Neelima Parasker on Networking in Tech
CEO & Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee
Founder and CEO
In our sixth episode, Neelima Parasker, founder and CEO of SnapIT Solutions, joins host Alana Muller to discuss networking in the tech industry. Tune in to hear how Neelima has encouraged her team of engineers to embrace the power of connection and how she’s helping to shape the future of the Kansas City workforce. “It’s very easy for me to interact with people that have a higher purpose, rather than just a business need... Companies have mission statements, so I think we should have either a personal mission statement, or at least a purpose when approaching (networking).”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust, that's empowering business leaders, one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks, and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We, at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning into another episode.
Hello, welcome to another episode of Enterprising Podcast. So great to have you here with us today, and even greater is that my friend Neelima Parasker is joining us today as our special guest. I'm so excited. So Neelima is the owner, president and chief executive officer of SnapIT Solutions, an innovative technology, training, services, and solutions company. Neelima founded SnapIT Solutions with a mission to empower communities and create opportunities and technology and engineering, and she has certainly done that. Neelima, welcome to Enterprise.ing.
Neelima Parasker: Thank you, Alana. So great to be here.
Alana Muller: It's so great to see you. It's been such a long time. Tell our listeners just a little bit about yourself and about SnapIT. And then, I want to dig into networking, which I know you are very familiar with.
Neelima Parasker: Thank you. As you have mentioned, we are a technology solutions company first, but with a division of trainings within the company. This training division constantly puts our pipeline into the IT market, not only for SnapIT, but also for other technology companies. So, SnapIT is built on a specific business model. We have... it's patenting is in process. It's called SnapIT Sprint. The first division of the model is the trainings division that I refer to about, custom-trained for adults and young adults to get into IT. The second is the Solves division, where we create products for small, medium businesses and utilize the talent that we have brought in from trainings into developing products with less critical pipeline and milestones. And the third division is Pods and Placements. This enables us to bring in work from big corporates and get the work done with the talent that we have developed. And also in future pipeline, we are looking at placing the talent because the amount of trainings that we have done for students has gone exponentially high, so this has created another avenue for us to place talent in the industry.
Alana Muller: How cool and gosh, what a perfect time to be doing that, we are hearing so much about in the marketplace about just the difficulty of attracting and retaining talent. So, the fact that you are creating the pipeline and actually getting people in the positions they need to be in, is just so fabulous. So great work, very cool.
Neelima Parasker: Thank you.
Alana Muller: I, in sort of preparing for our conversation today, I was thinking back to, I don't even know how many years ago when we first met and I remember, I met you at a society of women engineers event and you came right up to me, you introduced yourself and from the start, it was so clear that you are a person who's very comfortable with networking. You put everyone around you at ease and frankly, you exude a warmth that draws other people in, people want to come and talk with you. I want to know, how did you formulate your approach to networking and what do you do to effectively nurture your own contact base?
Neelima Parasker: Thank you Alana, I think it's probably you that made me talk. No, I'm just kidding. But yeah, I did enjoy our meeting, you came across as much with the same intense communication skills as much as people around us, were attracted to you as much as I, so I share the same respect.
Alana Muller: Thank you.
Neelima Parasker: So to answer your question really, I have reflected on how I behave in different environments. When I like the nature in which we are coming together, the topic or the reason we are networking, that's the first check mark for me. And then the people who I interact with. It's very easy for me to interact with people with a higher purpose, rather than just a business need.
Alana Muller: I love that.
Neelima Parasker: Which later on it probably, it’s I educated myself to know what portions in which we have to utilize it, in order to keep my progress on the company. And the third one obviously is, am I enjoying this company?
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Neelima Parasker: Do I really like the people that I'm interacting with? If I do, I'm at my best to interact and it was not the point of confidence, it's the point of how much can I be myself in the company, and it helps to have a great city, like Kansas City, who we love to network and people are great almost at every event, they're great at it. Some people either take it to the far right or far left - where they're totally business or they're totally having fun - because they have no other place.
Alana Muller: Right. That's true.
Neelima Parasker: So how do we navigate those communication, those center points, where we are coming together on a purpose with people who are more, thinking about more than just themselves and their purpose that they represent. So only then.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I mean, I think why is about that is, first of all, just the notion that you would speaking with purpose, which I think we should all do, our companies all have mission statements. And so, I think to the extent that we can have either a personal mission statement or at least a purpose with which we're approaching various interactions, I think that makes so much sense, so I love that. And then secondly, when you talk about understanding the balance, kind of the balance, is this a social call, is there a future opportunity? And in some ways you're sort of, you're gauging that as you go. But I like that you're getting, again, both some personal benefit, but then also thinking about the long term benefit to your company, of having this interaction and that you're trying to strike a balance. I think that is terrific. And then, are you enjoying the people you're with. So...
