Women in Technology – Meet Aravinda Gollapudi

Women in Technology – Meet Aravinda Gollapudi

“Technology is an enabler that will be a game changer in shaping society. Women have a role in how that technology is used and how society will be changed.” Aravinda Gollapudi, Head of Platform and Technology at Sage

We sat with Aravinda Gollapudi, Head of Platform and Technology at Sage, a $2B company that provides small and medium-sized businesses with finance, HR, and payroll software. At Sage, she leads a globally disbursed organization of roughly 270 employees across product, technology, release management, program management, and more. Aravinda also rounds out her technical work by serving as a board advisor for Artifcts and Loopr.

We spoke with Aravinda about technology and how women fit into this industry. Here are the highlights of that exchange.

What is your role in technology? What are you doing today?

I create an operating model for platforms, processes, and organizations to combine speed and scale. This drives market leadership and innovative solutions while accelerating velocity through organizational structure. I do this by leading the technology organization for cloud-native financial services for midmarket at Sage while also driving the product roadmap and strategy for platform as a business unit leader.

I also advise, mentor, and partner with CEOs of startup companies as a board advisor around technologies like AI/ML, SAAS, Cloud, Organizational strategy, and business models. I also help bring my network together to drive go-to-market activities.

I have a unique opportunity with my role to drive the convergence of business outcomes and technology/investment enablers by Identifying, blueprinting, and leading solutions to market – for today, tomorrow, and the future.

How did you get started in technology?

I think my inclination toward technology may be attributed to my interest in mathematics. I am old enough to appreciate how personal computers fueled the exponential adoption of technology!

The current generation of technologists have immense computing power at their fingertips, but I started my foray into technology when I had to use UNIX servers to do my work.

Early in my career, I wanted to go into academia and research in physics. I was working on research work in quantum optics after I graduated with my Master’s in Physics. I spent a lot of time with programming models in Fortran language, which is used in scientific computing. Fortran introduced me to computer programming.

My interest in technology got stronger while I was pursuing my second Masters in Computer Engineering.  Although I was taking coursework on hardware and software, I gravitated toward software programming.

What can you tell us about the people who paved the way for you? How did mentors factor into your success?

A big part of my career was shaped very early by my parents, who are both teachers. They instilled the importance of learning and hard work. My dad was a teacher and a principal and was a role model in raising the bar on work ethic, discipline, respect, and courage. My mom, through her multiple master’s degrees and pursuit of continual learning, showed us that it was important to keep learning.

Later in my career, I was fortunate to have the support of my managers, mentors, and colleagues. I leveraged them to learn the craft around software but also around organizational design, product strategy, and overall leadership. I am fortunate to have mentors who challenged me to be better and watch for my blindsides. I still lean on them to this day. A few of my mentors include Christine Heckart, Jeff Collins, Himanshu Baxi, Keith Olsen, and Kathleen Wilson. They have been my managers or mentors who gave me candid feedback, motivated me, and helped me grow my leadership skills.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the support and encouragement from my husband! He has always pushed me to take on challenges and supported me while we both balanced family and work.

How can we improve tech for women?

If we want to improve tech for women, we must invest in girls in technology. Hiring managers need to overcome unconscious bias and create early career opportunities for girls.

Mentorship is crucial: We need to acknowledge that the learning and career path is often different for women. Having a strong mentor irrespective of gender helps women learn how to deal with situational issues and career development. Women leaders who can take on this mantle to share their experience and mentor rising stars will help those who do not have a straight journey line in their careers.

Given the smaller percentage of women represented in technology, I am happy to see the trend in the recent past elevating this topic at all levels.  By becoming mentors, diversity champions can make a real impact on improving the trend.

We need to invest in allyship and mentorship and elevate the importance of gender diversity. For example, with board searches, organizations like 50/50 Women on Boards elevate the value of having gender diversity and work on legislative support. We need more of that or else we leave behind half the population.

What is one thing you wish more people knew to support women in technology?

