Meet & Greet with VTS by Devika Maharaj Sorren Isler Daphne Lee Isabella Wang

Video Transcription

Hi, everybody. Thanks so much for joining our session to get to know some of the women at bps that hold positions across engineering, product and design and to just listen into our discussion.Uh We're here to really touch on some of the professional experiences of um the woman on our panel as women in tech. Um We're also going to talk about what signals to look for um to see if a company does have a supportive work culture and we'll end off with some advice from our panel um as well as opening up to Q and A. So I'll just start off um with a quick intro to myself as well as BT X. Um I'm myself, my name is Louisa. Um I'm a talent acquisition manager here at VTS and I'll be moderate mode, moderating our discussion. And um essentially all of us were part of VTS, which is uh the number one South solution for commercial real estate as well as the fastest growing prop tech company globally. Um So that is a little bit of context for myself, but I'll pass it over to our panel to introduce themselves briefly.

Yeah, I can Start. Um, hi, my name is Daphne. I'm a software engineer at BT S and I actually come from, um, also not nontraditional background. I transitioned into this career and luckily BT S offered me this opportunity to, uh, start off full time, um, in this role. So it's been a blast.

Hey. Oh, sorry. Can you guys hear that? Like the echo? No, you're good. Ok. For the last sec. Uh, my name is De. Uh I've been at UT si guess now for a year ish, I was in a company called Lane. Uh and then you got acquired by VTS. So yeah, I'm also a software developer. So,

hey, this is Isabella. I am a product designer. Uh So I graduated from college in 2020 I studied communication design at Parsons School of Design and my major can lead naturally transit into a design role and BT S helps me to um be a design specialist in design systems. So I'm grateful for this experience letting me uh have a specialty in product design.

Awesome. Uh And then I can end off. My name is son. I'm a senior PM at BT S working with the mobile team and platform experiences. I began my career in marketing in Halifax, Nova Scotia before moving to Montreal, then Toronto and then transitioning to product management. Um And I now have 7/7 years experience in product and continue to love it.

Amazing. So we have a a diverse group here that can give us insight into all of their um experiences as women at BT S, but also just in the work place in general. So um I'll start off by asking the question to our panel. How has being a woman affected your professional journey?

Um Yeah, I can start off with this question. Um I think especially being a woman just in the workforce. Uh It feels like we always have to work 10 times harder to establish our professional identity just because of like the usual gender norms, right? Um Especially if you're looking for more leadership or authoritative role, it takes a lot more for people to, I guess, deviate from their unconscious bias of what typically someone of leadership looks like. Um So I felt that for sure. And I can tell you uh it definitely uh we will have to work harder, but it's not necessarily a bad thing, bad thing. I think that also the, the results show for themselves uh Once you do have that established.

Yeah, I absolutely, I absolutely agree. Um I know, like for an example when I first started out, I was coming out of university, I'd like gone from like a very low GPA to a high GPA. I had like confidence. I was feeling strong. I started my role and then like I was told that my emails were too stern and too serious and I was like, I'm just, I'm writing words, what, what do I do with this? So I just start putting like smiley faces in and, and that sort of thing to like, calm it, calm it down, I suppose. And then later in my career in my first product role, um my CTO first time was my manager once removed. So we would meet every six months and I asked him like, he was a very candid person. So I was like, can you tell me like, what my brand is, how people see me? And he like paused and then he was like, ok, so when I first met you, my understanding was that you were a very nice girl and I was like, uh this does not sound good. And he, he uh he was like, you know, shame on, shame on me for saying that because I've worked with you now and I was not giving you the credit you deserved.

And I've seen through your work that you are a leader and you have led this team to success where before it couldn't succeed. And it was just, um he, he basically said, you know, it was a learning for him. So I think to that his point, it's just like being a woman definitely affects you uh as you're navigating through the workforce. And um and you just do it to the best of your ability and it's really hard because you don't know how people are going to see you or not see you. Um But you, you work with what you have and, and you try and turn those people into allies. He, he became one of my strongest allies and one of my strongest mentor relationships.

Yeah, that is, oh, ok. That is super true. Um I also find that like, it also affects like the way you see yourself because like, obviously you're being exposed to, like everyone's opinion of you honestly. Like we work more than we live kind of like, like eight hours a day. It's, it's a, it's a hefty amount of time. And I think like, personally i it and it resulted in me being like really guarded in, in just general, even like in my personal life, I was like, what are your assumptions of me? And how can I prove that? Like, I am this person that I think I am right? Like just, I don't know, lots of complement which is never healthy.

Yeah, I agree with everything. Uh Everyone just said and also another thing, it's like um our society and like traditional value, it's like teaching girls to be this like submissive role being like always uh like just quiet, um don't speak up, do what people want you to do. That's the quality that workforce doesn't um appreciate, especially if you want to be in a leader role, you uh they want opposite quality and after you start to work, you start to uh looking to be a leader and sometimes there is this identity crisis like who am I?

