A smiling woman with dark hair sitting at a wooden table. Behind her are shelves of books. She is Rashi Khurana, VP of engineering at Shutterstock.
Rashi Khurana, VP of engineering, Shutterstock. Image: Shutterstock

‘My biggest career challenge has been more internal than external’

28 Feb 2020

Shutterstock’s VP of engineering, Rashi Khurana, talks about her career journey and her experience climbing the ladder.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that we’re in the driver’s seat of our own careers. If we have good managers and are given great opportunities, our career journey can almost be mapped out for us. But that comes with problems too.

Rashi Khurana is the vice-president of engineering at Shutterstock, the well-known provider of millions of stock photos, footage and music. Khurana leads the front-end and mobile e-commerce teams in building a high-end user experience.

She told Siliconrepublic.com that one thing she realises now is that she didn’t need to think about driving her own career progression early on, which was great in some ways.

“For the first five years of my career, I went with the flow in terms of the opportunities that emerged within my company and how my managers saw me fit in different teams and projects.

“I was very fortunate because I had great managers who always challenged me with more and more complex projects that never left me feeling bored for even a moment. It also gave me a chance to sink my head and heart deep into the work I was doing and actually learn and build the skills I was supposed to be developing.”

She said going with the flow and learning as much as possible is important for anyone early on in their career because being too hungry to grow at that stage can actually mean missing out on real skill-building opportunities.

‘My favourite part about what I do is creating harmony in chaos’

However, for Khurana, the side effect of not needing to push for her own growth meant she didn’t think about growing her salary to match the industry standard. “At the time I was too ignorant to realise what I was missing,” she said.

“I know I should have been more aware and educated on how to advocate for myself because I could have greatly benefited from it.”

Women as trendsetters

Throughout her career, Khurana has encountered all kinds of people. While many rooted for her and advocated for her success, others weren’t quite so supportive. “There were times that I took two steps forward followed by a step back.

“The one lesson I have learned is not to let the setbacks question your achievements or crush your confidence because the setbacks are temporary. Setbacks happen to all genders, sometimes more with certain groups or minorities due to the unconscious bias that exists in society.”

She spoke about the massive changes that have happened within the STEM industry for women, from the 1960s when NASA rejected an applicant because she was a woman, to recent years, where the proportion of female astronauts has risen to 45pc.

However, she added that there’s still a lot of work to be done, and while women have always been a part of the big successes, many are not properly identified as the source of the success itself.

“Today, we see many women talking to and supporting the community, trying to make a difference with their work. However, still very few are reaching that top position to be looked up as disruptors, as the trendsetters.”

In her role at Shutterstock, Khurana is most proud of the network of people that she has built. “What we work on, the code we wrote, all of that will eventually become obsolete as technology is upgraded,” she said. “It’s the people, the relationships and the network that remains with us forever.”

Along with her work on with the front-end and e-commerce teams, Khurana also manages the underlying platform team, which she says provides a great foundation for their developers and users alike.

“My favourite part about what I do is creating harmony in chaos. Matching the right people to the right projects, delivering a performant and robust site experience while aligning teams towards a common goal.”

Identifying her own value

“The biggest challenge that I have faced in my career has been more internal than external,” Khurana added. She said she had great managers, all of which were men, as well as mentors and sponsors who supported her career and success, but she struggled internally with her value.

“My challenge had been finding the courage to actually raise my own hand, identify my own value, believe that what I have learned is valuable,” she said. “It took me some time to discover my element and be comfortable embracing and owning it and taking pride in shining in it.”

Finally, I wanted to know what productivity advice she had to share, and she said it’s all about self-motivation and self-satisfaction. “I have found the use of an old-school notebook to track to-dos is always the most beneficial. The satisfaction you get from physically striking or ticking something off is much greater than a click of the checkbox on a digital tool,” she said.

“We should treat each day as important and no matter what, show up each day with the intention of making it worthwhile not for anyone else but ourselves. If you think, ‘I’ll just take it easy today,’ then the day may become a week, month, habit etc. Of course, as humans, it is not always possible to give it 100pc all of the time, but we can try.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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