I wish more people understood the impact of unconscious bias. Most people do not intend to be biased, but human nature makes us lean toward certain decisions or actions. The tech industry would greatly improve if more people took simple steps to avoid their unconscious bias, like making decisions in several settings (avoiding the time of day impact), ensuring that names and accents don’t impact hiring decisions, and investing in diversity.

What’s around the corner in technology? What trends excite you?

There are three significant trends that excite me right now: Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, data, and sustainable tech.

We are living in the world of AI Everywhere and there is more to come. Five out of six Americans use AI services daily. I expect AI to keep shaping automation and intelligent interactions, and drive efficiency.

This is also an exciting time to work with data. We are moving towards a hyper-connected digital world, and the old way of doing things required us to harness vast amounts of digital data from siloed sources. The trend is moving toward driving networks and connections that will fuel more complex machine-to-machine interactions. This data connectivity will impact our lives at home, schools, offices, etc., and will dramatically change how we conduct business.

And I am particularly excited about trends in sustainable technology. We will see more investment in technologies that reduce the impact of compute-hungry technology. I’m anticipating an evolution to more environmentally sustainable investments, which will help us reduce the usage of wasteful resources such as data centers, storage, and computing.

What does the tech world need now more than ever?

The tech world needs better data security and more diversity.

Data is highly accessible in our lives (in part thanks to social media), so we need more investment in privacy and security. We already have seen the impact of this need across personal lives, the political landscape, and business.

For too long, we have not invested enough in diversity, so we have a lot of catching up to do. In the world of technology, we are woefully behind in diversity in leadership positions, particularly in the US tech sector where about 20% of technology leadership positions are held by women.

Data is ubiquitous, tools and frameworks are at our fingertips, and technology is covered earlier in schools, so we are seeing a younger starting age for people getting involved in building technology products/applications. We’ve reduced the barrier of entry (languages, frameworks, low code/no-code tools sets) to make it easier to adopt technology without the overhead of complex coursework.  With all these improvements, why are we still so behind on diversity? In the US tech sector, 62% of jobs are held by white Americans. Asian Americans hold 20% of jobs. Latinx Americans hold 8% of jobs. Black Americans hold 7% of jobs. Only 26.7% of tech jobs are held by women.

We have the tools and training. Now we need to change the profile of the workforce to include a more diverse community.

What’s one piece of advice that you would share with anyone reading this?

For women who are reading this, I strongly encourage you to avoid self-doubt and gain confidence by arming yourselves with knowledge and mentors. By bringing our best selves forward, we can focus on opportunities and not obstacles. Technology is an enabler that will be a game changer in shaping society. Women have a role in how that technology is used and how society will be changed.

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Women in Technology – Meet Claudia Rostagnol

Women in Technology – Meet Claudia Rostagnol

We spoke with Technical Team Leader and Senior Software Engineer, Claudia Rostagnol about women in tech and more. Claudia is based in Uruguay and has been with our organization for three years, working exclusively for a client in the financial sector as a technical team lead. We talked about how the industry is performing for women in technology, and what trends all people in tech need to pay attention to.

Claudia Rostagnol

Worldwide, women represent 40 percent of the workforce, and only 17 percent of the tech industry workforce comprises women. We operate out of Argentina and throughout Latin America, and according to data provided by Women in Technology, only 16 percent of the people from Argentina who enroll in degrees related to the tech industry are women. And further, only 14 percent of technical roles are filled by women.

Here are highlights from our conversation with Claudia:

What work are you doing for Valence LatAm? 

I’ve been working with Valence LatAm’s client, Berxi, for almost 3 years as a technical team lead. Berxi serves the insurance industry, offering policies to small businesses and professionals.

Our goal with Berxi is to migrate a monolithic system into a microservices architecture, while we keep everything working and also adding new features or products. I work with developers to help them build software; with the business analyst and product owner to identify requirements and manage the work; with the architect to define the architecture and design of the software pieces (microservices with a well-defined API – REST and event-driven,) and with the QA team to coordinate testing in different environments and bug fixing with the development team. My role is very dynamic and interesting!

How did you get started in technology? 

I became interested in technology when I was just a small 8 year-old-girl in Uruguay, with a kid-friendly programming language called “Logo”. With Logo, I could program the movements of a turtle moving on the screen with very simple instructions. I’ve been interested in computers and programming ever since.

I studied software programming throughout elementary school, mid-school, and high school. Then I found it very natural to go to the Engineering Faculty to become a Computer Science Engineer.

When I finished my engineering degree, I met a few colleagues during an internship in France. One of them became my husband, Daniel De Vera, and another is Pablo Rodriguez-Bocca, who became my master’s degree tutor. We co-founded a small start-up called GoalBit Solutions and worked together for 6 years. I learned and grew a lot (academically and professionally) during that time!

What can you tell us about the people who paved the way for you? How did mentors factor into your success? 

I need to recognize my family, especially my parents! They always support me even if they don’t understand this technical world.

My husband helped to pave the way for me to find opportunities at a US company named Vidillion where I started as a Senior Software Engineer. Their CTO at that time, Steve Popper, was a great mentor as well as a very kind person. He taught me a lot about technology and about remote work and the US tech industry. We continue being friends, even living 10.000 km far from each other. Thanks to Steve, I became more confident in my skills and language.

Let’s talk about what’s around the corner in technology. What trends are you seeing? 

AI is used more every day and for everything. I’ve been interested in AI throughout my career. It is a very powerful tool, and we need to think about how to use it well. There is a trend toward responsible AI, which is a good thing.

Also, everything happens in the cloud now. Cloud computing powers everything, including our PCs and mobile phones, and everybody is connected and storing/publishing things on the Internet.  So, I think there’s a lot happening there: social networks, crypto, mobile apps for everything, remote education, etc.

What tech does the world need now more than ever? 

Data Management and Security – When we share our information, thoughts, pictures, videos, and interests, on the internet, we generate data that may be processed and analyzed in different ways and for different purposes like marketing, sales, and connectivity.  All this data can be helpful, and at the same time, it can be dangerous if it is not correctly managed and used. We are sharing a lot of information, which can potentially be made public if it’s not protected. I support the call for additional security and regulations.

Cradle-to-cradle hardware manufacturing – The exponential increase in the use of technology is generating technical waste and digital trash. We frequently discard devices to have the latest or more powerful model and that trash is not biodegradable or easily recyclable. The world needs a clear policy on what to do with all that trash.

Claudia is a volleyball player, seen here with a championship cup

Let’s talk about how to improve tech for women. Do you think tech is changing for women? 

Tech is changing for women in the sense that we are more accepted now, but we are far from an equitable system, and it is not changing fast enough. I see too many conferences and events about technology where most of the participants or speakers are men. Men are still accessing higher roles and salaries than women. Paternity and maternity leaves are not equal for men and women.

We need a cultural change in the tech industry, which will take time. But we are making progress. It means a lot to me when I see how our company supports women in tech with events like FemIT, and technical webinars where the speakers are women, and even interviews like this.

Several other companies also have internal initiatives to recognize women’s work and to treat us equally to men. However, I still see too many differences in the number of women being promoted to important roles, or the salary we receive for the same role, especially in LATAM.

I still hear stories about women being asked if they are planning to have children as part of their interview process with other organizations. Women are asked invasive questions that men aren’t asked, and that needs to stop. Thankfully our recruiting team and processes are invested in supporting women in tech.

One thing I like in my country (Uruguay) is that the government provides all kids attending public schools with a laptop when they start school. So boys and girls have the same access to technology at home and school. However, we still have cultural/social messages with gendered toys or games that can falsely signal to girls that boys are better than girls for some things and vice versa.

What is the one thing you wish people knew to support women in technology?

People need to know that women are equally capable if we have equal support and opportunities. We have more than technical skills to add to this technical world.   We must continue encouraging girls to get involved in tech and science through messages and experiences at home, at school, and in our communities.

