As the world’s gender employment gap is slowly closing (at the time this blog is being written, womentech.com estimates that, at the current pace of change, it will take approximately 73,383 days for the economic gender gap to close), according to national and international statistics, there is one area that is lagging behind – women in tech. The latest statistics show that, while women account for almost half of the global workforce, they only make up 16-25% of the global tech industry.

This year, for International Women’s Day, KUDO is proud to celebrate some of our very own ‘tech-sperts’. We sat down (digitally) with Erica Simmons, Supriya Vighnesh, Rashmi Manandhar, Nancy Ellman, Sushma Thapa and Kelina Shrestha to talk about their start in the tech world, their experiences working at KUDO, and what they envision for a language barrier-free future.

Erica Simmons

Technical Support Manager

Hometown: Atlanta, USA
Languages Spoken: English

Erica Simmons

How and when did you get into the development/tech world?

I started my tech career in an interesting way. My first full-time job was for my alma mater, Agnes Scott College, where I took on the role of Records Coordinator in the Institutional Advancement office. Due to my penchant for computers and technology, I was often asked to do technical tasks like making a spreadsheet do magic, networking a printer, answering “how to” questions for the systems we used and drafting standard operating procedure books. That was nearly 10 years ago. Eventually, I packaged up those skills and landed a job as a Customer Advocate at a small tech company in Buckhead, Atlanta. A good bit of foundational work was laid there, and that’s what led me to my career at InVision. I spent about five years in different roles from Support Engineer to Team Lead to People Analyst. With each role, I gained a diverse set of critical thinking and working skills that prepared me for my current role at KUDO.

What is it like working in a male-dominated field?

It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I haven’t let that stop me either. Have there been times when I’ve thought about quitting? Absolutely. But I do think there have been some instances where, if you’re lucky enough, you find a company that doesn’t allow the toxic characteristics of working in a male-dominated field affect their culture. I very vividly remember an experience where I’d gotten a promotion at one company, and the male manager of the department said, “I’m sure this is the biggest raise you’ve seen.” I was stunned. Imagine that being one of your first experiences in tech as a young, Black woman. It certainly does not give you the expectation it will get any better from there. I did not stay with them much longer after that, but I stayed in the fight nonetheless, and I’m happy to say it has gotten better.

How long have you been with KUDO? How has your experience been so far?

I’ve been with KUDO since November 2020, and it’s been a phenomenal experience. KUDO reminded me of what I love about tech – the grit of the startup life. There’s so much to be done and everyone is all-hands-on-deck. There’s nothing that a single person wouldn’t do in this organization to help another individual, whether it’s in their wheelhouse or not. There’s an entrepreneurial drive we all have here to succeed. The team I’m honored to lead is a group of smart, driven human beings who go for gold every day. I have nothing but exceptional things to say about my supervisor! He gives me the autonomy to be creative, have fun and get stuff done.

What does a language barrier-free future look like for you?

A language barrier-free future looks like any human being having the ability to communicate freely without restriction. I wish I had the ability to learn multiple languages with ease. Can you imagine the amount of knowledge we don’t know or how much gets lost in translation because of language barriers? Advancements in technology move us one step closer to that reality. That’s why what KUDO is doing is so special. Our very mission is to remove those barriers.

Erica Simmons is an Atlanta native who has spent her career developing her passions in process architecture and design, support engineering, people management and remote work. She enjoys the outdoors, hiking and cycling on sunny days, being a digital nomad, and learning new things.

Supriya Vighnesh

Product Manager

Hometown: Bangalore, India
Languages Spoken: English, Kannada, Hindi

supriya-blog

How and when did you get into the development/tech world?

I started my career eight years ago as a software engineer at Tesco after graduating from college. I started off as a web developer and soon realized my passion was to work closely with the users of the product, identifying their pain points and making their experience better. As a result, I switched to a product management role.

What is it like working in a male-dominated field?

Fortunately, I have only had positive experiences everywhere I’ve worked. I was always given equal opportunities to explore, learn and grow in my career.

How long have you been with KUDO? How has your experience been so far?

I’ve been with KUDO since July. However, I’ve been a friend and well-wisher of KUDO long before that, since my introduction to Parham (Co-Founder and CTO) in 2019.

