Women in tech encounter their fair share of challenges navigating a career in the male-dominated industry — but for the women of Starburst, optimism prevails. 

“I have been involved in DEI initiatives since the beginning of my tech journey,” said Group Product Manager Brandy Love. “Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to the negatives as a woman in tech. But I’ve also seen many of the strong points. The tech industry is changing the standards of family leave policies, diversity committees and unconscious bias. While the statistics aren't where they need to be, it's becoming more common to embrace DEI within the tech sector. It is truly an inspiring shift to be a part of.”

For Love and her colleagues at Starburst, the industry shift is most noticeable in their own organization, where space has been created for women to pursue their professional goals and a pulse is kept on employees’ overall attitude toward DEI efforts. 

“I’m impressed by the inclusive culture at Starburst and how they have been able to maintain it throughout significant company growth,” she explained. “At companies large and small, I’ve witnessed the good and the bad of DEI. This is a special place that values people from all types of backgrounds.” 

Built In sat down with Love, Enterprise Account Executive Katherine McAfee and Manager of Customer Success Stephanie Benevides to learn more about their individual journeys and what makes the culture of Starburst bring such optimism to their outlook for women in tech. 

 

WHAT DOES STARBURST DO?

Starburst’s platform enables organizations to activate the data in and around their data lakes. The company’s software is designed to offer companies the flexibility to run federated interactive and ETL workloads using a single query engine, which reduces data movement delays and costs.  

 

As Doors Open, Opportunities Unfold

Katherine McAfee
Enterprise Account Executive

While remote-first workplaces have obvious advantages — especially for those who live in large cities with egregious traffic — there are also equally obvious disadvantages, notably when it comes to cultivating peer-to-peer connections. 

McAfee believes these valuable relationships aren’t just great for culture; they can also help catalyze career growth. So when Starburst became a remote-first organization at the onset of the pandemic, she wasn’t sure how it would impact her professional goals. 

But rather than seeing doors close, McAfee had opportunities open for her. “In expressing interest in going into management, leaders have been fully supportive about making room for this ambition,” she said. 

For McAfee, this encouragement to grow is simply one example of how the company gives its people a platform to share their talents. During annual and biannual sales events, the organization makes an effort to champion its women team members, whether that’s through a breakfast or an in-person meeting. 

While there is always more work to be done when it comes to empowering women in tech, McAfee believes that Starburst is actively building upon its existing initiatives in a way that foreshadows an even more inclusive future. 

“Starburst is continuing to mature its approach and is exploring new ways to acknowledge DEI initiatives,” she said. 
 

Here’s what else McAfee had to say about … 

The importance of intersecting initiatives: “The healthiest trend I’ve observed in DEI is how special interest groups form in what appear to be separate orbits around a core company culture, but are then ultimately pulled in to intersect. For example, women in tech subgroups shouldn’t only have attendance or awareness from female workers. DEI groups need to be invited into core company forums so that support and awareness can build and company culture can be enriched. This is tricky to achieve, but intentional pursuit is mandatory.”


 

Starburst team members posing for team photo
Starburst

 

 

Embracing Action And Accountability

Stephanie Benevides
Manager of Customer Success, North America

Over the course of her tech career, Benevides has communicated with many different men and women — and she has seen a trend. 

“I’ve noticed that women and men tend to communicate differently,” she said. “Mastering the art of communicating processes and ideas to a group of men who seem to share their own language can be quite a challenge.”

Despite this hurdle, Benevides still sees a silver lining. While there may be fewer women in the industry, the camaraderie and mentorship that comes from within this smaller circle is second to none. 

“This network of women gives you the freedom to speak openly, discuss any issues and learn from everyone’s experiences, making it much easier to navigate the ins and outs of the industry,” Benevides said. 

 

“The network of women in tech gives you the freedom to speak openly, discuss any issues and learn from everyone’s experiences, making it much easier to navigate the ins and outs of the industry.” 