Women need mentors and advocates, including men and women. I wish more people understood how much they can change a woman’s life by helping them to grow in this field.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d like to share with anyone reading?

Women are not better or worse at technical jobs. It is just a matter of learning, practicing, and being supported by other industry leaders.

We need to continue working on a more profound social change that makes the world more equitable for women who want to work in technology!

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Women in Tech – Meet Tanya Faddoul

Women in Tech – Meet Tanya Fàddoul

“Women in tech catalyze a focus on pay equity, gender diversity, race diversity, thought diversity, and more. We also keep pushing to invest in the candidate pool by advocating for youth access to education that we did not have, so we have more representation in the future.”

Tanya Fàddoul, Vice President of Product Management and Engineering, DocuSign

We sat with Tanya Fàddoul, VP of product management and engineering – incubations at DocuSign. Tanya is an experienced and passionate leader with plenty of experience in corporate technology, often as the first or only woman in the room.

DocuSign’s incubations team builds and operates solutions that cross cultures, and legal jurisdictions, and impact people around the world. Like Valence, the group is chartered with designing and developing never-been-done-before solutions. 

Tanya Fàddoul

Here are excerpts from our conversation about women in technology. 

It’s so great to connect with you! Why don’t we start with what you are doing today – what work are you doing for Docusign? 

I’ve been with DocuSign for eight years, and since joining the company, I’ve worked on everything from sales to operations, to product management – I took a very non-linear path to where I am today! 

I lead a phenomenal customer-obsessed product engineering group called Incubations, which is focused on cutting-edge and innovation. Our goal is to continuously learn from customers, co-develop with them, incorporate new capabilities, and pursue new market opportunities so people can realize innovative experiences as they go. We experiment with and on behalf of customers, and push the limits of what the platform can do. 

I think a lot of women in tech can relate to your unconventional path. How did you get started in technology? 

As I mentioned, it’s been very nonlinear! The short of how I got this start is customer obsession. I always go back to the customer and figure out how technology could catalyze a solution for a problem. I don’t have a programming background and don’t know how to code, but I am interested in how to solve customer problems, and how to lead people with the knowledge to solve them. 

My family is made up of first-generation immigrants from Lebanon, and my parents fulfilled our American dream by starting out as entrepreneurs who also served SMBs. 

My first job was an internship for a real estate company, and I was their fax girl. I would literally fax documents. Could you imagine having a fax person full-time in this day and age? 

When I graduated from college, I sold advertising for a local CBS affiliate and worked in television. In 2010, a colleague from the CBS corporation made the move to Amazon and encouraged me to do the same. We felt that I could make an impact on the sales program since it was like a media advertising sale. So, I helped amazon launch Amazon Local which was a Living Social competitor that supported small businesses. I’ve been in how tech can change the world, ever since. 

What can you tell us about the people who paved the way for you? How did mentors factor into your success? 

Mentorship played a huge role in my career! Some of my heroes are my family, my heritage, those who came before me, and my community. 

A standout mentor is Tom Casey, Docusign’s SVP of technology. He was a fierce advocate, sponsor, and mentor for a lot of my career growth. He put me in rooms and gave me a seat at the table when I didn’t have one. He recognized that someone like me, who can see every part of a business function, would add more value to product engineering. He told me that I don’t need to know how to code, I need to get the engineers jobs to do. He recognized that knowing how to get our technical team the most valuable engagements with customers would be my strength. 

From there, my next hero is Leah McTiernan, GVP of Solutions Engineering. She partnered with me to make customer-related inputs from the field accessible and structured. She’s been a 10-star business partner and a female leader who challenges me, supports me, and gets creative with me. Together, we bring the collective bright minds together to solve problems and empower successful outcomes.

I think women have a hard time saying this, but  I am my own hero. I often struggle with imposter syndrome, so I challenge myself to step back and acknowledge that I was resolute, resilient, curious, and an advocate to get to where I am. I paved the way for myself in an environment where women often struggle, which is in corporate technology. And while many things have changed for the better, a lot has stayed the same. So I am my own hero and I have lots of work to do!

