What's It Like to Be the Only Man at a Female-Led Startup? (Hint: It's Pretty Awesome)

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Mohith Julapalli answers all the usual questions he's asked about working at fashion startup Boutiika with a bunch of women. By Mohith Julapalli (Co-founder & CTO, Boutiika)

It’s 10 am, and I’ve already had an outrageously busy day. After hitting the snooze button more times than I should have, I had to spend an extra couple minutes on some highly unruly hair.  I grabbed a coffee on the way into the office, and a couple more for my coworkers. Once caffeinated, we had a rousing debate over shellac vs. nail polish, complimented each other’s new haircuts and then broke to give one team member some less-than gentle teasing about the fact that she’d worn the same top last week.

No, I’m not the lead character of “The Devil Looks Like Donatella.”  I’m a 31-year-old, red-blooded American man. I check ESPN with an obsessiveness that could be diagnosed were it ever revealed to a doctor, whiskey runs through my veins, and I spend many Saturday nights trying to catch the eye of the charming girl at the dinner party.  But who I am is apparently in sharp contradiction to where I work. Or at least that’s the message I’m taking away from the fact that it’s all people seem to want to talk to me about.

Despite the fact that our company, Boutiika, is blowing up (our new DASH service went live in San Francisco enabling same-day delivery of fashion from local boutiques, expansion into new cities is on the horizon, and press and the blogs are a-buzzing), the most common question I get is "what is it like to work with a bunch of women?"

I’m the co-founder of an anomaly in the Valley — a tech startup with an almost all-female core.  I’m not here to conjecture on why this is so rare.  That’s beyond my pay grade.

But I am here to answer your questions about my experience:

Yes, I have a J.D. from Stanford.  No, I don’t win a single argument at work.

Yes, I’ve engaged in an in-depth discussion on whether the Gossip Girl finale made sense. No, I don’t think it did.

Yes, I’m stressed beyond measure. But no, I don’t have any gray hairs. Yes, I attribute this in part to the calming influence of women.

No, my coworkers never finish their lunch, and yes, I always eat their leftovers.

Yes, I know the difference between peplum and ruffles, and no, I didn’t know this before Boutiika.

Yes, every person in our company has a healthy ego. But no, their egos (miraculously) don’t appear to block their listening capabilities.

No, I’ve never worked anywhere before where birthdays were planned two months in advance.

Yes, we’re totally leaning in.

No, it’s not always awesome. Like when a VC looks only at you even when your CEO is leading the meeting.

Yes, I have a big sister whom I’ve idolized since the beginning of all things, and yes, I wish everyone had a role model like her to teach them that women can be more brilliant, charismatic, and daring than men.

Yes, we fight like dogs sometimes, but they’re the productive sort of fights void of bluster and full of honesty.

Yes, I love them and they me.  No, I wouldn’t want any other team with me on this journey (except maybe another engineer or two...we’re hiring!).

Yes, you should absolutely check out Boutiika. Yes, you will love it.

And yes, you should come visit our office and say hi.  I’ll be the guy surrounded by women.

Lucky me, right?

Absolutely.

Other guys working on woman-heavy teams: what's your experience been like?

Mohith headshotAbout the guest blogger: Mohith Julapalli grew up in the great state of Texas where he studied computer science and electrical engineering at Rice University.  Seduced by the draw of California, he obtained his Masters in computer science from Stanford and then first cut his teeth building products at Oracle.  After a brief detour in law (JD in 2009 from Stanford Law School), he returned to tech. He now leads Boutiika's platform development in the role of co-founder and CTO.