Women in Tech: “You’ll find lots of opportunities!”
Four years ago, 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 Richa Dhandhania, Head of Analytics at Raisin DS.
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?
Four years ago, 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 Richa Dhandhania, Head of Analytics, Raisin DS.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Richa Dhandhania, Head of Analytics, Raisin DS
Richa Dhandhania is Head of Analytics at Raisin DS. She is a proven analytics professional with 12+ years of experience in solving complex business problems using data, with a natural ability to derive tangible value from data analytics and machine learning programs through high performing teams.
When did you become interested in technology? What first got you interested in tech?
My interest in technology started with economics. My family are all doctors or investment bankers, but one wonderful teacher got me interested in economics. From there, I became fascinated by data: churning data and answering questions through data, for which you need technology, of course, as well as business and math. I love the way data and analytics can reveal the truth about business questions, and then the more data we have, the more the truth develops and changes.
The central question driving me was how technology could accelerate the process, helping to crunch large amounts of data and enable us to answer questions more and more accurately. “What’s the current situation? Where is it headed, and how will it change?” So after studying economics, I got involved in tech and I’ve been in the field of data analytics now for 12 years.
How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Studying economics, I was particularly interested in econometrics, in understanding patterns and making predictions. The first company I joined focused on data analytics, so I found myself applying what I’d studied in a new context. The main obstacle here – although I have to say that it was a very male-dominated field – was simply the steep learning curve, since there wasn’t a course for data analytics in practice. It was a matter of implementing what I’d studied in new ways, learning on the job. Aside from one female boss I had, pretty much all my colleagues were men for a long time, including earlier at university. The way I dealt with that, though, was getting high grades and being at the top of my class, so I didn’t experience being the only woman as a hurdle.
Since taking on management roles and being in the position of searching for new recruits for my team, I have noticed, however, that fewer women apply. And often, women apply for more junior roles than what their experience actually merits. Women seem to tend to hold themselves to a very high standard, and to feel that they need to match a job description 100% in order to apply for it. I think we’re too harsh on ourselves that way, and sometimes don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
My family is very academically driven and believes strongly in education. I have friends who got married in their early or mid-20s, in some cases certainly out of the expectation that they take that step. But I had a lot of support for my studies and career. My biggest supporters, and role models as well, have been my father and grandfather! The women in my family were very encouraging too. In the course of my career so far, I’ve also had a wonderful role model and mentor in a boss I had in the UK tech industry. She played a big part in how I thought about my career.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
There were voices outside my family that expected me to do something more traditionally female, but no, fortunately no one ever really stopped me from pursuing my true interests and ambitions.
My family is very academically driven and believes strongly in education.
A day in Richa’s life
I lead the data analytics team at the European wealth management fintech Raisin DS (formerly Raisin). Our mission is to answer any business question that comes up analytically, in order to understand what is happening in the company, why it’s happening, and by analysing data, using all the available technology, to predict what might happen in the future. We look at how data comes to our platform, we do warehousing, we slice and dice the data to analyse it. We look at how we can align to help both the company as a whole and individual departments achieve their various goals, through data and our understanding of it. We were a team of five people, but currently expanding due to a merger.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Every decision the company makes using data is a value add and I’m proud that we’ve been able to deliver that. When you look at the monetary and non-monetary impact of data on the company, it’s very rewarding. It’s an exciting place to be, demonstrating the impact of data-driven decision-making, and driving big changes in how decisions get made.
Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?
This is such a complex question, but certainly cultural expectations play a big role, and educational opportunity is involved as well. Girls don’t always get a chance to get excited about tech, to get exposure and real insight into the field at an early age. We definitely didn’t when I was a kid, but I know it’s different, culture to culture – and hopefully improving!
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
In a male-dominated profession, one challenge for women is networking. For instance, it’s important to be able to reach out to people and discuss work and career topics at a lunch or an after-work meeting. But when women reach out to men, even when the communication is clearly about work or career, there can sometimes be an expectation that something else… unrelated to work… is going on!
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic and cultural) impact?
Come be part of the journey that we’re on in data analytics! If you find that you’re more numbers-oriented, follow that instinct.
From a data analytics point of view, where we have to do stakeholder management, it does seem like women often bring more developed coordination and communication skills to bear. Perhaps women feel more permitted, culturally, to approach work with more feeling and passion too. Applying these kinds of “soft skills” can make an enormous difference, to the productivity of a team, the clarity of communications, motivation, and beyond the “human/feeling” aspects, to bringing other kinds of insight to our analysis and making it better. But these qualities could be equally as strong in men, if the culture allowed men to develop them more.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
We’re already seeing results! Many companies are aiming to become more diverse, and to make specific teams – for instance, in tech – more diverse. I think that’s happening with respect to gender, and also means bringing people on from a wider range of backgrounds, nationalities, and so on. When it comes to women not earning equal pay for equal work, I also think any discussion of the topic sheds light on it, which in turn can only help. I don’t think we’re very far away now from having really integrated, diverse workplaces. The discussion has traction everywhere, and positive changes are occurring on every level.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?
Things change constantly, and if the idea of being part of that change excites you – the idea of making a real impact on a business – then tech is a great field to be in. Come be part of the journey that we’re on in data analytics! If you find that you’re more numbers-oriented, follow that instinct. If you’re more tech-oriented, don’t hesitate to study it. You’ll find lots of opportunities!
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