How to succeed in tech: Shutterstock’s Rashi Khurana gives her tips
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Rashi Khurana, Director of Engineering at Shutterstock.
Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Women in Tech — The Survey
We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!
Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.
Without further ado, we would like to introduce Rashi Khurana, Director of Engineering at Shutterstock.
Rashi Khurana, Director of Engineering at Shutterstock
Rashi Khurana is Shutterstock’s Director of Engineering.
What got you interested in technology?
I got interested in technology when my dad bought a computer, in the early 90s. At first, I just played games on it and started using some paint tools. Then my dad sent us to a programming class where we learned BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and how to make flow charts for simple algorithmic questions. It was so much fun; I was in love with the GOTO statement. I guess GOTO it was.
The Indian education system is largely a rat race to get into the top colleges in India for undergrad, such as the Indian Institute of Technology. I decided that path wasn’t for me, which meant dropping out of my ongoing physics and mathematics preparation courses to get into those colleges. I knew I had to be comfortable with this decision so it would not lead to future regret. And as destiny has it, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, to go to undergrad in a part of the country that did not speak my language.
This was my first experience of being out of my comfort zone. Having schooled at an all-girls school, here was my first exposure to the tech field that was heavily male-dominated. In my class of 60-plus students, there were only 6-8 women. I learned operating systems, database designs, algorithms, C, C++, Java and more.
Role models & support
Everyone was 100% supportive. My career of choice when I was 12 years old was teaching. I thought about going into politics — I wanted to be an officer at the Indian Administrative Services at one point of my life, but nothing would have come close to the growing and learning that has come my way with the choices I have made.
My parents always pushed me to consider life outside of my comfort zone. I had already done three internships at tech companies in different parts of India during my summer breaks. That expanded my horizons into Perl, Tcl/Tk, XMLs and SOAP and Visual Basic. I even played with Amida handheld devices and worked with socket programming for them when tablets were not a big thing. My role model is a woman in leadership, Kiran Bedi, the first woman in charge at Indian Police Services (there’s nothing technical about it at all). She trained prisoners to lead a respectable life, she turned them around.
The only times I have felt stagnated in my professional life was when I held myself hostage to my thoughts of not being able to do something. I had the support I needed, I had to prove to myself that I could do it.
A day in Rashi’s life
My present job is amazing. I work at Shutterstock, a creative platform that brings together image, video and music creators with customers seeking beautiful, high-quality work. I am the Director of Engineering working on both sides of the marketplace; providing a robust platform for both our customers and the contributors
My day is full of face-to-face interactions whether it is working on a tech project, dealing with a current tech challenge, leading daily scrum protocols with the teams, presenting discovery and work to a wider group of stakeholders, or checking in with my team members individually. The time in between these conversations is what I use to plan the projects, strategize on execution, and catch up on everything that requires my attention. I want to be prepared for what’s coming next.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of the network of people I have built. One of my managers once told me, “No matter what code you write, it will be out of the window in less than five years. What stays with you is the network you build, the people you meet.” This has definitely struck a chord with me. When I think about my career and consider new opportunities, I think first about the people I am working with.
The products we build are heavily influenced by the people in charge and the camaraderie we create. People matter the most in any industry and if we can embrace the goodness of the people, we can deliver anything we wish for. I am very proud of and connected to the teams I manage, and that enables me to do a better job at work, too.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I have been fortunate to have had such positive experiences at work.
When I was two years into my first job, serving as an Engineer II, I received a brief email from my manager saying, “Rashi will be going to London with the head of product and head of SEO for our group.” I sprung up from my chair, ran to my boss, and wondered why he chose to include me. He looked at me, perplexed, and asked, “You don’t want to go?” and I said, “Yes, but there are tech leads and senior engineers on the team, I think they should go instead of me.” He quickly ended the discussion, saying, “I think you should go.”
That day was a turning point for me. The confidence he showed in me was more than I had in myself and there has been no looking back since then. I believe women are conditioned to put themselves second. There is a great book I can recommend titled Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock.
I once attended a session where my former CTO was speaking to 400 women in tech. The title of that forum was “Women in Tech: The male perspective.” He described this scenario where he asked a woman he managed to lead a part of his organization, and she politely refused, saying she didn’t think she was ready. He told her that if she wasn’t ready, he wouldn’t risk his organization under her leadership. We need to learn to have confidence that we’re ready and trust that when someone calls upon us to lead, we’re capable of doing it.
We are moving forward, but we hit some setbacks and obstacles along the way. I believe people want to be fair, but to favor individualism and moralism over tribalism will require a shift in mindset. The good news is that people are talking about it. The difficulties arise when the discussion sometimes is not rooted in the right ideals.
Because the industry is so heavily male-dominated, women in tech face the extra onus of proving themselves. I’ll be honest: When I spoke at a conference for the first time recently, I did think about being on the podium representing women and representing India. If the industry was more balanced, that self-inflicted demand of always being on top of your game, and carrying that burden to prove something, would fade away over time.
Tips & tricks
There’s nothing more exciting than working at a tech company where things often happen a mile a minute. It can be intense. So much is being built at this moment that was never thought of as possible just 10 years ago. It’s a great time to be a part of the disruption, to learn the science behind all the master thinking.
My advice would be:
- Have confidence in yourself;
- Go for it; and
- Invest in building relationships.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- “Technology reflects the people who make it”
- “In the right company, working in tech is a great career”
- Why women fall out of the tech pipeline
- Breaking the mold: ‘It’s not that you’re good — it’s that you’re female’
- How to avoid the culture of male programmers
- Creating an equal playing field is about more than just teaching someone coding skills
- The more women you see in STEM, the less intimidating it is for others to join
- The tech industry tends to lose women along the way. Change is underway
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Tips & tricks for women
- Transitioning into a tech career? Silicon Valley culture is one of the biggest initial obstacles
- Abby Kearns: “Diversity ensures continuous innovation”
- “In technology, you become a lifelong learner — More women should embrace this career”
- Cultural impact is not driven by gender, but by diversity
- Everyday superheroes: “I don’t have a role model, my career was based on my mistakes”
- Diversity talk: For tech, it’s less about a pipeline problem and more of a marketing problem
- Diversity talk: It’s important to receive support from tech communities
- Everyday superheroes: Women just need to see more of us — techie women
- Anyone who wants to learn and grow won’t continue in an industry that tells them they are stupid
- There is too much allowance for tolerating toxic people in tech
- Coding myths and how finding communities like Hear Me Code helps you learn best
- 3 strategies to try out if you want to support women in tech
- Young women carry less career gender bias and more media influence
- Women are often pigeonholed into “soft skill” roles and pushed away from engineering
- Diversity talk: Many women suffer from the impostor syndrome