Julie Chakraverty is the founder and CEO of the employee listening and workplace culture platform, Rungway, which is helping organisations foster psychologically safe, inclusive cultures where employees can seek advice and feel connected. Julie has a wealth of board experience, currently serving as a Non-Executive Director for the global cyber firm NCC Group, and previously serving on the boards of Santander UK, Standard Life Aberdeen, Mitsui Amlin and Spirit Pubs. She’s also been a Trustee for the Girls Day School Trust which educates twenty thousand girls across the UK. In 2006 she was named in Management Today’s ‘Top 35 Women Under 35’. And in 2013 she was recognized by The Times as the youngest female director of a FTSE-100 company, aged 41.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Growing up as a young Indian girl in 1970s England, my family often faced overt racism. Because of that, I learned what it meant to be resilient. My mother would comfort me by pointing out “if you want to be equal, you have to be better – and you are”. After graduating with a first-class degree in Economics from Cambridge, I worked in investment banking, which was a world dominated by men at the time. If I wanted to be heard, I knew I had to make myself stand out from my colleagues. The best way to do this was to build new products and take a different approach from the status quo.
My experiences during this time are what inspired me to make sure everyone could have their voice heard at work. Rungway was born out of the idea that all employees should have a safe, simple way to ask questions and express their ideas, even if they were unsure who to ask or what the personal repercussions might be. It’s now a global software platform that uses smart moderation to foster inclusive, connected company cultures and is the ‘mentor in their back pocket’ for tens of thousands of employees.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
As a young woman working in investment banking back in the ‘90s, I noticed there was a prominent ‘laugh or leave’ culture where lewd comments and inappropriate behaviour from a minority were accepted by the majority. This makes it harder for those who look or sound different to raise their hand to challenge or ask questions. Many years later I decided to launch a new technology to try and make the employee experience more equal. Business leaders like to believe that any question can be asked without fear of consequence – but this is simply not the case. Our data shows that gender, race, seniority, and many other factors differentiate the employee experience, suggesting our own lived experience is the biggest determinant of our attitudes in the workplace, trumping the corporate slogan. I founded Rungway to help companies on that journey.
How did you achieve awareness?
In the early days, the company grew through word of mouth. We’re really proud to work with some amazing organisations who want to share the secrets of their success on culture and inclusion with others. More recently we’ve used more systematic marketing campaigns to speak with organisations we know we can support.
What are the key successes?
Thousands of employees post questions and get helped on their company’s Rungway every month – just now we’re seeing questions about how the Ukraine situation is affecting people, or they might be posting about challenges to do with hybrid working or career progression. Seeing the impact something you built on real people’s lives is a very special feeling.
60% of all Rungway questions have been asked by women, even though women usually make up less than half of the workforce in the companies we work with. That stat is so important to me, and we know how important it is to all our clients that they have that dedicated space where every voice can be heard.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Rungway just completed its “Series A” investment with a private equity firm and I’m excited about the growth this inflow of capital and expertise will enable. All our team are passionate about helping people bring their best to work every day, and we’re looking forward to significant client and product growth.
The last couple of years have been tough on all organisations, and there’s lots more to navigate as we all transition to future ways of working. I’m proud that Rungway will be there to support our clients through these transformations, and help them ‘see round the corner’.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
You can do it. Rungway started in a basement – and is now used by amazing organisations including Great Ormond Street Hospital and major global firms every day.
It’s also about keeping in mind who you can and will be a hero to. That’s core to how I’ve built Rungway, and to the success we’ve had. For us it’s all about surfacing the quieter voices, and helping leaders build the most engaged, connected and inclusive workplaces they can.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
I was given some great advice to be ruthless with time and charming with people. This is something that I’ve always remembered as I was growing Rungway. This tip works with every industry and for people at every stage of their career. It’s the secret for getting a huge amount done in a short period of time, while not losing the human touch.
Who most inspires you and why?
My parents have always been my most important role models. My mum got her PhD while establishing a career as a microbiologist and instilled in me an unshakeable sense that I should always believe in myself. My dad became a successful record producer and worked with the biggest bands in the world. All this despite them arriving in the UK with just a few pounds in their pocket.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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