These are all really great points. And I think a really big takeaway um from a lot of what everyone mentioned is, I I think overall people just need to feel comfortable showing up as themselves and not always think about how they might be perceived or portrayed. Of course, like there is an aspect to that, but everyone should feel comfortable to show up as their authentic selves. So that leads me to my next question. What does bring your full self to work really mean to you?

This is my favorite question of the panel. Um cause it's kind of like a full circle moment for me because as I said before, like, I don't know, I create like this almost like this work persona around me. It's like basically just what people call walls, right? Like this, this thing that even if people say something bad about me or say something offensive about me, it's not really about me. It's about this person that I'm putting um you know, up for judgment if that makes any sense. But something that I found is like, it's a lot healthier for me to just stay really true to like my values and like my, my vibes, like I don't, I try not to compromise, especially when it comes to my ideologies or how I'm gonna like treat people like I think it's software engineering.

I found myself putting this really a lot of male or masculine energy around me because I thought that's what I needed to, like, fit in. So I wouldn't be nice to people. I wouldn't be like, I would do things that are unnatural to me just so I can fit in with like, the, the mold. And once I stopped doing that, like, I think I started number one being a lot more successful in my career and I just, you know, I started enjoying work again, which is something that I hadn't done since, you know, school. Uh, yeah.

Yeah, I think, um, I think for me bringing my full self to work, it's, it's very similar to what Dev said. It's really, like, not shying away from who I am. Um, I know I've gotten feedback in the past where if this is really from folks who have just met me, um, where they feel like I hold back or maybe I'm not confident, confident enough to say my opinion. And that might have been true early on, uh, relevant to the topic. We just talked about how, how is being a woman affected you. But it hasn't been true for like the last 10 years. Um, I have very strong opinions but I really believe in that saying strong opinions loosely held because I also have a really strong team and the product that I can build myself is a fraction of the product I can build with all the expertise on that team and then all the insights from my stakeholders.

So I like making space for that. I don't want to go into a room and say this is what I think and then have somebody who might not feel comfortable saying their opinion, not speaking up. And then all of a sudden, we've missed out on that opportunity. And I think if I was a man, they probably wouldn't assume that I just wasn't confident enough to say my thing. They would understand that this is my approach and this is my work style. And I want to make space for collaboration with my teammates and I want to make space for other people's expertise to show through. Um So I just take that risk. Uh Same with level of candidness and openness that's very important to me. Uh And I just take that risk and sometimes I've been burned by it honestly, but I work better when I'm my full self and not trying to hold back.

Yeah, I totally agree. I think um just a common issue just in terms of I think because women probably experience way more imposter syndrome were a lot more likely to tiptoe around situations. And I can just see that from like my peer, female colleagues and I'm like, just say it just, just like put it on the table because I don't wanna try to like read your mind or that's always one of those things. Um and I do have like more of a hot take on what it means to bring your full self to work. I do believe that because of how, um our work is structured, you do have to be careful in the beginning until you build that rapport. Like if you're really loud and aggressive to begin with and, uh, people don't know where you're coming from that might come off the wrong way. But once you have that, I think little by little uh definitely show your full self to work because like, you don't wanna be anyone else, obviously.

Yeah, all great points. I think part of also bringing your full self to work is just feeling comfortable to do so. Um and part of that is just having a supportive work culture. So how would you identify if a company does have a supportive work culture?

Um I actually have a checklist to uh identify whether the company has a supportive ne uh supportive culture. So my top three points are policy past evidence and um if there is a safe place, uh let's say a department or group. Uh so for policy, it's more about like uh is there anything that supports people treating people humanly, like systematically? Like, do they have uh say short term uh disability leave? Do they have paternity leave? Do they have maternity leave? Uh Because without those policies, even if people wants to treat you nicely, they are not able to and the second thing is the past evidence. Um Like, do people actually feel comfortable using those resources? And one of the best way to find out is reaching out to people who has left the company on linkedin. Um Because they don't lie, they don't have the pressure to um paint sugar on the image. And the third thing is safe place. Um So for it, I know it may be like a hard if it's just like uh five people's company. But if there's any chance, like if there's hr that you can reach out to, if there's mentorship program, like a mentor you can reach out to, is there just like a support group like, say LGBT Q uh community in the company?

That's uh it's just essentially a safe place. Um You can talk about things um and uh relieve your frustrations.