Neelima Parasker: Yeah.
Alana Muller: ...You're right. In a friendly city like Kansas City, people at networking events tend to be friendly, but certainly there are some interactions that we appreciate more than others. So the fact that you're sort of, constantly measuring that I think is really wise. One of the things that I have been chuckling to myself about, I don't know if you'll find it quite as funny of it, but most engineers that I know, would not call themselves great networkers. They don't perceive themselves as great networkers, they're not natural born networkers. The funny joke is I actually think engineers have a great time and I think they have a very high capacity for interactions and great networking, but I think, you know, common lore says otherwise. Talk to me a little bit about how you have encouraged your own team, a team of engineers to embrace the power of connection and what that's meant for not only them individually, but for the company.
Neelima Parasker: So I've been in the IT world for about 20 years, 20 plus years. And I'm a dual engineer. I'm a mechanical engineer and a computer sciences engineer.
Alana Muller: A real nerd.
Neelima Parasker: Totally.
Alana Muller: I'm good with the nerds. My favorite kind of people, so that's great.
Neelima Parasker: That's right. I would call engineers, I know there is a term “nerd” for an engineer. We all communicate in different ways. They are too. Right? The popular way of communicating is, obviously, to strike off, or off balance topic and then be able to continue the topic and bring it back to on balance, the topic and kind of mix it together. So some engineers may call it “fluff,” but it's proven that the “fluff” actually is the bond for certain things, so it's a combination of things that sometimes engineers are subjected to being a nerd because of that, because they're on target, on mission, on getting things done. I would say I encourage my team to be more vocal, especially after this situation we are all in, the little inconvenience.
Alana Muller: Exactly.
Neelima Parasker: That actually helped, quite a bit, for our company to interact with each other a lot more. So when COVID hit, we started having weekly team meetings. That's a totally optional meeting, but we had weekly team meetings where people would come and I would call on each and every person and talk about what's new, what's different, what's bothering them, if they want to share. And maybe one or two weeks, we went with not very many people sharing, but by the end of three, four months, we all knew about each other's lives and each other's ways of doing many things. And we heard previous stories sometimes.
Alana Muller: Yeah, I'm sure[crosstalk 00:09:37]
Neelima Parasker: So people were comfortable.
Alana Muller: Would you have had those conversations? I mean, I know we would never have wished for isolation or for COVID, we would never wish for these things, but I always look for kind of, what were the most wonderful things to happen during times of isolation or the time of the pandemic. So my question is, do you think that the team would have gotten to know each other in this way, had it not been for the pandemic, had it not been for these special meetings such you were calling?
Neelima Parasker: We do have a good culture in the company. I'll tell you actually, one of the best cultures that I've seen, it's not just because of me. It's because of the team that is coming in.
Alana Muller: Sure.
Neelima Parasker: We have a wonderful diverse team, as you know. I think we would still have it, but very siloed interactions. This forced people to be on one platform at the same time.
Alana Muller: Sure.
Neelima Parasker: Hearing whether sometimes you may not have the time or not, to listen and learn about each other. And then we have these chat channels by the interest, that they have.
Alana Muller: Oh, great.
Neelima Parasker: Different interest channels. We have music, we have movies to watch, we have so many channels that people get in and contribute. So we now know each other, at least a little bit about each other, and we've been growing. We started COVID with maybe 20 plus employees, we had contractors, but 20 plus employees probably, now, we are 40 plus.
Alana Muller: Wow.
Neelima Parasker: Maybe even 50 employees.
Alana Muller: So you've more than doubled during the time of COVID, [crosstalk 00:11:10] which is amazing. So in two years, you've doubled size. And, have you been working in an office together or has it been mostly hybrid or mostly virtual?
Neelima Parasker: After the three months of lockdown, we opened the office, but I still have work from home option, for pretty much all of my employees. They do have an option to come to office and work from office, but there is no mandate to get to the office. So we have an office, a big 10,000 square foot office that has five, maybe 15.
Alana Muller: Lots of space to socially distance, I suppose.
Neelima Parasker: Yeah. But we've been delivering projects on time, on target, sometimes even before. So I'm not complaining as long as we are all healthy, safe.
Alana Muller: Sure.
Neelima Parasker: We do want to come, bring people in, one at a time because I've seen some cases of mental health issues come up and they like to be interacting with each other, things like that, so maybe it'll be time in a few months to really encourage people to come in.
