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Profile: Vinita Rathi, JAX London speaker

How to win the diversity battle: “The tech industry is not as bad as it sounds”

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Vinita Rathi, JAX London speaker and CEO & founder of Systango.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Vinita Rathi, JAX London speaker and CEO & founder of Systango.

Vinita Rathi will be delivering a talk at JAX London 2018 on Tuesday, October 9 that goes over what blockchain is, functional blockchain solution designs, and the five pillars of an enterprise blockchain solution design.

Vinita Rathi, CEO & founder of Systango

Vinita Rathi is CEO and Founder of Systango, Ex VP Goldman Sachs. A highly adept technology professional who has a personal passion for Fintech, Blockchain, and IoT projects. Vinita has 5.5 years in a tier 1 investment bank specializing in trading technology and about 5 years as the CEO and founder of a global software consultancy (Systango) with 100+ employees, a client roster that includes the likes of Grinder, Dialpad, ResearchNow, Deloitte, Oracle and Porsche.

She is also the Founder of Studio Fintech specialised to deal with Fintech and blockchain ventures with the focus towards blockchain-centric projects. She has been working with quite a few to create their own DAPPs and launch their ICOs.

Vinita is a very active member of Women in Tech community London having founded Women Hack for Non Profits and Women Who Code London.

What got you interested in technology?

Back in 1996-1997, when we were still using dial-up internet in my hometown, my dad got me a computer and I opened my first email account on yahoo. It really was a privilege, most of my friends had no clue what email services were. I spent endless nights either playing Minesweeper or programming in C. I think this early exposure made me interested in tech and enabled me to pursue engineering in Information Technology afterward.

Well, it was a blessing in disguise. The Dotcom boom in 2000, the hype around Y2K made Information Technology a sought after branch which was the main reason why I choose to pursue engineering in IT. I was the first Engineer in the family and the first one to go out and take a full-time job. I had faced the same set of challenges that generally an ambitious female from a traditional Indian family would. In a traditional Indian household, a female being the house runner is not a norm, changing this mindset has so far been my biggest obstacle as well as success. Leaving a comfortable life of Goldman and starting up something with a year old boy was not easy, but I am glad I made the decision and at right time.

Throughout my life, I have had to deal with a lot of preconceived notions around what a female should and should not do but there was nothing that could really stop me. My family, managers, and colleagues were really very supportive of me trying and learning new things.

Role models

As a role model, I look up to Sheryl Sandberg for her determination and persistence and her stand for women empowerment.

I look forward to the day when half our homes are run by men and half our companies and institutions are run by women. When that happens, it won’t just mean happier women and families; it will mean more successful businesses and better lives for us all.

This is something that she said which has stayed with me and I too believe and look forward to that time.

A day in Vinita’s life

I’m the Founder and CEO of Systango Technologies and Studio Fintech, a digital consultancy and Fintech agency that specializes in building mobile apps, web apps and websites from start to finish. We have done this for some very large companies like Grindr, Dialpad, Target, and Disney.

We are a technology business with a focus on IoT, Smart City, Hospitality, Connected Logistics, and FinTech. We specialize in Blockchain and we help unlock the next stage of digitalization for traditional businesses by integrating blockchain workflows in parallel to existing enterprise system.

Our business is split into three main activities. We work on our own ventures, we provide technical consultancy to numerous startups, enterprises, hedge funds and banks on how to leverage the power of technology along with offering them technology resources and lastly, we actively seek out promising startups and invest in them as early stage evangelists.

I am extremely passionate about technology and to date a hands-on developer and tech architect.

Managing a global IT firm that is growing every day requires me to work 10-12 hours a day. It’s not easy but I make sure that I am able to prioritize and spend time with my family.  I generally start my day early, 5ish and finish early about 5ish with rarely any breaks in between. This gives me enough time in the evening to spend with my son without compromising with my office hours. I tend to do most interesting things earlier in the day whereas leaving the mundane ones for towards the end of the day. This ensures things that need my attention gets it and I am efficient as well as effective.

I have a 7-year-old son. Just the fact that I am able to balance being a mom while running a 150+ person strong software agency is quite an accomplishment for me!

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I think it’s the perception that if you are in the tech field, you have to be on your computer 24/7 and that is scary. Everyone just assumes that you have to be obsessed with coding and have to spend every single minute doing just that.

I believe education is a bottom-up tool where we should allow girls to develop their potential in STEM subjects so that their drive and interest serve as motivators. Awareness and information about the benefits of the STEM for women and girls need to be disseminated at community level. And if that happens, we can potentially have more girls in tech, despite a big drop out rate in the 30s, we will have a decent ratio of women in tech leadership roles.

The first step in the diversity conversation was awareness to the problem and I think we are beyond that. I have been involved in the tech community since 2012, I lead the Women Who Code London Chapter as Director and then founded Women Hack For Non-Profits 3 years ago. Back in 2012, 10-15 women attendees used to show up for the meetups but now we are generally oversubscribed and have 50 odd members on the waitlist. Everyone acknowledges that it is a problem that needs attention and we are not far from getting back to the ratios in the 1970s when tech and STEM, in general, had more women.

Women in STEM

It is not easy when you don’t see creatures like you around you :-)  Diverse teams perform better, they bring different perspectives to the table since collaboration is the key to innovation. They help build innovative solutions that are much more mature. I believe that 10 women who are earning well through a STEM job, will lead to improved household earnings, better education for their kids and improved health care and a more lasting change than 100 women working in a poor environment.

When we see this gender gap reducing, there will automatically be more fairness, support, control over our own lives, decision-making power at home which will give women the say she needs to decide what she can and can’t do.

Obstacles

It’s the ‘cultural bottleneck’ that is the biggest challenge which every woman is fighting against in some way or the other. It could be trying to overcome some prevalent notions like a woman, in general, wants an easy life, flexible work hours along with our own pragmatic attitude and then we have a habit of underestimating ourselves especially if there’s no one around to push our boundaries.

Tips & tricks

It’s the 21st century, you can do what you have set out to. It’s not as bad it sounds. There are good people and bad people just like any other industry. As long as you are confident, determined, you will sail through. One of the upsides, as well as downsides to tech, is, it’s the ever-changing and at an extremely fast pace. Make sure to keep yourself updated. If this is something you enjoy you will love and thrive in the industry.

 

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Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.