Seven Questions with Contentstack’s Neha Sampat
Welcome back to our Women in Tech blog series, where we highlight notable and accomplished women in the technology sector.
This interview is with with Neha Sampat, CEO of Contentstack and Founder of Built.io, who is a strong advocate for women in leadership. Neha also won the 2018 Aragon Research Women in Technology Award for CEO.
1. Please describe yourself in three words.
Resilient, Curious, Empathetic.
As CEO of a fast-growing startup, it’s important not to be discouraged in the day-to-day grind. Resiliency is critical for entrepreneurs because you need to look past short-term setbacks and focus on the long-term mission. It also helps to be curious. I’m surrounded by opportunities to learn new ideas from colleagues, peers and even customers. That innate curiosity has uncovered new avenues of growth for me personally and for my company. Being empathetic is an organic, company-wide core value that builds teamwide loyalty and trust.
2. What do you find most interesting about the technology field in which you work?
One of my life mantras is “Never be boring.” Technology moves at such a fast pace — especially in the startup world, and it solves real world problems. For Contentstack, this means building products that bridge the divide between business and technology users in an organization once and for all. I am devoted to democratizing technology for all users. As digital transformation in companies has evolved, there has been an increasing divide between business and technology users. Creating a level playing field to design, develop, sell and support the product. Bridging that gap is what keeps me excited at work every day.
3. How do you find work-life balance, or what do you enjoy outside of work?
A personal passion is to help unlock talent and potential in people that may not have the opportunity otherwise. I’m especially passionate about helping budding female entrepreneurs to get to the next level in their businesses. Through my involvement in entrepreneurship and accelerator organizations, I advise entrepreneurs on leadership and provide guidance on investor decks, customer relations programs, company growth and hiring strategies. I am also launching a training program for STEM education in India this year with a goal is to encourage students—and young women in particular—to think about not only entering technology jobs, but also building their own companies.
As a certified sommelier, I also have a passion for wine and cooking. I enjoy the academic side of wine, learning about the geography, viticulture, etc. Recently I’ve picked up the hobby of making sourdough bread. The precision and focus involved in making the perfect loaf is an ideal distraction from work and stress. In the end, you end up with delicious bread to share with family, friends, and colleagues!
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Oddly, I feel like I haven’t faced the biggest challenge yet! But when I had to restructure my last company, we faced some difficult decisions. We had a profitable services business and several product lines, but limited resources. We decided to divide the company into three separate teams and spin out parts of the business. This decision required personnel moves, new leadership, and other big changes—some that worked, and some that didn’t. In the end, we increased the value of all of the businesses, which was the optimal outcome for everyone involved.. We realized that a successful transition required transparent and communicative leadership throughout the process. We hosted events in all offices and spent a significant amount of time on the people. We also decided that everyone would benefit from the sale of one of the business units—not just that team. It allowed everyone to celebrate and felt more inclusive and in line with our values.
5. Are there enough opportunities for women in tech? How would you assess the progress women have made in the tech industry?
Technology offers so many opportunities across the board. There is a significant skills gap in technology and a huge need for talent. Additionally, technology offers some of the most lucrative salaries available today. CompTIA estimated that there are more than 700,000 unfilled IT jobs in the U.S. alone. A survey from Robert Half found that 87% of IT executives say it’s challenging to find skilled technology professionals today. These jobs may not be skewed in favor of women—only 25% of technology jobs were filled by women.
While we are seeing improvements, I—and others—would like it to go faster. Young women should be encouraged to acquire STEM degrees, particularly in engineering and computer science. Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but less than one-third of the science and engineering workforce. Going deeper, only 15% of women are in engineering roles and 25% are in jobs related to computer and mathematical sciences.
6. What are some things you think should be addressed on macro, peer, and educational levels to encourage women to feel empowered in the tech industry?
I strive to help Silicon Valley and the technology industry overall become a level playing field. There are some key areas that stand out.
- Access to Funds: For example, males are 63% more likely to raise capital than women, all other things equal. Research also shows that 95% of venture deals and dollars are going to companies without a single woman in the top management suite.
- Subconscious Bias: We live in a society that has been trained subconsciously to think about capabilities of men and women differently. With awareness, this is slowly changing but it’s still out there. Those organizations moving the needle on this are taking real action in analyzing and correcting salary inequities or removing names from resumes to prevent gender bias in screenings.
- Leveling the Playing Field: There are organizations like the Girl Scouts that are helping to train girls into leaders and organizations like Springboard that are turning women into incredible CEOs.
7. Please provide a WIT call to action.
My ask is that you participate. If you have money, invest in women. If you’re a part of an organization, demand parity in levels and pay. Join organizations like Springboard or Astia Angels to help level the playing field. Encourage other women to take chances, start companies, develop products, patent their inventions. We need to support each other and refuse to accept less than what we deserve.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to add that it’s ok to take an unconventional path. The current workforce norms were put in place for a generation when men worked and women stayed home to raise families. This isn’t the case any longer and we shouldn’t apply old thinking to today’s more complex situations. Make your path authentically you.
In my case, as a female, non-technical CEO of a series of enterprise tech companies in Silicon Valley, I have taken an unconventional path on my entrepreneurial journey. Through the acquisition of Built.io, I completely bootstrapped the business. From there, I learned how much value we had built in Contentstack and I spun it out of my profitable consulting company, also bootstrapped. I’ve built teams abroad and successfully exited a company without the help of a banker. My advice to other startup founders is that it’s ok to take the road less traveled and try to do things differently. You may beat the odds and turn the “right way” on its head!
Thank you, Neha!
The winners of the 2019 Aragon Research Women in Technology Awards will be presented on December 5th, 2019 at Aragon Transform. We hope you’ll join us!