Alana Muller: Yeah, I think that's great. I want to ask you about, for you personally, your own networking. Can you tell us about, maybe one interaction that has really resulted in a breakthrough for you, has there been either personally or professionally somebody who you've come across that has just been, it's been a very meaningful interaction.
Neelima Parasker: When I was Kauffman's innovator in residence program, it's an inaugural innovator invested program. They put seven of us together from all over the world, and one of my co-innovators was [foreign language 00:12:50]. He has been a Stanford scientist for 28 years, and I still keep in touch with him after three years of that program being done. And he, I keep asking RD, why do you ask so many questions, are you doing research on me? So we ended up doing a white paper together that was published in an international engineering journal where Stanford and Kauffman was showcasing SnapIT as a case study.
Alana Muller: Neat.
Neelima Parasker: That relationship didn't end with the white paper. That relationship didn't end with white paper, it continues.
Alana Muller: Yes.
Neelima Parasker: It continues to a place where he calls up once in a while and says “Neelima, what's happening with SnapIT, what's happening with you?”
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Neelima Parasker: So that guidance that, I mean, I don't pay him for doing that. Which probably I should. But those are the things that advising and he gets to research many multinational corporates, especially in IT, because it's the design and engineering space. So, networking should bring that kind of an impact. And I have a couple different, pause embedded into the industry that reach out to me. And again, it goes back to, I think, sticking to the mission and vision, sticking your line to the core, believing it first so much that you have done everything in your power to prove it wrong and then say, okay, this is probably going to work.
Alana Muller: Yeah, exactly. [crosstalk 00:14:25] I love it, I know there's a formula for that. That's so great. Well, and what a special relationship, I mean, so when you talk about a day, the kind of layer upon layer of interactions, it wasn't just your program, it wasn't just the white paper. It's sort of, you can point to many different kinds of touch points and that's one of my favorite things about networking is, that it shouldn't be what have you done for me lately as you and I have talked about before, it's much more about a series of touch points. Sometimes there's a transaction, sometimes a white paper is written, sometimes you engage in a program together, but it's layer upon layer of experiences and that you just build on that. So what a special, wonderful relationship have you had an opportunity to share some of your own advice with somebody who's trying to grow or cultivate their network? What have you said to people, what do you encourage people to do?
Neelima Parasker: Absolutely. Alana, I don't know how I became, but, I've been referred to many people who are considering coming to Kansas City.
Alana Muller: Yes.
Neelima Parasker: Anyone is in tech or IT, anything related to that space. I keep getting reference for, even people in Kansas city, wanting the people who are moving into Kansas City to come speak to me.
Alana Muller: How cool.
Neelima Parasker: ...Kansas City ecosystem. So that's been very interesting, especially the past two years. I've had multiple conversations with people who were moving in or considering moving into Kansas City, saying, “what can you tell me about this ecosystem, what can I prepare?”
Alana Muller: You're the Kansas City brand ambassador for the IT sector. That's so great, that's very cool. And so you've been able to sort of share your own experiences, and I assume hear from them what their fears and concerns are, and try to address that.
Neelima Parasker: Yeah. And of course I do participate, and I do speaking, or mentoring events throughout the Kansas City area, if anybody is interested, but my heart goes mostly towards the younger generation. I know there's so much of what we talked [about] on the Internet for adults to learn and grow.
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Neelima Parasker: If somebody asks me to come speak to a bunch of kids and young adults, I am there. That's the few, and nothing against, or towards the adults as such. I just feel like the world of Google and the Internet and so much resources online, if I have to dedicate a little bit of space to give, I want to give as much as possible to the next gen.
Alana Muller: Well, okay. So it's very good timing. I wanted to talk to you about this, because I have to say one of the things I most admire about you and about SnapIT is that I know that the organization, at your direction, has trained more than a thousand students in IT skills over the past few years. Correct me, if I'm wrong. But it's my understanding that 80% of the students that you train are placed into apprenticeships, or internships in technology. And I can only imagine just sort of the places that these students will go as a result of this grounding. I mean, that's amazing. What I love for you to talk about is, how did you get involved with this, how do you recruit and get these kids involved? Of course, I want to go back to networking, but talk about the ways that networking has factored into this effort, both from a recruiting, and retention perspective as well as how you actually educate the participants.