Yeah, I um I, Isabella mentioned the checklist. I was just like, that's amazing. Um I, I love that checklist idea. I think those are all um very important things to check on. Um I've worked at a bunch of different companies. I think those things really hold true. Something I've started doing recently. Um And I did when I was interviewing for the role at VTS and a couple other roles was I reflected on my risk. Um So how much risk I think I have uh in asking these questions and then also reflected on the conversations that were happening. Um It was in 2020. It was after the murder of George Floyd. And I was thinking about how I could leverage my privilege um better. And so I included a couple of new questions for myself into the process of interviewing and really made sure I was asking the company questions that I thought were um impactful. And also I wanted hr to, to have a record that people were asking these questions. So one question I asked was how they were supporting their employees in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the anti racism movement. Um I don't think the anti a api hate movement had started at the time I was interviewing but um that's something that I factored in also really just hitting on those things that impact the people I work with and people I care about and myself.

Um And asking that question was, was very enlightening. Most people do not have a good answer. Um And then I would probe further when, when they didn't have a good answer and, and VTS did. And I thought that I was able to see more of their culture and how they address those things and hear some to Isabella's point past evidence that helped support it and then also talk to employees that were working there. And I was lucky to have some candid relationships already established so I could hear more from those people. Um what they thought uh another question I asked, which was like a little, a little less risky was just how they were supporting their employees throughout the pandemic.

Um Also not a lot of good answers. So I think, I think things like that when you really touch on, like what are the very human situations happening where the things are impacting people of the moment and you frame questions around it, you start to see what holds true and what, what might be a bit more of a speaking point.

Um And then when I turned down roles, I referenced, I referenced honestly how, how they answered those questions as part of the, the turning down because um because you don't want to work somewhere that doesn't authentically support their employees. I should say that is really like my measure of my own risk. Not everyone should feel like they can do that based on the stage of my career and some other factors. I, I felt comfortable doing that.

Yeah, these are all really good points. Um I, I guess like you touched on what VTS, you, you thought vts had done, right? Um With respect to um not just these specific issues but potentially also like as a reflection of how they treat their employees. So um kind of extending this question to the rest of the panel. What do you think we have done? Right? In terms of, yeah, how we respect and treat everybody here.

Yeah. Um So to son's point. Uh I think it readily shows a vts where like, even our CEO we very much address like that. There's life outside of work. Whenever something big happens with like, you know, in the glo global scale of world events, we get an email and like a heartfelt, like just thoughts from our CEO or whoever and um any resources for support if needed. And I feel safe talking about these things at work. I don't feel like I have to compartmentalize and block it out because it is part of like our daily experience, right? So I really feel that at ETS, there's a lot of transparency from leadership and we always keep in mind our values. So it's not just something that we list and, you know, brand and like on our career page, like we from, from like every, all hands we'll go over it again and make sure that we are staying aligned with that.

Yeah, I think to add to that, like, I think something that ETS is really well is it sets really realistic expectations? Like, obviously, we just went through a pandemic for us. Uh And everyone was burnt out and like, they really took that into consideration, like I understand how, you know, we cannot put out like 20 features this week because you know, people are on the streets. Um So things like that, which sounds really elemental, but like a lot of people would say like, oh, that's not my problem. Like, work is work.

That's exactly why I laughed when Dev said that because I was like, oh, that was an inappropriate laugh. But the lack of acknowledgment from so many people about what is truly happening is, uh, is astounding and you put it so plainly,

Dev, it was, yeah, it's so normalized though. It's crazy.

Yeah. Yeah, 100%. And I think, you know, uh, beyond, from, beyond looking at, you know, just the company that you're in currently and, you know, generally what you're looking for in other companies, let's say if, you know, if you're in that moment where you're, you're looking for your next role, there's also um you know, beyond your current environment and current situation, there might be um somebody that you look up to that's also affected your career.

Um So I'd love to hear about an influential female figure um in your work life and, and how that's really affected you, whether at ETS or, or beyond.

Um Yeah, so I have like um untraditional idea about that because uh I know when we talk about who impact you, it's always a person um that you're looking up to. But in tech, in tech, I find like some lots of time rather than a single person. It's a collective. Um Like, it's the image that's multiple people that's creates together because in tech, like everything is so moving so fast, a person like a per like what the situation happened 10 years ago may not apply to you at all. Um, and usually I found like people within three years experience are most related to me. Um, so usually I would just check with the, uh, chat with them. Um, and it helps me to know how am I supposed to be treated and, um, also some work related thing, like what's the most efficient way to represent myself? And, uh, how do I deal with certain scenarios? Um Again, because things are uh cha like everything changes and things are moving so fast. Um What's, what's works 10 years ago, uh may not work for you anymore. Um It's almost like no one can step into the same river twice.

OK, definitely. And it kind of to close off our um chat before we go into Q and A. Um Is there any last pieces of advice um You would get for women that are building a network of allies if you don't already have that in place?

