One Woman's Path from Engineer to Marketing Entrepreneur

Parna Sarkar-Basu
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

​What? Pushpa Ithal, an engineer, became a marketing entrepreneur when she discovered a gap in social marketing tools.

So what? Ithal is one of 11.3 million female business owners in the U.S.

Now what? "Think of STEM as your contribution to humanity," says Ithal, "then you will naturally build interest. "

​Nov. 15, 2017​​​

Pushpa Ithal started one of America’s 11.3 million woman-owned businesses. How did she get where she is today?


I have the privilege of collaborating with a variety of women who are founders of business. I’ve gained a great deal of respect for their tenacity, passion and determination in running a business, something they often do while raising a family. It’s never easy, but they stay focused to make it all happen.

The women-owned businesses in the U.S. employ about 9 million people and generate more than $1.6 trillion in revenue, per the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report. Over the past 20 years, 260 out of every 100,000 women became an entrepreneur per a report by Kaufman.   

Pushpa Ithal is a female entrepreneurs, who recently launched Advo.Ninja​, a martech platform to tackle the pain points of digital marketers. Born in India, Ithal came to the U.S. in 2003 and made Silicon Valley her home. She had to work for free until she landed a full-time job with Bank of America. 

I recently spoke with Ithal, who shared her views on entrepreneurship and digital marketing and gave tips to students who want to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  

Q: You've had a successful career as an engineer. Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: Engineering gave me the most tangible job satisfaction, and I had no plans to be an entrepreneur. After I completed my MBA, I took on a product marketing position, and that’s when I discovered a huge gap in social marketing tools and decided to solve the problem. That’s how Advo.Ninja was born. 

More importantly, I embraced entrepreneurship because I was fascinated by the idea of helping marketers and employees build their social profiles and become thought leaders. 

Q: What are some of the challenges you face, if any, as a women entrepreneur?

A: There are thousands of women-led businesses in this country and I am proud to be one of those entrepreneurs. Despite what we hear, there are a variety of communities and ecosystems that we can tap into. Almost everyone that I’ve reached out to is more than willing to help women entrepreneurs. There are several men who are supporting and advising me on how to get off the ground and grow my business.

That said, some negative perception and presumptions do exist, from fund-raising to selling to building partnerships. Women have to work extra hard to get the same things done. I hope that changes in the near future. 

Q: How Advo.Ninja help customers?

A: Advo.Ninja is a social amplification platform that creates everlasting marketing impact for brands. Companies include their employees, investors and even partners in building their brand thought leadership on social networks.

One of our customers—a startup—used Advo.Ninja to promote an upcoming webinar. By being able to amplify the news simultaneously on various social channels and leveraging the account of 25 influencers and employees, the company was able to drive more than 600 clicks per post to their webinar page. That’s a huge accomplishment for a startup.


 Programming your mind for success | Carrie Green | TEDxManchester


Q: Who is your target audience?

A: Any company that wants to expand its brand awareness on social networks can use Advo.Ninja. The majority of our customers are B-to-B tech companies. The platform is also used by individuals looking to create their personal brand in today’s digital ecosystem.

Q: There are a lot of digital marketing and social media engagement measurement tools in the market. What makes your product unique?

A: The Advo.Ninja advocacy platform is about end-to-end automation and targeted personalization. We provide an opportunity for everyone in the company to be the voice of the company while they build their own thought leadership with no effort. Marketers get to automate the complete process of social posting to multiple networks and simultaneously amplify their message. Most importantly, the product allows each post to be personalized to fit the respective employee’s profile. 

Q: What tips would you give to girls who’d want to pursue a STEM career?

A: STEM should be part of everyone’s life; I don’t see that as a separate entity. Human evolution and advancements have always been dependent on STEM. Think of STEM as your contribution to humanity, then you will naturally build interest. 

Q: Why did you decide to settle down in Silicon Valley?

A: Simply put, it’s the weather and the tech ecosystem. Everyone here is super helpful; there are so many meet-ups that an entrepreneur can leverage and get to know like-minded people. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. 

Q: When you are not being an entrepreneur or a mom, how do you spend your time?

A: I am an outdoors person and love to hike. There are a lot of trails nearby so when I need a break, I head over to Rancho in Los Altos, California, and sometimes to Yosemite’s Clouds Rest or Mount Dana.  

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Author Bio:
Parna Sarkar-Basu
Parna Sarkar-Basu is a corporate marketing strategist and founder of Brand and Buzz Marketing. Parna also serves as the WITI (Women in Technology International) Boston Network Executive Advisor and sits on the South Shore Innovation board. Connect with her on Twitter at @ParnaSarkar.
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