Google’s Regina Manzana-Sawhney has a knack for finding things. As a member of Chatham’s class of 1996, she found life-long friends, passions, and her husband. They met at a CMU party. “We have this funny experience that I like to tease him about,” she says. “You know when you’re moving out of the dorms? He helped me move out. He was at the top of the steps and I was at the bottom. From there he pushed the big box full of stuff down for me to catch. He says, I’ll just push it down and you catch it. He pushes it down and…I catch it alright but with my face!”
Manzana-Sawhney had the chance to revisit Laughlin and all of her favorite Chatham spots when she received the Young Alumni Award during the 2011 Alumni Weekend. Her first reaction (“really, me?”) was followed by genuine honor. “It was great to be recognized for what I’ve accomplished.” She still remembers why she chose Chatham. “The thing that drew me to it was the small classroom feel,” she says. “Some people like big, I liked small. Pittsburgh as a city had a just the right size feel for it and I loved that it was such a college town.”
She didn’t go for a big school, but Manzana-Sawhney is a big thinker. Straight out of college, the Business Management major moved to the Bay Area to break into her industry. “I had two jobs after graduation because I moved to one of the most expensive areas of California.” To make ends meet, she held two jobs when she first moved. She was a restaurant hostess in the evening and held an entry level role at Novtek Test Systems. The company’s focus was automatic flash memory testers. “When you prove yourself after several quarters at a new job then you’re given more opportunities,” she says. “She managed their escalation process, PR, tradeshows and marketing material. In a smaller company you get a lot of different responsibilities.”
After four years at Novtek, Manzana-Sawhney chose to move on. “I applied only to businesses whose services I used,” she says. It was a targeted search that included companies like Evite, Paypal, Google and Yahoo! Receiving offers at Yahoo! and Google, she ultimately chose Google since she used their search the most.
She’s back in America, but Manzana-Sawhney’s focus is still international. “Recently, a new passion of mine is education,” she says, “particularly how I can give back to the Philippines….I lived there for three years and my daughter, she’s half-Indian, half-Filipino, and I want her to be able to identify with the country even though she lives here in the U.S.” Recently, Manzana-Sawhney co-launched a new employee resource group, The Filipino Google Network. “Our mission is to empower Filipino Googlers and Filipinos globally with education as the catalyst for change.” The network currently works with the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation and the Apl Foundation (established by Black Eyed Peas member apl.de.ap) on an initiative to create 10,000 classrooms in the Philippines. “Our group is partnering with non-profits to work on infrastructure and training,” says Manzana-Sawhney. A core focus is how to better introduce science and technology in the classroom.
Balancing a three-year-old daughter with a fast paced career is no small feat; luckily, Chatham armed Manzana-Sawhney with more than just technical skill. “One thing that I really value from the Chatham experience is that everything involved writing,” she says. “Putting together any sort of communication became easy because they just drilled it into you.” For her, the capstone of her Chatham experience was the Tutorial. “I did my thesis on power distance, which is the level of inequality between superior and subordinate,” she says. “Basically what the effect of different cultures and environments are to the power distance relationship.”
As Manzana-Sawhney focuses on empowerment, she can happily say that she’s never faced gender discrimination. “And in speaking to colleagues,” she adds, “I don’t know that they have experienced it either. We have a lot of programs that encourage women to enter technology.” After spending so much time working alongside them, she knows the value of strong women. “I really respect what great multi-taskers women are,” she says. “For example, in India, often I’d have colleagues that recently got married, were working long hours, have a long commute home (maybe an hour back and forth), plus by the time they get home they have to have prepare dinner and takecare of their kids too. I mean, it’s just amazing.”
Manzana-Sawhney is defining her own amazing success. She is a mother, technologist, businesswoman, philanthropist and proud to be a Chatham woman.