Yeah, I think it's a fun one. I think just be aware that everyone's seeking to connect, especially, you know, post pandemic. So be, be vulnerable and be open and like, I don't know, I always find into the state that I'm like, I don't think people are looking up to me. I don't think people really care about my, my input or whatever. So like I'm always like, why are you talking to me? Like I you should be finding someone else that actually knows this thing but, like, sort of be aware that, like, you know, your opinion is valid, you know, like your take is valid, your experience is valid. So I just share it and that's all you can do.

Yeah. I think, I think that openness is so important. I had the same thing where I, I just didn't understand why people were going to me for things. Um But then also, like, just that innate need to help meant that I was just like, OK, I'll see if I can do this. Um And then I got a little bit more practiced at it. And I think when, once I started realizing that I had something to offer, um it made it a lot easier for me to participate in things because like, the idea of a networking event was so intimidating to me. Like, I, I don't have great transitions in, I don't have great transitions out of conversations. They can be very jarring. Uh But I decided that was my brand and I just started going to PM Meet Ups before the pandemic. And I would try to go to uh probably like one or 2 p.m. meet ups a month was my goal. Um And then I would also try and have one or two coffees a month. Usually one of those coffees would be with another PM. Um And then another coffee would just be like if somebody had reached out to me and wanted to chat. I would make space for that too.

And I think the more I made space for it, the more relationships I built and I was able to, to create like very authentic relationships, which was the opposite of what the word networking had in my mind. Um And, and it led to, I actually, it led to my role at VT si ended up meeting my contact who told me about this role at one of those PM meet ups. Um So to Dev's point, like go in being open uh being like not so self critical about what you could share with them. Um And, and go to the meetups worst case scenario, you get to eat some free food and you're just quiet and you stay home. I definitely had like a couple of meetups where I didn't talk to anyone because I was just feeling shy that day. Oh, that's OK.

All great. All great points I think from, you know, just addressing that self doubt to like, what do I have to offer? You have so much to offer that you can give other women to, you know, that practical advice as well of, you know, how you can really put that into action. So, thank you, everybody. I, I want to open it up to Q and A um starting with Francesca. How does the panel feel about the pretty, pretty privilege in the workplace?

Yeah, I think this is a great question that just ex extends beyond gender, right? That's just something if you're just more good looking. Um It totally does exist. Um But coming from a personal standpoint from like transitioning into software engineering, I felt like I had to actually downplay it to fit in, like, not just like be with boys, right? Uh So that was my experience at first and I did feel like for some reason, I felt like it was less distracting to people, right? If all of that was like taken out and I could fit in with the rest of them. But this also goes back to our question about being our genuine self and bringing that to work. Um um I didn't feel like I didn't feel great because I was putting on this persona that wasn't me. Um But I would say it's there. You like anything else in life, you probably try the lever that if in into a way that will work to your advantage point.

Yeah, I agree. It's totally there. But one thing you can do if you feel comfortable doing, it's like you can spot that during the interview, you can see people's reaction, especially if it's in person interview. It's like you can see like people and um yeah, I would say at BT S at my design team, people don't really judge people based on their uh look and um I think I'm pretty happy that I ended up finding a place that people don't really judge by your look, but it totally exists like I understand, just try to identify them and if they don't treat you well, leave.

Oh, great points and do maybe also has a question on um actually the woman in tech networking event that's coming up the in person one, any extra tips on how to network and not be awkward at the networking event. Um You know, we've gotten used to having virtual coffee chats since the pandemic. So obviously there's another level to be in person and we do have a minute. So we'll try our best to answer that. But if not, maybe do we will, we'll connect to chat about that again. Um Anyone have a quick note, I would, I would say just

don't just do it, just do it. Like the way I jump into conversations is I kind of like lurk by the side and then, and then eventually I'm like, ha ha ha and like jump in and then when I leave, I'm just kind of like mutter, like I'm gonna get a drink and like, walk away. So just don't worry about that. Everyone's been in the pandemic. Everyone is feeling awkward and weird. Just jump in. Everyone will accept you.

Yeah, totally. And I think it's a mindset shift. You have to do like, you're not going in like asking for favors, right? You just, you're there to be curious and learn about others and what they do. Um And just like build from there because if you come, come off in the other way, then that probably won't reflect as well. So just be curious and ask a lot of questions

all really great points. Um And kind of just to, uh wrap this up. I don't know if I'm gonna get cut off at the half an hour mark. But um I know we had a question about our open roles. I won't go through all of them. I did link our careers page. So go, you can go ahead and take a look at, you know, what we have available at BT S there. We have over 45 open roles and they're all full time positions. Um And if you did wanna chat about any of them a little bit more, you can feel free to reach out to any of us. Um And yeah, definitely just connect with us. You, you have our names, reach out to us on linkedin and we're happy to continue any of these conversations with you. Thanks so much for joining us. Thank you.

Thanks guys.