When we started the series of interviews with women in STEM, our goal was to show how different and exciting their paths can be. We’ve talked to a VR filmmaker, database administrator, scientist, software engineer working at CERN and other successful women from around the world. Today we are happy to publish our interview with Anu Ylänen from the startup environment. Anu, who comes from Finland, is a product specialist working at Batmaid in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What do you like about your job?
Everything! My job at the Batmaid’s tech team is full of interesting challenges. The best part is that no day is identical to the previous day, and there is always something new to tackle.
Batmaid provides a platform for on-demand home cleaning services, and has only recently proceeded from the critical startup phase to the next phase. So now it seems only the sky’s the limit. I have always felt I have a lot of options and learning opportunities here, as the company is very ambitious.
I started in quality assurance, but I have been doing various other things as well and currently I’m identifying myself as a product specialist. I have also started doing my MSc degree in Interaction Design, with 100% support from my employer, of course (which is yet another reason why I like my job).
Why have you decided to pursue a career in this field? What was your inspiration?
I have always been interested in what’s behind the hood and how digital services are being built. That led me from some early business studies to the localization industry and finally to the tech industry, where I have felt most at home. My career definitely hasn’t been straightforward, and therefore I would say my inspiration has always been in continuous learning and exploring.
My dad has also given me some inspiration. He has always reminded me to keep him in my mind when building new features on our platform: digital services need to be easy to use, simple and clear. Everyone, old and young, should have the right to enjoy great user experiences and use the web without getting frustrated or confused.
Do you have role models?
I feel like I can learn every day from a wide variety of people, so I don’t really have a role model in the traditional sense. During my time at Batmaid, I have been inspired by the cleaning professionals who have the courage to go to other people’s homes to clean their houses and help them in their busy lives. That’s important work and shouldn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
In general, I admire people who are able to lift people up, instead of pushing them down, and who can inspire others.
Did you have a turning point in your career?
The most significant turning point in my career was when I decided to leave a stable and well-paid job and join a startup which was (back then) operating from the CEO’s living room. It was a leap of faith in a situation where I was a little bit stuck professionally, and not sure what I wanted to do with my career. I have never regretted this decision.
What do you think is one example of one way you have enjoyed your human rights, in learning or at work?
I am from Finland, so I was very lucky to go through one of the best education systems in the world.
The right to education is the most important human right, in my opinion.
Are there any challenges facing women in your educational or work settings, and if so, what do you see as one possible solution?
Yes. I am the only woman in the tech team of Batmaid, and even in my previous workplaces, the setting was often similar: a very male-oriented workforce with only a minority of women. This is of course not ideal.
In order to create outstanding digital services, it is necessary to have a well-balanced mixture of ages, personalities and genders in the team.
In the recent years, when the example has been sent to us by the openly misogynist Silicon Valley companies, it cannot lead to anything good in the long run. However, the world is slowly changing. The solution has always been to speak out, support each other and show our potential.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone just starting in your field?
My advice for girls and women starting in the tech industry: you are perfect the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you work hard, learn, fail, learn from your mistakes and get up again, you will do just fine, and that should be enough. You don’t need to be something you are not, just to fit the male-dominated tech industry. Instead, you can be the one to change it!
Also, the tech industry doesn’t just mean programming somewhere in the dark basement. It’s no longer some sort of wizardry – it’s taught in the elementary school! Nowadays it seems like half of our lives are online. This means excellent opportunities for the tech industry in the future. You can contribute to building that future, too.