Mimi KeshaniMimi read Natural Sciences (focussing on Chemistry and Physics of materials) for her undergrad at UCL, followed by a masters in Nanotechnology from the University of Cambridge.

After becoming enamoured with the world of startups, she moved out of the lab into software and has been working in Product roles ever since. She is now VP Operations at Hadean Supercomputing – a deep tech startup creating a platform to make distributed computing effortless.

It’s the best of both worlds for Mimi – she gets to work on thrilling projects like games and hardcore research. Standout achievements include running EVE: Aether Wars – a series of scale tests with CCPs – including breaking their world record for the most connected players in a game and publishing a research paper with researchers at the Francis Crick Institute on protein-protein interactions.

She is now leading other projects in this space – including modelling how SARS-COV-2 transmits within the body and UK transport networks and investigating the contact tracing algorithms with epidemiologists from Imperial via the Royal Society RAMP initiative.

What does it mean to you being a woman in tech?

I really consider myself a ‘person’ in tech, and someone who is fortunate to work in an area I find endlessly fascinating that underpins nearly every industry in the modern world. If there is any truth to the adage “you cannot be what you cannot see” then I am happy to be recognised as a ‘woman in tech’ in the hope that there isn’t a need to ask future generations about their intersectional experiences.

How does it feel working in a male dominated field?

As I moved from physics to software I haven’t really known anything different! There are times where I have felt like an outsider to the “boys club” and, I’m not sure if this is just a product of getting older, but I’ve stopped trying to be something I’m not to fit in. I’ve found being my authentic self makes me happier and more effective.

Was working in technology your first career choice?

I thought I wanted to be a scientist working on amazing materials that would improve the quality of people’s lives. However, a few months into a PhD working with Graphene I realised that the multi-year development cycles from ideation to product in industrial manufacturing wasn’t for me. I was lucky to be at Cambridge where I had had my eyes opened to the world of software startups and entrepreneurship. Learning concepts like the ‘lean startup’ (which had just come out back then) where you could get products in a users’ hands in mere days, if not hours, got me hooked.

What made you choose this job role?

I love interesting tech but I’m most passionate about building a business and its people. In the early stages of a startup you really need lots of competent generalists – people who can wear many hats, and move fluidly between roles (and potentially departments) as the company scales. My experience of doing this at three startups has meant that Operations is the right fit for me at Hadean’s current company lifecycle stage. It’s a place I can work to proactively solve problems and grow the business, but as a deeptech company there is still a lot of Product related work I can get involved in.

When you were looking at going into such a male-dominated industry, was this off-putting?

Honestly, this never occurred to me. Internal motivations are what led me to tech, I wanted a career where work doesn’t feel like work and so followed my passions.

What advice would you give for a woman wanting to go into the tech industry?

Find people working on things you are interested in to learn from. Speak to them about what their work involves day to day. Mentors, male or female are great, but you can learn a lot from peers too. When I was starting out I went to lots of events/meetups to meet people and just absorb.

Who is your female in tech inspiration and why?

I once met Professor Alice Gast, a chemical engineer who had just become the first female president of Imperial College London. She spoke to us, a room of early career women, in a grand room that she pointed out was filled with portraits of men. Her talk was refreshing and inspirational, she reminded us that as women in STEM we have a responsibility to be visible, to support each other, and to be agents of change.

What steps do you think should be taken to attract more women in tech?

It’s slowly getting better but there is still definitely a pipeline problem – not enough women are studying STEM subjects, or applying for roles in tech companies. One of the reasons I do interviews like this is to show young women that are even vaguely interested in tech that there is space in this industry for all kinds of people. As Prof Gast said to me “being visible is a powerful way to break down stereotypes.”

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here