8 Questions for Rathi Murthy, SVP/CTO of Gap Inc.
Rathi Murthy received her master’s degree in computer engineering from Santa Clara University in 1995. Since then, she has held senior positions at American Express, eBay, Yahoo!, and WebMD, among others, and is currently Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Gap Inc., where she thrives on “removing friction and avoiding the status quo” while helping the company “get faster, cheaper, better.” Here, she answers a few questions about SCU, diversity in the workplace, mentoring, and more.
What drew you to SCU?
I started my graduate studies while I was working full-time and had a one-month old at home. Three things drew me to Santa Clara: it was one of the few colleges that offered early bird or evening classes to accommodate studying while raising a family. I also felt SCU was rich in bringing in industry experts as professors in the graduate program—people who were working in Silicon Valley industry. It's a strong program that brings in real life experiences.
How has your graduate education, and particularly your SCU graduate education, helped you?
The foundation it provided was very strong; it was solid. We had to take 45 units of work with lots of math, data structures, networking. The requirements for the grad program made me very solid in basic engineering principles that have taken me all the way through in my career. SCU played a key role in making sure I was strong in the fundamentals.
What does a “typical” day on the job look like for you?
It’s never typical! I’m a slave to my calendar and have no idea what’s in store from one day to the next, but I am mostly either discussing strategy with leaders on initiatives for the company, or working with the whole organization to make sure our teams are aligned, inspired and know what to do. I also participate in various business operations reviews to understand what’s happening across the company to make it faster and more efficient. I also set aside time to stay abreast of what’s happening outside our company and sharing what we’re doing at Gap Inc. with others. I am also passionate about contributing to a stress-free corporate America and I teach yoga and meditation on weekends; that’s how I get my energy recharged!
What are the best things about being SVP/CTO and what are the most challenging?
Best: I’ve found my spot; this is not work for me because I love working with people. I have built a brand for myself as someone who removes friction and avoids the status quo while helping people build their skills and make the company better. Most challenging: Transformation is always difficult; it’s like pulling teeth to get people to go with you, to get them inspired. But taking them on that journey is exciting and rewarding. Technology is evolving every day; the competition is not waiting. Speed and adaptability are critical and a company has to be nimble. Getting out there and helping the company is what gets me up every morning.
Any comments about diversity in the workplace that you would like to share?
This is one of our strengths at Gap Inc. We have over 70 percent women in the organization with women leaders across the stack. The culture began with our founders, a husband and wife team who each contributed equal funds to start the company. This put men and women on an equal footing from the start and equal opportunity was ingrained across the company. At Gap Inc., we make sure people can be themselves and we embrace all cultures and behaviors; this is at the core of the company and I love working in that environment.
Mentoring seems to be an essential part of your DNA; how did that come about?
As I was building my career, I was always looking for mentors. It was ingrained in me to seek out and maintain good relationships with people in and out of my company who could provide guidance and advice. I’m a good learner, in general, but I never thought I had much to offer. When I became Senior Director of Engineering at Yahoo! I was asked to speak about my journey at a women’s event. I initially responded that I didn’t know what I could offer. My VP sat me down and said that kind of thinking was selfish—that we all learn from each other, and women need to hear from other women. That woke me up! I realized it was true and that I needed to give back and make myself available as a mentor. Whether I feel I am an expert or not, I need to share. I am grateful to all those people and situations that got me to where I am today and taught me to believe in myself and Dream Big! We are a small group of women leaders in technology and it’s important for us to support each other and encourage many others in their journey.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m at a stage where my kids are older, I’m continuing to work in a challenging role, and I still have a lot of energy and time on my hands. I’d like to join company or nonprofit boards and serve that way. I also dream of devoting more time to mentoring other women executives.
Please finish this statement: It’s a good day when…
It’s a good day when I feel I’ve changed or impacted another person’s life in a positive way. There are days when somebody calls and tells me my advice changed the way they looked at their job and it helped them push forward. That’s a good day.