Welcome to our interview series, where we introduce you to developers of all levels from all walks of life. Prepare to be inspired!
Today we meet Nirupama Mallavarupu, a female developer who started her own company after experiencing discrimination in the workplace. She tells us all about how to level up in your career and what it’s like to launch your own product from the ground up!
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am the Founder and CEO of MobileArq, a fundraising and communication platform for school districts and an app for parents to get their school at their fingertips.
How did you start to code? Why did you choose this career path?
I fell in love with programming at 17, when I first learned how to code. Two years later I was fortunate to be accepted into an undergraduate Computer Science(CS) program.
The problem-solving and creative aspects of programming excited me and ultimately led me to this career path.
You’ve had a lot of experience in tech, from software architect to director of engineering. How did you move up the career ladder?
I loved technology and innovation so I was and am still continuously updating myself and looked for new opportunities in my areas of interest. I set career goals for myself at every stage and worked towards my goals.
You mentioned that you faced a lot of discrimination, and that’s why you decided to start your company. Can you tell us about that?
I was laid off when I was on maternity leave – the worst part of it was that the entire group I worked with knew about it and my manager would not return my calls. They structured it so that I would be laid off the day I came back from my leave. It was a very depressing time for me.
Later, I was also fired for running out to take care of my kids. These experiences motivated me to start a business that helped parents to connect with their school community and stay on top of everything happening in their school with an all-in-one app.
Tell us the story of MobileArq! Why did you decide to build it, and how did you make it happen?
I worked in several large companies as well as startups and got the opportunity to build things ground-up for others. However, I struggled to stay on top of my kids’ schedules along with my work.
I realized I hardly knew anyone in our school community as there was no central place to connect with others in the school. This is why I built MobileArq as a communications platform that helps parents to connect with each other easily.
I eventually started exploring the other needs of the parent community and fundraising for their school was one of their top priorities. MobileArq now provides an extensive e-commerce portal for each school for their fundraising.
Parents get an app through which they can connect with anyone in their child’s school or class, pay for fundraisers, and stay on top of all the events happening in the school.
I made the idea into a real product by first creating a team that would help me to build it. I created the initial designs and minimum viable product and sold to potential early customers (parent organizations in schools).
It paid off and dozens of PTAs adopted our platform in the first year. We have had loyal repeat customers 7 years in a row. Over a 100 parent organizations use our product and raise millions of dollars in fundraising money.
What has been the biggest challenge in building your own company?
Getting customers to buy into your vision and keep the sales up over the years.
What is your favorite part of your work?
I love understanding my customers’ needs and providing solutions that meet their needs.
Do you think things have improved for women in tech?
Yes, bigger companies appear to be making an effort to improve their diversity and inclusion.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in code?
Women have different challenges at different stages of their life and career. Tech workplaces are not always friendly towards women.
It is good to get a coach or mentor who can help you with your career goals and path. Women need to find other women mentors or coaches who can support them in their workplace.
What advice would you give to a woman who’s an intermediate developer and wants to advance in her career?
There are usually two paths to take in your tech career in larger companies. You can go on the managerial path or the technical path.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” to advance your career. You have to determine your strengths and where your passion lies.
The best way to find new opportunities is to expand your network. Make sure you are attending meetups and conferences in your area of interest and make as many meaningful connections as possible.
Quick fire round
When I can’t solve a bug, I… explain it to a fellow programmer and it works out before I know it.
My favorite programming language is… Java.
Dream company to work for is… my own company
If I had unlimited resources, I would develop… a robot that would wash dishes and fold clothes!
In 5 years time, I want… every K-12 Mom to be using MobileArq to get everything about their school at their fingertips.
Your favorite quote…
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”