Women’s Day: Pure Storage’s Snehal Samprati on Women in Tech in India

By Jayesh Shinde | Published 09 Mar 2023 12:13 IST
Women’s Day: Pure Storage’s Snehal Samprati on Women in Tech in India

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I had the opportunity to interview Snehal Samprati, Product Management and Technical Marketing Engineering, FlashBlade, Pure Storage to understand her insights and perspective of being a woman in tech in India. Edited excerpts follow:

What were some of the biggest challenges of your tech industry career? 

I’ve had an unconventional and exciting non-linear career trajectory. Every role I gravitated towards entailed a huge learning potential and impact the role could make. After completing my master’s in computer science, I started my career in qualitative and quantitative analytics across various functions such as Commercial Distribution Finance, Marketing Intelligence, Product Management and Competitive Intelligence. 

Having worked across multiple organizations and functions, it poses different challenges, such as depth vs breadth in terms of expertise. The unique advantage I had across all the roles was the opportunity to be able to connect the dots and envision the bigger picture. One of the major crossroads where I encountered challenges like most other working women was when I embraced motherhood. However, having a supportive family and working for a company that enabled flexibility helped me sail through that phase.

Starting with GE Capital International Services, I have worked at IBM, NetApp and National Instruments before landing my current role at Pure Storage in 2022 as the Director of Product Management and Technical Marketing, where I help brilliant minds on my team achieve their critical objectives by enabling them. 

How have you seen the tech industry in India evolve, and what are some of the biggest opportunities for growth in the future?

India has seen an exponential growth in startups, in thought leadership and is leading the way on the global map in terms of our contributions to technology - whether it’s Modern Analytics, Digitization or ESG. India's IT industry is gaining ground in new disruptive technologies and will play a key part in the world's current fourth industrial revolution. The biggest opportunity for growth is where individuals are able to scale their skills and be agile to solve any business or global challenges. 

What are some of the biggest myths and stereotypes about women in tech that you've encountered or heard of?

Perceived notions and inherent gender biases have propagated some of the myths about women, in tech and beyond.  

Women are falsely believed to be more emotional and hence less rational. People respond differently to different situations and circumstances. However, this has nothing to do with gender. The other notion I have seen is that women tend to put family first and hence may not be as committed. This has gradually and certainly changed over the last two decades. Today, men and women have equal responsibilities both at home and work. There are many men who take on more responsibilities at home and companies need to support them equally as well. 

What do most people don't understand, get wrong or underestimate about women in our digital workforce?

Women in different phases of their personal lives, might exit the workforce. This is a common misconception or preconceived notion that some companies or managers end up basing their hiring decisions on. This is entirely baseless. Companies need to hire for potential and skills irrespective of gender, and ensure they are able to support their employees accordingly. 

Secondly, in pursuit of being a company that supports diversity, it is misconstrued that women employees are being hired to meet those targets. At Pure Storage, we hire AWESOME people, and we focus on diversity in all forms - age, thought, geographical background, gender, orientation, differently abled and so on. Because each of these brings a fresh perspective to the products and services we build. 

How did you navigate gender-related challenges and other forms of bias at work, and what advice would you give to others facing similar challenges?

First of all, it is not straightforward to identify gender bias. I have been lucky to have been in the tech industry all along and privileged to have had great allies and co-workers that supported and challenged me equally. This is also one of the major reasons why tech is a great place for women - here ideas and skills are what matter the most, and we embrace diversity. If I had to call out, perhaps the one thing that I did experience was the parity in pay. This was because I did not step up and negotiate whereas a male colleague would not have hesitated to do so. This is something I learnt the hard way and when I started incorporating it, the issue was resolved. Having said that, many companies are inherently fixing this issue and not leaving it to the employee, which should address this parity. Hence, my advice to all professional women is to believe in yourself, don’t be afraid of challenges, just embrace them! The challenges in the tech industry are far simpler than you imagine.

What steps have you taken to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace, and what have been some of the outcomes of these efforts in terms of impact?

At Pure Storage, we believe rightly that diversity has different forms, and we make our best efforts to embrace all forms of diversity. The most important is the diversity of thought and ideas that this approach brings. Our workforce is distributed across 39 countries, with over 4,000 employees. We encourage our employees to question the status quo, empower everyone to achieve breakthrough outcomes, expand their skills and pursue their career goals irrespective of location. Each global site is designed to be self-sufficient in its delivery and has a modular approach to achieving business goals. 

