Today we continue our celebration of Women’s History Month. Throughout March, we’re sharing the experiences and perspectives of four Fivetran women. Based in Bengaluru, Dublin and Oakland, they’re natural leaders who make Fivetran a stronger company and a better place to work. We asked for their thoughts on a range of issues, including how to sustain professional growth, where to look for career inspiration, and what advice they would give to their younger selves.
Last week we heard from Lead Customer Success Engineer Kiran Sharma; today we’re checking in with Senior Analytics Technical Product Manager Veronica Zhai.
Can you talk about a woman who’s had a positive impact on your career?
Definitely my mother. The two biggest lessons that she instilled in my life are to expect the highest level of excellence from yourself in everything, and to be independent. One example that jumps to mind is from my time in middle school, when my writing was not as good as my peers’ because I had skipped a grade and was younger. My mom found me a tutor and made sure that I worked on my weakness, and a few years later writing became one of my strongest subjects, which benefitted me for life.
In terms of independence, she has always been supportive of every single choice that I made, without meddling. I’m from China, and she gave me an incredible amount of ownership over my choices compared to my peers. I was just 17 when I decided I wanted to study abroad. My father thought I was too young, but my mother was completely supportive of me choosing to come to America, and all of the decisions I have made since coming here without ever trying to influence them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The first piece of advice I would give to my younger self is that life is not linear and there are going to be challenges, more so when you are a minority, whether you’re a woman, immigrant, or a person of color, but you will get to where you want to be if you have strong faith, work hard and persist.
The second bit of advice for my younger self is to treat every obstacle as an opportunity to learn a useful skill, whether it’s having a challenging boss, being in an unfriendly working environment, encountering difficult subject matter, or something else. Sometimes I like to think of myself as being in a video game, and needing to overcome the obstacles ahead of me. If you don't overcome an obstacle now, you will encounter it again in the future. Obstacles are opportunities that enable us to grow and be better people.
How do you continue to grow professionally?
There are two things that help with professional growth. The first is reading - I have found that there's no problem so novel that I can't find a book by some wise author who has done it successfully. So, on average I read a book every week or every two weeks.
The second source is through networking with other data professionals and making sure I’m keeping up with the latest best practices and developments in the industry. One way I do this is by reaching out to other analytics professionals on LinkedIn. I also try to attend industry conferences. The third way is by joining social networks - in my case one like Locally Optimistic - that is related to my subject matter expertise.
Who do you draw inspiration from today?
A great friend of mine, Aly Murray, who I met during the sales and trading internship at J.P. Morgan. She's been a huge inspiration in terms of contributing to society. She came from a low-income, single-parent household. She always got straight As, but because she didn't have the resources growing up, she didn't know how to navigate the higher education system. She went to a community college first, then got a scholarship to transfer to an Ivy League college and became a star analyst at J.P. Morgan. Despite a fantastic career, she quit and devoted herself to start a non-profit organization, UPchieve, that offers low-income students access to free, 24/7 on-demand STEM tutoring, the kinds of academic resources she didn’t have. Aly is a stellar example of how even though there are many challenges in life, there are successful women like her who will make a big splash in life when they approach life with incredible imagination, drive, and perseverance.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in tech?
I can see myself becoming an entrepreneur, solving some complex problems or investing in minority-led businesses. I enjoy thinking about how complex systems and people work. So I would find a lot of joy and meaning in inventing or tinkering with large-scale systems.