Veena Giridhar GopalI grew up in India and qualified as an accountant in Botswana, where I spent several years consulting for companies including retail and consumer goods companies.

After business school at INSEAD in France, I moved to the UK to work with Pepsi and then stayed. I worked in the food & beverages sector across several roles, ranging from finance to market entry and sales. I am currently the CEO of salesBeat (also a co-founder) and look after anything that is not related to technology. So that includes sales, marketing, strategy, finance, investor relations, HR etc.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I used to in the early days, but c. 10 years ago, I stopped. I learned that life happens and the best thing you can do is to equip yourself with the skills to deal with anything and everything that life throws at you.

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

The biggest challenge I faced was when I moved from a corporate development and strategy focussed role into a sales leadership role, when I had no prior experience in Sales. I overcame this by asking for help from my mentors and also from my then line manager. I also asked old team members and colleagues if I could shadow them for a few days to learn from them.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Raising a pre-seed sound for salesBeat and getting buy-in from Industry professionals has been my biggest career achievement to date. Also, we have a 50% female tech team and salesBeat as a whole is 67% women.

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

Perseverance. I do not believe in giving up.

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

Always stay one step ahead of today. In this sector, if you are not a pioneer or a thought leader, you’ll always be chasing old tech.

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

Having come from India, where I was applying to (and encouraged by everyone around me to apply to) engineering universities, to the UK, where far fewer women think of the sciences as a viable career option, I believe it is the mindset that needs to change first. I first came across the mindset that men may be a better fit for STEM, here in the UK. Interestingly enough, there are several studies that show that there are more women in STEM in emerging markets than in ‘developed’ markets. So it is the mindset that needs changing first.

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

Flexible work is the most critical support companies can provide. This is already happening due to the pandemic. But flexibility should not just mean work from home. It is about providing the flexibility to work from home when needed and come into the office/site when needed. Flexible work is about timings as well. Unless the role is as an on-site engineer at a manufacturing facility, or needs the person to be around for specific times at specific locations because of the nature of the job (mines/power generation/rigs etc), companies need to be more accepting of flexible times as well. This not only encourages more women to consider these roles, but it increases productivity when people work when they are at their best, not according to when their contract dictates.

There are currently only 21 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?

I would start at the beginning – Schools and homes. Where the message would be that girls are as good as boys when it comes to the sciences and mathematics.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Diva tech talk & Women who test are both great podcasts for women in tech. There is a whatsapp group for women in tech and has members from around Europe, that I’m a part of. We get together whenever possible at start-up events like Web Summit and other technology focussed events.