In the latest instalment of our interviews speaking to leaders throughout the world of tech, we’ve welcomed the CTO and co-founder of Speakfully, Nandini Easwar to share her insights on cofounding Speakfully, how has her role as CTO has evolved and what the future holds for her.
Nandini is responsible for the tech side of the organic and ever-evolving human-centric platform to address workplace mistreatment including retaliation, harassment, and microaggressions.
Known for humanizing tech solutions, Nandini is ensuring the success of the Speakfully mission by integrating social and emotional intelligence into the overall technical roadmap of the brand.
Prior to joining Speakfully, Nandini headed the Esurance software engineering department and also served as a technical advisor to companies globally. A passionate proponent of women in STEM, Nandini supports access to diverse talents while enabling women to grow and learn to their fullest potential.
Tell us about the business you represent, how did the idea come about to found your enterprise? What is the vision?
At Speakfully, we think of misbehaviour as an unfortunate journey that’s clouded with a lot of grey areas to navigate. In the workplace, there are some very progressive people leaders & influencers who are also looking for ways to take action and create an open culture, but they can’t without knowing facts and what’s actually going on at the grassroots levels.
Speakfully is a platform to help people navigate all that. We are well aware that while mistreatment could sometimes be just a single occurrence, most times it’s not. We take a holistic approach, by offering support resources, in addition to therapeutic ways for people to report issues.
For the leaders who are looking to change the status quo, we approach it with data-driven proactive insight into people’s experiences, yet with sensitivity and transparency. It’s a humanized, tech solution for a what, unfortunately, is a very common scenario.
Speakfully stands out because of our roots. We were founded because of a very negative experience that our CEO & Co-founder Jana Morrin had at her workplace. It was that unfortunate, yet real experience that drives us all to think about what one needs when they are experiencing resistance and hurdles, that prevents them from feeling safe or heard in a work setting or even a personal setting, for that matter.
What notable IT challenges have you overcome?
The field of technology is constantly evolving. One of the biggest opportunities, as a technologist is not only to stay current and relevant but also, ensure your team does the same. It’s a balancing act to ensure you keep the lights on for your current responsibilities and learn new ways to innovate and stay ahead of the curve.
This, in addition, to constantly being able to navigate the gender bias and challenge the status quo in the field of IT is perhaps what I consider as another challenge in the field.
How has your business adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Speakfully was an all-remote company even prior to the pandemic and we chose to set it up without geographic barriers. When the pandemic hit, tactically we did not have to deal with the shift to remote, as a lot of organizations did.
That said, we are in the business of People technology and as Covid-19 started to unfold, we found ourselves dealing with a lot of cancelled conferences and trade shows, where we had opportunities to showcase what we are all about. We had to find other creative ways to achieve our business outcomes and that took some level of strategic adaptation.
Additionally, as the pandemic uncertainty grew, we also quickly became cognizant of the fact that employee mental wellness was key to us being able to navigate the situation.
We all deal with uncertainty in different ways and helping our own employees through it all and simultaneously bringing that emotion into our product development process, helped us keep the Speakfully product sensitive to current times.
What are your plans to expand your service?
Workplace mistreatment takes a variety of shapes and forms, some of which can be very unobvious at first. At Speakfully, we are founded on the principle of nobody having to navigate it alone without resources, as a result of our co-founder & CEO Jana Morrin’s experience. We have all learned from it and use it to help guide our product innovation and strategy. As the CTO, I take an active role in bringing that emotional intelligence to product building and engineering.
We recognize that the world as we know it today is far more aware of the nuances of workplace behaviour than it ever was. And we also recognize that everyone approaches it and deals with it differently.
Our responsibility back to the people navigating it is to find different ways to allow them to come forward sooner and for People Leaders to react to them proactively and constructively. Our service expansions continue with those elements in play.
Being the CTO, what does your day to day responsibilities look like?
One of the best things about being CTO at a young startup is how varied my responsibilities can be and how much I learn from them each day. Obviously, my primary role is to lead the product technology and the roadmap, but some days I am also a saleswoman, a speaker, an admin, or even a sounding board!
It gives me pleasure to experience those facets. I am surrounded by an immensely talented group of individuals at Speakfully who only add to my pleasure of learning and experiencing!
What advice would you give aspiring CTOs and entrepreneurs?
Never be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and push your own boundaries. Recognizing your own potential and wants plays an important role in being able to do that. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so accepting that early on can be helpful, and potentially could be the way you create the wedge that makes what you’re building stand out and shine!
Do you think the role of CTO has evolved in the last five, ten, fifteen years?
Yes, absolutely and in multiple ways! Not only has the job description and responsibility changed, but also it has evolved culturally. In the last decade, we’ve seen the world of software engineering evolve into an open-sourced, community-supported initiative.
For those like me, who’ve been schooled in the world of traditional algorithms and software development, it was a shift for the better and learning into a communal approach to writing software.
Additionally, this means CTOs can be successful only if they combine their creative tech innovation along with an understanding of the business marketplace. In today’s world, CTOs are not just quiet engineers sitting on the sidelines writing code.
What new challenges are CTOs facing today?
Automation and security are a couple of challenges that are atop every CTO’s mind today. Solving for those is what makes technology resilient in a post-pandemic world.
If anything, the last 18 months have taught us that drastic changes can happen and happen overnight, so ensuring the tech systems can scale and withstand change is critical to the business's success.
What do you see as the hottest trends within your industry today?
Low code and automation are some of the hottest trends in software development today. Communication methods and workspace settings are changing again, as we start to come out of the pandemic. Mental wellness, combined with a sense of empathy are dominating the factors driving a successful workplace and business. Combine all of those and we have a whole new dimension in the way we all work, what we do and how we do it!
What can we hope to see from your business in the future?
Speakfully is always committed to helping both individuals and organizations create a supported, healthy and happy workplace. Our strides continue towards doing that with modern data-driven technology that helps bridge the gap between employees and leaders.
As the workplace evolves and starts to look different, so will our product technology, with a high level of EQ baked into it. You can see us making strides towards creating a happy work environment, one organization at a time, across industries!
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