How I Took Control of My Career Journey With Feedback, Empathy, and Embracing the Uncomfortable

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Divya Kamat. Photo courtesy of Squarespace.

Divya Kamat. Photo courtesy of Squarespace.

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Fairygodboss
July 19, 2024 at 10:43AM UTC

For Divya Kamat, having a career in STEM felt almost inevitable. “My parents run a successful software business in India, and, since I was a child, their work has always fascinated me and inspired me to learn more about software,” she tells us. This fascination drove her to study coding early on during a Computer Science course in high school — which truly cemented her goal of working in STEM.

Kamat worked tirelessly toward this goal, eventually getting a Master’s in Computer Science at Columbia and moving to Seattle to work in tech. While this was a great opportunity, Kamat decided that she wanted to move back to New York — and that’s when she connected with Squarespace.

“I interviewed with a few companies, but knew Squarespace was the right fit for me,” says Kamat. “Everyone I interviewed with at Squarespace was nice, positive, and seemed happy to work there, which is not the case at every company.” 

And the main reason she decided on Squarespace? The growth opportunities! “My experience, title, and level within the organization have never put restraints on what projects I get to work on or how much responsibility I’m given when I express interest in certain areas,” Kamat shares.

Since joining Squarespace, Kamat has been promoted multiple times. She started at the company as a mid-level Software Engineer before growing into a Senior Software Engineer role, becoming a Team Lead, and then transitioning into her current role — a Software Engineering Manager for the Domains and Email group at Squarespace. Growth opportunities like these are why Kamat says that she’s not only still at the company, but sees herself continuing to grow at Squarespace!

Reflecting on this growth, Kamat says that “a manager once told me that, as you progress in your career, you need to expand your sphere of influence and that advice has stayed with me.” For example, when she started her career, her sphere of influence was small. But, as she grew her knowledge and skills, her sphere expanded and now includes “multiple product and platform engineering teams as well as with product, design, and customer operations departments,” states Kamat.

And now, as a people manager, Kamat is helping her own team expand their influence, grow, and follow their own paths. As she states, “it’s imperative that I give them opportunities within our sphere of influence as well as constructive feedback so that they can achieve their desired results.”

In this article, Kamat walks us through her career growth, shares advice for women in STEM, and emphasizes the importance of taking charge of your career — just like she has!

To start, can you tell us what your day-to-day work is like as a Software Engineering Manager?

My day typically consists of having 1:1s with my team, meeting with our Product Manager and Engineering Team Lead to ensure the team is making progress on our team goals, identifying and eliminating team roadblocks, finding ways to improve team efficiency, and working with partner teams to reduce friction and improve cross-team collaboration. If I’m lucky, I pick up a small non-blocking coding ticket!

What technical and personality traits/skills do you have that help you succeed at Squarespace?

There are, of course, a lot of factors that go into helping someone succeed at an organization. When I reflect back on my growth, there are few traits that I believe have helped me grow the most:

  1. First, being open to feedback. Most often, we don’t know what we don't know and feedback is a great way to close that gap. I have a hunger for feedback. I frequently check in with peers, my reports, and my manager to identify areas where I can improve, things I should start doing, and what I should stop. If you can take that feedback constructively and find ways to incorporate it, you can really fuel your growth.



  2. Second, being empathetic. This one is especially important if you are thinking of going into management. This extends to our peers, teammates, managers, and, if you’re in a product company, customers, too! Being empathetic makes you a better collaborator, leader, and engineer. 

  3. Lastly, and arguably most important, is the ability to embrace the uncomfortable. Someone once told me that, if your job doesn’t make you uncomfortable, then you are not growing. No one likes being uncomfortable and most times we actively avoid it. But, your largest growth happens in those moments where you are uncomfortable. It took me some time to overcome my fear of the uncomfortable, but now I seek out those opportunities. It's important to remember that whoever presented you with that opportunity believes that you are capable of it. Trust them and, more importantly, trust yourself. You will be surprised by what you are capable of!  

How has Squarespace supported your career growth?

I have been extremely fortunate to have managers and department leaders who have provided me with constructive feedback and, importantly, opportunities to grow during my time at Squarespace

I was also selected to be part of the Leadership Catalyst program at Squarespace — a three-month learning experience full of workshops, coaching, and panels. The program taught me new tools for time management and effective leadership, and I gleaned new perspectives from my peers who were also program participants. As part of the program, I was also paired with a coach, who helped me gain confidence and be a better advocate for myself. My coach also provided guidance on establishing myself as a successful leader. 

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women looking to start a career in STEM?

While this is slowly changing, STEM is still a male-dominated industry, so it can sometimes feel lonely. This is especially true as you start moving upwards. It took me some time to realize this, but it can be very helpful to have a peer group that you can lean on to navigate through your career

At Squarespace, I am part of the Women+ ERG and the Women In Engineering (WIE) group, both of which have excellent mentorship and coaching programs. The WIE group at Squarespace organizes peer mentoring sessions where groups of women with the same career goals and at the same level are paired in groups of four or five along with a WIE Coach. This opened my eyes to the benefit of having a peer group that you can learn from. 

I have also reached out to multiple peers throughout the organization, both men and women, to schedule monthly 1:1 meetings where we chat about whatever is top of mind. I learn so much from these casual conversations. Though it may feel uncomfortable reaching out to people at first, I’ve found that most people are very open to it, probably because everyone is looking to connect. 

Finally, is there anything else we haven’t asked about that you’d like to mention?

I would strongly encourage anyone reading this to take ownership of your career. I often find that people avoid the important conversations around their career with their managers and expect to still get promoted or be given stretch opportunities. 

While your manager should be providing you with guidance on how you can continue to develop new skills, it is ultimately your responsibility to check in frequently to ensure that you are growing in the right direction. What you might view as areas you need to grow in to get promoted might not be what your organization and manager require or expect. So, it’s important to have open and honest conversations. 

You may also have a manager who has limited visibility into your day-to-day work — which is all the more reason for you to help close that gap with proactivity. You should care more than anyone about your career, so take control of the journey. 



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