We need more women trailblazers in tech: Atlassian's Deeksha Sood weighs in

Deeksha Sood, who grew from a principal engineer to an engineering manager at Atlassian is passionate about building scalable products from scratch, and leads with the philosophy of 'servant leadership'.

In India, women in tech are growing at a rapid pace with more than 30 percent of tech industry employees now being females, as per a report by 451 Research. However, this percentage declines at senior and leadership positions. “A lot of women don’t pursue leadership roles in tech because they rarely see women in those roles and hence, can’t picture themselves there,” says Deeksha Sood, Engineering Manager, Atlassian while sharing her perspective on the low participation and representation of women in management and leadership roles in tech.

“I too faced this challenge early in my career as I had hardly ever worked with a female leader,” adds Deeksha. “Atlassian really changed that for me. The company has many successful leaders and I get to work with them closely… One of the reasons I joined Atlassian was that for the first time in my career, I was going to report to a female manager. Working with Sonia Parandekar, who is the head of engineering at Atlassian, has been enriching in more ways than one. She’s been a mentor for me right from the beginning,” she says.

Driven by the passion of building scalable products, Deeksha has had diverse work experience. After graduating from IIT Roorkee, Deeksha began her professional career as a senior engineer at Walmart Labs. After working there for three years, she moved to CureFit to get a taste of working in a high-paced startup environment.

“Working at a startup was a good chance to discover the breadth of what I could do,” says Deeksha. “I was able to take things from zero to one, and work through a lot of ambiguity and chaos, and that gave me enough confidence in knowing that I could build whatever I needed with minimal resources. But after that, I wanted to learn how to build things the right way, not just the fast way,” adds Deeksha while stating the reason behind moving to Atlassian.

From individual contributor to leading a team

Joining Atlassian in 2018, Deeksha’s skill set, knowledge, and “desire to truly master her craft as an engineer” paved the way for her steady growth at Atlassian. In a span of three years, she got promoted to the position of principal engineer and then, an engineering manager.

“As a principal engineer, one has a lot of influence on how a particular product is being envisioned, without getting involved in day-to-day delivery… After spending more than a year as principal engineer, I felt comfortable with the knowledge that I’d acquired so far and wanted to use technology to help teams execute in a more effective manner, so I thought it was a good time for me to try out engineering management,” says Deeksha.

As a team lead, Deeksha believes in setting stretch goals for her team and encouraging them to challenge the status quo. “I am a strong believer in the philosophy of servant leadership,” she adds. “I want to enable my team to do the best work of their lives and help them achieve their full potential,” she shares.

Journey at Atlassian

Influenced by Atlassian’s values of 'Build with heart and balance' and 'Play, as a team', Deeksha has been at the core of the company’s many successful initiatives. One of the highlights of Deeksha’s journey at Atlassian has been the work and role she played in the successful cloud migration journey of the company’s billing platform.

“At Atlassian, I saw the time and energy that’s being invested into making decisions. If you want to propose a change, you need to do your homework, because it’s going to go through a rigorous amount of debates and inputs. This kind of preparation and working style enabled me to think through both the immediate and long-term implications of every decision,” says Deeksha.

“Receiving such honest feedback about my work continues to help me learn and grow along the way,” she adds.

Culture that supports growth and flexibility

Soon after taking on the position of engineering manager, Deeksha became a mother and availed the company's 26 weeks of parental leave. “I was a little skeptical about transiting back, but Atlassian’s strong process of documentation made it easy for me to read up about the work developments in my absence,” she says while talking about juggling between her twin responsibilities of being a mother and a manager.

“Another reason why women shy away from taking up leadership roles is the perception of the increased pressure that would affect their work-life balance. We are encouraged to acknowledge our personal lives, and I believe this is a vital reason why we see a lot of women at leadership and management positions here,” says Deeksha.

Additionally, Atlassian is a distributed-first company and hence provides a lot of flexibility to work remotely to returning women like Deeksha and employees at large.

Be the change you seek

This is another Atlassian value that has helped a passionate and fearless techie like Deeksha in driving change and being the differentiator.

Today, apart from being a hands-on leader, Deeksha is a mentor in the company’s 12-week leadership programme called Women’s LeaP, where she meets and spends time with female engineers from various departments of the company and helps them explore interests in pursuing management roles.

She signs off by reiterating that women need to “raise their hand more often” and “be ready and willing to step out of their comfort zones”. She believes that women could strive for gender equality in tech leadership roles by continuing to say ‘yes’ to newer opportunities at every step of the way.


Updates from around the world