Prianka Nandy

Get To Know: Prianka Nandy

Chief Information and Technology Officer (CITO) with Special Olympics International

Representation matters. Seeing women hold a range of positions within the technology and gaming industries is encouraging and inspiring. It helps those interested in pursuing careers within what’s traditionall seen as a male dominated industry see that they too are able to ‘make it’ and pursui their passions and dreams.

In the series, “Get To Know”, we’ll be interviewing a range of women of work in a variety of roles at Microsoft, Xbox and other gaming/technology brands.

Our first interview is a special one (no pun intended), for me in particular, as we get to know Prianka Nandy, Chief Information and Technology Officer (CITO) with Special Olympics International. Why is this one special? Well not only is Ms. Nandy a woman working in a senior position in the technology space but she’s also a woman of colour, someone whose background is somewhat similar to mine. Representation matters remember?

Read on to learn more about Ms. Nandy, what her role entails and how she got to where she is today.

What do you do at the Special Olympics and what does your role entail?

As the Chief Information and Technology Officer (CITO) with Special Olympics International, I am responsible for leading our IT department focused on supporting our staff and our network of affiliates worldwide. I work closely with our senior executive leadership to shape our use of technology, including investments in a range of digital transformation initiatives that align with our overall strategic goals. Every day, my team and our stakeholders envision new ways to leverage technology and data to reach as many adults and children with intellectual disabilities through thousands of sports competitions, health screenings, youth education, and leadership programs. We aim to grow the #inclusionrevolution and change attitudes and end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.

How did you get to your current position (are you able to share a little about your career journey?)

I have had the privilege of spending the majority of my career to date at mission-driven organizations primarily in the US government and international development sectors. I spent 9 years at the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, holding a range of digital product, governance, and sustainable development data program management roles. I also served as a Chief Data and Analytics Officer with the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations based in Rome, Italy, working on global humanitarian supply chain data solutions monitoring and supporting logistics operations bringing life-saving food to people in over 80 countries. I am motivated to choose roles within organizations that allow me the opportunity to use technology and data as enablers to improve the outcomes for beneficiaries who seek a more prosperous future.

What is it like working and progressing career-wise in a somewhat male dominated industry? Have you experienced any challenges due to your gender and ethnicity, and if so, how did you overcome them?

As a woman and a person of color in my industry, I am not immune to the inequities that have been perpetuated by systemic male-dominated power structures that permeate STEM education programs and requisite industries and organizations. Overcoming the challenges in this context has required leveraging the learnings and best practices from female leaders that came before me. I see it as my duty to speak up for integrating principles of equity and inclusion within the span of control I have within the workplace and amongst my colleagues. I believe that leadership of all genders have a role to play in changing the dialogue and practices in recruiting, training, mentoring, and supporting diversity in the technology sector. After one becomes aware of the very real and documented examples of discrimination in the workplace, the only way to turn the tide of destructive patriarchal ideologies is to stop questioning a person’s worth or ability to contribute to an organization’s mission based on gender – and instead consider empathic leadership as a guiding force for enabling much-overdue change.

What does the Microsoft and Special Olympics partnership mean for the Special Olympics community and why is the partnership so important when it comes to gaming and accessibility, particularly given this year’s virtual event?

This partnership of seven-years in the making has been incredibly valuable for the Athletes and families of the Special Olympics movement. Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to raise awareness on the inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities spanned several of our key global programmatic areas in sport and competition, health, education, and youth leadership.  We are well aware that the gaming community has been growing exponentially as a result of the power of streaming media services and digital platforms. To that end, we have piloted successful in-person and virtual gaming events with the Xbox team during 2018 and 2020, where our Athletes had the opportunity to play with our Unified Partners, or gamers without IDD. With the COVID-19 pandemic, our main concern has been the safety and health of our Athletes who are amongst the most vulnerable population to have an adverse or catastrophic outcome from the virus. This led to the cancellation and postpone of thousands of annual in-person events and competitions – which meant our Athletes have missed out on the connections and opportunities to experience the joy of being with their teammates, coaches, and friends. Given the experiences from our past in esports, were well positioned to partner with the Xbox team to deliver on this inaugural virtual global event to bring the two worlds together once again during this unprecedented time. Our goals remain to raise awareness of the Special Olympics movement and the accomplishments, hopes, and dreams of our incredible Athletes, encourage changing mindsets within the gaming community, all while remembering that gaming can be fun and inclusive at the same time.

What advice do you have for young girls wanting to pursue a career in games and/or STEM?

Stay curious and open to trying new things without worrying about whether you “belong” because of your gender. Bring your passion, creativity, logic, and sense of wonder to Gaming and STEM career fields – and you will find a wide range of fulfilling careers where you have the chance to use technology to engage the world in some of the most innovative ways imaginable.

Finally, something a little fun. Are you currently playing any games? If so, what are you playing?

Yes! On Xbox I will unwind with the Sims 4, Minecraft, Stardew Valley, Rocket League, or PGA Tour and on Oculus I’m enjoying Beat Saber and Dance Central