Lyft’s Backend Engineer Makes Her Mark on the Future of Transportation
This is an excerpt from HackerRank’s Moms Who Code initiative. Read all of the interviews.
Rupsha Chaudhuri has been a part of the software industry for a little over a decade and about 10 months ago, she started working at Lyft’s Level 5 (their self-driving division) because she wanted to learn a different technology stack. Now, Rupsha is a backend engineer at Lyft working on cutting-edge technology while also taking care of her son who will soon be turning 3.
1. What do you enjoy the most about your job and what’s something you’ve created at Lyft that you’re particularly proud of?
A good workplace for me is where at the end of the day, I feel satisfied with what I’ve learned and the contributions I’ve made. At Lyft, I’m learning something new and I’m able to challenge myself. Also, when I succeed the effort is acknowledged, which keeps me happy and motivated to keep the cycle going.
Since Level 5 is a relatively new division, there is ample opportunity to grow and make your mark. I’m pretty excited with the skills I am acquiring, the awesome people I get to work with and the impact I’m making in taking the data curation platform to the next level. At one point, tweaks I made improved the performance of the APIs almost 10-40x, which I was quite proud of.
2. What do you enjoy the most about being a mom and what are some important lessons and skills you’ve learned from becoming a working mom?
What I’ve been enjoying on this journey as a mother is the ability to shape a young mind and bring up someone who will hopefully be a good human being. It is quite fulfilling. It is definitely hard though after 10 hours of work and commuting.
What I’ve learned to do is distribute chores almost 50/50 at home. My husband is aware of his responsibilities, which includes taking care of our son. We both understand that our careers (he’s a software engineer too) and physical fitness are important and we make sure that both of us are able to work, go to the gym, etc. so that one of us does not get burnt out or feels that he or she is doing all the heavy lifting. If you are mentally relaxed, you can be more productive both at work and at home and create a healthy environment for the child to grow up in.
3. Did you face any challenges when returning to work after your maternity leave?
I came back to work when my son was 3 months old at a previous workplace. I think the hardest part was juggling work and my responsibilities as a new mother. I was breastfeeding my son and was sleep deprived. I needed to pump breast milk for my child 3 times during work hours without access to a mother’s room. So, I ended up using a conference room for several months before a mother’s room was finally constructed at my behest. Also, given that I was in a heavily male-dominated company and team, it was hard to figure out meeting timings that didn’t clash with my pumping schedule. We had no laptops, so working from the mother’s room was not an option either.
4. How has Lyft helped you overcome those challenges and how has the company supported you as a working mom?
All of the problems I mentioned earlier occurred before I joined Lyft. However, my son had just started daycare when I joined Lyft and for the first 6 months or so, fell sick quite frequently given his low immunity, which forced me and my husband (we took turns) to stay at home to take care of him. I was stressed out and felt helpless. My manager at that point clearly said that I should always put family first and focus on my son. I was doing that anyways but it definitely helped to know that my manager was on board too.
Interestingly, when I was about to accept the offer from Lyft and was comparing it against that of another company, my friend who referred me at Lyft (and a parent) basically sold Lyft to me saying that the company is family-friendly and I would receive support from upper management in case I needed to focus on family issues at any point.
5. HackerRank research has found that women are closing the gender gap in the computer science field and have the in-demand skills that hiring managers are looking for. But, resumes with female-sounding names are less likely to be hired than resumes with male-sounding names even if their resumes are exactly the same. What do you think should be done to change this?
In my opinion, the culture in computer science it is improving for sure, but we still need to go a long way. In many places, women are considered a liability because they may get married and move, or have kids and are unable to work long hours. There are lots of biased assumptions at play where people think a working mother will not be as committed to the job as the male counterpart. Thankfully in recent times, fathers have started stepping up too.
I had the opportunity to attend a Women in Tech round table with the CEO of Nokia, Rajiv Suri, and some senior executives. An interesting idea that emerged from that meeting was that of having at least one female candidate for every position being filled and giving her a fair chance. This is, in fact, an application of the Rooney Rule and Lyft already applies this to all director level and higher positions by ensuring that least one woman or underrepresented minority is included in the final interview slate.
There are also nationwide stats related to unconscious bias at various stages of the hiring process, starting from the resume screen, which can be avoided by potentially hiding the name or other identifying elements from the resume. Lyft has addressed this by creating accountability with a system that enables us to report on our goals and progress towards hiring diverse candidates. But at the end of the day what it will boil down to is eliminating any bias and discrimination through training, something that is already being addressed here at Lyft, and seeing successful senior engineers and execs from diverse backgrounds. Also proactively reaching out to communities to find diverse talent is also beneficial and Lyft ensures that it is present at events like Grace Hopper, AfroTech and Tapia. Mentorship programs can also go a long way.
6. Do you have advice that you’d like to share with working mothers in tech?
I believe setting realistic expectations, creating and following a schedule and learning to separate work from home and vice versa is the key to being successful as a “mom who codes.”