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Spotlight Series: Neha Sampat, CEO, Contentstack

Neha Sampat

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Meet Neha Sampat, CEO of Contentstack! Neha sits down with us to chat about her career journey into tech, walk us through an average day at work and shares her career advice for other women in tech.

Neha Sampat is a three-time tech founder and CEO, and currently founder and CEO at Contentstack, the leading Composable Digital Experience Platform (DXP) provider.

Neha has impressively raised $169M for the company over the past four years. Neha previously founded digital transformation consultancy, Raw Engineering, and digital experience Platform Built.io, which Software AG acquired. Neha is a relentless advocate for building great places to work and achieving equity in tech. She was previously recognized as “Best CEO for Diversity” and “Best CEO for Women” at the 2021 Comparably Best Places to Work Awards.

Neha Sampat

How did you land your current role? Was it planned?

In my early 20s, I moved to Silicon Valley determined to become an entrepreneur. My father was an entrepreneur, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Initially, I started a PR firm with some new friends and represented major consumer technology brands. Then I moved to product marketing gigs at big tech companies. I saw all the digital transformation happening around me – enterprises moving to mobile, cloud in its infancy – and found a real opportunity to help brands navigate those waters. That eventually led to co-founding Raw Engineering. Since then, I’ve been satisfying my entrepreneurial “itch,” launching multiple ventures – even a parking app – and finding my ultimate passion in Martech.

What are the key roles in your field of work, and why did you choose your current expertise?   

During my time leading Raw Engineering and Built.io (which was acquired by German powerhouse Software AG) my team and I realized the source of enterprises’ pain was their infrastructure. Enterprises need to be liberated from legacy all-in-one suites that minimize their ability to innovate and deliver unique digital experiences. The rigid nature of monolithic technology hampers business and tech teams’ creativity and productivity.

The only tool that would give brands the creative and competitive edge they needed was composable architectures with a headless CMS at the core – but no one was offering it. So, we did.

Did you (or do you) have a role model in tech or business in general?

When I worked at VMware, I reported to one of the company’s early leaders, Dan Chu. He was a great leader and mentor to me. During my time at VMware with Dan, I felt my calling to become an entrepreneur and start Raw Engineering, so I decided to do that full-time. During my exit interview, Dan said something that I will never forget, ‘I hope that Raw Engineering becomes a large line item in our budgets moving forward.’

His support meant everything, especially since it felt like I was still early in my career. I am always grateful to him and the lessons I learnt from VMware.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far? 

I’m really proud of the culture of care we’ve created at Contentstack. For example, we started as a company-wide day off for everyone to volunteer at the charity of their choice, calling it “Contentstack Cares Day.” Because of everyone’s enthusiasm and dedication, that day turned into a year-long initiative and a Slack channel where everyone shares their “give back” moments.

We also make sure people of different backgrounds have a seat at the table. Innovation happens when diverse perspectives come together and align toward a common goal. In 2020, we moved our India office to a prominent local college to directly embed innovation alongside learning. We are also extremely active in encouraging young people – and women in particular – to consider tech and STEM-based careers by equipping them with the skills they need to succeed. Then, we hire them!

What does an average workday look like for you?

There are no average workdays — I find that every day is so different. Some days, I’m based in Austin going from one meeting to another. The next day, I might be boarding a plane to meet some customers abroad.

Regardless of the day, I typically like to start early so I can knock out some difficult tasks in the morning and feel like I’ve gotten some important things finished. It sets me up to feel positive for the rest of the day. 

Are there any specific skills or traits that you notice companies look for when you’re searching for roles in your field? 

It’s super important now that companies find underrepresented talent and search for candidates outside of traditional pipelines, by holding recruiting events in non-traditional areas and hiring for skills, rather than whether they have worked for companies with big names or necessarily have an Ivy League education.  

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology?   

Women in tech face challenges such as limited access to funds and subconscious biases that hinder progress. I would encourage women to be themselves and trust their gut instinct. While you should take advice from others (especially at the beginning of your career) and seek out important feedback, you need to learn to bet on yourself and lean into your instincts.

Don’t be afraid of feedback that may make you uncomfortable. Initially, when I received constructive feedback, I had the instinct to fight back but then I listened and realised that the feedback was pushing me in the right direction to becoming a better CEO.

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive?

I tend to surround myself with people who champion me and want to see me grow. When I want to slow down, the people I surround myself with always push me to keep going and never give up. 

Early in my career, I asked for an executive coach to help me through my progression and growth. There was no budget available, but I knew how vital this was for my career, so I made it happen! It paid off in the long run.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

Everyone faces insecurities and anxieties during their career. For me, I’ve taken the road less travelled, especially for a founder. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school and I’m a female, non-techie CEO in a technical world. I had to pave my own path. But what makes me different is also my unique superpower. Instead of feeling insecure, I’ve learned to lean into what makes me different.

Entering the world of work can be daunting. Do you have any words of advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed? 

The biggest piece of advice that I can give is you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Surround yourself with trustworthy advisors and be open to their guidance. Focus on what you have to offer, and share your ideas with people and mentors around you who have done it before.

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