Inspirational Woman: Drashti Patel | Head of Brand and Marketing, Siilo

Drashti PatelI grew up in Arizona, with a super creative mum, a puzzle-inventing dad, and the most persuasive older sister – the perfect recipe for shaping a life-long marketer!

With 12+ years of global B2B brand and product marketing experience and a passion for storytelling, I’m skilled at positioning brands for growth, identifying and unblocking business challenges, and leading a data-driven team in delivering the highest quality customer experience.

Currently, I’m the Head of Brand and Marketing at Siilo, Europe’s largest medical messenger app, empowering healthcare professionals to seek advice and collaborate on patient cases with their trusted network, no matter their location. It’s been rewarding to play a small role in simplifying the communication workflows for healthcare professionals who have faced unprecedented challenges and demands during the pandemic.

The last 18-24 months have been trying for everyone, but particularly for healthcare professionals – information-sharing and fast decision-making has been essential as they learnt to deal with a hitherto unknown virus. They quickly came to appreciate the value of being able to instantly and securely share details about individual patient cases and, as a result, we’ve seen a 202% increase in app downloads among this sector in the UK alone.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The short answer is, not quite. While I never sat down and planned my career, I wouldn’t exactly say that I’ve ‘flown by the seat of my pants’ either. Much of my career has been driven by curiosity. The need to continuously develop new skills in my field, dive head-first into new and rapidly growing industries, work alongside people I admire, and understand the nuances of working in different cities and countries. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to work with technology companies ranging from just 50 people to 90,000, located around the world in amazing cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and most recently Amsterdam.

It’s important to me to be intentional about the steps that I take and their progression, and that means choosing roles that allow me to have a real impact, grow myself as a person, and leave my mark on the company. What I love about working in technology is that it’s fast paced and ever evolving – there is always a new feature to take to market, use-case to share, and an audience and market to connect to.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I joined the SharePoint product marketing team at Microsoft in 2009 fresh out of college. My first big project was to increase end-user adoption of the product across our customer base. At the time, I wouldn’t have exactly used the term “tech savvy” to describe myself, but I did have a deep sense of empathy for users looking to find smarter ways of doing their jobs. I am really proud of the work I did in this role for a variety of reasons: it was the first time I ramped up on a product that was unfamiliar to me; I built out messaging frameworks, buyer personas, ran customer interviews, managed a budget, and translated the work into a creative campaign that delivered results. I also learned how to collaborate across teams, manage stakeholders, bring others on my journey, and to celebrate my wins. All of this has served as a valuable foundation throughout my career.

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

Early in my career, I was assigned a mentor, Barbie Stafford. She led by example as a strategic, compassionate, and hugely inspirational senior leader. Our regular catch-ups served as a safe place for me to seek her advice on challenging work projects, but also about growth, development, and softer skills that make for well-rounded professionals. Since then, I’ve moved roles, companies, and even continents, yet she has continued to encourage and inspire me. In my experience, there is nothing more powerful than this. These are traits that I have recognised in managers and leaders in some of my most rewarding experiences, and it’s something I look for when evaluating opportunities.

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

Develop a set of transferable skills that can be easily taken with you, no matter the product or industry. Being able to adapt is crucial, as is maintaining a robust toolbox that can be applied anywhere – these are so useful in the long run. Take the time to scope before you start, create templates and outline your processes as you move through projects, and take the time to reflect on your work and results. Not only will this help you learn and act quickly in your current role, but also serve as a knowledge base for wherever your career takes you.

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

I often feel that coming to work and being set up for success should be a given for everyone, man or woman, but we all know that there are different dynamics at play. The number of men in tech vastly outweighs the number of women, and so the success is naturally and systematically tilted to favour that majority. While those differences aren’t necessarily explicit, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that sometimes you end up being the only woman in the room, and so you get delegated tasks that are more traditionally gendered as “for women”, find yourself raising your voice to be heard, or having to further qualify your decisions and rationale. Overcoming that requires a shift in culture and behaviour, so that everyone is treated with the respect their positions deserve, regardless of gender. That means empowering women in leadership roles, addressing inappropriate behaviour, and occupying the space your qualifications and merit afford you.

There are currently only 17% 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?

The issues that women and other people from marginalized groups face do not start at the beginning of their careers. They start as early as childhood. One of the most important things we can do to encourage more women in the world of tech is to communicate with people of all ages on the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This means everything from empowering educators to teach these principles in their classrooms, to mandating anti-bias trainings throughout companies, to even looking at the ways we portray people in the media and in our advertising efforts. The goal is to not only create visible role models, but also to ensure that women move through supportive environments throughout their lives.

With that said, we still need more women and people of diverse backgrounds in leadership positions. It’s easier to visualise a career path when there are great role models who have cleared the path ahead. I encourage women in leadership positions to look for ways to better support other women across their organisations and in their networks, no matter their function. Whether it’s providing coaching on stakeholder management, helping develop presentation skills, or being a sounding board for salary negotiations – be a resource others can lean on.

While at Siilo, I’ve realised that this is not something endemic only to tech but is also prevalent in medicine where only a small percentage of the senior positions in surgery are filled by women. Early this year, we had the opportunity to onboard a network of female surgeons – Die Chirurginnen – and, to date, they are one of the most active and fastest growing communities with over 800 members on our app. Using Siilo, they create group chats to stay informed on a variety of topics, from trauma surgery to orthopaedics, and share valuable advice from seniors in the field to those just starting out. It’s been a unique pleasure to support this community, which further highlights the importance of fostering similar communities for women, no matter the industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Finding a professional community, participating in networking events, and proactively reaching out to others in my field are all things that have served me well.

In my experience, people are more than willing to share their experience, journey, and lessons learned so long as you are bold enough to ask. If you’re considering a new role, thinking about changing industries, or are interested in learning more about a potential employer, look for others in your network who you admire and who have successfully navigated a career path that you aspire to and invite them for a coffee. More often than not, you’ll find that the answer will be a ‘yes’ and you’ll have some great insights into how to better position yourself for success in your future role and career.