First, the human race requires connectivity but not just virtual connectivity; we crave the human touch, we crave that face to face interaction, we thrive off our ability to read body language. Unfortunately, that interactivity has been removed. I think what that will form as a result is a whole new appreciation of interactivity or connectivity. Being more present in the moment, which I think pre COVID, we actually took for granted.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tanya Bartolini. Tanya Bartolini is Co-founder and Head of Global Distribution for Jacobi. Focused on enabling the investment management industry through technology, Tanya has broad experience across business development, technology and investments. Prior to co-founding Jacobi, Tanya held increasingly senior roles at Australia’s largest financial institution, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (including Colonial First State).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ithink it starts way back when I was in high school. I can still clearly remember that I wasn’t one of those high school kids who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life. I was incredibly motivated, very structured, and I had this desire to do a lot of great things but I just wasn’t sure what that was. On my application for university, I had listed nursing, accounting and teaching. I ended up starting a cadetship (basically an internship) at an accounting firm in the small coastal town where I grew up. I worked there full time whilst studying externally. I remember thinking to myself, “this is awesome, I get to make money from the get go while all my other friends go off to school — and I get to still study at university, I’m getting real life experience”. One of the first things I learned to do was how to answer phones correctly, take client calls and how to type letters on a typewriter. So this was essentially my introduction to business, and what it taught me was that I really loved the concept of economics, finance, and business. It also made me realize that I was definitely not a future accountant and needed to spend more time with people. That was really my first step into the world of finance, but from that minute I knew I needed something more than just handling numbers. I then started navigating towards a career in investment management and technology and spent the next 15 years building my career and working my way into more senior roles with one of Australia’s largest asset managers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
I think what we did was a little different — not only did we launch the company, but a year into the life of the company we decided to relocate and headquarter the company in the United States. That required me to move my whole family including my two children, one of which was three months old at the time. It was a huge risk not only on the personal front but also on every other front- -once you relocate a company to a new country, it’s like setting the sails of a ship on fire, you can’t go back — you can’t unwind that decision. We just knew that in order to build a global business, we needed to take that risk. The next challenge then came with setting ourselves up personally in a whole new country, whilst trying to build the business in a whole new geography. All of this was done with two small children by my side.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
So the short answer is yes. We’re always working on something new, but in terms of current projects, a big focus right now is how to package components of our product. When you first launch technology, you’re just trying to build a viable product. You’re sourcing feedback and then trying to build to product market fit. Once you have done this you start moving into how to make parts of the product more commercial. The toolkits on our platform that are used heavily now are different to that when markets were consistently experiencing ‘good times’, we need to learn from this and ensure that we are building a product that supports our clients and their needs through these tough times.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I think the reality for most, is that it’s typically not one person. It takes a village of people to help you achieve success — especially when you’re a startup founder with small children. If I have to answer your question, and it’s a tough one, I would lump my parents together. The reason why I’m picking them is because at a young age they taught me a very important lesson — “you can do anything in life, as long as you work hard for it”. And that’s stuck with me from when I was a little girl, even growing up in a really small, rural town, I truly believed I could go anywhere and be anything I wanted, as long as I was prepared to work for it.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
I think the challenges I face have less to do with the fact that I am a woman in STEM and more to do with the fact that I am a wife, mother and founder of a company trying to navigate this environment. As a mother, you naturally feel very much pulled in the direction of your children. The process of home schooling, client meetings and deadlines are a constant challenge and at times I feel that I do all very well and then other days I feel that I don’t do any of it well. The balancing act of being a mother, in conjunction with the company, which as a founder is like another child, is incredibly difficult to manage. For me, it’s about prioritization in the moment and acceptance of what I can and can’t control. That’s how I’m trying to survive.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Prioritization and acceptance in the moment.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
