Amruta Karmarkar knows firsthand how disheartening it is to deal with the mortgage industry—which is why she was inspired to work for Better.com, a fintech company whose mission is to make homeownership more accessible for all.
“When my husband and I were buying our first home, we were dismayed at how ‘black-box’ the process was,” she says. “Even though we spent a lot of time researching and doing our homework, the lack of visibility and clarity into very basic items left us without confidence that we had made a good decision mortgage-wise. The idea that the mortgage application and approval process could be digitized—made more transparent, cost-effective, and faster—to level the playing field with technology was a big draw for me.”
Now Karmarkar, who joined Better.com in 2019 as a director of engineering, gets to apply her software engineering skills to exactly that challenge, building products and partnerships that enhance the company’s offerings, including mortgage, real estate, title, and homeowners insurance.
Here, Karmarkar shares how Better.com has supported her family’s needs during COVID-19, what has helped her thrive as a female leader in the tech, and the best career advice she’s ever received.
Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Better.com.
I started my career as a software engineer after graduating with a master’s in computer science from Columbia University. I have worked in various domains within the tech industry, including mobile infrastructure, network management, storage software, and cloud infrastructure, as those technologies evolved. Along the way, I started to manage teams of engineers and lead not just in execution, but also working on growth, strategy, and vision for engineering organizations.
I was looking for a new challenge around the middle of 2019 when an executive recruiter brought Better.com to my attention. I was skeptical at first because I had never worked on a consumer-facing product or in fintech, but I was intrigued. So I had a chat with the company CTO and was immediately sold by the mission and the range of possibilities for the business and my own career.
What do you like best about the company culture at Better.com?
I am so proud of how supportive the company is of its employees and their personal situations, giving employees the consideration they need so they can be successful in their personal lives and still bring their best to their work. As a parent of two young children who have been “schooling” from home through the COVID-19 crisis, the support I have received from the company, from virtual child care to day-to-day flexibility, has really demonstrated our core values.
What has been the key to your success working in an industry where women are underrepresented?
I do believe we are still at a point where women need to go above and beyond to receive the same level of notice and recognition as our male peers. So grit, perseverance, sheer hard work, and excellence are a must.
I have also been fortunate to have excellent mentors—both men and women—who have guided my career choices, served as sounding boards, and helped me identify opportunities for growth.
What advice do you have for women looking to pursue a career in engineering?
As the data supports, the level of participation of women in the tech industry’s workforce falls off precipitously with seniority, somewhere at a mid-level role. It is critical for women to be focused on their goals and push through. Don’t let the noise distract or discourage you. Seek out people whose work and approach you respect to be your mentors. And, once you’re on your way, find opportunities to support and mentor other women.
What does it take to succeed as an engineer at Better.com?
We have a very high bar for technical skills at Better, but to be truly successful, it is critical to be a great team player: share your knowledge and step up and do what needs to be done to help your team succeed. You can be the smartest engineer in the room, but to achieve at the highest level, you also need to be able to build great relationships with your own team and across teams.
What traits and skills do engineering candidates need to stand out?
For me, communication is very high on the list. Being able to explain the bigger picture around what you’ve worked on and built, convey your decision-making, and describe your learning process—these are traits I look for when interviewing candidates.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Be true to who you are—don’t be afraid to bring your unique experience and perspectives as a woman to work. The tech industry needs this diversity of experience and thought. Don’t try to change yourself to blend in.