[Women in Tech] ‘Women should not shy away from asking for opportunities’: Anubha Verma, CTO of RentSherRekha Balakrishnan
The CTO of RentSher believes there is a need to instill in women a passion for technology and a drive for excellence, while exposing them to more to opportunities in the space.
That technology is changing the way we work, meet, keep in touch, shop or even bank is a given.
Anubha Verma, Chief Technology Officer, RentSher, a leading online rental marketplace, believes women can use technology as a key enabler to make a social impact in the world they live in.
“There is so much capability in each of us, and tech provides the opportunity for us to claim that visibility – from the comfort of our homes and the safety of anonymity where needed. Today, you can publish poetry, recipes, lesson plans and do freelance coding,” she says.
In an interview with YourStory, she talks about women in technology, her role at RentSher, the need for mentorship and training for women in tech, and all the challenges she faces.
YourStory: As CTO, what technological innovations are you bringing to RentSher?
Anubha Verma: I head the technology for the global RentSher brand - managing the web service, and laying out the roadmap for further development of the technology-driven platform used by the company. We aim to connect users to rental businesses in their active markets in India and the Middle East. I am spearheading the company’s technical team in systems architecture, front-end development, quality control, and digital marketing (SEO and SEM).
I have worked on large-scale systems, especially managing services where availability is important. Understanding and anticipating the needs of the audience is the first step before building any meaningful solution and I look forward to making our product more user friendly and fast.
In the last couple of months, we have made the platform sleeker, faster, more consumer-focused and also automated the entire backend for scalable operations.
Rental commerce is more complicated and quite different from off-the-shelf ecommerce, and presents its own unique challenges. The products go and come back, scheduling is more time-sensitive, inventory management is more involved, and there are more steps in the order lifecycle such as quality control, customer verification etc. Our vision is that if we can book a cab in under a minute today, can we book a full event setup for a birthday party in minutes? We are looking to enable that for our customers, without pinching their pocket.
YS: Do you think women in technology in India are a rare breed?
AV: I have been a part of regular Bengaluru events like Grace Hopper Celebration, as well as Google-organised events for budding women engineers. I have met extremely talented and motivated women all across - what we need is more visibility to create more role models. There are many platforms where we can connect and expand our reach. We need to make sure we share that advantage and are available to do our bit to encourage and include everyone in the industry or whoever aspires to be. I feel it may be rare but it is a fast growing group. There are also several initiatives to support women entrepreneurs and I see many women entrepreneurs making their mark, which encourages more to join in.
YS: What more can be done to attract women to careers in technology?
AV: Engineering in the distant past was largely a male-dominated pursuit. The trends are changing. What we need to do is instill in them a passion for technology and drive for excellence, and provide an exposure to opportunities. It comes closely coupled with the faith that you will pursue it for the larger part of life and not just until you get married or until you have kids - your outlook, commitment and whole approach to your education and career changes based on what you and people around you believe.
YS: Do women face sexism as part of tech teams?
HS: You see it sometimes, but when the leadership has the right intent and the team culture is healthy, these things become less impactful and infrequent or even non-existent.
The mindset is evolving for the better, and it is important to understand that the fault can lie across genders and even with us. It is important to point out any sexist behaviour or actions you see, and not ignore it. And, again, it is not about putting anyone down - but only about reinforcing what is permissible within team culture and what is not. I find the unconscious bias quite revealing and useful to make sure your workspace is not troubled with biases. Open communication channels and a positive environment makes sure that any challenges faces are brought to light and handled well to make us and the workplace better each day.
YS: What are the challenges women face in technology and how can they overcome them?
AV: The ecosystem is very accommodative today, with workplaces looking to onboard more women candidates and offering flexible work arrangements; even maternity leave benefits are improving to make sure they do not lose out on their employees. On the other hand, I see most women still feel reluctant to ask for opportunities, at workplace or for a new job, or for introductions using their existing network. If that is overcome, a whole new world of possibilities open. You have to start trying.
YS: How important is mentorship and training for women in tech?
AV: It is extremely valuable, but its absence should not hold you back. Mentors cannot appear out of thin air - they come based on your work, or your experience working with or for other people. Training in today’s world is again up to us. I can decide today to pick up a new skill, read up on it and start contributing. It is important but it is not a pre-step to your journey - rather a way of operating itself.
YS: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career so far?
AV: I pursued my love for computer science and engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi where I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I started out in 2008 at VMware where I got my first end-to-end product development experience, developing and shipping out a whole new product in Cloud Infrastructure Management Solutions. I found the perfect opportunity to pursue my interest in innovation and research when I joined IBM Research - working with the best of researchers from across the world.
Wanting to get more hands on in the software engineering space while also creating impact for users, I joined Google in 2013.
I also got a chance to give back to the community as a Googler, being heavily involved in their Women Techmakers (WTM) programme and Developer Relations Initiatives.