“I’m a fierce advocate of movement. Moving mind, body, and creating community.”

Let’s talk about what’s around the corner in technology. What trends are you seeing? 

The average person wants to be able to build, decipher, drive, and manipulate data so it enables them to do something, whatever it might be. So low-code and no-code is a huge trend. AI-assisted experiences will be everywhere, and consumers will learn to expect them. We will just interact with things that anticipate our next move that guide, nudge, and communicate with us. 

I’m very interested in biometrics for identity verification. Gone are the days of passwords. We can already go to an airport and never use our photo identification. How does that impact industries like government, retail, and banking? 

One trend that’s easily overlooked is in healthcare technology. What was achieved with COVID vaccines was achieved through technology. There’s now talk of a COVID pill – think about the speed in which this happens! Drug trials will accelerate, and technology will influence how we think about and deliver health and wellness, supplements, substitutes, and vaccinations. 

Remote and hybrid work are here to stay, so we need to improve the way we work and be thoughtful about how this impacts women. Women often give up their at-home workspace so male partners can use the better workspaces. This is partly because men make more money than women, so pay inequity explicitly factors into remote and hybrid work strategies.  When the breadwinner always gets the good desk, what does that do to us? It takes us ten steps back unless we have the tools to change it! Bringing technology to empower anywhere work is happening is a game changer. 

What tech does the world need now more than ever? 

My belief is that the world is at a sustainability turning point and technology is part of the solution. The business community needs to make sure that tech is used responsibly and sustainably. Tech needs to be developed and deployed to make the real world more sustainable by reducing Co2 emissions, developing cleaner and more reliable transportation, focusing on healthcare, energy consumption, and reducing waste in industrial production.

We need to use the power of technology not just for entertainment and consumerism, but to impact tangible progress in the real world.

Let’s talk about how to improve tech for women. Do you think tech is changing for women? 

The percentage of female STEM graduates is about 19% and women hold only 24% of computing jobs. Women leave the tech industry at a 40% higher rate than men, and now women are trying to perform without the right workspace, which is not sustainable. 

There is so much room for progress, but there is a pay gap that holds us back. Pay equity has become more of a focus, and companies are more regulated in reporting on equitable pay structure. The more we talk about the pay gap, the more balance and benefits women will be able to receive in the workplace. 

What is the one thing you wish people knew to support women in technology?

We have so many organizations working to bring the curriculum to K-12 systems, federally and locally. Get involved, donate, and get kids involved in Code.org and their Hour of Code, which is offered everywhere. Make STEM interesting to girls early on. 

There is an infinite amount of space for all working women in the workforce. Women set an example by supporting women, amplifying voices, mentorship, and sponsoring women. And as we support one another, we must realize that men are a part of this journey. Make people aware, and bring in allies and advocates that are part of this mission.  Everyone can encourage women to invest in themselves when they are fighting for that seat at the table. 

You spoke a lot about women supporting each other. Does being a woman leader in tech come with additional responsibilities? 

Yes. Being a female leader in tech is a huge responsibility that I hold near and dear.  Paving the way for others is what I owe to those who paved the way before me. Being a sponsor to people who are high potential, and opening doors are my obligation and responsibility. If a young person, woman, or underrepresented person wants to engage with me to learn from me and my network, I will make time for them because this is my commitment to the community and women. It’s incredibly important, and a way to continue to influence change. 

What’s one piece of advice that you’d like to share with anyone reading?

It’s corny, but it’s important. Bring your authentic self everywhere you go. If you are goofy, then be goofy. Not everything has to be taken so seriously. If you are an over analyst, then analyze!  You need different kinds of people in a room for greatness. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book, “The Tipping Point”. Everyone has unique strengths that can ultimately cultivate some powerful ideas when used together. Bring your authentic self and invest in your education, invest in yourself, and continue to feed your strengths. We need your authentic voices to make change.

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