A career in tech was not always at the top of the list for Shilpa Apte, engineering manager at SurveyMonkey.

In fact, she describes herself as a ‘lost undergrad’ who lacked conviction when it came to choosing a career path.

It was not until she studied computer science in college did she consider the industry might be for her.

Part of her initial aversion to a career in tech was the misconception that a role as an engineer would mean a solitary work environment and little human interaction. 

“I’m the type of person that if I’m not talking to someone throughout the day, I’ll go stir crazy. I didn’t want to work totally alone”, she says.

It’s probably the reason why people management is what she enjoys most about her job at SurveyMonkey.

Shilpa says she loves the holistic nature of managing a team and the satisfaction that comes from leading them to success, though it’s not without its challenges, she admits.

As manager, Shilpa strives to find the sweet spot between being flexible for others and educating stakeholders about her team’s priorities so that they will be more flexible too.

Shilpa says one of her biggest achievements in her career to date was leading the engineering effort that built SurveyMonkey's first chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

“It’s a project I’m really proud of. It required a lot of coordination with different parties, collaboration with teams outside of product and engineering and developing and executing a strategy around the new product," says Apte.

"We launched end of 2016 after four months of intense work!” she adds.

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Diversity within tech is something that Shilpa is vocal about. She believes that role models are crucial for promoting diversity within the sector. 

She maintains that having more women at the forefront of tech coverage and in C-level positions will help overcome the barriers to entry.

“Our former CTO was a really strong female lead and she was one of the reasons that I wanted to work in SurveyMonkey," explains Apte.

"She was a champion for women in tech and diversity and that trickled down into the everyday company culture. That culture continues today and I’m grateful to have a strong mentor in our director of product operations."

Shilpa continued to say that while mentors are an important part of professional development, getting more women interested in engineering needs to start from a young age.

Instead, we need to ditch the theory that women are only good at certain things and men others, we shouldn’t be limiting our young women by saying men have more of an aptitude for coding.

“Programming can be incredibly overwhelming at the start - you’re learning a new way of thinking and a new set of tools to accomplish tasks at the same time. Once you figure out the different frameworks you can solve any problem and I think anyone can do it,” she says.

And it goes beyond gender, Shilpa is an advocate for introducing computer science at a much younger age to make children more tech savvy.

“In two decades I think everyone is going to be exposed to some form of coding, that’s what we’re moving towards and I think that needs to start with giving children the skills to understand how the industry works,” she says.

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