How can women succeed in tech? Intuit's Nidhi Gopal believes in speaking up
With over 22 years of experience in information technology, Nidhi Gopal has to her credit a transformational journey of maturing flagship software products across technology platforms—mobile, SaaS, On-Prem and Data.
She has had successful stints in companies like SCT Sunguard, Manhattan Associates, and SGT India, and has completed 10 years at.
As Vice President–Product Development, SBSEG, Intuit India, she continues to be excited by the power of the latest technology to make a difference for QuickBooks customers and innovate 30+ years of matured products.
In a conversation with HerStory, Nidhi talks about what drew her to STEM, important learnings in her journey and how we can retain more women in tech.
HerStory (HS): Tell us more about your career trajectory and what drew you to the STEM field?
Nidhi Gopal (NG): Two decades ago, I started my career as a software engineer with a mission to build beautiful products that could solve customer problems. I started in the domain of logistics and supply chain management and evolved over the years to learn multiple domains—such as education, music, oil and gas, ecommerce, and SMB fintech.
In my foundational years, I was always surrounded by engineers and entrepreneurs. I realised the impact an engineer could create on people’s life by solving their problems through technology—and that drew me to STEM.
HS: Can you recall a personal experience that shaped your career?
NG: I was born and raised in a small town in North India. During my foundational years, I was always inspired by my father who is an engineer and now a retired professional. My father used to work in the glass manufacturing industry. I would love to spend time with him each day to learn how he converts glass dust into beautiful glass containers.
He applied his knowledge of science and mathematics to make these transformations. I learnt through my dad’s lens, the power of automation and technology to make quick, strong, and high-quality products in a highly competitive industry.
HS: What are some of your career’s biggest successes and challenges?
NG: I belong to a generation where we hardly had representation of women in computing at school. I was denied the chance because my father, being an engineer, saw very little to no representation of women in technology. However, I don’t recall any of the boys in my family being denied. While growing up, I never realised the impact of unconscious biases on my belief system.
For example, I always believed that as a woman I need to work harder than my male counterparts because I have dual responsibility—family and career. I must take care of my children and career aspirations. I had to do it on my own.
I carry out these responsibilities on my own because I grew up learning from my mum who was a working professional. Being aware of needing to break from my belief system was extremely critical and that was my first step. So, I asked myself: Why not take support from my partner, family, and babysitter to help me take care of my children while I also focus on my career growth. This enabled me to drive a mindset shift from within.
Here are a few nuggets of the growth I would like to share:
- Speak up and ask – Opportunities are all around us. What I have seen is that we often do not ask for what we want assuming that everyone around us will understand. If you have the passion and a belief that the opportunity is for you, Intuit culture encourages each one of us to go for it. If you speak and ask for what you are passionate about, the outcome will be fulfilling.
- Own your growth – You are the best person to self-reflect, understand your strengths and your opportunities. Lean on to your strengths, leverage them while being aware of your opportunities. There will be blind spots as you self-reflect and seek mentors. Identify mentors that are your true critiques and invest in them as much as they invest in you. Continue to learn and compete with yourself—be the better version of yourself every single year.
HS: Can you tell us about your team and your responsibilities at work?
NG: I lead a diverse group of 170 engineers which is a mix of fresh out of college grads to highly experienced engineers. The exciting part of working with this team is the spectrum of diverse personalities and perspectives that I get while solving some of the most complex customer problems.
It challenges me to keep up the pace with the team as I need to think outside the box and be the enabler for their growth. In the end, it helps me build relationships that I can cherish while taking pride in problems that have been solved for customers.
HS: How can we attract more women talent in tech?
NG: There are multiple efforts that many organisations are driving from creating gender diversity awareness to retaining women talent to bringing back talent after a career break. We, however, continue to face challenges of low representation of women in tech, lack role models at senior leadership, and face challenges in retaining our talent and gender biases.
It will require us to have sustained efforts in designing programmes that encourage women in tech.
HS: How do you feel about mentoring women in tech?
NG: In this journey, I have had multiple mentors who coached me and instilled confidence during my moments of self-doubt. Their mentorship enabled me to re-discover myself multiple times across the career progression. My experience both as a mentee and as a mentor to women in tech is that we as women leaders want to solve everything on our own, work harder, push ourselves to be perfect and do not lean on each other for help.
We don’t realise the importance of speaking up or asking ourselves “why not”. There is an inner inertia which holds us back to get what we rightly deserve. Mentors provide you with tools that enable you to be self-aware and then apply some of the frameworks to overcome challenges.
HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in tech?
NG: We need more role models in tech at leadership positions. There will be phases in our career surrounded by self-doubt. But having seen women in leadership positions gives a positive affirmation that if they can achieve, so can we.
The tech industry has progressed and is ensuring diversity in teams for greater outcomes. However, biases still exist. I always say, “it took us generations to build the mindset we are believing in and it will take us generations to break this mindset.” But we must do it together. We, as women, are extremely self-critical and we need the right encouragement to push the envelope.
HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mindset?
NG: People who come from different social, geographical, and cultural backgrounds add new experiences, perspectives, and skills into the team.
As a result, they spur innovation and become a key enabler of high performing organisations. Having an equitable culture is crucial to an organisation’s growth and success. Organisations with a higher diversity have much higher chances of capturing new markets. They result in better decision making and innovation.
On the other hand, the key challenges are gender discrimination, stereotype and biases that need to be addressed through focused programs and continued investments. The decision-making process should aim for equal representation, whether in boardrooms and senior executive leadership, or at scrum teams.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti