Resources Blog Meet Ankita Lamba: Values Champion

Meet Ankita Lamba: Values Champion


Recently, I wrote about our Values Champions program: a peer-nominated, peer-selected program designed to celebrate employees who holistically live up to Sonatype’s Core Values.

Today, I am excited to share one of our winners’ stories with you. Watch Ankita Lamba’s reveal video below:


I interviewed Ankita for her thoughts on the program. I must say, it was quite fun learning about Ankita’s experience with the initiative as well as her core values tips, and passion for great coffee. Check it out below!

Let’s start with an introduction: your name, role at Sonatype, and how long you’ve been with the company

My name is Ankita Lamba. I'm a Senior Security Researcher in the Data Security Research team. I've been with Sonatype for three and a half years now.

And what does the Data Security Research team focus on at Sonatype?

Our team does deep-dive vulnerability research. We are the group that curates CVE IDs and Sonatype IDs in open source components as well as malicious packages that are caught by our next-generation AI behavioral analysis. After our thorough research is complete, this deep dive data gets published and that's what customers see in all our products.

What was your experience being a Values Champion – was it a surprise? How did you feel?

I was extremely surprised, I really wasn’t expecting it. It was funny because leading up to it, our Engineering Manager was trying to make sure that everyone attended the meeting without raising any suspicion! He was saying things like, “There's going to be some announcements that you don't want to miss” to our team. But without revealing anything else, he ensured all of the team made it to the meeting, including me! 

Once I heard my name, I just felt a huge sense of gratitude. Especially coming from a team member, it just feels very different. It’s a team practice to give kudos to each other every week in our standup calls, but this was something at the company level. And that resulted in a lot of gratitude and a sense of warmth. It all came from within my team, which made it really, really cool.

This is a funny side note: you were involved in the initial program development process but then went on vacation. When you returned, you asked to rejoin the Committee and I had to say “no” because it was a conflict of interest with you as a finalist and I didn’t want to give it away.

Yes, I remember that and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I just thought, “Yeah, I totally get it because you're halfway through the process already. And me jumping in at this time would just be weird anyway.” But I put it together once my name was announced, like, “Okay, maybe that was the reason.”

So, I’m curious - did you know it was you immediately once the video was shown? Or midway through? When did you put the pieces together?

When I saw my teammate in the video, I was excited. I thought, “Oh, wow, it's probably going to be someone from our team.” And I was really excited about that. But then partway through it, when they actually started talking about the initiatives and what they were recognizing this person for, that’s when it kind of came through that it was actually me that they were talking about. That's when it hit me, “Oh, I'm being talked about here.”

Did you learn anything about yourself through the reveal video? Maybe that’s too hard of a question, but perhaps was there anything that you hadn’t thought about before that meant more to people or the business?

I think one of the things that stood out to me was – especially because Juan mentioned it in the video – was that he really appreciated seeing me being a leader and that was something he tried to emulate too. While doing all of the things that I was doing, I never thought of it as leadership. I was just doing it because I was really passionate about it or I wanted everyone to benefit from them. I never saw it as something a leader would do. So, I was definitely not thinking of that and it was a big reveal for me.

So, there's a question here, “What did the program mean to you?” But I'm curious because you were involved in the formulation of the program, what does it mean to you from both sides (as a volunteer and as a winner)? Why were you interested in helping to start and run a program like this? And then, how did that experience evolve as you became a Values Champion?

Yeah, so that's a very interesting journey. To me, it was almost like watching a plant grow. You plant the seed and there's so much work that goes into it because if not given the right type of environment, it's probably not going to germinate. When we started out, we didn’t even have core values and I wanted to become part of the Advisory Board [to help create Sonatype’s Values]. With these several focus groups, we were able to brainstorm and contribute to the four values that actually became our core values. That was fantastic. Because that was like us planting the seed, and then making sure that it had the right amount of everything – whether that was light, soil, temperature - all of the things that go into providing the perfect conditions. 

After we revealed the core values, we were talking about, okay, well, how do we keep the momentum going? How do we have people embrace these core values and not forget about them? So we came up with the Values Champion program. And I was so excited to contribute to that too, because it was the next step in the process – watering the plant, making sure that it's still growing, taking care of it, etc. So that was very cool. And this was us making sure that our core values remain healthy and strong. So working with you closely, in this entire journey, and then eventually getting nominated and winning just makes the whole process very sweet and close to my heart.

You’ve really been with it from the seed level all the way up – that’s very unique and special. And I’m glad that we seem to be doing better with core values than I am at caring for plants because I kill all my plants. But that’s a great analogy, I’m glad you used that. So, moving on, which value or values resonate most with you? And this is a trick question because the answer should be all….just kidding!

The two that resonate most with me are Embrace Inclusion and Pursue Growth. For Embracing Inclusion: our strength at Sonatype lies in our diversity. It’s diversity of thought, culture, geolocation, and so much more. We're all very different, and creating a safe environment is essential for us to thrive and to focus on what we do best: creating innovative and groundbreaking solutions for clients. That inclusion is everything. 

