Bucking the Trend: One Woman’s Story of Flourishing in the Tech Industry

If you work in the tech industry or keep up on the latest news, you’ve heard the grumbles pertaining to women in the tech industry, or rather the lack of women in the tech industry.  Despite making up 56% of the total U.S. workforce when it comes to the tech industry women make up less than 30%. Yowza. It gets worse when you take a look at the percentage of women in high ranking positions in tech (such as CEO or upper management) or starting up tech companies.

Women bucking the norm and excelling in the tech industry often site dealing with dramatic income gaps, disproportionate advancement opportunities, sexual harassment and disrespect.  Basically all the stats and firsthand accounts make it sound like women working in the tech field are working a field of misogyny running wild. And that’s what makes the story of Dmorph Inc.’s Product Manager Yasmeen Kashef stand out like the hope diamond in a field of rocks.

Yasmeen works for Dmorph Inc., a tech company in Durham, North Carolina. Durham has become the tech hub of the South. This often overlooked city rightfully has Silicon Valley worried because it has all the tech offerings, opportunities and talent paired with quality of life and lower cost of living. Dmorph Inc. is a product of all that.  Their latest product, eSecureSend.com, has made them the premier large data transfer service available and all 3 male teammates thank Yasmeen Kashef for that success.

Needless to say when Yasmeen found herself at a conference specifically for women in tech earlier this year, which Dmorph’s CEO Jami Choudhury lined up and paid for her to, she was taken off guard by the horror stories of other women in her field. She had read all the stats, but to hear it in person, from women living and working in the same area was jarring.

We sat down for an interview in last month and she shared her unique experience as a woman in the tech industry, at a startup to boot. You don’t have to read too far to see that the best thing Dmorph ever did for business is put a woman in a key job role.

Sheila: Working at a start-up company is a choice.

Yasmeen: It is a choice. These are good people. I would not be here otherwise. When I first met Jami (Dmorph Inc. CEO) I was surprised. We were having an honest conversation about some of the work he wanted done. I gave him a price. And he said, “No, I’m willing to pay more because that’s the way it should be. This is what we’ll set it at.” It was from the moment I realized that he really cares about his people. Without that I wouldn’t be here.

Sheila: You’ve been with a company how long?

Yasmeen: I’ve been there since December 2015. Come this December it’ll be two years.

Sheila: You could probably go and work just about anywhere in the Durham area, and you choose the startup life. You’re making that active choice.

Yasmeen: Yeah, because I really believe in the team that’s building it. They value my input as an employee.  They’ve always said, “we trust where you’re coming from and we know that you’ve been interacting with the customers every day. We want you to take the lead on this and take it to the next level.

They trust in the feedback that I give them so that we can take this product to where it needs to go. That’s one of the best things about working with a group of people whether you’re at a start-up or anywhere else.

Sheila: You work in the American Underground.  You’ve seen how other startups are going. We have the big names in here like Google Fiber. As tech companies go what stands out the most about Dmorph in contrast to all of those other companies?

Yasmeen: I never realized how good I had it until I went to an event about women in Technology. Some of the things that these women were telling me about working with tech teams were things that I had never experienced. It ranged from sexual harassment to being devalued to not being taken seriously to not making an impact on the product itself.  We talked about all of those things. None of those exist with me on this team. And mind you, we’re talking about me being the first female among a group of six people and the youngest member on the staff as well.

Sheila: That’s really impressive. That says a lot about the company. You know a lot about the product. eSecureSend’s biggest challenge is getting customers to switch from something called FTP, which is archaic by any industry standard, let alone the tech industry’s. If there was a customer on the fence about switching from FTP, “We spent all this money, time and effort. We even have staff dedicated to that job.” What would you tell them is the first and foremost reason to give eSecureSend (eSS) a try?

Yasmeen: We’ll take care of you. I was impressed when Jami put it into the contract. He said we only want you paying us if you’re happy with our service. For anyone out there, when you come on board with us we want to make sure that the service is meeting the needs and the promise that we gave you. We want to make sure we meet that and if we don’t, we will do what you can to make it happen.

