Women's Day: Get out of your comfort zone and learn through networking within the organisation, says Nupur Goenka of Tally
Growing up, Nupur Goenka, Executive Director, Tally Solutions wanted to be a journalist or author. She attended Northwestern University in Evanston near Chicago, which is among the top journalism colleges in the US. However, being an exploratory person by nature, she took classes in everything from Psychology, Math, Astrophysics, Economics, Computer Science, and Biology. What really piqued her interest was when she took her first neuroscience course.
“I was the only one in my class who wasn’t pursuing a PhD but I found the subject fascinating and wound up getting a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience. When I returned to India, however, I was drawn to the huge opportunity in the product and technology space and dived deep into that instead,” she says.
After Nupur graduated, she co-founded Clustr, a Big Data company in partnership with Tally. “The biggest thing that drew me to be a part of the Clustr and the Tally journey was the potential and challenge to create and sustain an impact that I could not have imagined otherwise with technology. It provided a very unique opportunity to design and build technology for businesses and entrepreneurs that were growing and needed to automate for various reasons and therefore, required to work on the simplest possible solution,” she adds.
Today, Nupur guides corporate finance, corporate information systems, and cloud operations in the company besides being the Managing Director and Co-founder of Clustr, a Big Data and analytics subsidiary of Tally Solutions.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory (HS): Please take us through your career journey
Nupur Goenka (NG): My journey is just a few years old, so I am only getting started. When I graduated from college, I co-founded Clustr – a Big Data company that aims to bring the power of analytics and data to the hands of small businesses, especially in emerging markets such as India where access to good information is untapped.
Naturally, this was a great partnership to begin with Tally since the target group of users is the same. Along with a great team of leaders, I spent most of my time running operations for Clustr, and building the team while participating at a management level in Tally in parallel. Over the last couple of years, my involvement in Tally has gone beyond management and I got directly involved with the rest of the leadership group in running the company day-to-day, in addition to running Clustr.
HS: Tell us about your roles and responsibilities at Tally?
NG: Apart from overseeing the company’s direction and strategy, I am significantly involved in computer information systems, cloud operations, finance, and human resources for Tally along with the product management, engineering, and data science teams for Clustr. From a managerial lens, I’m also involved in the business development and product development functions of Tally.
HS: How did you face the challenges of working in a pandemic?
NG: In the 35-year history of Tally, we have never had a work-from-home culture or policy, so it was a shock to suddenly transition to complete work-from-home almost overnight. Teams came together to ensure that we had the infrastructure and systems set up that moved our entire 1,000+ person team and our call centres to a complete work-from-home model with no reduction in call load and without disrupting operations for almost two million customers worldwide.
We have also worked closely with our partner network to help equip them to move into a work-from-home setup. This includes moving into digital marketing, customer engagements, and doing virtual product demos as well, all in an effort to ensure that operations don’t come to a standstill, and we are able to continue operations for our customers.
HS: While there are a large number of women entering tech, what more can be done to attract them, and more importantly retain them in the workforce.
NG: There is still a lot more that can be done to attract, develop, and retain women in tech. Overall, I think it’s important to be conscious of the talent pool you are tapping into for any role and judging based on potential and merit over anything else.
Make an effort to reach out to people from diverse and minority backgrounds. If an organisation’s hiring process becomes much more inclusive, then the retention of women in the tech workforce will start leaning on culture and policies that should not be either explicitly or implicitly discriminatory in any way.
At Tally, we have 37 percent women across our senior leadership and the ratio of women to men across the organisation is 1:5, which is better than most organisations in our space. We are continuously working on building an inclusive culture that is development and merit-based, and supported by the right policies.
HS: Why is networking absolutely essential for women in tech?
NG: The unfortunate reality is that despite progress a lot of companies are trying to make, there is still a huge prevalence of gender-based discrimination.
Most women have to try several times as hard to climb the ladder, build their images, and recover from missteps, to break the glass ceiling. Since this is the ground reality, it’s essential to keep building your network and professional circles so you are never boxed in to your responsibilities or work at any point in time.
That being said, I think every single person can benefit from meeting people from different backgrounds and with different mindsets. It always helps to get out of your comfort zone and learn through networking within the organisation, and externally, given that there are platforms both online and offline where one can engage and network to learn and share experiences.
HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in tech?
NG: I believe the reasons are much more societal and systemic. In a country like India, the percentage of the total population that goes through both primary and secondary education is low, and within that, the percentage of women that go through both and move on to pursue higher studies as well is extremely small. Once again, within this number, the women who pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in their higher education and career is miniscule and there are many, many social, cultural, and economic factors that influence this. Naturally, this culminates in a very small set of women in tech and role models are fewer.
A lot needs to happen both bottom-up and top down to increase the number of women in tech leadership positions. Organisations are focusing on diversity and inclusion initiatives, working on gender sensitisation. However, some companies are doing better than others. Policies especially with respect to life-stage changes etc. are seeing some improvement, but we still have a long way to go before we truly see the change we want to.
HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mind-set?
NG: It’s simple really, purely because gender has nothing to do with intellectual and/or execution potential in either STEM or in any other profession. If there is no basis for inequality, then why have or condone it? If an organisation is not willing to give someone a fair chance regardless of gender, race, orientation, class, and so on – all they are doing is restricting their potential talent pool, and this is a just lose-lose scenario.
HS: Who/What have been your biggest inspirations?
NG: There isn’t a single person, place, or thing I draw inspiration from – it comes from all around me and in a variety of ways, whether it’s learning from how my grandmother puts effort into unlearning cultural norms or veterans in the industry that create opportunities for the rest of us to create an impact.
Edited by Diya Koshy George