Meet the Tech Woman: Vinthujah Balasubramaniam

Why your first career does not have to be your forever one… The story of Vinthujah, a woman in tech. 

More often than you think, people do not end up choosing the career path that they studied for or thought they would go into in the first place. It is totally okay to gain experience in several different jobs to realise what you really want for your career, and someone who did this is Vinthujah. She studied law and wanted to become a lawyer, but made a 180 degree switch to tech. We talked to her to find out more about this interesting career path.

Hi Vinthujah, could you introduce yourself?

My name is Vinthujah, I’m a dreamer, I’m adventurous and I’m infinitely curious. I have a love for helping people, realising their potential and creating a positive impact on the community, the world. I was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Canada, and now I live in Amsterdam. I’m a mix of various cultures so I have a mix of perspectives and it really helps me connect with people of diverse backgrounds. 

What was your career path like so far?

My career path has been quite interesting. I studied law and interned at the Parliament of Canada for a senator. Originally I wanted to be in politics: I thought I would be the prime minister some day. Overall, I knew I wanted to learn more about the world. Right out of university I started working as an auditor for the federal government. I did not like it. I knew there was something else that I wanted. So I hopped on a flight and I went to Brussels. I fell in love with Europe and I knew i always wanted to be back, but I had to go back to Canada to start my career and started back in audit. Then I realised that money isn’t everything: I made a lot but I was still not happy. My brother saw that I had ideas and then would go to a cafe and figure out how I could build those. He told me that this was actually product management. So then I started working in product management and health tech. I love this and I’m still working in this industry right now, as a product manager for a FinTech startup.

I realised that money isn’t everything: I made a lot but I was still not happy. 

What does your day-to-day look like at work?

My day-to-day is very interesting. I could be working on very typical product management work which is working closely with engineers, getting development work ready, writing up requirements, feeding it to them and helping them understand what our biggest customer pinpoint is. Then I facilitate the discussion on how we can build this in a way that’s feasible and reasonable. I guide our product designer and I also work cross-functional with different teams. 

What’s your favourite thing about working in tech? 

The big thing that I like about working in tech is that I really believe that tech has such a huge power to solve massive problems. Tech allows you to solve problems on a larger scale and create a larger impact. What I love about working in tech on a day-to-day basis is that I really get to see people’s ideas come to live. We see the problem and right away everyone is shooting ideas on how we actually implement this. Being able to see the result of it is super rewarding. 

What I love about working in tech on a day-to-day basis is that I really get to see people’s ideas come to live.

Career-wise, what are your dreams for the future? 

I want to be a tech founder. Currently, I work as the chief product officer for a platform for the solo female traveler. Working in these kind of environments makes me realise that I want to start my own tech startup. I want to build an amazing team that is super talented, working together to solve a problem that could really help change a lot of people’s lives. With that, I want to be able to give back with my knowledge and help other people do the same. I love working with women and the ‘underdogs’: the ones who historically did not have the chance to really rise up and build something impactful, changing their lives and others. Working on my own tech startup and helping others to the same. That is what I want. 

Why do you think we need more women in tech? 

I think tech is one of the most powerful areas in society and a lot of tech products and companies are built without the perspective of women, half the population. When you build such powerful products and companies without half the population’s perspective it creates a lot of issues, challenges, and more inequalities. Take the example of seatbelts. Seatbelts were created without really considering enough data of women. They built a seatbelt that protected men more, and women were more likely to die in an accident. If I think about this, I think this is why we need to have a larger amount of women in tech so we eliminate these kinds of problems. 

When you build such powerful products and companies without half the population’s perspective it creates a lot of issues, challenges, and more inequalities.

What’s your advice to women who want to switch careers in tech or start a career in tech but are still hesitant about it? 

First, I would understand where this hesitancy comes from. It is important to narrow down what is preventing them. The second, and most important thing, is to network. Sometimes people get jobs because they are liked as a person, not because they are most qualified. I got almost all of my jobs through my network, not through an application. The third thing is your belief in yourself. I didn’t believe that I deserved the highest salary or the most responsibilities and because of that I couldn’t really negotiate. I always undersold myself: I don’t have any experience in tech so I should accept the lowest amount of income. This is not true, because tech is very versatile and your transferable skills actually make a difference. I think you can definitely start from where you are and use what you already know, to get a really good job in tech.

 

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