimedia. She calls herself an enabler- making things happen that are a win-win for the employees and employer.
Most recently as the Managing Director, in the past 4 years, she has been instrumental in building CrowdStrike India from scratch to a core Centre of Innovation and building its brand as a “Great Place to Work” with 300 + employees. Earlier, as the head of WMS Gaming and later Scientific Games India, she was asked to help turn around its fledging operations and provide technical and operational leadership much needed by the organization. She not only strategized India’s growth but also reduced the attrition rate by 50% within a year, at the same time led 9 game studios across the country.
Prior to that, as the Engineering Director for Solidcore, she quickly set up the systems and processes needed to scale. Post-acquisition by McAfee, as the center head, she ensured seamless integration of Solidcore product and Operations with McAfee while keeping the startup culture alive.
Before that, she spent a lot of time in the semiconductor industry and built the technology and products which are a part and parcel of our daily lives today. From household products like modems, routers, and set-top boxes, to SAAS-based enterprise cybersecurity products for application whitelisting and vulnerability management, to casino games, she has done it all.
She has traveled across the globe extensively and represented her companies in trade shows and conferences.
Er. Jhilmil has an entrepreneur mindset and has a startup in the domain of IoT and healthcare which is building products for senior care. She has a strong focus on volunteering and is very active in mentoring students and women in cybersecurity and startups. More recently she is trying to help women, who have been widowed due to COVID, towards getting opportunities to earn.
During various points in her journey, she was faced with hurdles like the illnesses of her son, her parents, and her husband. Time and again she needed to take a back seat in her career and give her family the time and priority they deserved. But her optimism and zest always made her bounce back with a vengeance and restart with a renewed vigor.
With everything on her plate, she still finds time to cook exotic dishes, write humorous blogs, sketch and travel.
College days- Fun days :
College life is that part of your life that you are going to relive in your memories till you breathe. Five years of our MBM life was full of Fun, Masti, Frolic, and enjoyment. During the decades of the Eighties and Nineties, there were very few girl students in engineering college. Having fewer numbers of girls didn’t prevent us from participating and enjoying the extracurricular activities in college. The best part of college, that I recall, is the mass bunks and the चाय की थडी, where we spent a few hours almost every day, talking about anything under the sun, and playing तीन पत्ती religiously.
“Once I developed some pseudo-leadership instincts and wanted to bunk the mass cuts, which meant that I would attend class even if rest of the folks were missing. I don’t know what devil possessed me that day. So went in and attended a lecture or two, despite dissuasion by the perpetrators. As I felt good about a day well spent and came out to mount my vehicle, I noticed that it had a flat tyre and something that had been done deliberately. Someone didn’t like my bold step and decided to teach me a lesson. The summer heat, me alone in the huge campus, hungry, not a soul insight, and a flat, so no means to go home. Almost in tears, I dragged my vehicle a few hundred meters to the nearest roadside repair shop, got the puncture made, and finally reached home an hour later, all exhausted. And I learned my lesson, bhookhe pet leadership nahi hoti!” Er. Jhilmil remembers her ordeal.
“On another occasion, I participated in the “extempore” in Mech Fest-88, where I was given a topic five minutes earlier and had to speak for five minutes non-stop on the stage in front of a full auditorium. I had no stage exposure and had never done this before. But had the supreme confidence to go stand tall in front of the audience that was silent and waited for me to speak. I started off well enough, mentioned the topic and a few more lines and then I happened to look at a couple of rows of students for looking at me. I looked at them and forgot my lines, my topic, why I was standing there. I stood a few minutes in silence, the audience frustration rising and when we could collectively bear the silence no longer, I ran away from the stage. Of course, I was disqualified, but the humiliation I felt took a long time to heal but that whole experience made me a much stronger individual, determined to face challenges.” Er. Jhilmil shares her experience.
Life Partner : An MBMite
“My now life partner, Anuraag Kochar, was my fellow classmate in MBM. Two years of initially ignoring his presence slowly started to know each other in the third year. Then the realization dawning that, once college ends, we will not see each other again, was enough to lead me to propose; and then we were hitched. Ours was a very arranged “love marriage” between a Bengali non-vegetarian girl and a Jain vegetarian boy. All the fireworks you can imagine from the 90’s B grade movies happened but all is well that ends well. But finally realizing the kids are stubborn enough to keep meeting beyond college, they finally yielded and we got married on none another date than Valentine’s day. “ recalls Jhilmil fondly.
Anuraag Kochar, another MBMite has always been the traditional Government servant, clearing IES and working with the Dept of Telecom his entire career. He is currently posted as Director, DoT at Pune.
Their son, Anamil Kochar, a Sheffield graduate and postgraduate from SMU in Applied Finance, and a CFA charter holder is working in a fintech startup in Mumbai.
Awards & Accolades :
Jhilmil has always been exemplary in her profession receiving numerous awards and recognitions at various times in her career. She was awarded as a “Power Woman” in a business meeting in 2019 for her startup. She was also awarded as a young achiever by MBM Engineering College on 52nd Engineers Day. Over her career, she has received numerous accolades for her contribution towards various technical projects as well as outreach and partnership with academia.
Management Mantra: Bring out the best in People
“My philosophy and mantra as a professional have always been to create a work culture that brings out the best in people. Leading from the front, motivation, empathy, and integrity has allowed me to earn the respect of the industry. If I can make a positive impact on one person’s life, my work is justified. A great engineer is not only one who knows how to solve a problem, but also how to inspire others. I am also a great proponent of women’s empowerment and enabling children to learn innovation at an early stage. Working in the IT sector for more than 25 years, I have held many rewarding roles, and have personally employed over a hundred women who have made significant contributions to the tech industry. Women are second to none and every woman should have a career. I feel it’s our responsibility to take the lead here. If we can collectively shift our mindset towards bringing more women into work, we can reap outstanding benefits for our industry and for society.” She shares these wise words with youngsters.
Giving back to Alma Mater :
Both Er. Jhilmil and Er. Anurag Kochar is involved in various philanthropic activities. They have contributed large sums to the MBM Engineering College Girls Hostel project. Er. Kochar has delivered few lectures in College on the subjects like Cybersecurity and Machine Learning. She would like to absorb a few of the Girl Engineering Candidates in her organization. She also mentors and guides start-up founders.
Nidhi Shand completed her B.Arch. from MBM Engineering college in 2004. She also holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has worked at senior positions in leading Architecture firms. Her professional experience includes designing and executing projects in Housing, Hospitality, and Commercial sector.