Vericatch’s Women in STEM

At Vericatch, we’re proud to have a diverse team. For us, diversity means a mix of races, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and more.

 

While it’s vital for our business to consider a wide range of thoughts, opinions, and skillsets, we also believe a diverse team is a more impactful team. And the research bears us out. According to McKinsey, companies with diverse workforces are “are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Gender is a significant component of diversity, especially when it comes to jobs in STEM, as women still only hold 25% of STEM jobs. So we were inspired by International Women’s Day and by the Smithsonian claiming March as Women’s Futures Month to highlight the women with STEM backgrounds on our team. They are integral to our work shaping a better world for the fishing industry and the ocean ecosystem.

Dr. Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak
VP of Business Development and Chief Science Officer

 

Dalal Al-AbdulrazzakDalal has a background in the accuracy of global catch reporting, market-based conservation initiatives and international ocean policy. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies and a PhD in Fisheries.

What motivated you to go into the sciences as a career?
As a young girl, I witnessed the devastating impacts of the Gulf War oil spill on the local marine ecosystems and was motivated to pursue a career in ocean conservation. It wasn’t until I was in university when I saw a National Geographic cover about overfishing that I really considered specializing in fisheries.

What was your first job in your field? What did you learn there that you couldn’t have learned in the classroom?
In college, I worked as a field assistant for graduate students doing research. I think people often romanticize what it means to be a marine biologist, so it was good to get early exposure to how difficult it can be to study an ecosystem that humans are not adapted to survive in. Seasickness, sun exposure, remote working conditions, schlepping heavy research equipment around, terrible field station food, and more are all part of the job.

What is it like to be a woman in STEM? Do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts?
There’s no sugar coating it; it’s hard! I found it especially difficult after starting a family because traditional STEM fields can be so competitive that they don’t allow for career breaks or flexibility. My current challenge is learning to be comfortable being the only woman in decision-making settings such as the boardroom. With experience, I’m gaining the confidence to speak up and not second guess how my ideas might be perceived.

Do you have a network of women in STEM or a mentor who inspires you?
I feel that the network of women in marine STEM fields is small but growing. It’s sad to admit, but I did not have a single woman mentor in my ten years of studying, let alone a BIPOC woman.

What is your favourite thing about your career in STEM?
That new discoveries are being made every day.

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Divya Chacko
Operations and Support Specialist

 

Divya ChackoDivya has a degree in computer science and has worked with brands like Lululemon, Burberry, and Adidas in Canada and India. At Vericatch, she assists in application support, root-cause analysis, and operational excellence for our suite of apps.

What motivated you to go into STEM as a career?
Computers have always fascinated me – the idea of solving impactful problems for the world with computers resonated deeply with me. My parents and my brother also supported my interests.

How did you start your STEM career?
I started my professional career with Infosys – a software services company in India. It was an eye-opening experience in enterprise-scale development and collaboration at scale. This was huge for a newbie and it was overwhelming to start. Gradually, I aced it with help from colleagues, friends and mentors.

What challenges did you face starting work as a woman in STEM?
Initially, it felt unpleasant being a minority group in grad school as well as in my workplace. It took me a while to develop the confidence to steer my career in the right direction. My inspiration was successful women in the tech space. Today, I feel that I can equally contribute to success as my male counterparts.

Do you have a network of women in STEM you rely upon or a mentor who inspires you?
I am inspired by my manager, Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak. I have been working with her for a year now and I look forward to learning and adapting her leadership qualities.

What is your favourite thing about your STEM career?
I am excited by the pace at which things change within the tech space. The only constant at work is change, and that keeps me engaged to embrace the challenges every day. I feel super content solving challenging assignments for the world through tech.

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Julia Hendra
Senior Manager Business Development

 

Julia HendraJulia leads business development for our traceability platform, KnowYour.Fish. She focuses on helping businesses build a transparent seafood supply chain through technology. Julia is a passionate advocate for food sustainability and protecting our oceans.

When and how did your interest in STEM develop?
I never enjoyed biology, chemistry, or physics in high school but I became very interested in environmental science and math. I opted for a Bachelor of Arts at McGill and ultimately chose a minor in environment. I became fascinated with human impact on our environment, and how we can combat climate change to ensure a healthy future for us and our planet.

What was your first job after you graduated and what did it teach you that you didn’t learn at school?
My first job out of university was at a technology company that was building a product to support local food producers. It was there that I started to dive into technology more and understand how a software product is built. The hard skills that I learned in that first job have helped me daily since then – whether it is building out product roadmaps, cold calling new leads, or building out strategic plans.