 

Benevides has always sought out roles that are both challenging and rewarding, and her job at Starburst fits this bill. When she joined the company, she got to build and manage a new team of customer success managers; an undertaking that was backed by her department’s vice president and director of customer success. 

“I was able to fully build out a customer journey, comprehensive health scoring model and customer risk playbooks and protocols, in addition to a full career ladder to help develop my newly built team,” Benevides said. 

While women are given many chances to build their careers, there are also plenty of ways for them to contribute to the company’s DEI initiatives. Benevides noted that the organization offers shared inclusion resources that are open to feedback as well as equity-focused Slack channels, such as Women@Starburst, which enables women to discuss their experiences and uplift each other. 

According to Benevides, the company has also extended its inclusion efforts to the hiring realm. The company has begun utilizing software that helps review job descriptions before they’re posted online to ensure the language lacks bias and the description caters to a diverse pool of candidates. 

For Benevides, all of these efforts reflect an overall shift in DEI toward actionable strategies, consideration of intersectionality and a growing emphasis on accountability and measurable outcomes. As her own perspective on the topic has evolved, she’s eager to see more changes continue to take hold. 

“The conversation is becoming more nuanced and action-oriented, which I believe reflects a commitment to fostering a genuinely inclusive tech industry,” Benevides said. 

 

Here’s what else Benevides has to say about …

Advice for HR professionals working to foster DEI in tech: “Here are my top three recommendations: 

1. Develop and enforce policies that promote inclusivity, including flexible work schedules, parental leave and initiatives addressing the unique needs of women.

2. Establish mentorship and sponsorship initiatives to connect women with experienced professionals who can provide guidance, advice and advocacy for career development.

3. Foster a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion through open communication, addressing discrimination promptly and creating forums for discussion.”

 

Starburst team members on a couch at the company’s headquarters
Starburst


 

Leading By Example

Brandi Love
Group Product Manager

Love is no stranger to the challenges that come with occasionally being the only woman in the room. 

“I have stories of inequality, whether that involves earning trust among peers, pay ranges or simply landing the job in the first place,” she said. 

Yet despite these setbacks, Love has thrived in the tech space. When she first entered the industry, she joined a women in engineering committee, where she got to connect with women at various stages of their STEM careers, and eventually went on to establish three DEI programs at large tech companies. 

When Love joined Starburst, she had even more opportunities to make an impact. She was tasked with expanding scope and spearheading an important initiative that spanned sales, marketing, product and engineering. 

“I dove into our competitive landscape and determined high-impact changes to better position us in the near term,” Love said. 

The project, which was kicked off two months after Love stepped into her current role, is still ongoing. And throughout its duration, she has learned valuable lessons, such as instilling ownership and trusting her teammates. 

“I appreciated that the leadership team at Starburst shared these same principles and empowered me to make changes early on,” Love said. “This enabled me to gain trust among my peers and expand my network internally.”

Love considers the company’s leadership team, which includes three women, to be one of the biggest drivers behind the organization’s DEI commitment. She shared that, during every all-hands meeting, leaders host a Q&A session, where they often offer honest answers regarding inclusion. 

For Love, this focus on empowering diverse voices also enables her to be a better manager. Not only does diversity lead to more comprehensive solutions, she shared, but it also helps team members feel more motivated to make a difference. 

“Employees are also more likely to share feedback and their own perspective, which is crucial for company growth and overall innovation,” Love said. 

So while there is always still room for growth when it comes to DEI, Love is hopeful and excited about the progress that has already been made to bring everyone, including women, into the most important conversations permeating the tech industry. 

“It’s truly an inspiring shift to be a part of,” she said. 

 

Here’s what else Love had to say about … 

Leadership’s role in driving DEI: “Impact from the leadership team cannot be understated. If your executives are supporting minorities with equal opportunities, promotions, policies and initiatives, it has a major impact on morale among that minority group. As a mom, my company’s support of parents and the emphasis on work-life balance is a game changer. I lead my team with similar encouragement, because I know how invaluable that can be.”

 

 

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