Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech: “I’d like to think we’re in a world today that operates as a meritocracy, especially in the venture communities in the West and East Coasts”, With Suuchi Ramesh
Not to say that there aren’t women out there who would face challenges in STEM compared to men, but I’d like to think we’re in a world today that operates as a meritocracy, especially in the venture communities in the West and East Coasts. We’re now seeing a lot of money goes into tech companies that are founded by women.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suuchi Ramesh.
Suuchi Ramesh founded Suuchi Inc. in 201 after a 10-year career in technology and predictive data analytics. Suuchi, Inc. is a next-generation supply chain platform for fashion brands and retailers. In years, the company has grown to 200 employees and 250 customers and growing. The company’s hyper-growth has been possible through the development and use of the Suuchi GRID and Suuchi’s curated network of freelancers, factories and mills. Suuchi is providing customers with an end-to-end view of their supply chains and using predictive data analytics and advanced technology to digitally transform the industry. Learn more at suuchi.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a software engineer with an MBA in software. I’ve always loved math and science while my younger sister is the more creative one which has been a nice balance. It was just something that I’ve always loved. I also gravitated towards some other subjects, like English, but logic and reasoning — the geeky and nerdy stuff — was the stuff that I liked. This made it pretty natural for me to go down the path of software engineering. When I started my 4-year engineering program in India, it was also a time when Bangalore was just starting to boom with jobs, so it was a good place to be. It wasn’t really deliberate, it just felt very organic with my early passions.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
We have three interesting stories here every hour! It’s not just one incident, but I’m still in awe and so inspired by what we can do to transform this industry using technology. I think there are mini-stories along the way where the Suuchi GRID connects brands and factories. It’s so awesome to hear startup, established, and enterprise brands and factories use our technology and hear how it has completely transformed their business, how they communicate, and how they’ve never seen any software like it.
Selfishly, it is very gratifying, but it’s also really inspiring to hear these stories on how technology can transform a legacy industry, and traditionally, digitally-hesitant players, as well. I’m always listening deeply for those kinds of stories.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In retrospect mistakes are funny, but at that moment they aren’t very funny. I talk about this example a lot when we began our idea in the first three to four months, we were using technology to transform B2C supply chains. So, we built a technology that was a 3D product that would take measurements to a 2D to 3D file to show consumers how something would look on them if they were to purchase different items for their wardrobe. The mistake was that myself and the early team built the tech for the sake of having a tech without having a market product fit and without really defining what our business model was going to be.
It’s obvious that technology is transforming the world and the advice I would give other companies is that it’s very important that we don’t build tech for the sake of tech. It’s very important to customers and market product fit before you overly invest in the features of the product.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One of the ways that we stand out is that our technology is really, really simple and intuitive. So, reinvention is possible with technology that doesn’t have to be complicated. I think a lot of people when they think about the apparel supply chain, they may assume that they need really complex technology — which there is a lot of really complex technology with PLMs and ERPs in the market today. What differentiates us is that not just that we have a technology that reinvents the conversation for everyone across the supply chain, but that it is over-engineered for simplicity. I love that part about our GRID that it’s so simple that a 3-year-old could use it, a 90-year-old could use it, someone on the factory floor can use it, and a brand of any size can use it. So I think the story is that we can speak with $60 billion companies and have such a high-quality conversation that we can give them and at the same time have factories who are less than 10 people in Central & South America that are also plugged into the GRID and are just as amazed as how it has transformed them. That is the power of the GRID. It is cross-skill compliant and it is so simple that it doesn’t matter how big or how small you are, you can empower change.
