Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I grew up in Hyderabad, a 400+ year old historic city in southern India. As a child, I enjoyed reading a lot. I liked science but didn’t care for math until middle school when I had an amazing math teacher who made learning math very interesting and so much fun.
My dad was an engineer who led several significant public works engineering projects. My mom worked in social services and developed many initiatives in collaboration with organizations like CARE, UNICEF, and WHO to improve the welfare of women and children, especially in rural and tribal areas. So, as a girl, from a very early age, education, achieving economic independence, and serving/supporting others in need were (and continue to be) very important to me.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I wanted to be an engineer! I have a BS and MS in Electronics & Communication Engineering, and Electrical Engineering respectively. I got an MBA from Babson College while also actively working full-time as an engineering manager.
My first job after obtaining my MS was as a quality engineering lead. My first project involved the design and development of an in-house automated regression testing framework that integrated with the build and release system. This framework expedited the detection of defects and reduced the cost to fix them. Starting my career in quality engineering has strongly influenced how I design and develop products.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
The first critical moment in my career was the decision to transition into management from being an individual contributor. While I enjoyed the design and coding aspects of my role, I found that what gave me most satisfaction was solving business problems through technology, creating value for customers, and working with people to make it happen. Relative to my peers, my strength was the ability to connect execution to strategy, develop the technical plans, and consistently get things done. As I grew in my management career, I took responsibility for more functional areas and teams, and that naturally provided impetus for me to develop my project management and process orientation skills.
After over a decade of managing backend heavy architecture and infrastructure projects and teams, I wanted to challenge myself to manage user-facing products end-to-end as I missed not having direct customer interaction and not being involved in the development of business strategy. So, after I earned my MBA in Entrepreneurship, I took an engineering management role at a much smaller company in a different industry. This transition gave me the opportunity to have more breadth of responsibility that spanned both the core platform and applications built on it. It helped me develop new skills, for example, I had no prior experience managing front-end or applications teams. I also got to develop my business skills and become more strategic in how I operated and led teams.
Gaining the confidence that I could successfully create customer value and build high performing teams leveraging my technical and management experience, I was very interested in developing products for healthcare, an industry I knew very little about other than being frustrated as a consumer. I felt that healthcare could benefit from technology, and saw opportunities to leverage innovation in other industries to provide patients with a better consumer experience. When I was exploring new opportunities, I was fortunate to find a match with Kyruus. I didn’t start at Kyruus in my current role but was promoted due to the experience and skills I had developing and delivering enterprise-grade products, managing large teams, and process orientation which were important as Kyruus had found its product market fit and was poised to scale in terms of customers, operations, technology, and team.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
As VP of engineering and operations at Kyruus, I lead teams across core products (full-stack Python, React, PostgreSQL, Elastic) and operations (AWS hosted microservices and SaaS SLAs) engaged in the development, deployment, and operations of cloud-native, multi-channel, enterprise-ready, market leading, patient access management SaaS applications.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
My goal after Graduate school was to obtain a PhD in Electrical Engineering and become a professor teaching signal processing. So, no I didn’t set out to build a career in industry much less in management. I think it’s important to be open to changing your mind about your dreams and aspirations, and not locking yourself too much into a distant vision of yourself.
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
First and foremost, I think it is important to figure out what gives you satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Based on your interests, competencies you want to develop, and impact you want to have, develop a career plan. This is hard to do as the act of creating a plan forces you to think deeply and beyond just achieving a title. However, this is a hugely beneficial exercise as it gives you clarity on how to invest in your professional growth and to know you’re progressing along what matters most to you.
Share your career plan with people you trust. If you don’t have a personal board of advisors/mentors, it’s time to create one. Talk to them about what you want to accomplish. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support, you may benefit from their experience and avoid some missteps.
If you aspire to build a career in management, know that your success depends on the success of your team. Create an environment and culture that enables your team to do their best, diligently remove bottlenecks, and support them in reaching their goals.
