Meet Namita Dhallan, Chief Product Officer, Brightcove

Namita Dhallan

Namita leads the product management, engineering, and operations functions at Brightcove. Namita is responsible for driving Brightcove's product innovation and delivering world-class video solutions to organizations around the world.In this piece, we talk about her career, her advice to her younger self and why she believes there are still barriers for success for women working in tech.

Namita Dhallan leads the product management, engineering, and operations functions at Brightcove.

Bringing deep engineering experience and market insight, Namita is responsible for driving Brightcove’s product innovation and delivering world-class video solutions to organizations around the world.

Namita is a proven leader in the high tech world. Prior to her work with Brightcove, Namita was Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Ellucian where she led engineering, product management, and cloud ops/dev ops. She was previously Executive Vice President Product Strategy and Engineering at Deltek. Prior to that, Namita held several positions in product management and product development at Blue Yonder. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from the University of Maryland College Park.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role

I’m currently the Chief Product Officer at Brightcove, meaning I run product engineering, product management, cloud operations, and our global services team. Working with the product, engineering, and services teams is a great combination, as I love being able to solve problems for our customers holistically.

I started as a software developer, moving through various leadership roles in software organisations. I was always curious about what problems we were solving and why we were solving them. I think ‘The Why” is what the best developers always want to know to design and implement the best solutions.

During the mid-2000s, I moved into the product management role, helping to define the roadmaps for the internet boom. Here, I was helping to work on technologies that people today take for granted. Around 2010 I became Chief Product Officer for the first time, which is a role I’ve held at my last three companies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I certainly didn’t plan to be a Chief Product Officer, but I also didn’t plan to be a software developer. My degree was in Computer Science, which was not a degree that all colleges offered back then. Typically, you’d get a Math or Engineering degree and work in hardware or system software. Desktops and laptops were just coming into the mainstream, and application software development took off. Working for IBM, I saw first-hand the IBM vs. Microsoft rivalry unfold before my eyes – which was very exciting!

I always thought I’d be in technical engineering, as I never knew there was such a thing as product management. I think it’s a role that you fall into based on your passion or expertise, rather than studying and training for. So no, I did not plan my career – but now I love the role!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way, and how did you overcome these?

One of the main challenges was the constantly changing nature of technology – and the speed of change. It was a challenge not only to keep up with my learning but also to bring along either a team, a product, or customers to embrace that change. The program that I learned when I first started in school doesn’t even really exist anymore – that’s why I love the Computer Science background because you truly understand the science of how computer systems work.

The other major challenge was balancing family. I’m married with two daughters, so wanting to make sure I was always present for them and not wanting to sacrifice my career or family was hard.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think my first most significant career achievement was when I was moving up the ranks of software development and, at the time, was a director at the company I was working for, meaning I owned a suite of products. Another parallel director owned another suite, and we all had to release our products simultaneously. That meant that if anyone was late, the whole company was late.

I had a challenging product. My team was considered the one that was going to be late. Despite this, we hit the deadline for the first time in many releases. That was a huge achievement, to bring a team together and give them confidence that we wouldn’t delay the company.

Another of my biggest achievements was when I’d just moved into the product management role. Another company had just acquired us – and then we acquired another company. Our CEO tasked me with developing an integrated product roadmap for all three companies. It was tough but also a lot of fun, as it really brought all three companies together.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

A solid support system has been a major factor in my success. Even growing up, my parents were a huge support to me. My father especially encouraged my sister and me to aim for the top of the class, and he was even the one to suggest I study Computer Science. So from the get-go, I’ve had strong support for a career that is not considered traditionally female.

My husband is also incredibly supportive of me. For the first ten years of our children’s school years, he could be at home at a decent time, as he was a teacher. I was never made to feel guilty for working late hours or traveling for work, despite sometimes feeling guilty myself. Technology also helped me stay in touch with my family while traveling.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

One is always to be curious. You need to be excited that technology is constantly changing, always look at what’s going on in the world of tech, and stay up to date in your field.

Also, take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you. For example, I had no idea what product management was, but there was an opportunity, and I took on the challenge. Have faith in yourself that you’ll be able to learn what needs to be done.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do. I do think it’s better now, which is excellent. There’s more focus now on getting more women into technology, but you only have to look around to realize that we’re still not there yet.

While I don’t have all the answers, I have some ideas. We should have more inclusive support structures, offering tutoring and mentoring programs that not only teach you how to do your job but how to deal with gender and diversity in the workforce. I also think showcasing women in STEM careers is great – seeing someone in a role and thinking, “I could do that too!”

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think that companies should continue to provide female role models at all levels and in all disciplines. It can be difficult if women in the industry don’t have someone else they can relate to. I also think that companies can provide training resources that directly address some of the issues that consistently appear in surveys: how to ask questions when you feel intimidated; how to speak up when your voice is not heard; how to ask for help when you think you are the only one that doesn’t know the answer, etc. Many of these can be addressed through mentoring, coaching, role-playing, and classes – providing the confidence to thrive in that company. And I think we need to involve men in this training so that they can be aware and learn how they can help create a more inclusive culture.

At the same time, I don’t think we should make it such a big deal that a woman is going into a tech role. Women have been technologists for centuries. We were instrumental in solving world health problems and cracking codes that led to victory in WWII. Women rock!

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Our vision of what ‘Women in Technology’ looks like needs to change. Even if the workplace is entirely fair and equal, the majority of childcare and housework falls to women. Our support systems need to be enhanced so that if women choose to have families, they can continue their careers without taking an eight-year break and having to catch up when they return to work.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I didn’t network enough, so I recommend taking advantage of meet-ups and groups that keep you relevant in your field.

There are also a lot of great tech resources like the Emerging Tech Brew newsletter, the Wired and TechCrunch websites; and the ‘How Things Work,’ “WSJ Tech News Briefing; podcasts, or others more relevant to your field. I’d also suggest resources that help you stay up to date and relevant, such as TED Talks or the Guardian Masterclass.

It’s also important to hone your presentation skills. Take presentation training, ask for feedback, and present as much as you can – whether it’s presenting to a group at school, college, or your department at work.