[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Esha Shukla: The product manager who dreamt big and refused to give up
Esha Shukla, product manager at instant messaging app WhatsApp takes us through her product management career, laying before us the making of a woman leader.
To reach the crest of a wave, one needs to be determined enough to brave the unfortunate while not losing oneself in the process. Esha Shukla, product manager at instant messaging app, has seen several ups and downs. However, she stayed determined on her path.
Having worked in the startup as well as corporate space, Esha has vast experience ranging from finding a company to working at technology giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
Reflecting on her journey as a product manager, Esha says, “While product management, as a profession, has become pretty popular in the tech industry, and there's more awareness for the role and responsibility, back when I got into the role about seven years ago, there was not as much awareness about it. As a result, there was no direct path that you could take to get into a product management role."
Hailing from Mumbai, Esha pursued computer engineering for her undergraduate degree. Her eventual interest, fascination, and research in the realm of technology and the intersections of other fields like business and technology are what led her to examine prospects beyond traditional software engineering roles.
After completing post-graduation in Engineering Management from Duke University, North Carolina (United States of America), Esha worked as a product manager at CitiBank.
While recollecting the initial stages of her professional journey, Esha states she was lucky to have a woman as a manager and mentor at the beginning of her career at CitiBank.
One of the biggest lessons she learned from her mentor was the need to advocate for oneself and work efficiently with a team.
“She taught me that if I want a job, I should ask for it because if you don’t advocate for yourself, no one will know what you desire and why you are the right fit. I have carried that lesson with me throughout my career,” she recalls. Adding to the same, Esha says, "You have to be your own champion for your career growth."
Before joining WhatsApp, Esha worked with(now Meta) in a team called ‘Women in Emerging Markets.'
Esha states that in their research, many women flagged safety issues such as misuse of information and being approached by strangers that reduced their interest to use online platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.
Elaborating on this, she says, "Our team's mandate was to come up with products and features to solve some of the safety concerns and help women feel safe and in control of their experience on Facebook."
Along with the said team, Esha launched a feature called ‘Profile Locking,’ which is currently live in India.
Despite having diverse work experience, Esha shares how she faced difficulty during recruitment phases in her journey up till she landed the said job in Facebook.
Considering the same, she says, "It can be a tough journey, even after you have experience. But if you really want something, I think not giving up and trying, again and again, is always important."
After two years of working with Facebook, Esha was intrigued by a job opening at WhatsApp.
Esha strongly believes in having a voice and an opinion, especially for women business leaders. Her story is indicative of the benefit of having strong female leadership.
Expressing her gratitude for the same, Esha asserts, “I think I've been particularly blessed and honoured to be surrounded by smart women in my network that I could really learn from and grow with.”
Looking back on her own experiences, Esha suggests that one must not be afraid to apply for roles. Adding to the same she states, "I don't think anybody satisfies 100 percent of every bullet point that's ever listed on a list, so don't be afraid to apply. You will learn over time; you will have to go through rejections, it's a part of the journey."
As Esha continues to work diligently towards building her career to the point wherein, she could guide a team of product managers and help fund female-founded companies in the long term, her story proves the importance of dedication and zest as ingredients to success.
(This story was updated to correct a typo.)
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti