10 Questions with Nita Singh Kaushal

Founder of Miss CEO

Nita Singh Kaushal (@nitakaushal, @missceoinc) is the founder of Miss CEO, an educational startup focused on delivering premier leadership training, mentorship, and career exploration opportunities to young women all over the world.

Nita was recently a senior manager at Yahoo! where she led a high-performance suite of display media products. She began her career at Intel, where she contributed to the product evangelism and development of Intel’s Centrino wireless platforms.

Nita graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. She is on the Stanford Women’s Community Center Advisory Board and has served as the Co-President of Yahoo! Women in Tech. Nita happily resides in the Bay Area with her husband and two sons.

  1. When did you know you wanted to be in tech?

I was born and raised in San Jose, so the tech innovations of Silicon Valley largely influenced my interests. I really enjoyed math and physics so when I arrived at Stanford I decided to major in Electrical Engineering. I immersed myself in classes like circuit design, signal processing, and digital systems.

My education opened the door to many interesting engineering and product management opportunities throughout my career. But as I advanced professionally, new questions emerged:

How do I network with key members in my organization? 
How do I negotiate my paycheck or ask for a raise? 
How do I get recognized for my efforts?

I noticed many of my female peers were facing similar challenges — they were armed with impressive academic backgrounds, but felt lost and insecure navigating work environments not particularly inviting to women.

That’s when I decided to launch Miss CEO. I wanted to provide leadership training, mentorship, and career exploration opportunities to young women looking to excel in all phases of their lives. Since our founding in 2011, Miss CEO has trained thousands of children, young women, and professionals all over the world, and we are continuing to grow!

2. Who’s your role model?

I greatly admire Dr. Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College. I first met Maria while serving as Co-President of Yahoo! Women in Tech. She took the time to mentor and offer me invaluable advice at key decision points throughout my career, even during my pregnancy with my first child. Not only is she an accomplished leader and computer scientist, Dr. Klawe’s had a tremendous impact on increasing diversity in STEM, offering a refreshingly candid voice to the movement.

3. What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career journey, and how have you dealt with it?

I had a male lab partner in college who would frequently dismiss me, but readily accepted input from the other guys in our analog communications design class. Unfortunately, this was just the first of many experiences in my career where I was ignored or discounted based solely on gender. It was discouraging, hurtful, and downright exhausting.

I eventually learned from some awesome mentors how to reach out for support and persist in sharing my ideas. Now whenever I witness other women going through similar challenges, I become their fiercest advocate. I encourage them to speak up and make themselves heard.

4. I’m proud of _____.

Reaching a stage in my life where I feel comfortable channeling my energy on the people, projects, and things that are most important to me: focusing on my family and health, utilizing Miss CEO as a vehicle to improve education and diversity in tech, and surrounding myself with people who uplift and inspire me.

5. What’s something you want to get better at?

Journaling and/or writing on a daily basis. I used to view writing assignments as a tedious chore throughout my engineering-focused education, but now I can fully appreciate how cathartic it is for managing the constant flow of information, thoughts, and ideas around me. Making the time to write is an investment in self-expression.

6. Favorite city in the world?

Tokyo. It awakens my senses with its sights, sounds, tastes, experiences. I’m humbled and inspired by the people and their culture; there’s so much to learn from the dutiful respect for community, work-ethic, and profound attention to detail.

7. Comfort food of choice?

In-N-Out Burger. Specifically, cheeseburger (animal style with extra chillies), neapolitan shake, and fries well-done.

8. Best book you’ve ever read?

Can I share two recent favorites instead? I really enjoyed Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. With so much to manage on both the personal and professional fronts these days, the themes of simplicity, focus, and thoughtfulness have really been resonating with me.

9. If you could try another job for a day what would it be?

A journalist or correspondent, preferably at a cutting-edge media company like Vice.

10. If you could give your 18-year-old self any advice, what would it be?

I recently came across an article written by my role model Dr. Klawe. She said,

“I wake up most days with a voice on the left side of my head telling me what an incredible failure I am. But the voice on the right side tells me that I can change the world — and I try to pay more attention to it.

I would like for my 18-year-old self to know this: there will come a time when you question or doubt yourself. But I hope you find the courage to show up and listen to the “voice on the right side.”