What is it like to be a woman in STEM? Do you feel that it gives you a different perspective and experience?
I think that identifying as a woman in business spaces gives you a different perspective and day-to-day experience. Outside of STEM, a lot of my experience has been in food and beverage sales, and all of these sectors are traditionally very male dominated. Female leadership is crucial for healthy organizations, we bring a different perspective to our work. The teams that I’ve been on that are led by women have been far more enjoyable places to work as there tends to be a spirit of teamwork, cooperation, and stronger relationships built between team members. This is of course not always the case, but in my experience rings true.

Do you have a network of women around you or a mentor or friend who inspires you?
I’ve found it’s so important to find like-minded women in whatever field I’m working in, a network provides you with advice, folks to bounce ideas off of and cheer you and your career on from the sidelines.

What is your favourite thing about your career in STEM?
I love being able to work with a variety of people across different teams. It can be easy to get stuck in your silo – be it sales, marketing, design, development – but being able to work across teams to build something new and exciting is my favourite part of working in STEM.

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Karina Lam
Project Manager

 

Karina LamKarina has a background in the marine sector – everything from working in the marine shipping industry to acoustic research with dolphins. She is passionate about working in the sustainability sector and, at Vericatch, keeps us on track to make sure we meet our deadlines.

What motivated you to go into the sciences, and what did you study?
I studied environmental science with a focus on applied biology. I enjoyed watching Discovery Channel, and National Geographic as a young child and the natural world has always been interesting to me. Throughout my youth, I had opportunities to experience jobs that had a close connection to environmental science. I interned at Ocean Park researching underwater acoustics with dolphins, interned at an environmental consulting company doing a waste audit, and worked at an engineering company that fabricated scrubbers for cargo ships to comply with international marine organizations’ emission policies. I realized that the environmental studies degree is very versatile and opened a wide variety of doors for me, which enabled me to work in a field I am passionate about while building a sustainable career.

How did you start your STEM career, and what real-life lessons did it teach you?
I did an internship with an environmental consulting company, doing a waste audit in an international airport. I was involved in the data collection aspect, where I would weigh and sample garbage and report and present our findings to our client. It was a good example of learning to be flexible. The data collection process won’t always be perfect like in textbook examples. And sometimes improvisation is needed to achieve your goal.

As a woman in STEM, do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts?
Sometimes I feel that I have to “earn” respect as a young woman in my workplace. I feel pressure to prove my worth as a colleague to solidify my place in the company. This may be a combination of the imposter syndrome and isolated incidents I have encountered in my career. At times like this, I remind myself that I am very fortunate that there are many women before me to create the path for girls like me to pursue STEM easier by breaking down barriers.

What do you like best about working in STEM?
I enjoy working in STEM because it’s a field with constant innovation. It is very exciting working in a field at the forefront of technology, and there is always something new to learn.

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Connie Leung
Junior Full Stack Developer

 

Connie LeungConnie’s primary responsibilities at Vericatch include implementing features for FisheriesApp on the server side, and handling support and maintenance of Trawler. She completed an intensive web development program and holds a BSc in Cognitive Systems.

How did your interest in STEM develop?
In university, I took my first computer science class, which introduced me to how fun and rewarding programming can be – like solving puzzles. I think some young girls may be discouraged from pursuing their STEM interests as it’s a male-dominated field, but I think focusing on yourself and what you enjoy is the most important thing. Building up little wins can boost your confidence, whether it’s doing coding challenges or working on small projects that excite you. Also, surrounding yourself with like-minded people and seeing others’ enthusiasm and creativity can help keep you motivated.

What inspired you to go into STEM?
I found STEM appealing because it’s a stable, innovative, and ever-growing field that’s relatively accessible. I also like how systematic and logical programming is, it matches my approach to life.

What was your first job in your field, and what did it teach you?
My current job at Vericatch is my first job as a developer! I’m learning about coordination between different teams (dev, product, QA) and just how crucial clear communication is. Being able to articulate things succinctly is really valuable in demos and in clarifying expectations. I’m also learning about the scale of bigger applications and just how much work goes into building and maintaining them.

Do you have a network of women in STEM around you or a mentor or friend who inspires you?
I’m not sure it’s big enough to be a network, but I have a couple of friends that I’ve met through other hobbies who also went into STEM. Being able to chat with them about our experiences as newcomers in the field has been really grounding.

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We know it’s an ongoing process when it comes to diversity and inclusion and equality for women in STEM. But we’re committed to making diversity a priority as we grow. It’s better for our team, better for our business, and better for the fishing industry and the ocean.