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Bhawna Singh of Glassdoor: “Confidence comes from doing; The more you do, the more confident you’ll become”

Confidence comes from doing. There have been so many times where I have taken on a new challenge or responsibility and second guessed myself along the way. Early on in my career, I lacked the confidence to raise my hand to ask a question or make a recommendation. Now, later in my career, I can […]

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Confidence comes from doing. There have been so many times where I have taken on a new challenge or responsibility and second guessed myself along the way. Early on in my career, I lacked the confidence to raise my hand to ask a question or make a recommendation. Now, later in my career, I can tell you that confidence comes from working through problems and getting projects done, and the more you do, the more confident you’ll become. When I joined Glassdoor, one of my top priorities was to start a new satellite office with an engineering and product presence in San Francisco. But, I had never set up an office from ground up before. So instead of letting any nerves get the better of me, I took on the challenge. And, through hard work and help from the team, we accomplished a successful office setup.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bhawna Singh, Glassdoor’s senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer. Bhawna is responsible for technological innovation at Glassdoor, overseeing the company’s websites and mobile platforms, in addition to its software engineering, data platform and machine learning teams. Before joining Glassdoor in 2016, Bhawna was senior director of engineering at Ask.com, where she was a leader of the search intelligence organization that focused on search, machine learning, data science and platform services. Bhawna holds master’s degrees in software engineering from San Jose State University and in computer applications from Gujarat University, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in electronics from Gujarat University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After tinkering for many years with my dad on many of his home projects, it was inevitable that I would choose a career path in engineering. My parents encouraged me to think of a career in medicine, but I was set on pursuing engineering. After finishing my bachelor’s degree in electronics and given my dad’s background in electronics, I knew that in order to maintain a harmonious dad-daughter relationship, I needed to deviate slightly. So, I pursued a master’s degree in computer science and continued my professional career in that line of work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I joined Glassdoor to start and grow our San Francisco office with an engineering and product presence. This was my first time setting up a new office from the ground up and it turned out to be a major learning experience for me. Apart from being an engineering leader, I was also a recruiter to help hire talent for the new office, a facilities person because there is always that one desk where all the coffee mugs accumulate, an IT engineer to set up the new hires desk, among many other roles. This experience was very humbling and gave me a glimpse into what it takes to build a company.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I briefly worked on campus during my master’s program at San Jose State University as a camera operator to record live classes. As a straight-A student, I showed up on my first day feeling very confident only to find out how difficult the job actually was. The experience taught me the value of humility very early on in my career.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Glassdoor stands out as one of the first companies to help bring more transparency to the workplace, and we fully embrace transparency as a core company value to this day. I cannot imagine how decisions of moving to a new company were made before Glassdoor or how small to midsize companies attracted the right talent.

Today, job seekers rely on Glassdoor to find insight into a company’s work environment. Leaders, investors and board members rely on Glassdoor to keep a pulse on employee sentiment at their companies. Our platform also helps all employers share their mission and related information to attract the right talent for them.

I’m often reminded of the influence and power of Glassdoor when people share their stories of how the platform helped them whenever I introduce myself as an employee. For instance, once I went to drop off my son at his friend’s birthday party where I was introduced to a few parents. One of the parents mentioned that after seeing the employee reviews left on Glassdoor about the startup he was working for, he decided to make the move to another company given his startup’s lack of response to negative feedback and lack of action to create a better working environment.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Glassdoor, we are always at work to help facilitate deeper workplace transparency by giving a voice to employees around the world. We are now putting our heads together to support further diversity and inclusion throughout our product. I, along with my teams, are actively working with our product partners to think through how Glassdoor can be a platform to help make a meaningful impact in terms of ensuring all employees are treated equitably.

What advice would you give to other female leaders. to help their team to thrive?

Listen to your teams to understand what they need. These are testing times we live in with the pandemic and everyone has different health and family needs to support.

Through supporting the team’s needs, we build lasting relationships of mutual respect and trust. A team grounded on strong trusting relationships can push through tough times, as we are doing right now as we continue to innovate everyday around how we can give our 100% in a fully virtual work setting.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

As a leader, it is key to take ownership of your responsibilities and provide a clearly defined vision and goals to the larger team about where we are, where we need to go and how far we are from the end goal. Set your teams up for success by empowering them to work towards this common goal and provide timely guidance when needed.

It is equally important to invest heavily in developing new leaders on the team at all levels. When it comes to leading a large organization, you will need leaders at all levels to inspire and rally others.