We’re all just doing what we can in order to survive as a company, but more importantly, how we take our team and people through this. Personally, I naturally gravitate towards the people aspect — their welfare and how they’re feeling through this crisis. I constantly think about this. It’s a challenge to try and ensure we’re addressing it appropriately.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Managing our team through this environment and addressing some of the different ways our team members cope, is one of our biggest challenges. The key here is communication and ensuring that communication is stronger than ever. To address these challenges we have tried to ensure that we have constant communication and I also try to ensure that I am checking in with my team. I aim to share my vulnerabilities through this time and also my challenges with my team to let them know that we all have similar struggles and we are all here to support each other.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers. I’m also not going to pretend that my approach is always the right one either. For me, I’m going to come back to prioritization. What do the teachers have my children focused on today? On that list, what are the most important items? When are we going to give ourselves a break? We can put too much pressure on ourselves, we can overthink it, we can question every single decision we make. Right now is not the right time to do that. It’s about prioritizing the “must haves” when it comes to schooling, and then getting creative. Finding science webinars that they can watch whilst I have a client call may not be a part of their normal schooling routine but they’re learning and staying engaged. They’re also other activities like cooking — I like to teach my children about measuring and combining ingredients. So I’m taking this time to teach life skills as well.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
To be honest, it was questionable as to whether I was sane before this even began! I mean, I’m a company founder, it takes a little crazy to launch into something like that, especially with two small children. I think what I’m doing to try and keep some Zen is having some space in the day where we can all just do things that we enjoy. So little breaks, having what I’m calling safe zones. For me, it’s my bedroom and my children aren’t allowed to go anywhere near it during certain parts of the day. This way I can have a breather. But it’s a challenge. It really is. And I’m not going to pretend that, I have all the answers here. Some days I feel very calm and other days I feel like I’m not managing it as well as I should. The other factor I would add is exercise, it is very important to me. It’s so critical that I take at least 30 minutes each day to exercise on my own.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
With any major global events are valuable lessons that are learned and alter our behaviors. When I think about what’s been taken away from us or what’s been challenging for us as a human race during COVID-19 and reflect on what to be hopeful for- for me there are three things not five. First, the human race requires connectivity but not just virtual connectivity; we crave the human touch, we crave that face to face interaction, we thrive off our ability to read body language. Unfortunately, that interactivity has been removed. I think what that will form as a result is a whole new appreciation of interactivity or connectivity. Being more present in the moment, which I think pre COVID, we actually took for granted. The second reason to be hopeful is freedom. I, along with many others, was used to jumping on a plane and going anywhere in the world whenever I needed or wanted to; I used to complain about it because I would be in London one week, New York next, and then San Francisco and then back to Australia. In turn, I was tired. On one hand, I had so much choice but on the other, I didn’t have a choice — it was a pressure of that freedom, whereas now I’m craving that freedom. Today I look up in the sky and whenever I see a plane, I miss the freedom that it represents. Lastly, a general appreciation for what we had and what we took for granted. It’s a gentle reminder that I think will carry with us, post this pandemic.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to your family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
What I’ve noticed is that everybody is processing this in a very similar way. What’s different is the stage of the “processing cycle”- be it anger, denial, fear or acceptance. One day, I speak to friends or family and they are dealing with anxiety but I’m feeling perfectly calm. The next day I’m feeling anxious because something might have happened to trigger that emotion and the other person is calm. So, I think, really, it’s understanding that as a human race, we’re going to get through this. We will get through this. Our confidence and trust will help us. When it comes to helping family members and loved ones, it’s just about listening. You can’t make it go away. You can’t even make it better. But you can listen and ask questions. You can tell personal stories and how you’re thinking about things which may help others. Moreover, it’s important not to absorb your family members’ or friends’ anxieties when you do talk to them. The best way to do that is to understand that you can’t actually fix this for them; we will get through this but it’s going to take time. Understanding you can’t change it and you can’t fix it (being a fixer myself) are hard concepts to come to terms; accepting that it’s about listening and supporting helps.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can be anything you want in life as long as you work hard and understand that mistakes or failures are learning opportunities”.
I have made millions of mistakes throughout my journey as an author, founder/entrepreneur and mother/wife. It is because of the mistakes and the failures that I have been able to progress and achieve. “Life is not what you plan it to be and that my friends is where beauty lies”.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!