And then Pursuing Growth: we're in an industry that is so dynamic and fast-paced that we have to continuously learn and evolve with it. For professional growth, whether that is learning a new technology, certifications, or moving vertically or laterally in the organization, all of these come into play. On the personal front too, we're not the same person that we were yesterday, so it is important to ensure that we are mindfully working towards what we envision for ourselves. So I think these two values just speak a lot to me.

And along the lines of Pursue Growth – because that value came up a lot in Juan’s nomination – what are some of the things that you do in your day-to-day to try to Pursue Growth continuously?

Like I mentioned, it's both personal growth and professional growth. On both fronts, I try to stay up to date with what's going on in my fields (security and technology), whether that's through a lot of reading, doing certifications, or attending conferences. The other way I focus on Pursuing Growth, both personally and professionally, is by giving back to the community, which evolves me as a person. I've had the privilege to be in tech and specifically in cybersecurity. One of the ways I give back is by mentoring other women who are trying to get into the field, and I've been mentoring a few of them this past summer as well. So I think that is essential because you also grow by growing others with you.

And now for Embracing Inclusion, I know you are involved in the CBID (Community Belonging Inclusion Diversity) group at Sonatype. Could you speak a little bit about Embracing Inclusion in your day-to-day?

Absolutely. The world's not homogenous. And so, a company's products/ideas cannot come from a largely homogenous group of people, because it will only serve a subset of the people in the world. That’s why it's so important to prioritize inclusivity in both our professional and personal interactions. That's one of the very big driving factors for me to get involved in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at Sonatype and beyond.

Do you have any tips for living the values at Sonatype? For example, for new hires?

One of the biggest tips is, “Don't be afraid to fail, or to be wrong.” I know that starting a new job at a new place can be very overwhelming, and no one wants to make mistakes because first impressions are everything – that's what we're always told. But to all new hires, I would say that Sonatype is a very accepting and creative place to work. Just know that your peers and your managers will be supportive. They're not going to view your boldness in a negative way, so don't worry about failing.

Being Bold drives a lot of the other values. Because you can Be Bold to Embrace Inclusion, Pursue Growth, and have Trust Through Transparency and Accountability. It takes courage and confidence to be a new person in the field, or in the company, and to voice your opinions. No positive change can happen without us being uncomfortable. So I think it's okay to be uncomfortable and still go ahead and let people know what you think.

Yeah, that's a great example of how they're interconnected. You need to Be Bold to be Transparent, which enables you to build Trust and to Pursue Growth. It's kind of wild, but you do need them all, I think, in a way.

Our logo does a really great job of showing that interconnectedness too, with the little arrow between each picture.

How would you describe Sonatype’s culture, specifically in relation to the Values, and how that’s been going?

The biggest thing that stands out to me is that we're thought leaders, and in this industry, that couldn’t happen if we weren't bold, if we weren't innovative, and if we weren't inclusive. In my three and a half years here, I've lived and breathed that. And I can say that we truly care for each other here as people. Our leadership actually listens to us, which really is a breath of fresh air. The results show in how productive our teams are, in the cutting-edge ideas and research that we bring to the market and to our customers. Because of all these factors, and because it's such a great place to work, we are able to produce the result that the industry and our customers want from us.

Ending on a fun note: as a Values Champion, you received a gift of choice – what did you choose to get with that and why? And hopefully, you’re still using it today.

I'll start by saying that I'm using it more than once a day, every day! I chose the Breville Oracle Touch coffee machine as my gift, which is a top-of-the-line coffee machine. I was really excited because I am a coffee enthusiast. Now, it's the centerpiece of our breakfast area. It looks great too and everyone always notices it. I also love it because it provides another avenue of creativity to me - experimenting with the different settings and seeing how the brews turn out based on the adjustments.

That one has a touchscreen, right, where you can say “make me a cappuccino.” But can you also make whatever you want with it?

Yes, you can. You can use the presets or make your own concoction and save it. There's so much customization. For example, you can customize the grind setting and then see how strong or mild the brew is because of that, and it's really cool.

Are you into latte art?

I am not yet. But I think maybe that’s the way to go since I am into art, just not latte art yet!

Ankita’s new coffee machine pictured with a Sonatype Values mug

Any last comments to make on the Values Champions or Sonatype’s Core Values overall?

I think we covered it all, but I’m very excited for the future and I really hope we can keep the momentum going. That’s the only thing I would add

Picture of Savanna Hajdasz

Written by Savanna Hajdasz

Coming from a background in management consulting with experience in new product adoption, go-to-market strategy, and M&A, Savanna is a Senior Manager on Sonatype's Strategy & Operations team. In addition to supporting overall strategy development and running special projects, her recent focus has been growing Sonatype's culture and employee experience through the Core Values and related programs.