Women in tech: Atlassian’s engineering managers on the importance of gender parity, mentorship and inclusive work cultures
Engineering managers Ritu Dagar and Saraswati Hegde narrate their experience of working at Atlassian and the phenomenal growth they have achieved in their respective journeys.
Niyati Joshi Gupta
Wednesday November 09, 2022,
6 min Read
Gender disparity is still alive and rampant in the tech ecosystem in 2022. Whether it’s having to speak up louder to be heard in a meeting or skip an opportunity that requires late working hours, women still have to navigate many challenges to make their mark in the professional arena. Though the numbers show an upward trend in women’s participation in the Indian tech industry, the road is long and complicated when it comes to their representation in senior tech roles.
Promoting work flexibility, empathetic leadership, mentorship, and more, workplaces such as Atlassian are indeed becoming employers of choice for women seeking to grow in their careers. Giving its employees an opportunity to make purposeful contributions through their work or supporting various communities they are a part of, Atlassian is striving towards building a supportive and inclusive culture for people from various backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities.
Ritu Dagar and Saraswati Hegde’s journeys as Engineering Managers athave not only given opportunities to enhance the techie in them, but have also encouraged them to take up mentoring and pave the way for future leaders.
Though Ritu and Saraswati’s professional paths were strikingly different, their enthusiasm for tech, problem solving attitude, and striving for large-scale impact have enabled them to build a solid professional journey in tech and leadership.
From Western Ghats to Germany, United States to the Silicon Valley of India
Born and raised in Sirsi, Western Ghats, Saraswati was in love with mathematics and science. Her love for solving tricky puzzles and experimentation led her to choose science as a means to follow her passion.
Saraswati's first job was at Bosch in 2006, that was followed with a short term deputation to Stuttgart, Germany giving her an opportunity to work in a new geography as a new grad. The experimentation and learnings through various geographies and demographics continued when she pursued her master’s degree from Santa Clara University in the US and then worked in California for two years before returning to Bengaluru to work at IBM and Intuit.
“I started building my exposure as a technologist – right from dealing with legacy systems, to moving services to the public cloud, building scalable micro systems for enterprise products while leading a team of engineers. That’s when I realised my inclination towards managerial roles,” says Saraswati.
Following her calling, Saraswati joined Atlassian in 2020. The managerial roles at Atlassian present the opportunity to coach, mentor, and connect with people along with stakeholder management and skimming through ambiguities. However, the biggest attraction was the freedom to build a team remotely during the pandemic. “It [building a team remotely] was definitely challenging, but it also brought out the strengths in me. Building a team from scratch made me more confident and mature as an engineering manager and was one of the biggest attractions for my move to a leadership role,” adds Saraswati.
For the love of tech
Growing up as a daughter of an Air Force officer and teacher in a stimulating household in Delhi, Ritu was always encouraged to chart her own career path.
She started her career in 2011 with Newgen where she travelled across India, interacted with customers to understand problem statements better, and guided her team to work accordingly. Her love for coding took her to companies such as Ixigo - where she worked on enhancing the product experience through ‘one click booking’ - and MobiKwik where she got her first opportunity of building for the payment industry and also leading a team with only male colleagues.
Ritu joined Atlassian in 2019 seeking to benefit from the global exposure she would get. However, the opportunity proved to be a lot more fruitful. “Atlassian, you are a stakeholder in people's growth, you are encouraged to invest a lot of time in people. You get the opportunity to go deeper into tech, and zoom out to contribute to the wider strategy equally. Atlassian gives everyone the liberty to choose and grow as per one’s interest,” Ritu tells YourStory.
Be it handling developer or partner persona at Atlassian Marketplace or being part of the campus hiring program or supporting girls who want to pursue tech at Atlassian’s ‘She Talks Tech’ (where Atlassians get an opportunity to showcase the impact of their work with the tech community and inspire others), being at Atlassian has contributed to Ritu’s overall progress not just as a techie but also as a leader.
“I am a part of some leadership and mentorship programs, both within and outside of Atlassian, where we are working towards empowering women engineers who are at different stages of their careers. We are also looking at problems faced by the LGBTQ+ community and women facing discrimination because of their ethnicity. If there's an opportunity where I can make a difference for underrepresented groups, I love to go ahead and do it,” quips Ritu.
Building future leaders
Championing the cause of building inclusive workplaces where people can thrive and achieve their leadership goals, Atlassian offers several programs for aspiring leaders, especially women pursuing tech leadership roles.
During her interaction with YourStory, Saraswati elaborated on the experience of being a part of these programmes. “Learning people management is a pertinent skill. As a new manager, Atlassian’s mPAD program enabled me to learn and interact with many other global leaders which really helped me in my early days in the managerial role … Through our program, Women's LeaP, I got to interact with so many engineers from Sydney who were aspirational, but needed mentoring in order to showcase the impact of their work in a better way and design a growth path. I feel quite satisfied that I am able to derive from my own experiences and have been able to coach and guide them,” she says.
Enabling work-life balance
Lack of women in leadership roles is attributed to factors such as lack of flexibility, especially when women are trying to balance their family and professional requirements, lack of empathy on management’s behalf, etc. At Atlassian, however, distributed work culture is making it easy for women employees to strike a balance between their personal and professional commitments.
“Atlassian has gone into a distributed work environment and we have seen several of our women employees return to work post maternity leave, and fit comfortably into where they had left off. Our company’s flexible work model, culture of documentation and async work is surely helping to bridge the gap,” says Saraswati, signing off.