From Follower to Leader: Charting Career Paths with Namrata Kulkarni
Namrata Kulkarni used to be a follower.
As the youngest sibling in a big family, she often just went along with what everyone else wanted to do. "As a kid, I was always following my elders; I could never decide what I wanted in my career," says Namrata.
Namrata is currently the Senior Engineering Manager at MINDBODY, located in their India office, and as you may have guessed from her title—and the fact that she's being profiled on a career site—she has since figured out what she wanted and has gone and got it.
We sat down with Namrata to talk about her career, including how she transitioned back to work and into leadership after taking time off to care for her family, as well as how her work at MINDBODY and her work with the Pune chapter of Girls Who Code have both focused on lifting up women and helping them achieve their goals.
Learning to lead
Many of Namrata's siblings and cousins studied engineering, so when she went to university, that's what she did, too. While she focused on civil engineering, she took a few computer science classes, too, and that's where she started to come into her own: "As I started learning coding languages, I started having my own opinions and my own views," she says.
After her studies, Namrata worked as a software engineer for several years, working with both startups and more established organizations. Several years into her career, she gave birth to her son, who was born prematurely and spent some time in the hospital. She ended up taking three and a half years off to care for him and be with her family.
When she wanted to return to her career, she realized she was a bit behind. "When you actually leave your career, you don't keep yourself up-to-date with skills," says Namrata. "I struggled a lot at first and focused on just gathering all the information. There are a lot of online resources nowadays, so it's not required to go out and find a mentor," she says. After focusing on upskilling herself and catching up, she got a job as an ASP.NET trainer working with the open-source Microsoft-backed web framework.
Then she found out about an opportunity and MINDBODY and applied.
As she progressed throughout the interview process and eventually accepted an offer, she was initially nervous about having to do a three-week training at MINDBODY's California headquarters. She wasn't sure she could leave her family.
"I asked myself, 'Should I step back here?' I didn't want to travel. But for so many women, that's where we step back — we don't want to leave our family," she says. She couldn't pass up the opportunity, though: "I realized I could do it. My family and my husband were very supportive of my working," says Namrata.
After her training—which went well, despite her reservations—she stayed at MINDBODY, and over the last five years she has grown into an important role.
"I've always wanted a position to keep myself connected with upcoming skills and technology, as well as work with leadership. Engineering manager is a perfect role for me," says Namrata. "I know the language [of the engineers] and understand the challenges they are facing, and I am also able to put that to the leadership team."
Her experience at MINDBODY has only confirmed that she made a good choice in pursuing the opportunity there. "[MINDBODY's] mission of wellness is completely aligned with my personal mission. And when you are working something which is completely aligned with your personal mission, you can give your heart completely to it," says Namrata.
Paving the way for other women
Namrata first learned about Women Who Code, a nonprofit focused on inspiring women to excel in technology careers, from Regina Wallace-Jones, an SVP at MINDBODY who is also the mayor of the city of East Palo Alto. "[Regina] is kind of a role model for me," says Namrata. "I always wonder how she gets so much energy to manage so many things at one time!"
Namrata hadn't previously heard about Women Who Code, but her own experience of trying to restart her career helped her to immediately identify with their mission. "I loved the concept and wanted to be a part of it," she says. She connected with the group and helped start a local Pune chapter that now hosts monthly events for women at all levels of their career.
"When you start your career, you'll see a lot of women. Lots of beginners come and join our events. But when your career advances, there are way less participants. A lot of women leave and don't come back," she says. "There's a lack of mentorship we see everywhere."
To address that problem, Namrata and her team kicked off a quarterly leadership series focused on encouraging women to become leaders in their organizations and helping them to connect and encourage each other. They run public speaking workshops, technical classes, and social events to facilitate connection.
Namrata says that her work with Women Who Code has helped her to be a more inclusive leader at MINDBODY. "It gives me a lot of insight on what women are feeling and what kind of challenges they face," she says. She's started an India-branch version of MINDBODY's Women in Technology employee resource group and has addressed leadership gaps on her own team.
"There's this idea that women are supposed to take care of children and the household. But women can break that mindset. It's not just your responsibility to keep all of the household work. It's okay to delegate that responsibility or give it to your partner," she says. She helps women at work figure out what is right for their career goals and runs feedback sessions in small groups to help them build confidence. Namrata highlights MINDBODY's flexible working hours policy—something that existed pre-COVID but has certainly been extra-appreciated now—as a boon to helping women figure out how to balance family and career progression.
To women outside of her sphere of influence, Namrata offers the following advice: "Stay focused. Know your goals. Even if you are out of the workplace, stay focused in technology and keep growing yourself professionally."
She recognizes that women have the impulse to "take care of everyone," and encourages women to do that by taking care of themselves, too.
How MINDBODY takes care of their employees
"Mindbody believes in creating an inclusive and diverse culture, where everyone feels valued and has a sense of belonging. We feel that this is foundational to build an inspired team, amazing products, and delighted customers," says Namrata, who shared with us the following initiatives sponsored by MINDBODY:
- EDI Office Advocates, who help promote EDI activities across all offices, arrange local events, and seek to increase awareness of EDI.
- Regular EDI events like EDI female connections, EDI chats on different topics, ask-me-anythings with affinity groups, and invited speakers from
- EDI trainings like "Unconscious Bias" and "Fostering Inclusion in the Workplace"
- Mentorship programs to groom and grow in transversal skills across levels and jobs with cross-functional and cross-regional mentor-mentee pairs
- Affinity groups including:
- Women in Tech, a group of MINDBODY professionals, inclusive of all genders, whose mission is to attract, advance, and retain women in the organization
- MB Pride, a group for the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies, which works to empower all employees to be their true selves
- Mindbody Alliance, an affinity group focused on accessibility that works on making MINDBODY and affiliated services accessible, inclusive and welcoming to people's diverse physical and mental capabilities
- Mindbody Veterans, which works to empower veterans and their families by engaging team members and veteran communities through shared core values
- MBUnited, a collective of ethnic, racial, cultural minority and non-minority members that look to promote intercultural dialogue, awareness, and increased opportunities for all minorities both within Mindbody and in our proud minority communities.
- Supporting community movements, including by donating $100k to the Black Lives Matter Movement in a show of solidarity and support for equality and justice for Black lives following George Floyd's death
If you're interested in learning more about MINDBODY or applying for one of their open roles in their India or U.S. offices, check out their PowerToFly page here.
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