The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Alexandra Voyevodina-Wang, President and General Manager, Endy
Name: Alexandra Voyevodina-Wang
Job Title: President and General Manager, Endy
Years in the Industry: Just shy of 10 years in startups
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.”
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
Having immigrated to Canada at the age of 12, I had a very predictable path planned for myself. With the expectation to pursue a stable and secure career path—a luxury my parents did not have in Canada—I entered the world of public accounting. After a few months, a very talented and promising colleague left for a startup, to everyone’s shock and dismay. That’s when it clicked for me that I had other options.
The prospect of working for a startup was suddenly far more intriguing than a predictable career in accounting. I stuck it out until my CPA designation, and then began applying to every startup in the city. My first foray into startups was at a digital advertising company. It was all extremely new and exciting. From the ground up, I built out the company’s processes and finance function, and while I loved everything about it, I could never really connect with the product itself. It felt too intangible to me.
A career in e-commerce, however, felt more aligned with my interests. I loved the idea of bringing products to market and offering Canadians a seamless way to shop. When the opportunity arose to join Endy in 2016 as its first CFO, I jumped on it, and I haven’t looked back.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
I don’t want to say I have never encountered a roadblock related to my gender. There is certainly a “boy’s club” mentality at many businesses, and there were moments in which my gender appeared to be a bit of an inconvenience in my career. For example, my lack of invitation from the higher-ups to join them for golf or a hockey game did not go unnoticed.
That being said, rather than see this as a limitation, I had the privilege and opportunity to leave the more traditional field and surround myself with teammates and leaders who supported me and other women. Before joining Endy, I remember reading one of our co-founder’s LinkedIn posts about how he is unreservedly a feminist and thought, “Great, this will work!” At Endy, I was (and still am) encouraged to take on new challenges and develop myself as a leader.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
I think organizations with more women will inevitably attract more women. From my experience, many women who intend on having children begin the planning process years in advance of actually having their first child. They put extra thought into whether the organization will offer enough understanding, freedom, and flexibility for them to support their family. I know I did. This extends beyond just mat leave top-ups and other financial benefits—though of course these are important—but understanding and asking: Is this the kind of company where, if my child were sick, I could leave in the middle of the day without being made to feel like I am letting everyone down?
Building a culture that is supportive of parents is vital to attract and retain more women at every level, including high-level roles. Showing women that they can have an upstanding career without needing to sacrifice their role as a parent helps not just women, but everyone.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
In a male-dominated industry such as tech, there is typically a greater need for women to speak up against implicit bias and challenge the status quo. While I used to shy away from these types of difficult conversations out of fear of being dismissed as “too sensitive,” more recently, I am finding ways to share my perspective in a constructive way. While there are certainly roadblocks for women, and they won’t go away overnight, every step in the right direction leads us toward greater equality in tech.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
I’m inspired by countless Canadian entrepreneurs, including Joanna Griffiths, the founder and CEO of Knix, who continues to pave the path for equality in tech, encouraging women in all industries to not feel limited by statistics, stereotypes, or “the way things are.”
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
I am not sure if this is tech-specific, but I think there is still a misconception that women can only be either career-motivated or family-motivated. Or, worse, that once women have children, they will somehow be less reliable or less invested in their work. I believe it is completely untrue. Certainly, after having children, flexibility becomes more of a “must” than “nice-to-have” — however, I am confident that neither reliability nor productivity are impacted, and I think it is wrong to assume otherwise.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
I wish that failure was more widely discussed and accepted. We are often our own harshest critics, and with everyone’s eyes on this industry (and especially on women in tech), people can be made to feel that any mistake is end-all or be-all. We should realize that everything we consider a setback is just one step closer to finding a better solution, and that success is rarely linear.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?