The other thing that definitely differentiates us is who we are as a team. Like any fast-growing company, I believe that we have a very unique culture. Over time we have really found a formula that works for the people that find their purpose and happiness here. It is a lot of empowerment and tough love, but while we have org structures, we want the best and brightest to succeed. It is a bunch of really smart people who want to learn every day, people who challenge one another, and a bunch of goodhearted people.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are always things moving along on the GRID. We have our product and engineering team releasing new features every couple of weeks, so there is always something exciting on the product roadmap. The most exciting part for me though is the analytics. Now that we’ve had the GRID across a wide variety of ecosystems of brands, factories, and mills, the next step is to take all the data we’re gathering and the data from integrating into other tech stack systems is the power of analytics. It is really important for fast-growing brands and fast-growing factories make data-driven decisions to inform the growth of their business and this industry doesn’t really have set solution where you can provide actionable solutions, in terms of, really easily visualization. Each use case then becomes a path for predictive power as well.
We are really that company that has created a data analytics strategy while hand-holding these companies through a stepwise function of execution because you can’t take a company that hasn’t even started gathering data or has the data and doesn’t know what to do with it, you can’t take them directly to AI and predictive analytics, so that stepwise function is really important.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I can only speak for the microcosm that is Suuchi Inc. I’m a STEM person, you know, we have a lot of women in our engineering team as well as our product team and we have a lot of engineers across our other teams, as well. So, if Suuchi Inc. was just a microcosm, I think we have a really good distribution of women that come from the STEM background. We often talk about not enough women in the leadership layers, but I think with more women focusing on STEM and marrying that with a background in running businesses, there is no stopping those players because it’s all about the meritocracy at the end of the day. But if you have a background in STEM, it definitely empowers you to higher levels with success, especially if you’re in a tech company. At Suuchi, we really have a good balance and I would really love to see the same in the larger world, as well — especially in New Jersey and New York.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
Not to say that there aren’t women out there who would face challenges in STEM compared to men, but I’d like to think we’re in a world today that operates as a meritocracy, especially in the venture communities in the West and East Coasts. We’re now seeing a lot of money goes into tech companies that are founded by women, so I don’t know if there is any differentiation if you have a good idea and you have a background in STEM or you have co-founders that have a background in STEM. If you want to start a company, there is no time like now to be doing that.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
The myths? Well, I think I’d like to take a positive spin on this by not necessarily calling it a myth, but as much as a fear of the prior data that women don’t get as much funding — especially women in STEM. We’d like to think that our example becomes the norm and not the exception and would love to see a lot more women raise funding. To what I said earlier, the time is now if you’re hungry about an idea and you think it can scale, especially if you have a background in STEM. I think these are some of the best times to go raise money, so I would say don’t get encumbered by what you’re reading. Believe in your idea, go out there and pitch and there are people that will believe in it.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I can really cut it down to 3 main lessons that I’ve learned as a female founder in STEM and some of these apply to being a leader across fields. Number one is to always be reading up. Technology is always changing and always evolving and investing in learning is so important. That’s one thing that is very critical. The second thing is that as a leader it is important to internalize what you bring to the table with generalizations across male and female leaders aside. What are your strengths? Really think about what those are and reflect on that and then surround yourself with people who compliment that. And some of these recommendations are going to apply to both male and female leaders because I do believe that we could run it like a meritocracy if we wanted to. The last piece is to surround yourself with people who you could work with. What that means, especially if you’re a woman and you feel like you haven’t had the right opportunities before, you probably know the kind of people you want to surround yourself with and the kind of people you don’t want to surround yourself with. It’s very important to have a clear sense of who compliments you in terms of a working relationship and achieving maximum success and nobody from the outside can tell you that. A board of investors can point out really great profiles, but at the end of the day, the working chemistry is so important. As a founder or a leader within a company, you have to spend a lot of time thinking through the kind of people you want around you.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Look, it goes back to the last point. It’s about hiring the best. I was with fast-growing companies before Suuchi Inc., but I wasn’t set up to run a company of 200 people because I’d never done that before. The difference is that I have people around me that are great mentors and advisors. I really look at my executive team not in terms of an org structure, but a lot of them mentor me as well and I learn a lot from them. It also means you need to find the right heads of departments because ultimately it’s really having those soldiers that help each department scale, so, it’s really all about the people. The other part of it is the culture. While it’s very important to know what the culture is, it’s also important to adapt the culture. For example, communication. Communication in the beginning, if you have 10 people, you can shout across the room and communication is done, but how do you maintain transparency and make sure everybody feels included as the company grows? It’s a challenge, but that’s where you have to evolve with the culture.