Personally, I believe in continuous learning and evolving, which is why I value the professional development of all members of my team so deeply. I collaborate with my team to continuously assess what’s working and what’s not so we can constantly evolve into a more efficient and engaged organization.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It will be very hard to pick one person here, as it is the collective effort of many that has gotten me to where I am today. Starting with my family, who have always been the wind behind my back, to many of my managers, who have been an important part of my professional learning, my colleagues who supported me, my teams who stood with me through tough times and many women in leadership who have encouraged and cheered me on through my career. My career is an outcome of constant learning from many.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Leveraging my career experience and learnings, I frequently connect with aspiring professionals in tech to support or coach them. I am and have been a mentor to women in engineering who are struggling with their career path choices.

At Glassdoor, I am also one of the sponsors to our Women in Glassdoor community, whose mission is to cultivate global connectivity that stimulates an inclusive environment for women to advance their skills and leadership potential. Through this group, we organize many learning and networking opportunities for women at Glassdoor to inspire and instill confidence.

In the past few years, I have also coached and prepped a team of middle schoolers to participate in Science Olympiad competitions as my contribution to STEM education.

While these efforts may have made incremental differences, I hope I can be part of making a big wave of change some day.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Focus on the journey, not the outcome. Early in my career, I would stress out about the end result of my work so much that I felt more like a machine spitting out work versus an actual employee. Over time, I have learned that it’s the journey that matters more, because this is when you evaluate and make informed decisions on what the right outcome should be.

Hard work pays off, always. I have always been a believer that when you work hard, the results will come. If I take on a challenging task, I might not know where to begin but by giving my 100%, while the path might have a few setbacks, I always walk away having learned something new to prepare me for next time.

Teamwork for the win. Not only is it fun to tackle a hard problem with a team, but also it raises your chances of cracking it with the best outcome. I feel that working in a team helps push you, inspire you and, through the process, get the best out of you. Glassdoor’s engineering culture thrives on collaboration and we produce the best solutions when we work as a team to share ideas.

Confidence comes from doing. There have been so many times where I have taken on a new challenge or responsibility and second guessed myself along the way. Early on in my career, I lacked the confidence to raise my hand to ask a question or make a recommendation. Now, later in my career, I can tell you that confidence comes from working through problems and getting projects done, and the more you do, the more confident you’ll become. When I joined Glassdoor, one of my top priorities was to start a new satellite office with an engineering and product presence in San Francisco. But, I had never set up an office from ground up before. So instead of letting any nerves get the better of me, I took on the challenge. And, through hard work and help from the team, we accomplished a successful office setup.

Lead with ‘why.’ Understanding the goal behind what difference or impact my work will have inspires and energizes me. I have found that people who understand the potential impact of their work tend to be more motivated to bring their best foot forward. So, in conversations with my team, I always start with why we need to do something, the rationale behind it and the difference our work will make. With a carefully laid out ‘why,’ the team engages deeply with defining the ‘what’ and ‘how,’ resulting in great teamwork which often leads to a successful outcome. It is such a humbling and fulfilling experience to know my work at Glassdoor helps millions of people make one of life’s most important decisions — finding a job and company that fits their lifestyle.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement. that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a woman in engineering, I am very often the only woman in the room (or virtual room). That’s why I invest time in our hiring process, to ensure that we are constantly pushing ourselves to recruit and hire more women in engineering because there is still progress to be made. I want to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering and join forces with other women in tech around the world to bring forth this much needed change.

In the past few years, I have dedicated my time to coach a group of middle schoolers for Science Olympiad competitions. The team has an even mix of boys and girls every year I’ve been involved, and it’s always exciting to see these kids participate in the competition as programs like these help encourage kids to make future career choices based on their interest in science. I would encourage more parents to inspire their daughters to take interest in STEM education and for people with STEM education to coach girls with interest in STEM for free.

Can you please give us your favorite. “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my constant reminders has been, “If you are not outside your comfort zone, you are not learning.” This quote has kept me going through life’s professional challenges. For a long period in my career, I looked for confidence to just kick-in before I would say yes to taking on new challenges, only to learn through experience that confidence was an after effect.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are too many inspiring women leaders out there to name who I would be honored to have a chance to connect with. Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, has been successfully leading a country through multiple crises, including COVID-19 pandemic, had a baby while on the job and has been constantly pushing the boundaries for what a woman in leadership can achieve. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, has inspired me by her career journey and leadership experiences. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has been an inspiration for leading a successful company and joining professionals globally behind the Lean In movement. These women have built and led successful organizations and dedicated time to make a difference for women across the globe while also caring for their families. They have set high standards for what women can achieve and have helped crush gender stereotypes.

How can our readers connect with you on social media?

Reach me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bhawnasingh/

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