My experience with KUDO has been great. This is the most diverse team I have ever worked with. It’s such a rich and fun experience working with people from all over the world, from different walks of life coming together to achieve a common goal.

What does a language barrier-free future look like for you?

Achieving seamless, reliable and error-free multilingual conversations that are completely powered by technology, such as Artificial Intelligence, is a distance away.

In the near future, achieving a language barrier-free world will require human intervention. The ability to easily find and access language experts will pave the way for the ultimate language barrier-free future.

Supriya grew up in Bangalore, India, and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She loves baking, reading Calvin and Hobbs, driving, video games (FIFA mostly), and is a Manchester United fan. She has a background in product management and e-commerce. While at The Climate Corporation in 2017, she built a multilingual android application for smallholder farmers in India called FarmRise that was installed on almost a million devices.

Rashmi Manandhar

Senior Software Engineer

Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal
Languages Spoken: English, Nepali, Newari

rashmi-blog

How and when did you get into the development/tech world?

My interest in computer science spans the length of my academic career. In the 8th grade I was introduced to QBasic and I was very intrigued. I was amazed at how our thoughts and logic could be summarized by a series of lines, and voila! We could see it play out in front of our eyes on the computer screen. That is when I decided to choose a career in computer science. But my real tech journey began when I was doing my bachelor’s degree at Kathmandu University. For the first time, we had to create something useful and present it to a group of teachers and fellow classmates. That is when I first got a taste of the actual development world. 

What is it like working in a male-dominated field?

I would not consider this field to be male-dominated; at least it doesn’t feel that way. It’s your skills and how you present yourself with those skills that helps you in any kind of industry. In my professional experience, I have always worked alongside people who are competent enough to hold the jobs they were assigned. If you can prove your worth, everyone would be happy to have you in their team.

How long have you been with KUDO? How has your experience been so far?

I have been with KUDO for about four years now. I started as a QA Engineer to help on what had already been created. From there, I took the role of Product Manager for about a year. During this time period, I had the opportunity to learn not just about KUDO and how it worked, but actually learn the framework we were using and hone that skill so that I could contribute to the codebase. This journey has helped me learn new technologies and develop my front-end skills. My experience in KUDO has been a fun way of learning new things.

What does a language barrier-free future look like for you?

A language barrier-free future, for me, means I can express myself clearly to anyone anywhere in the world.

Rashmi is originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, and is currently based out of Toronto, Canada. She has a master’s degree in Applied Computer Science from Concordia University and is currently working as a Sr. Software Engineer at KUDO. 

Nancy Ellman

Product Manager

Hometown: New York City, USA
Languages Spoken: English, Spanish

nancy-blog

How and when did you get into the development/tech world?

My older sister is a software developer. She got me a job in the computer lab while I was in college, helping students with their Comp Sci projects in the lab. She also got me a part-time job coding in the office where she worked, doing simple, minimal tasks while I was still in school.

What is it like working in a male-dominated field?

I grew up in a household with two brothers and two sisters. We were raised with equality; my brothers are outstanding cooks, and my sisters are outdoor sportswomen. My parents coached our swim team, so we all worked out together and competed together. It wasn’t until I got into college and then joined the workforce that I learned there were vast gender differences in the real world. I tend to view people through a particular lens – by their hearts, their minds and their actions. A quality person is a quality person. And I have been fortunate to have worked with many quality people across the gender spectrum.

How long have you been with KUDO? How has your experience been so far?

I started at KUDO this year, and it has been a simply amazing experience to be part of a high-caliber team developing cutting-edge solutions in such a virtuous domain.

What does a language barrier-free future look like for you?

I have organizations like Doctors without Borders on my mind that are helping people around the world in the direst situations. The power that a language barrier-free world holds in these situations is astronomical. This is what keeps me highly motivated to help KUDO in every way I can.

Nancy’s career started as a software engineer developing device drivers for network interface cards and micro-code for intelligent hubs. She then evolved to developing Windows Client-Server applications before moving into the role of Product. As a Product Management and Product Development professional, she has a passion for defining market problems and building world-class solutions that delight customers and blow past the competition while achieving technical excellence for the greater good of all. She’s also passionate about fostering a work culture of trust, camaraderie and a unified pride of team accomplishments.