Continually improve your skill set and develop an area of expertise by making time for professional development, connecting with your peers, and staying on top of trends and practices in your field. Be open to changing your plan and be willing to take some risks. When looking for new opportunities, assess what you can leverage from your experience to add value and what you’ll learn from the role to find the win-win for the company and your career. Sometimes to get to where you want to go, career progression may look more like rock climbing than climbing a ladder.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
A passion to create value for customers and solve business problems through technology combined with the ability to translate business goals and associated technology strategy to execution is pretty important. This requires a combination of technical and business skills to be successful.
A strong engineering discipline and metrics driven mindset is key to deliver high quality products and delightful user experiences in the most nimble, iterative, cost-effective, and timely manner possible.
Competency in talent acquisition, growth, and retention is critical to build an engaged and performing team.
Communication and collaboration skills, and the ability to work cross-functionally with Product Management, Client Delivery, Marketing, Sales, Legal, and Finance are essential to support achieving company goals.
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s most challenging?
It’s rewarding to know that through my team’s deliverables we enable patients to find access to the right care efficiently. Through Kyruus’ mission, I’m able to contribute to making healthcare better.
While some of it is due to regulatory and compliance requirements, what’s most challenging is that adoption of technology moves very slowly in healthcare relative to other industries.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
A significant accomplishment for me is in a relatively short time, building a strong performing engineering team at Kyruus. About 65% of the team has been here since 2019. It’s exciting and humbling to have the opportunity to shape the team culture collectively to be mission-oriented, authentic, and pursuing excellence through continuous improvement. I’m happy that in collaboration with the HR and talent acquisition team, we’ve made good progress in improving diversity on the team. It’s also very satisfying for me to see that the team is engaged and committed through the positive trends in our employee net promoter scores (eNPS).
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
Kyruus organizes several volunteer opportunities throughout the year and Cradles to Crayons is one that I’ve helped with. When my kids were younger I was active with Destination Imagination and First Lego League, and I highly recommend both if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities.
I co-chair Mass TLC’s Technology and Innovation community and help organize local events. I care deeply about mentoring and helping women-owned small businesses. So, I serve as a speaker, panelist, mentor, business and tech advisor, and host for several Boston area technical and talent events (e.g., Women In Tech, Women Who Code, Mass TLC, CWEL, CLTP, and several local meetups).
What’s next for you and your career?
I’m just getting started in healthcare and there’s still a lot to do in moving Kyruus’ mission forward. We continue to make strategic technology and infrastructure investments to innovate and scale the Kyruus platform to expand our offerings to new market segments and to better serve our customers. As a result, there continues to be an opportunity to take my technical and business skills to the next level.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Reading, cooking, and binge watching shows especially anything related to mystery and drama (PBS Masterpiece and Mystery! shows top my list). Lee Child and Martin Cruz Smith are among my go-to authors when I want to chill. Jack Reacher and Arkady Renko are my favorite protagonists from these authors! I enjoy cooking and adding my own twist to recipes.
How do you manage stress?
There are no silver bullets as some stress is good, it gets you out of your comfort zone, and in some situations helps improve your performance. But it can also get toxic if you let it spiral out of control. I manage stress by first acknowledging it. I let my family know that I’m dealing with a stressful day or situation and to leave me alone because I don’t want to take it out on people I care about. Deep breathing, meditation, going for a walk, listening to music, and watching shows that make me laugh are ways I deal with stress. I also try to get a good night’s sleep and that helps a lot.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
One. And, only if it is Bru chicory coffee.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston?
The Boston Harborwalk. It’s just revitalizing to get fresh air and enjoy the city and harbor views.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management by Will Larson is a must read for anyone aspiring to be a competent Engineering manager.
Mixergy’s Startup Stories podcast - hear from thinkers and doers that are turning ideas and passion into viable businesses.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Always be learning, and be curious. Invest in your professional development. Find a mentor, whether in your organization or outside. Your mentor doesn’t have to be your immediate manager, and oftentimes it’s not. Look for someone you can learn from and can guide you to develop the skills and network to be successful.
Step out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Step up to take on projects that expand your horizon and offer a degree of challenge. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. Learning from failure helps you develop experience and judgment. Remember that it is not the act of failing that is costly, but the failure to learn from your mistakes.