Busting start-up stereotypes for women in STEMM

May 24, 2023
women in STEMM

From unique benefits and career development opportunities, to being part of something as it’s built from the ground up, you may be familiar with the advantages of working for a start-up or scale-up. 

But what about the challenges – some say start-ups are more volatile and riskier, some say they lack the structure and resources of more established organizations. 

We spoke with Vaishnavi Rajaraman who says: none of these challenges are true at Displayr.

As a senior technical leader, Vaishnavi performs two roles for IT, digital and online media services start-up, Displayr, the first as Chapter Lead for Quality Team, and second as a member of one of the developmental teams. 

According to her, the stereotypical challenges of working for a start-up aren’t universal. People’s experiences can also vary based on the company, role, and their personal attributes. 

“I started my career as a Graduate Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer and grew into an Intermediate Agile QA role. I worked for a few different companies and eventually moved to Australia, where I worked for the first time in a start-up. 

“It was such a unique experience – exponential growth, learning opportunities… you name it, I loved it all. After three years, I knew I wanted to join another start-up and do it all over again! That’s when I discovered a role with Displayr.” 

If you’re a senior or junior woman in the world of STEMM, are motivated by career development opportunities, or love solving challenges, a start-up could be right up your alley. 

It’s time to bust some myths and stereotypes about start-ups and scale-ups. 

Myth #1. “Start-ups lack organization and structure.” 

When you’re applying for a new role, finding a company with a strong brand reputation, efficient recruitment process, and an organized onboarding experience is often a good sign. At least, these factors made a strong first impression on Vaishnavi. 

Displayr’s Glassdoor reviews were really positive. It convinced me that the company values its people. During my interview, I discovered developers are responsible for writing test code. That was surprising. It made me eager to join!” 

Her onboarding experience was similarly positive. 

“During my first week, I was tasked with completing a project. It made me realize how well-organized the company is. Organization is something I value in my personal life too. When you share personal values with the place you work, it’s usually a great match!” 

When it comes to structure and organization, Displayr is ahead of the game. Did you know the company has a formalized flexible work policy and a range of flexible work options to suit team member’s lifestyles?

Find out more 

Myth #2. “Start-ups lack resources, so it’s tougher to have an impact.” 

Many of us are familiar with the stereotypes of ‘start-up environments’: fast-paced, high pressure, with limited resourcing. So, it’s understandable you might think environments like this can make it tougher to have an impact in your work. 

Interestingly, Vaishnavi has experienced the opposite at Displayr. One of her primary responsibilities is ensuring her team has everything they need to function efficiently. 

“Efficiency is always difficult in engineering – it’s tough to measure! And ever tougher to ensure that, as a manager, your team is functioning at its highest level. The best days at work are those when my team and I accomplish something meaningful. For example, resolving one of our customer’s issues in a short timeframe.”

From her perspective, we asked ‘can people make a real difference in a start-up’? 

“Definitely! I love that my role can have an impact, on the one hand, by addressing our most pressing issues. On the other, I enjoy ensuring there aren’t as many pressing issues in the first place.” 

Myth #3. “People in start-ups are busy and competitive, so there’s limited support.” 

Based on Vaishnavi’s experience, start-up cultures are highly collaborative. People are often motivated by shared goals and are open to sharing new ideas and offering support. 

For example, she typically works closely with other team leaders, her QA team members, and manager.

“As leaders, we exchange ideas and share how our teams are tracking towards quarterly targets. In the QA team, we share ideas about improving the quality of our product, issues, and solutions for addressing them. I also seek guidance from my manager, who provides me with plenty of support and strategies for team leadership.” 

Myth #4. “In start-ups, there are limited resources for training and development.” 

While some start-ups have limited resources, not all of them skimp on providing team members with training and development opportunities. 

Displayr, for example, offers its people an allowance for personal development. 

“We can apply and use it for relevant courses, certifications, books, and more. Recently, a few team members and I participated in management training with our CEO – it’s been eye-opening so far.” 

Perhaps it’s worth noting, as Vaishnavi confirms, having limited resources is a reality in any organization, no matter its maturity.  

“In situations like these, I find it’s best to utilize negotiation and communication skills with your internal and external stakeholders.” 

No matter what industry you’re in or level of experience, communication, empathy and listening skills will put you in good stead. 

“Some of my team members don’t have an engineering background but are responsible for communicating with our clients. Some of my engineers are tasked with creating solutions, and need time to identify, address, and resolve issues.

“In situations like these, I’m in the middle! Often, taking the time to understand people’s unique situations, prioritizing, and iterating activities will help you achieve the best outcomes.” 

Final thoughts…

It’s also worth noting that Displayr recently won no less than three of WORK180’s Equitable Workplace Awards for 2023, taking out the top spot for their flexible working arrangements, benefits and policies around shared caring, and commitment to pay equity. 

“I’m so proud and happy we’ve partnered with WORK180. The more women making strides in the tech world, the better. Displayr is a company that supports women to do just that.” 

If you’re interested in growing your career in STEMM, here are some final thoughts from Vaishnavi. 

“Take calculated risks. Stay focused and disciplined. Explore opportunities. Consider joining a start-up (like Displayr)!” 

Want to learn more about the benefits of a career at Displayr?

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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