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Confluent Champion Smriti on Why We Need More Women In Tech

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Smriti Sridhar, Solutions Architect, Professional Services

If it was one thing Smriti was sure of, it was that she had no desire to pursue a conventional software development role upon graduation.

And it’s her search for a unique role that led her to Confluent.

Today she works as a Solutions Architect  in the Professional Services group and has been at the company for almost 3 years. Let’s learn how she got to Confluent and the initiative she has undertaken for advancing women in tech.

What made you join Confluent?

Smriti: I began looking for a fulltime job after earning a Master's Degree in Systems Engineering from University of Virginia. However, I didn’t want to restrict myself to a typical software engineering role. I was looking for something new and exciting.

I came across a role called associate consulting engineer in the Professional Services domain at Confluent. Confluent was looking to hire new graduates as part of its Associate Consulting Engineering (ACE) program. I applied and got a call. I had no idea that a role like that existed and it perfectly aligned with the novelty I was looking for.

Given this is Women’s History Month, let’s talk about some of the initiatives you have undertaken to empower women in tech within your organization?

Smriti: Currently, I am the Professional Services lead in the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) Employee Resource Group at Confluent.

The idea is to have a very informal setting, say a coffee chat, where we can get together in person or over Zoom to share experiences or talk about challenges we might come across in our role. And this initiative has three core pillars.

Could you elaborate on these three pillars?

Smriti: The first pillar is focused on driving participation geared toward giving women in Professional Services more exposure. For example, participation in conferences, having them review and deliver tech talks, and even opening up opportunities like presenting at all-hands meetings.

The second pillar is education. This could be in the form of mentorship or other avenues that can set them up for success. For example, it could be as simple as sharing customer success stories and even experiences when dealing with customer accounts, so those who are starting out can get an idea of what to expect and also learn about challenges they might face along the way.

The third pillar is about retention and growth. I don’t just want great women joining Professional Services, I also want to see them continue to work in this domain and grow during their time at Confluent.

This entails conversation with women who are currently at Professional Services and learning about their goals, what’s currently impeding those goals, and how Confluent can help drive those along.

But undertaking and implementing an initiative like this requires teamwork—I have support from my manager and director. We meet once a week to discuss ideas about events that we can host throughout the year. For example, for Women’s History Month, I am hosting a ‘Sip & Paint’ event at our headquarters.

What made you stay at Confluent even though you didn’t see a lot of women in Professional Services when you joined?

Smriti: First, it has to be my peers and managers. They've all been very knowledgeable, approachable and helpful.

Second, Confluent fosters an environment that allows room for mistakes but at the same time ensures you are equipped to move forward by learning from those mistakes. Plus, if a project doesn't interest me or if I foresee myself failing at one, I know I can go to my manager and openly talk to them about it.

Finally, there’s always scope for taking on new challenges—which allows me to go out of my comfort zone and try something new.

What’s one piece of advice you would have for women in tech today?

Smriti: Don’t shy away from asking questions and trying something new because that might be a stepping stone to something bigger. It’s easy to allow insecurities about skills and your experience level to prevent you from making requests like scheduling meetings with a senior employee, or even admitting that you need help. However, unless you take that first step, it will probably never happen. So go for it! You might be surprised at what can happen if you just ask.

Finally, never hesitate to take on a new role! It could be your entryway to several other interesting roles—just like Professional Services can be an entryway to roles in product management, solutions engineering, and tech sales.

  • Mekhala Roy is a senior writer on the Brand Marketing team at Confluent. Prior to Confluent, Mekhala has worked in the cybersecurity industry—and also spent several years working as a tech journalist.

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