Women founders in tech: Vinita Rathi

workingmums.co.uk speaks to Vinita Rathi, winner of this year’s FDM everywoman in Technology Entrepreneur Award.

2023 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel. 9th March 2023. Photograph by Steve Dunlop www.stevedunlop.com [email protected]

Vinita Rathi says she has always been someone who does things differently. That approach has stood her in good stead as the founder and CEO of a thriving tech company in a field that is very much male-dominated. From her student years as one of only a handful of women engineers to starting up her own company and encountering only male investors she has had to take risks and prove herself.

Her success has recently been recognised at the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards where she won the Entrepreneur Award.

But Vinita’s ambitions don’t just stop with her own company. While she has long dedicated time to encouraging more women into tech, she is also keen to do more to stop those women engineers who are in the sector from dropping out through promoting more positive role models and telling her own story.

From university to Goldman Sachs

From the outset Vinita has had to push the boundaries. In the city she grew up in – Indore in Madhya Pradesh – the options for graduates were mainly limited to medicine and IT so she did her undergraduate degree in engineering with a specialism in information technology. Only around 5% of the class were women, however.  Vinita says her interest in IT developed from an early age after her dad brought computers into the home. Nevertheless, her family was very conservative, as were social attitudes where she grew up, and women were not expected to go to university or get a career. Vinita, however, was not put off.

After graduating she worked for a local IT firm before getting married. Her husband, who she met at university, did his master’s at the University of Kent and got a job in the UK. Vinita joined him and got a job as a consultant at Goldman Sachs in 2007. After five years she had been promoted to executive Vice President level just before her first son was born in 2011. Maternity leave gave her pause to reflect on what she wanted. “In my head I was calculating that if I spend another 10 years at Goldman Sachs I could become a managing director. But there was a danger I could become too comfortable there. If I wanted to take a risk and do something different, now was the time,” she says, adding that having a child made her much more mature and gave her the confidence to move outside her comfort zone.

Start-up

She left her job and dedicated herself full time to founding her company Systango, a specialised software studio that offers enterprise-class IT and product engineering services to different sized organisations. In all of this she was supported by her husband who also had a background in IT consulting and services. Through a former colleague at Goldman Sachs Vinita was introduced to a company which had a contract in India and needed someone to deliver on the software side. With a first client under her belt, Vinita grew an office in her home town and began hiring staff. Having that first client opened the door to others and she has been able to gradually expand ever since through networking and word of mouth.  Her husband now works full time in the business and runs it with her. The company has 330 staff, most of them in India, but eight are in the UK office and two in Washington DC. Despite all the turbulence of the last years, Vinita has been able to keep growing, mainly because what she offers is very cost effective and because the company covers not just website development but also more complex areas such as blockchain, Web3, Internet of Things, Chatbots, UI/UX design and Cloud Engineering.

Vinita has been keen to ensure there is a good balance of women and men in her company. Around 40% of her engineers are women. “I make it a point to have a decent spread of women at all levels when I am hiring and I really take pride in the fact that no women engineers have left the business as a result of going on maternity leave,” says Vinita. She thinks this is because of the culture and conversations within the business and because of role models such as herself, who are happy to share their own experiences and challenges honestly. “Women can see that if I can do it with two boys then anyone who has the aspiration should be able to do it,” she states.

Getting more women into tech and keeping them

Vinita says the last few years have been a learning experience for her. One challenge she has learnt to deal with is recruitment, particularly across different geographical areas with different cultures. But one of the main ones has been the attitudes to women in the tech sector.  She says the sector seems to find it difficult to accept a woman founder who understands technology. “I have had people who have walked into meeting rooms with me and asked the men in the room who the CEO is without looking at me. There have definitely been instances where I have had to prove my worth both inside the organisation and outside and work twice as hard as the men to make sure everything is spot on. It can take some time,” she says. Another challenge is the attitude of investors. Vinita has never come up before a female investor. She recalls one occasion where a male investor raised the fact that he never sees any female CEOs with a knowledge of tech. “Acknowledging that is a first step towards finding a solution,” she states.

Vinita is keen to make a difference and increase the number of women in tech. She has been involved with Google Women Techmakers London since 2015 and is director of the London branch of Women Who Code.

In the last year and half her focus has been on getting Systango publicly listed and on expansion, but she would like to do more work in the future to boost the number of women in senior roles in tech companies. “While there is a problem getting more girls into technology, there is also a big issue with women dropping out higher up the ladder. We need more senior female role models,” she says. “If I had had a good female role model I think I would be much further ahead in my career now. I feel I am now at a point where I can do more to nurture women at mid-executive level more. She hopes that the everywoman award will help with this. She states: “All the women in my company and beyond will see that, if I can do it, so can they.”



Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection

image

title

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now


You may be interested in these similar franchises