Neelima Parasker: So when I put SnapIT’s Sprint model together, when training was one of the main and first component, I really knew that I was just by myself, maybe my trainers, kind of thing. We didn't have the manpower, or woman power, to get out there and find the talent that I'm looking to hire. So soon I learned that there is, which I didn't know, there is something called workforce agencies that exist. To tell the truth, I had no idea that federal organizations support these workforce agencies even statewide and they have many other supporters. These workforce agencies are supported and funded with a very purpose to bring more workforce into the industry. But their focus was mainly in manufacturing and construction for our Kansas City, Midwest area, especially Kansas City. So I started putting one thing to another, and I started promoting technology trainings to these organizations, knowing that thousands of people who are wanting a job is walking into those agencies.
Not everybody who walks in is our prime candidate for training. But if they walk in and say, “I want to get an IT or tech.” Tech probably is the common word, that would be our tag into, okay, these are various options that you have, that would be then promoting various options of trainings that they have. Now, obviously, they can’t promote SnapIT. They have to be ubiquitous, agnostic about trainings, but in case the student hears about SnapIT. Initially the first two rounds, we had to really put our foot forward.
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Neelima Parasker: But after the first two classes graduated, it literally went viral in the community that the students came through.
Alana Muller: Wow.
Neelima Parasker: We were told that their families were coming to graduation, talking like they were walking at Stanford. I was bawling.
Alana Muller: Oh that's so great.
Neelima Parasker: Because it takes three to five months of their time, pure concentration and mind boggling information to go through, to get through it.
Alana Muller: That they become your best marketing department.
Neelima Parasker: Exactly. So people started hearing about it. Yeah.
Alana Muller: I just love it. And I love that, you've sort of continued to follow them. You help them to find opportunities, talk about the power of connection. That's just amazing. So thank you for what you do there. I think it gives me sort of great confidence in the future that students are getting trained by the likes of you and your amazing company, so thank you for that. I have a couple fun questions, I want to ask you about, if you could meet with any one person for just a cup of coffee, just to get to know them for networking purposes, who would it be? Anyone, it could be fictional, non-fictional living otherwise, what would you say?
Neelima Parasker: R.B.G. maybe.
Alana Muller: Okay. I'm good with that. How fun would that be, I know.
Neelima Parasker: Yeah.
Alana Muller: So great.
Neelima Parasker: I've been called that. I'm like what? No. But, I'm following her story in her journal. And of course it's very interesting, her path.
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Neelima Parasker: She didn't start off thinking and knowing that she would do it, she fell into it and she didn't give up.
Alana Muller: That's right.
Neelima Parasker: Yeah, that she would be a good networking.
Alana Muller: You wish and she did.
Neelima Parasker: Have a coffee with her.
Alana Muller: That's right, I know. Talk about somebody who was well caffeinated without needing any caffeine too. I don't think she slept.
Neelima Parasker: Petite. No, she doesn’t.
Alana Muller: Very petite, no sleep, plenty of exercise. Great choice. How about this question, what's currently on your nightstand?
Neelima Parasker: Oh, it's the Himalayan salt lamp.
Alana Muller: Oh, nice.
Neelima Parasker: And a bunch of like, I have a glass, a jar that has a bunch of seashells that I gathered from different places that I went to, ocean, beach places, my favorite and I've never lived in a beach.
Alana Muller: I was going to say, exactly. You don't come from a beach town, that's pretty impressive. I love it.
Neelima Parasker: So bringing that little bit of the vacation spirit before, honestly, and my favorite candle.
Alana Muller: If you were to reach into that jar of seashells and pull any shell out, would you know where it came from or not so much?
Neelima Parasker: Ah, not so much.
Alana Muller: Okay.
Neelima Parasker: That's a good idea. I may have to write it down.
Alana Muller: Writing them, exactly.
Neelima Parasker: Yeah.
Alana Muller: That's right. Well, as ever you are just joyful and I love talking with you, I'm so glad to have you on Enterprise.ing. Tell our listeners where they can go to learn more about you and your company.
Neelima Parasker: SnapIT Solutions website, that is snapit.solutions.
Alana Muller: I love that, snapit.solutions. Very cool. Neelima Parasker, I love talking with you, come back anytime and thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, your warmth, and your ideas with our listeners. You have a wonderful day.
Neelima Parasker: Thank you, Alana. I love this discussion.
Alana Muller: Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website enterprise bank.com/podcast to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on apple podcasts or telling a friend about us Enterprising powering business leaders. One conversation at a time, the views expressed by Enterprising presenters or guests are those of the presenter or guests and not necessarily of enterprise bank and trust or its affiliates. All content of this podcast and any related materials are for informational purposes. Only enterprise bank and trust does not make any warranty express or implied, including warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose and specifically disclaim any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information presented enterprise bank and trust is under any obligation to update or correct. Any information provided in this podcast, all statements and opinions are subject to change without notice.