Navigating Parental Leave and “Returnity” in a Startup Environment
A Conversation with Karat's Sarah Scherzer
Five years ago, Sarah Scherzer saw a job posting on her neighborhood's mom-and-dad site and applied. Now she's Director of Customer Experience at Karat, where her role as a mother has always been a part of her story.
Listed between postings for car seats for sale and lost scarves, the post Sarah found was advertising a part-time job at a startup called Karat. She'd worked in the theater industry previously, but her position had ended, and she needed a part-time job that would allow her son to keep his much-coveted three-day-a-week Seattle daycare spot. The timing was perfect.
There were four people at the company when she started interviewing. Though she hadn't worked in tech or with engineers before, Sarah explains that her "operationally-minded" approach and her skills as a people person, both honed during her theater job in artist relations, applied well to Karat's needs. The company's mission—to make hiring and interviewing better and fairer—appealed to her. She was hired as employee number five.
Scaling with a startup—and a family
Sarah's 20-hour job started as just that; she worked only on the days her son was in daycare.
But as the company grew, Sarah's responsibilities did, too. The need to operationalize things was pivotal, so Sarah quickly ramped up to effectively scale key parts of the business while the founders focused on Series A funding. "20 hours turned into 40…. I was made full-time pretty quickly," says Sarah.
Her path to leading a team happened naturally. "Growing into my role was fairly organic. I just kept learning more and more and more and figuring things out as I went," says Sarah. "In a startup environment, everyone's wearing so many hats. I was used to doing that in the theater world, too, where everyone kind of does everything, and I think that really benefited me in the workplace. I felt like I wasn't stifled and could try something, fail, and pick it up and try again."
She was excited by the opportunity to grow her skills and her career. "My direct manager is Jeff Spector, one of the founders at Karat, and he has always made sure I'm constantly growing and developing," says Sarah.
But she also wanted to be around for her children. "I was upfront from the get-go that while I want to do this kind of work, I needed to be absolutely sure that my kid is being well taken care of."
Sarah's commitment to her family was understood by both Karat founders, who have children and families of their own. From the beginning of her time at Karat, it was clear to Sarah that family values weren't just a talking point on the company website. "For instance, our other co-founder, Mohit Bhende, intentionally puts a 'do not disturb' block on his calendar from 8 to 9 a.m., because that's when he reads with his child. They're very intentional about how they prioritize their family."
Sarah knew Karat would be a good long-term opportunity for her because of the flexibility when it came to family and parenting — even when she didn't quite know how that flexibility would play out. (And that same flexibility has been a godsend now as she's had to adjust to working from home AND parenting AND schooling two young children in the midst of COVID-19).
How to Handle Going on and Returning From Maternity Leave in a Startup Environment
When Sarah became pregnant with her second child, Karat hadn't yet finalized a formal leave policy — they hadn't needed one before. So she and the co-founders created the policy together, and she gave feedback as to how it worked as she went through it.
They settled on 12 weeks of 100% paid leave that can be taken at any time over the first six months. That allows some parents to come back to work part-time earlier on, if they like, or to take the whole chunk of time off at once.
Sarah and her boss talked through all the logistical aspects of her transition, too. How in-touch did she want to be with the team? Would she get text messages? Slack access? Sarah decided she didn't want any of that—she wanted to be fully present with her growing family.
When it was time for her to return to work, her team helped ease the transition — they'd set up a spreadsheet with high-level weekly summaries of what she missed so that when she came back, she was able to get up to speed quickly.
And now, whenever someone goes on leave, a similar meeting happens, wherein the person leaving is asked what they need to succeed both during leave and during their transition back.
In Sarah's case, she took some time off, then came back three days a week and ramped back up to full-time over a few months. "That level of flexibility let me guard against not knowing what could happen. What if I had to have a c-section or if my son had to spend time in the NICU? And of course, there's always daycare snafoos, napping issues, and sickness," she says of the benefits of the flex policy.
"When it was time, I was definitely ready to come back again. I needed to just put on shoes and talk to people, talk to adults. I needed that for my sanity," says Sarah, laughing, of her transition back. Though she was excited to be in the workplace, she got back and realized that her role would need to change a little.
She was definitely still needed; her team had even come up with a list of things they were struggling with that they needed her to unblock. But they'd also taken on a lot of her responsibilities while she was gone—which Sarah saw as a success, not as a threat to her job stability. "It wasn't that I came back and was like, 'Oh no, what do I do?' There's always something to do. But a lot of the things I had been doing, they were covering, and it had been pretty successful," she says. Her duties evolved, and now she realizes that "a role can change in a really positive way."
Advice to parents and startups navigating maternity leave and "returnity"
Thanks to her own experiences taking maternity leave, and her conversations with other Karat employees who've now done the same, she's got some good advice for working parents at all stages of the leave process, especially those at startups.
- Find out the company's leave policy and general environment towards family. "You can ask what percentage of other employees have kids or families or if there are family gatherings where you're encouraged to meet and greet each others' families," says Sarah.
