Shilpa pursued an MBA in finance from San Francisco State University, with a career in investment banking in mind. By the end of her course, she realised her interest lay in finance consulting. For over half a decade she consulted with MNCs like PwC and E&Y, before joining cloud data services firm NetApp in 2013.
At NetApp, where she is currently the director of internal audit and compliance, Shilpa says she found the opportunity to explore the tech industry. “Audit is perceived to be all about finance and numbers, but my role requires me to align the risk management process with the strategy and vision of the company. So it involves being a part of the operations, whether it is acquisitions, policy changes, technical processes or systems implementations.”
Working in tech was made easy by her passion for the field. It has been challenging, she says, but combining her experience in finance and her interest in tech has helped her stay ahead of the curve.
Shilpa is also the leader of Women In Technology for NetApp’s India chapter, an extension of the global body working to foster a culture of inclusiveness. “Before doing my MBA, I worked at a startup in Japan for a couple of years, which really opened my eyes to gender bias in the industry. Even to get my voice heard was a big deal,” she says. That, along with her own experience growing up in a small town, instilled in Shilpa a passion for empowering women. “My role as the leader is to provide women the right tools and techniques, including mentorship programmes, to help them stand up for themselves and become future leaders.”
A major challenge she faced early in her career was to balance work and family. “As a mother of two, I had to constantly prove that it’s not about the number of hours I put in, but the quality of work that I achieve. That it’s okay to not be available 24/7,” she says. “I received a lot of criticism when I started speaking up for myself, but I stood my ground. Women shouldn’t have to keep proving themselves all the time.”