Posted on February 15, 2021 | News
Uma Achutha shares how she’s found success and purpose as a senior technologist while also raising two daughters over the past 17 years.
Our employees represent a mosaic of thoughts, backgrounds and personalities across the world. This series shares the voices of employees as they tell their own eBay stories.
For eBay employee Uma Achutha, career aspirations have always intertwined with a steadfast commitment to family. Determined to realize her dreams as a management-level technologist while also remaining fully present for her children, Uma started at eBay in 2003 as a young engineer just after becoming a new mother. Now a Senior Technical Product Manager with two teenagers — both of whom themselves have a passion for math, science and technology — Uma shares her experience with other women as a mentor and leader.
We spoke with Uma about how she’s achieved her personal and professional goals, and the advice she would give others hoping to chart their own self-defined course to success.
Looking back 17 years, could you share why you started working at eBay — and how you feel looking forward?
I was excited about working here for two reasons: The job was a perfect match for my skill set and experience, and the eBay campus was less than 10 minutes from where I live. I had a six-month-old baby at the time, and as a result, I wanted to be closer to home. Accepting the job offer was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Currently, there’s a lot of work happening in terms of accelerating velocity, providing everything that developers need to push code to production as quickly as possible with fewer blockers. We’re reimagining the eBay customer experience, and our technology is driving this. I’m right in the middle of this effort, and it’s very exciting.
Can you talk more about how you’ve simultaneously grown your career and your family?
When I joined, I started as a QA engineer, then I got promoted to a lead role and later to management. After a few years of being in QA in different roles, I decided to pursue product management so I moved internally; there are always opportunities here to try something different. eBay helped me with that job transition and I was able to continue my career growth with product management training at UC Berkeley as well as enrollment in the Stanford project management program. Now I am a happy product manager.
eBay has given me the work life balance I needed to do all this. The main thing was I communicated openly with my managers and always let them know what my needs were as a mom. Those needs changed as my kids grew up but I was consistently able to raise any issues and concerns. I love this idea in our beliefs that eBay is for everyone. In my experience, eBay is an open and accommodating environment, with work from home as an option when my kids were sick or had to go to the doctor, resources for mothers with newborns, parking spaces for pregnant women and more.
Uma celebrating her 17-year eBay anniversary with her daughters in 2020
What drew you to eBay as a company in terms of its purpose — and what has kept you here?
I am part of the platform org and work on initiatives related to developer productivity; we are there to help our developers to make sure we’re meeting our customers’ needs. Because really, at its core, eBay is community driven. I hear entrepreneurial stories about people being empowered through eBay, finding their livelihoods through selling on our marketplace. I love that, and it resonates with me very well.
I also really appreciate that eBay gives back. I love the eBay Foundation which matches employee donations. I leverage that every year. Overall, I am always making sure that I’m helping serve the community at the end of the day and working to a greater purpose of helping people. eBay supports me in that.
At eBay, our culture embraces innovating boldly. Can you give an example of how you’ve done this, especially as a woman in engineering?
I see it as an opportunity for a fresh perspective to improve the workplace. I’ve been part of the Women at eBay group for a few years now, which I love, volunteering for various programs empowering girls and women in tech — such as summer coding programs for kids, women’s forums, girls’ leadership events and many more. I also mentor younger women interested in STEM. I’m always happy to empower other women in whatever way I can.
It sounds like you hold true to our values of helping build a truly equitable workplace by leading the way for others?
I learned personally through my kids’ journeys and my journey how big of a role mentors play. Whenever I come into contact with younger people joining eBay, I’m happy to guide them. Everybody goes through career ups and downs, and it helps when someone steps in to share ideas and tips, providing guidance about goal setting, expectations, career growth and advice about asking for promotions and raises. Most women don’t know all these things coming into the workplace, we second guess ourselves and think we have to be perfect to go for a promotion. So I always try to help, I share my story and experiences. Mentoring is an important role, and it makes eBay a really encouraging culture that we do that here.
Uma’s daughters at an eBay family event in 2013
Your family is clearly an integral part of your life, and you seem to really bring that authenticity of your whole self to work. Any favorite memories of your kids at eBay?
They have been part of the eBay family growing up, it’s just always been part of their life. Most of the people I’ve worked with know my daughters. I bring them to work for fun events, or they’d come hang out on campus when they had school holidays. But perhaps most memorably, when my youngest daughter was 14, she auctioned off some of her paintings — including one of Michelle Obama — at an International Women’s Day event for a total of over $1,000. The money went to a children’s charity, and my daughter got to meet all the eBay executives. That inspired her, and now she’s made it a tradition where every year, she auctions a painting of a woman she admires, then donates the money. And in order to really be the customer, she also sells paintings through eBay — she has sold eight paintings and given the proceeds to Save the Children.
Uma’s younger daughter auctioning off her Michelle Obama painting for charity in 2019
Things like this are why my daughters both love eBay — and why they’re very proud to tell anyone and everyone that I work here. My older daughter is now a chemistry major at UC Berkeley and my younger one loves math and plans to get her PhD in math or computer science. But they still see eBay as a second home. My younger one especially loves eBay goodies. She collects all my swag, and most of the time, she only wears eBay shirts.
We talk about being for everyone at eBay. What advice would you give to women starting their career in the tech industry to be part of the conversation?
Be passionate, bold and fearless. Seek challenges and opportunities, always share your thoughts and ideas in discussions, take the initiative in problems you want to solve and push boundaries. Proactively seek out mentors in your areas of interest, everyone is willing to help, and mentors make a big difference. Most importantly, believe in yourself and always challenge the status quo.
And no matter how busy you are at work, make time for family — especially kids. They grow up very fast, and you want to be part of that journey with them.
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