Before going on leave:
- Don't be afraid to share your needs with your bosses. As the first employee to take parental leave at Karat, Sarah knew she'd have to have a conversation with her bosses — it ended up going even better than she'd expected and leading to an empowering experience in which she was able to advocate for her own needs and have a direct impact on the formal policy that was ultimately created. For those working at startups, she says, "it's important that people who are going on maternity leave know they can be empowered to create it for themselves."
- Set yourself up for success. Sarah suggests: "Think about what you want while you're offline. Is it the spreadsheet, is it a weekly checklist, is it total offline status? Make sure that you've got those open lines of communication."
How to handle going back to work after maternity leave:
- Find your own pace to transition back. "I was overwhelmed in the beginning; I had to get over the hurdle about learning about everything that had changed. In the beginning, I was scheduling meetings back to back and had a hard time figuring out when I could pump. [Then] I realized that I could just put on my calendar when I was pumping," says Sarah. "Overall, be patient, with other people and with yourself."
- Don't set super-high expectations about a perfect work-life balance. "Balance is a myth, honestly," says Sarah, who remembers that sometimes you'll need to prioritize family and sometimes, work. As you learn how and where to invest your energy, Sarah recommends asking yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" and realizing that things will be okay, even if you don't get to everything.
- Recognize the new skills you're bringing to work. Sarah remembers that after coming back from leave, her "bullshit meter was really a lot lower because you just don't have time to deal with it." She says, "There are so many amazing skills that a mother brings to the table at any workplace that are so undervalued, especially folks wanting to get back into the workplace after taking time off to take care of their family. Those are some of the best, most amazing skills: time management, organization, focus."
- That being said, don't bite off more than you can chew. Focusing on work doesn't always mean taking on a ton of new responsibilities. In her first year back after her second son was born, Sarah knew she needed to focus on him. "I never felt like I wanted to step back from what I was doing, but I don't think I could do any more than I already was," she says. She talked to her boss about when she'd be ready for a promotion, and they both agreed to pause her responsibility set growth until she was ready for it.
- Allow yourself to have moments for you. "It doesn't just have to be work home, work, home," explains Sarah. "You can go and maybe leave work an hour early to go have a cup of coffee by yourself and sit and you read a newspaper. It can be as simple as that. I think that taking micro moments just for you can really help with transition going from work back to home and vice versa."
To learn more about Karat, check out their open positions or reach out to Sarah in the comments!
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
In this video, you'll hear super valuable insider tips from Manisha Bavabhai, Meli Comparini, and Catie Ross, recruiters at
MURAL—a digital workspace for visual collaboration that enables innovative teams to solve important problems.
Listen in for insight into the hiring process and actionable tips that will help you ace your interviews. Manisha, Meli, and Catie share what each interview step entails and the best ways to prepare, whether it's a product engineer interview, product designer interview, or sales interview.
Have you heard of the STAR Method? It's a great way to answer behavioral questions during your interview. And since MURAL's interview process is remote, don't miss these dos and don'ts for remote interviews!
Are you interested in joining MURAL? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.
As we celebrate Pride this month, we should also take time to reflect about the practices— or lack thereof— at our companies that help to support and empower members of the LGBTQIA+ community all year round. (LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. There are other variants of this acronym such as LGBT, LGBTQ, and LGBTQQIP2SAA, which all refer to the same community.)
From the Stonewall Uprising to the United States' Equality Act, we've come a long way, but the staggering statistics around the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace tell us that there is still work to be done.
As employers and leaders in our organizations, it is our duty to create an inclusive work environment where all employees feel safe and included.
To help you make your workplace more inclusive for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we've rounded up some key statistics and highlighted best practices — covering everything from inclusive language to benefits — in the infographic below.
Click this link for an interactive PDF version of the infographic:
Looking for more ways to promote LGBTQIA+ inclusion at work? Check out the links below to learn more.
See what other companies are doing to celebrate Pride month:
Infographic statistic sources:
- One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQIA+ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs
- Almost half (46%) of LGBTQIA+ workers in the United States are closeted in the workplace.
- 1 in 5 LGBTQIA+ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner
- One-third of LGBTQIA+ Americans reported that discrimination affected their ability to be hired
- 1 in 10 employees have heard their own supervisor make negative comments about LGBTQIA+ people
Clarus Commerce's Nupur Daruka on Finding Your Next Growth Opportunity
Nupur Daruka is someone who loves learning new things. That's true when it comes to remodeling her house—she's just finished her kitchen, having mastered tiling backsplashes, and is moving on to her basement, where she's focused on flooring—and to how she approaches her work.
As an Engineering Manager at loyalty and subscription software company Clarus Commerce, Nupur is responsible for helping other people lean into opportunities to learn new things, too.
From helping engineers find the right growth projects to coaching people who aren't sure where they'd like to end up, Nupur enjoys guiding others to create the paths that are right for them and their own goals.
We sat down with her to hear how her growth-focused approach landed her at Clarus and what advice she has for engineers wondering where to go next.
