October 2, 2019
Women Driving Tech. Interview with Intelligent, Classy, Ambitious and Inspirational Technologists.
Part 5. Talking Cybersecurity
Dr. Sarbari Gupta, President and CEO of Electrosoft Services, Inc.
Imagine your company being ranked on the Inc. 500|5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. For Sarbari Gupta’s Electrosoft, a firm providing technology solutions to U.S. government and commercial customers, the company has achieved this distinction six times. We recently spoke with Sarbari and explored what it takes to be a professional in cybersecurity, how to balance the gender gap in the tech market and what business skills you need to survive.
Cybersecurity is a hot topic and a key concern for most organizations. Tell us about Electrosoft’s involvement in the field.
More and more data and information are being digitized and becoming available online or stored in the cloud. It is vital to protect this material from unauthorized access. Electrosoft counts cybersecurity as a core competency and specializes in identity and credential management. Our work involves implementing means to verify that a person is who he or she claims to be for online transactions. Another key concern is protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information, which the government collects and uses in its operations. Electrosoft is well respected in the field and grateful to count so many federal civilian and defense agencies as customers.
Given Electrosoft’s work, does your office employ special security measures, such as eye scans, to control entry?
Our company facility doesn’t work with such sensitive information on our premises. So, no heightened security measures are required. Instead, we employ security badges. We help our customers implement strong authentication mechanisms not just for physical access but also to protect their digital resources.
What innovations are Electrosoft known for?
We are a professional services company and devise innovative solutions and apply creativity in solving problems on behalf of our federal agency customers. In addition, we work hard to demonstrate our thought leadership within our industry. We actively participate in conferences, give presentations, write papers and articles, and blog on topics that we hope will stimulate thought and creativity across the industry and lead to new thinking and technological advances. We believe this role places Electrosoft at the leading edge of innovation.
Why did you start your own business? Did you always plan to lead a tech company?
Early on, I knew engineering was the career path I wanted to follow. The logic of science and its problem-solving dimension were most appealing to me. Additionally, I always dreamed of being my own boss someday and becoming a player in the business world. Since my educational and early professional background was in the tech field, it was a natural progression to start a technology business.
Is there any advice you wish you’d heard before starting Electrosoft?
Not really. I think the more you’re told – and the more advice you receive – the more fear it creates. In many ways, not knowing allows you to face the unknown with confidence.
However, I soon learned that there were areas, such as accounting and finance, in which I had no background. Within the first few months of starting Electrosoft, I had to learn basic accounting because I did not have the resources to hire an accountant. Even more important, I felt that I needed to understand the financial aspects of the business in order to successfully lead the company.
Similarly, my past experience did not prepare me to execute the sales and business development roles associated with building a business. Experience soon taught me what worked and what didn’t. These self-taught skills have served me well over the last 18 years.
Have you faced any prejudices when establishing your business? How did you overcome them?
In starting Electrosoft, I wouldn’t say I faced any prejudices or stereotypes. However, earlier in my career, while an employee at various tech companies, I did encounter some bias. My reaction was to ignore it as much as possible and move forward.
Having been in business for 18 years, I face far less prejudice now. Still, being a female in the tech sector can be daunting. As women, we just have to do what we do best and exude confidence. We must believe in ourselves and our capabilities.
Do you find tech a male-dominated industry?
Historically, tech has been a male-dominated industry. Today, however, there are many women doing great things in the tech world. These women haven’t allowed themselves to focus on being in the minority. They don’t view it as a male versus female competition. As a whole, women have focused on moving the industry forward. I find that approach preferable.
What do you think companies can do to balance the gender gap in tech?
I am not a fan of filling positions based exclusively on gender. At Electrosoft, we hire based on qualifications, capabilities and attitude; we are gender-neutral. One’s gender, nationality, native language and religion shouldn’t matter in the hiring process. What matters is a candidate’s experience and ability to fulfil the requirements of the position.
Does Electrosoft do anything special to promote women in tech? Again, from a business perspective, I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. Having faced some barriers and biases as a woman in tech in the past, I do feel strongly it’s important to encourage young women to enter the tech field and be confident.
I volunteer with various organizations designed to promote tech. For example, I’ve mentored high school girls who have an interest in tech and give them guidance. I also give STEM talks to elementary school children, both boys and girls, to try and get them excited about opportunities in coding and technology. It’s important to show them early on how science and technology offer career paths that will enable them to change the world.
How has being a mentor affected you?
When I became a mentor I didn’t anticipate the impact this role would have on me personally. Mentoring has made me far more introspective. When a student asks me “What do you like best about your job?” it truly makes me think. I’ve come to know myself and my priorities much better and gained a clearer understanding of the factors that drive me.
What advice would you give to tech entrepreneurs?
Generally speaking, the best advice is to believe in yourself and be confident in what you are doing. When you come across areas where you need additional knowledge, get it. For females, I would advise that you keep your eyes on your goal and where you want to be. Don’t let small-minded people or their issues distract you. Always follow your dreams.