Inspirational Woman: Kadri Salu | Mapping Technicians Team Lead, Starship Technologies

Kadri SaluKadri started her career at Starship as a Robot Handler back in 2017, walking behind robots on the street to ensure they are safe.

Kadri was the first individual to work full-time in this role, walking around 35km a day. After a year, Kadri applied to join the mapping team, working first as a specialist, then as a coordinator and now as a team lead within Starship’s greatly expanding team – all within four years.

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

Despite working in a tech role, my background is actually not related to tech at all.  At university I studied youth work and worked in that field for years. I’ve been an activity leader in a basic school, fire prevention specialist in Estonian rescue service, youth worker in various youth centres and a manager in one.

I also studied textile works. It was during those studies that I quit youth work and started to wonder what I should do next. It didn’t take long for me to find the ad for a Robot Handler position at Starship. I’d always been interested in technology, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The most planning I have done was during high school when choosing what to study at university. After that, I have mostly intuitively ‘gone with the flow’. Plans always change, especially in today’s world, so I don’t spend too much time mapping things out.  You can never be sure what will happen next week, or even tomorrow, let alone in a few years.

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

Having worked in several roles and industries throughout my life, there have certainly been some challenges along the way. One of the most important things is to remember not to stress about things you can’t change. It’s necessary to find out what the issue is and then to decide whether it’s something that can be changed/fixed or perhaps it’s just better to start looking for new challenges for yourself – both very viable options.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think that would be my current position. I started from the very bottom – when joining the company, I knew nothing about robots but I’ve worked hard and learned a lot along the way and I’m very happy where I currently am.

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

I’d say my stubbornness, conscientiousness and good work ethics. When I have a goal or target, I work hard to make it happen. I hate when something is left unfinished or done halfway. Another one of my strong beliefs is that communication is key – for everything.

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

For a person like me, who has no tech background, I’d say don’t be afraid to step into something completely new. It’s good to start from the bottom because you really can learn a lot along the way and that makes moving forward easier. Take the time to learn things deeply and work hard to improve yourself and to contribute more. And once again – communication is key!

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

Whilst it’s different for everyone, in my experience, there haven’t been. I believe that, for the most part, if one puts their mind to the matter, they can achieve anything. I feel that it’s primarily still dependent on one’s personal contribution and motivation.

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

Equal treatment seems obvious but when women are heavily outnumbered it’s important to remember their specific needs and, crucially, their differences.

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’d encourage the women to take the plunge and be more daring, looking past the old norms. It could still be very different based on countries, cultures and different work environments, but acceptance in all regards is so important, not only regarding women in tech, but among all sorts of minority groups. For example, women in higher positions can definitely have their influence.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’d be interested to hear some good examples myself!