Just because you’ve already invested FTP, it doesn’t mean it goes to waste when you adopt a new tool. We can bring eSS and adapt it to your environment and help get you the most out of it.

Sheila: What do you mean ‘adapt to your environment?’

Yasmeen: When we talk about file transfer in general, everybody has a different set up – computers servers, different laptops. Some people have admin access and some people are meeting strict government regulations. Some people are at home on their laptops with lousy Wi-Fi. In this wide range of conditions we can take the core of eSS and say, ‘This is what you have and here’s how we can make it work better. We will get eSS up and running as effectively and even better than FTP. We will go that extra mile and make sure that our service is doing what we told you it can do.

Sheila: Have you had any customers that they are not satisfied?

Yasmeen: We’ve had many people tell us, ‘you know what, we don’t trust you.’ So we bring our other customers into the conversation. And it usually goes something like this, ‘these guys have gone way out of their way to help me. You should give them a chance.’ And once they give us a chance we always blow them out of the water.

Sheila: Maybe it’s too good to be true. Do you think that’s part of it?

Yasmeen: People just don’t like change. So it helps to tell them that change is okay.  We’ll prepare you. We’re not going to abandon you. We’re not going to leave you hanging.

Sheila: I think it’s also like when you adopt a new technology… “I was told it would be easy. I was told it was…” Most business owners, especially small business owners, thoughts regarding new technology are that if it goes wrong we know that we’re going to lose money trying to fix it. You’re paying for something that’s supposed to make your life easier and if it doesn’t and you’re going to lose money go back the to the way you were doing things.

Yasmeen: And who exactly is responsible for providing this product or service to people to buy? If I’m telling you, “hey I have this great thing you should come here and buy it.” And you decide to buy it. Why am I am leaving you out in the water to figure it out and fix it yourself? That’s not your job nor your responsibility, nor your expertise. That’s for us to do. We are the experts of our own product.

Sheila: Right. If it’s your vehicle, it’s not your job to fix a cracked engine head if that happens. It’s your job to get it to the garage. It’s not your job to do the work they do in there. Again that is something that is lost in technology and I think that’s where the company shines. It’s a customer driven company.

Yasmeen: Yeah. Absolutely.  The other part of what we do is the technical side of it. We’ve redesigned the engine and it becomes more awesome from the feedback that we get. We’re not video editors. We’re not drone mappers, nor lawyers who have to send drives to each other. We don’t have the experience of their expertise.

So for us to be in the middle of their workflow, we don’t know what that looks like until they come and tell us, ‘my life would be a lot easier if I was able to take this video I’m working on, press a couple of buttons, and say okay store it over here. Send it over there. Then send this version over to that person.’  Without that kind of feedback we wouldn’t be able to take the product to the next level. It’s not just about customer support. They’re the ones driving what the product is becoming. I don’t even know what it will look like in a year, two years based on their feedback.

Sheila: That’s exciting and that’s outside of the norm. When you’re integrating the variable of meeting the customer needs and you guys aren’t fearful of that. You know you’re going to be changing. You know you’re going to be evolving and that’s what you’re coming to work to do that. That is probably the new way of handling things.

Yasmeen: Yea, I think it was Seth Godin who said if you’re not pivoting, you’re slowly dying…

Sheila: Yeah and he also talked about ‘just ship it’ and you guys have continually shipped and then work with the feedback that you would haven’t gotten if you didn’t ship.

Yasmeen: Exactly.

Yasmeen came onto the Dmorph team as a contract employee and because of her skillset was brought on as a full time staff member.  Her age and gender were never factored into the equation, let alone her wages.  Dmorph Inc. hired her and pays her based on the value she brings to the company day in and day out. As you can see she knows this product and believes in the company’s success. Time for the big boys in tech to act like adult humans and listen up.