A critical part of Pure culture is inclusivity, and employees and leaders’ welcome diversity as a fuel to our innovation. To that end, we launched an Inclusive Leadership Index (ILI), a Pure Storage framework designed to guide individual leaders’ efforts in driving diversity, equity, and inclusion at Pure. 

In order to support growth, development, innovative thinking, and an overall sense of belonging among our global teams, we have individualized development plans and internal mobility for promoting career development, helping employees gain new experiences and skills — and ultimately drive diversity of thought and creativity across departments. 

Can you share an example of when you had to navigate a difficult situation or decision as a leader? How did you approach it?

There are many situations where leaders need to step up and make tough decisions. More often than not, these impact people or the business or both. I ensure the approach is holistic, taking into consideration both the business and people impact. People-first approach has always helped me retain the best talent for the company. For example, there was a product line in consideration to be sunsetted because it wasn’t generating revenue. Based on our tribal knowledge, we knew that was not a good decision, but we had to validate it with data which revealed that this product was bringing in revenue through a cross-sell model. After establishing this, we were able to retain a critical product which otherwise would have had an undesirable people impact. 

How do you stay current with emerging technologies and industry trends, and what resources do you rely on?

As technology keeps evolving at a rapid pace, it's essential for us to stay up to date on all new and upcoming trends which could become massive disruptors. I draw most of my insights through my interactions with my teammates who are domain experts working on cutting-edge technology. Being a part of industry forums, following whitepapers and research has helped me widen my knowledge. This in combination with keeping a close track of customers' feedback is indicative of where tech is headed. 

What's your approach to mentorship and supporting development of future leaders in the Indian tech ecosystem?

India has some of the best tech talent in the world, and with the right mentorship and support it can scale to even greater heights. Mentorship has been one of the primary pillars for my success. The benefits of mentorship have been proven beyond doubt, and I am a big believer of supporting and championing development of future leaders. At Pure Storage, we have a mentorship program, which is pivotal to the success of young engineers. As one grows in their career, it's also necessary to have mentors from outside one’s organization to get a broader perspective. 

Additionally, Pure’s Elevate program has been designed specifically over a six-month timeframe to help participants achieve better business results, increase job and customer satisfaction, improve operational excellence, and attain personal and professional goals. The program targets emerging leaders at Pure and is specifically geared toward top-performing individual contributors regarded as leaders within their space by their peers and their managers. Nominees must live Pure's values and leadership attributes and demonstrate the potential to effectively lead a team.  Through the program, employees gain a clearer understanding of their role as a leader in the organization and a greater awareness of the kinds of activities and behaviors that stimulate outstanding performance. The results? Since 2015, 75% of Elevate program graduates have been promoted into leadership roles and/or made a lateral move within the company. 

What are some of the biggest challenges that women (and underrepresented minorities) face in the tech industry, and how can senior leaders help address these challenges?

In my experience, one of the biggest challenges to overcome are self-limiting beliefs. We have an extremely skilled, hardworking, and talented pool of women and underrepresented minorities, but we need to bring forth their ideas and tap into their experience effectively.  Senior leaders can encourage employees to challenge the status quo, become aware of their biases and blind spots, in order to nurture a culture where inclusivity and diversity of thought and action are welcomed and supported. 

At Pure, as we grow, we continue to make strides in attracting, developing, and retaining diverse top talent at all levels and locations we operate in. Pure participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Best Places to Work Corporate Equality Index for the first time, receiving a score of 95 out of 100. This index recognizes employers that are leading the way in driving workforce inclusion for LGBTQIA+ employees. 

We are proud to further support our DEI efforts through Pure Equality and our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Pure Equality’s mission is to ensure that our company is diverse and inclusive, providing equal opportunities to all to thrive, contribute and innovate. To date, over 1,200 Pure employees belong to one of Pure’s six ERGs.

What advice would you give to women who aspire to leadership roles in the tech industry, particularly in India?

If you are passionate about solving problems, Tech is a field that could very well be up your alley and is highly rewarding as well. There has never been a better time for women to work in technology. The industry is recognizing the importance of diversity, both for the community at large and for the bottom line of businesses. With advances in computing and artificial intelligence, there are now enormous prospects to solve significant social problems on a global scale. This opportunity, combined with many companies investing in talent in India with the impetus to grow a diverse workforce, makes it a genuinely exciting time to be a part of the business in India.

Jayesh Shinde
Jayesh Shinde

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