Natalia Pereldik

Natalia Pereldik is Co-Founder and CEO of Funexpected LTD, developer of the Funexpected Math app, which aims to help children aged three-seven years acquire mathematical thinking, and become comfortable with math from an early age.

Following a career in the investment banking industry that spanned over 15 years, Natalia Pereldik co-founded Funexpected in 2018, and is responsible for managing the overall operations of the company.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Natalia Pereldik – Co-Founder of Funexpected company and the Funexpected Math app, which helps kids aged 3-7 years acquire mathematical thinking, and become comfortable with math from an early age.

After graduating in 2003, specialising in Mathematics, I went on to study the same subject at MA level. I spent the following 15 years in investment banking, and worked my way up to Executive Director level. However, once my first child turned three years old, I realised that I still had a huge amount of passion and love for mathematics, and co-founded Funexpected with a former classmate of mine, Alexandra Kazilo. Together we developed the Funexpected Math app.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. Five years ago, if you had asked me what I would be doing in the next few years, I would never have thought I would be the Co-Founder of a company making educational products for children!

This spontaneity might have stemmed from the fact that I am genuinely interested in a wide range of quite differing fields. At school, I wanted to become a journalist, then changed my mind to a theatre actor – before finally opting to go into mathematics.

While I was at university, I understood that I was never meant to be a researcher, and switched my gaze and started studying economics. It was at this point where I decided to go into investment banking. Those years in particular were very exciting, but after my second child was born I felt that it was time for  a change – and that’s when I decided to become an entrepreneur.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I definitely have, but I guess this is true for most careers. I would say that the biggest challenges for myself came with co-founding the company. Though in the years leading up to Funexpected, I was working in quite a tough industry, I still needed to get used to the amount of failures that an entrepreneur faces. It took a lot of grit and determination – but you get used to it eventually and we got there in the end.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without a doubt, Funexpected has been my biggest career achievement. We are still a young and small company, but more than 100,000 families worldwide have installed our app already. I am extremely proud of our team, and so grateful to the parents and families who have chosen to use our app.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

My family. They have always believed in me and I have enormous support from my husband and kids in everything I do.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Firstly I would say that you have to be ready to learn constantly. Fields and industries are changing so rapidly that you can’t afford not to. I would also advise anyone to find great mentors. I would say this is universal for any career – learn from people. Not only will they teach you what they know, but they are likely to inspire you as well.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Unfortunately, I think there are, and they begin at childhood – from families and in school. Many still believe – and support – the idea that their daughters are not very well suited to STEM. Sometimes, this is a subconscious decision. A parent or teacher will be trying to support a child while she is struggling with her work, telling her phrases like “Oh, that’s okay, you just aren’t a maths person.” And the girls just lose all enthusiasm for the subject.

Then again, the percentage of women in the STEM industry is low, and quite often girls feel that they need to be really ‘outstanding’ to be successful. I think that the more women role models we see, the sooner we will move away from gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, it’s still going to take some time before we get there.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

For now, I believe that it is very important to ensure that there is a healthy percentage of women in different teams. We need initiatives that help women to find mentors and support their move to more senior positions.

It’s also imperative that we work with children and the educational system, that we speak with parents and change this bias (subconscious or not) in their attitude towards their children. Very often, we find that a kid’s opinion of mathematics, for example, is already decided upon by the time they are 12-13 years old. It’s so important to show children different opportunities and scenarios before that.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

To change this biased attitude that many have about girls being bad in STEM fields.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Personally, I take inspiration in reading about the paths of other women and in speaking with them about their experiences..

There is a great group on Facebook called Female Founders Community, where female founders of businesses across the world come together to share their experiences and offer advice for others.

There are also some really interesting TED talks that discuss the roles of women in tech in great depths. Two I would specifically recommend would be ‘Why do ambitious women have flat heads?’, given by Dame Stephanie Shirley, and ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ from Sheryl Sandberg.

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