Identifying strengths: how Nupur's own journey taught her how to help others
Nupur got into software engineering because she enjoyed logical thinking and math. She stayed because technology, by nature of its constant evolution, provides plenty of opportunities for continual learning.
"That's what excites me," explains Nupur. "Whether it's a new technology or working on a problem in a new way, you're constantly working to understand the business side of things, figuring out how to implement solutions, and problem solving. That's what gets me out of bed every day."
But she knew that purely putting her head down and cranking out code wasn't where she wanted her career to go, so she pursued an opportunity to become a manager at her then-employer.
"I'm a people person," she says. "I like to engage with people, talk to them, get to know them. That's why I wanted to continue onto a leadership role—I knew I could help people. When I look at a leader, I think of a teacher, a mentor, a coach, and sometimes a friend as well. I don't see myself as a person who is on top."
As she grew into a great line manager, Nupur realized that she didn't want to stop there, either. "I have a natural knack for understanding business requirements and higher-level things and helping to implement them through development," she says. That led to her looking for opportunities to grow into more strategic leadership, which led to her becoming a director, first at SSI and then at Dynata.
Owning a comprehensive set of business and people goals was a big job, but Nupur embraced the challenge. "Some people get burned out, but for me it was fun, because I was learning, trying out new things, being creative, and figuring out ideas," she says. There was one extra-helpful guiding principle she learned to apply, and still applies today: "I never think of what I don't have that is crippling me. I always think of what I do have and how I can make the best use of the tools to solve the problem. That's always kept me going."
But sometimes growth peters out, and that's what Nupur realized several years into being a director. She knew the business inside and out and felt comfortable—too comfortable.
"That's when I knew I had to come out of my comfort position and make myself uncomfortable, to learn and challenge myself. Because that's when you stop growing, and I wanted to continue on my path to learn and grow," she says.
So she started looking for a new opportunity and found Clarus.
"I wanted to be around people who are open to ideas, communication, and feedback," she says. "And when I mentioned to recruiters that I knew that I was talking to Clarus, they all said, 'Oh, they're a great company, with great people.' And that made me feel comfortable."
An extra bonus? The high number of women employed at Clarus (they make up 59% of the company's employees!). "That really makes us stand out," adds Nupur.
4 principles for finding your path as an engineer
Now, as an Engineering Manager at Clarus, one of the biggest parts of Nupur's job is helping engineers to find their own paths to professional fulfillment. The company's open and communicative culture (and growth!) helps make that possible, as does Nupur's own experience. Above all, she recognizes that not everyone will have the same growth path that she does. Here's how she breaks it down:
- Understand yourself. "What excites you the most? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going?" asks Nupur. "Identifying that will get you a better idea of what the next move will look like." She gives examples:
- Do you like working with people, and are you a good listener? Maybe it's time to pursue a management path.
- Do you enjoy solving complicated problems above all? Consider taking on a role as a solutions architect.
- Do you want to stay involved in technical problems but also get reps mentoring others? Consider a project or team lead role.
- "And just being a software developer is also okay!" says Nupur. "If you love to code, if you really enjoy being a nerd at that, then just be that! There's nothing wrong with that."
- Find an opportunity to test out your understanding. If you've identified a path you'd like to pursue, it's a good idea to explore it while you're still in your current role. Nupur suggests talking to your manager to find the right kind of stretch opportunity, whether it's mentoring new hires, leading an internal project, or taking a more active role in hiring and performance reviews.
- Learn something everyday. Even as you're finding yourself successfully transitioning into newer, more demanding roles that line up with your interests, learning is a continuous process, so stay open-minded to it, says Nupur. She herself prioritizes learning by making time each day to listen to podcasts. Even if she's busy—as a single mom and self-proclaimed workaholic, she doesn't have a lot of extra time—she'll listen to one while she prepares dinner or cleans up. Her personal favorites include The Official AWS Podcast, The Clark Howard Podcast, and Motley Fool Money, among others. "A lot of them are about tech or personal finance, but they also talk about other things. For example, I've learned about how to build high-performing teams, which is something that I can apply on a daily basis," says Nupur. "Podcasts are key."
- Be open-minded to different cultures along the way. If you're going to grow in your career, says Nupur, you'll need to be able to work with lots of different people. That's true for a director and for a senior software developer. She credits her own experience managing offshore teams with teaching her this lesson: "Learning about different cultures brings a different perspective and understanding. It's important to have empathy for them because it builds trust and loyalty," she says.
In this video, you'll hear insight from Karli Henriquez, Senior Manager of Artist Relations at SoundCloud, into what it's like to work at SoundCloud as a Latinx professional.
How does SoundCloud, the world's largest music and audio platform that connects creators and their fans across the globe, support cultural diversity? One incredible initiative is Clouds Of Color: employee resource groups for Latinx team members and allies to get together, learn, and celebrate their community.
Latinx voices and culture deserve more representation in the workplace, so, as Karli advises, "make sure to walk into every room or Zoom as your true, authentic self!".
Are you interested in joining SoundCloud? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.