Our executive team just read a book by Ben Horowitz called “What You Do Is Who You Are”. That’s so true because you don’t want the culture to just be something pasted on the wall, you want to talk to people about the behavior you want from them and the virtues you want from them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As cliche as it sounds, it is a great team and I have a fantastic team with so many people that have been here since the early days that it’s impossible to just name one. I’m absolutely in love with my executive team which is crazy to say that I truly love them. To love the people you work with across the entire team, especially when you’ve grown to this size. We are who we are because we have really awesome people who are rising fast on the ladder at Suuchi Inc.
And I drew the lucky card in terms of my family and my partner. You know, having that constant love…you can’t underestimate the value of that especially when there is so much chaos when building a company. So, I got very lucky in that you can’t pick who you’re born to, but I got lucky that way. My folks will always be the people I’m most grateful for.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We’re always looking for ways to give back. The fact that we’ve added so many jobs in STEM and advanced manufacturing is something that we’re very proud of. As we think about how we multiple this, we want to invest in education and whether or not these people are employed by us, we want to do more in the form of engineering, as well as, advanced manufacturing jobs. But for now, we are very proud of all the jobs we’ve added, not just within our four walls, but also in the other factories that we’ve empowered.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It still has to be better formulated, but it would be having women tech leaders who come together to talk about ideas. I’m sure that there’s a lot of other forums like this, but what I would envision is a group of women in STEM, leaders in companies that get together to educate and provide training to other women. It would be a combination of education, training, and mentoring by women in STEM for women that want to be in STEM and want to be leaders.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have so many! I can’t pick one. I guess one of my favorites of the many — and I’m picking this because I think it resonates with a lot of others in our company — is “home is less to do with a piece of soil, but more to do with a piece of soul.” It really rings so true to my heart because I’m an immigrant, so I came here as an adult, but also what Suuchi Inc. means to me as a home. I come here and spend 12–14 hours a day, but it never feels like work because this is home and I hope it feels the same way for people who work here too. When you find your sense of purpose at work, you find your mission statement and then home has to do more with a piece of soul and less with a piece of soil.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Some of these names people might not know. Andy Rachleff is a guy in fintech that I’ve been following and I think his ideas are really cool. Another person in the fintech space is Ray Dalio. They are both very experienced people and I love listening to them, whether it’s books or podcasts or written interviews, because when someone has had the life experience and they’ve run companies and invested in companies, there’s so much you can gather from what they’re saying.
And then it’s also Oprah Whinfrey. Oprah always.
About the author:
Penny is an environmental scientist-turned-entrepreneur. She’s worked as a climate scientist, an environmental planner, and a wilderness park ranger. Motivated by a passion to raise a generation of environmental leaders, in 2010 Penny founded Green Kid Crafts, a children’s media company that provides kids around the world with convenient and eco-friendly STEAM activities. Today, it’s become a leader in the subscription industry, with over 1 million packages shipped worldwide that have exposed a generation to think about and take a leadership role in sustainability. Penny, her husband Jeff, and her children Rowan and Declan live together in San Diego, California. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Management and an M.S. in Environmental Science. Penny has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, management, strategy and finance. She’s a seasoned leader, an inspiring speaker, an encouraging business mentor, and a creative writer. You can learn more about Green Kid Crafts at https://www.greenkidcrafts.com/ and follow Penny’s stories and updates at https://www.instagram.com/greenkidcrafts/ and https://twitter.com/bauderpenny.