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Top 50 Women in Technology

Surveying talent As Senior Vice President, Product and Engineering at SurveyMonkey, Selina Tobaccowala discusses how her team has rebuilt the technical infrastructure on which over 12 million customers create, distribute and analyze 60 million surveys a month.

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uring her junior year of college, Selina Tobaccowala and her friend Al Lieb came up with an idea for a business that got them pretty excited. The idea transformed into Evite.com, an online invitation service that lets users organize an offline event online, and which currently sends over three million invitations per month. The business was officially incorporated in the spring of 1997. “I spent my senior year at Stanford working on creating the company,” she says. As Vice President of Engineering for Evite.com, she led the company’s development and operations and played a key role in setting the strategic direction with the board of directors. “After two years of intense work with Al, we received funding and Evite was on its way. Co founding Evite was a tremendous opportunity and experience for me. We went on to sell Evite to Ticketmaster in 2001, and my career as an entrepreneur was born,” Tobaccowala comments. “Founding a company and watching it grow is a highlight, not only in my career, but in life,” she says. She graduated from Stanford University in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Selina joined SurveyMonkey in October 2009. Previously, Tobaccowala was Senior Vice President of Product and Technology at Ticketmaster’s Europe division, where she managed the 200-person Product, Technology and Operations team. Prior to that, Tobaccowala was Vice President of Online Product and Technology at Entertainment Publications, where

96 | Silicon Valley Global

SurveyMonkey from a simple survey tool to a decision-making platform. “My team and I have rebuilt the technical infrastructure on which over 12 million customers create, distribute and analyze 60 million surveys a month,” she says.

International Experience

“If you look at the numbers, there hasn’t been much change in terms of women going into computer science. Actually, the percentage of women graduating with a computer science degree has decreased in the past 15 years.” she led the company’s online sales and technology initiatives. As Senior Vice President, Product and Engineering at SurveyMonkey, Tobaccowala leads the teams responsible for evolving

The team has spent a lot of time working on international expansion, as “when I started, SurveyMonkey was only in English and could only accept U.S. dollars. Now, we have sites in 14 different languages, accept 29 currencies and offer customers the ability to create surveys in over 55 different languages. It was a huge undertaking.” Her role encompasses the day-to-day management of the product, engineering, direct and paid marketing teams, she explains. “We continue to focus on building an even better consumer experience and have launched a fantastic new beta for our analyze section, and are testing a brand new UI for designing your survey. We are also continually adding features to allow our international users to use our product more effectively.” “Today, I’m most excited about my team. I love working with them, building fantastic products that truly impact people’s lives. Every day, I get to help people make better, smarter decisions. That’s exciting,” she adds. What Tobaccowala likes most about SurveyMonkey is that its mission is to help people make better decisions. “We created the online survey category, and in doing so, created a brand new market. Then, our customers invented hundreds of different ways to use the service. A small percentage of our customers are actually

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