Sushma Thapa

QA & Product Delivery Manager

Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal
Languages Spoken: English, Nepali, Hindi

sushma-blog

How and when did you get into the development/tech world?

I got into the tech world approximately eight years ago. After finishing high school, I attended university to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. I was the first girl from my community to have a degree in the engineering field. During my final year at university, I got an internship to work as a Quality Assurance Engineer at a software company, and I have continued to work in the IT field since then, wearing different hats.

What is it like working in a male-dominated field?

Frankly, I don’t find any difference at all. I am fortunate because, in the world of IT, I’ve found that people are judged by their intelligence, skill set, talent and capability, rather than their outer appearance. It’s all about respect and support between colleagues and professionals. Respect is what you have to earn that keeps you going. I enjoy what I do, and I am glad that I chose this profession.

How long have you been with KUDO? How has your experience been so far?

I started at KUDO over three years ago. It’s been exciting for me to see KUDO grow from just seven or so team members to 80+ in such a short time. Working with teammates in 12 different time zones is both challenging and exciting; I love interacting with a global team. I’m excited to be working in a position where my daily tasks can range anywhere from discussing product requirements and collaborating with technical team members to delivering products, giving product demos and getting feedback from users. I love to see the great ideas from our minds converting into reality.

What does a language barrier-free future look like for you?

No need to worry about the challenge of communicating in a different language.

The opportunity to work with people from all over the world without any hurdles will be the first thing. Moreover, collaboration and innovation will rise exponentially, resulting in better performance and efficiency in the world. I think there will be less conflict of interest in a lot of fields, as people will better understand each other.

Sushma currently works as a Software QA & Product Delivery Manager at KUDO Inc., working with a worldwide team covering all time zones. She has a passion for women’s empowerment, focusing on rural agricultural sectors in Nepal through various social skill generation programs to improve their socio-economic development. Meditation, hiking and photography are some of her favorite downtime activities, and she is very interested in learning how to play the piano in the coming years.

Kelina Shrestha

Senior Software Engineer | Tech Lead

Hometown: Bhaktapur, Nepal
Languages Spoken: English, Nepali, Newari

kelina-blog

How and when did you get into the development/tech world?

I started my career as a Ruby on Rails developer in January 2015. I studied, got my bachelor’s in Computer Engineering and, soon after, found my first job at CloudFactory as a trainee. Right then, computer engineering was not an obvious career. I wanted to do software engineering and got into the development part.

What is it like working in a male-dominated field?

As a software engineer, I’ve put a lot of hard work into getting to where I am today. This field can be challenging at times, but during rough times, I always think of the quote “It’s you who makes yourself, and nobody else”. I am constantly learning and growing in my field, and I love taking on new challenges.

How long have you been with KUDO? How has your experience been so far?

I started at KUDO in July 2017 as a Software Engineer. I have grown exponentially, working at KUDO, and have thoroughly enjoyed working with a team full of diversity. It’s been a beautiful journey. What makes me the most excited about working at KUDO is that we get to improve communication on a global scale every single day.

What does a language barrier-free future look like for you?

A language barrier-free future is most exciting to me! I see KUDO as one of the most intriguing tools that will help society communicate without the pre-requisite of learning a new language.

Kelina loves discovering new music, watching anime and reading manga in Japanese, Korean and Chinese. She is an avid traveler, especially with her family, and loves spending time in nature. She is experienced in handling the needs of rapidly-developing businesses, and has single-handedly worked on integrating applications with multiple microservices. She’s held multiple titles within her career including Release Manager, Developer and Team Lead, sometimes wearing multiple hats at a time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a new normal in how we conduct business on a global level. As we slowly make our way out of the pandemic, it is important that things do not simply return to the status quo. There is a gender gap in the global workforce, and when it comes to women in technology, the gap widens drastically. Companies need to be actively increasing their efforts to diversify their teams, not just passively assuming that the problem will correct itself. Luckily for these companies, it has been proven time and time again that having a diverse team leads to more success. And now that the world has shifted to remote work, companies have more access than ever to qualified, talented and brilliant women in tech. At KUDO, we are very lucky to count on inspiring women that are paving the way for the future of technology. We celebrate International Women’s Day along with all of the companies and organizations that, like us, believe talent has no gender.