Transitioning into a tech career? Silicon Valley culture is one of the biggest initial obstacles
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 Chitra Ragavan, Chief Communications Officer at Gem.
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 Chitra Ragavan, Chief Communications Officer at Gem.
Chitra Ragavan, Chief Communications Officer at Gem
Chitra Ragavan is the Chief Communications Officer at Gem, a Los Angeles-based blockchain startup focusing on healthcare, supply chain, and data rights management. Prior to Gem, Chitra served as senior strategic advisor to the CEO of Palantir Technologies, the $20 billion dollar Silicon Valley unicorn dedicated to solving the most pressing analysis problems confronting governments, commercial institutions, and non-profit organizations. Chitra brought unique qualifications to her role as a strategic advisor to Palantir: her wealth of long-term trusted relationships; the ability to wrestle complex issues to the ground; and a national reputation for integrity and excellence.
Chitra has always been involved with technology indirectly throughout her media and tech careers. Her first career was in media — she first worked in television as a producer and on-air correspondent and worked with cameramen and engineers to craft pieces and get them on the air, often with seconds to spare.
Chitra’s second media job was as a correspondent with National Public Radio where she recorded her own stories and also worked with the best audio engineers to get them on the air. Her second career has been in Silicon Valley, first at Palantir Technologies, as senior strategic advisor to the CEO and now as Chief Communications Officer at Gem — both companies have top software engineers with whom she loves working. But she fell in love with technology when she bought her first Apple laptop and became a technology and design aficionado. Apple created the first deep emotional attachment to a beautifully designed product and admiration of Silicon Valley innovation.
Having been born and raised in India, I see the use of technology to lift up the poor, the downtrodden, to give tools that link the world and cause tremendous social and economic change, and to be around to witness the transformation, as the greatest gift of all.
How Chitra ended up in her career path
I ended up in my career path through sheer serendipity. I was covering national security as chief legal affairs correspondent at U.S. News & World report when one of my sources introduced me to the CEO of Palantir. He personally recruited me as his strategic advisor. In terms of obstacles to overcome, knowledge of software engineering, enterprise platforms, data analytics and Silicon Valley culture would be some of the biggest initial ones that I confronted.
My most important role model is Sheryl Sandberg. She is a force to reckon with and a woman of grace, who is not reluctant to describe the obstacles she has had to overcome in her career, has recently confronted and overcome a deep personal tragedy and is teaching others to do the same with courage and compassion.
Tech career: The good, the bad, the necessary
All women experience career obstacles at some point in their lives and I was no different. But on the flip side, I have had invaluable mentors and supportive bosses who believed in me and worked with me to ensure my success.
I’m proud of my ability to distil complex ideas into simple language.
A day in Chitra Ragavan’s life
I’m the Chief Communications Officer at Gem, a Los Angeles-based blockchain company, with an enterprise platform for non-financial use cases of blockchain, particularly in healthcare and supply chain. I spend a lot of time with the CEO, the business development, marketing, engineering and product teams, and our designer to help find creative ways to convey Gem’s technology, product, brand, and culture to the press, to investors, and to customers.
I am proud of the variety of jobs and leadership roles that I have been able to take on, first as a reporter and now a senior advisor to CEOs. I’m proud of my ability to distil complex ideas into simple language, to build tactical and strategic initiatives to help build startups from the ground up.
Specifically, in the technology world, I’m probably most proud of helping to stand up Palantir’s philanthropy mission to showcase the use of powerful technology for good and to build it into the DNA of the company. And I’d like to continue to help other Silicon Valley startups do the same in the future by serving on boards of forward-thinking technology companies among other things. Having been born and raised in India, I see the use of technology to lift up the poor, the downtrodden, to give tools that link the world and cause tremendous social and economic change, and to be around to witness the transformation, as the greatest gift of all.
Challenges women in tech face
The challenges include competing and fight for the best technical education, the best jobs, the best salaries, and finding the right mentors who can help them break through the glass ceiling.
Tips & tricks
- Seek jobs for which you have the greatest affinity and passion.
- Be aware of the obstacles in your path, pick yourself up if you stumble and fall.
- Align yourself with the brightest minds, and seek the most progressive mentors. Success will be yours.
- It’s an amazing industry, one you should strive to be a part of because of the immense potential to cause radical change quickly, to benefit the most underserved in society, to promote democracy, social equality, distribution of wealth, and expansion of knowledge and data rights for all.
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