Anastasia Perysinakis: CEO and TechWomen100 award winner
“As long as you have a wonder and excitement for what you’re doing, you can’t go wrong, nothing can stop you.”
Where it all began
Can you tell us about the industry you’re in and the role you play?
I’m a CEO of my own start up. We’re working to digitalise social care in the UK in line with the wider UK social care strategy. We’re working closely with the Northern Irish social care council who is the local regulator for Northern Ireland. We really see ourselves as part of the solution in terms of optimising processes and making things a lot more efficient. Most importantly, we focus on empowering the workforce.
I think the current situation is one that definitely renders a lot of people quite hopeless within the space at the moment, feeling tired and quite left behind. Clapping doesn’t make up for substantive support in that area, so we are trying to make their lives a bit better.
Why digitalised Social Care?
My brother is Autistic and before he was in full time care, we had sessional workers and were constantly in and out of respite centres, so I developed a huge appreciation for people who work in social care. I realised at the age of about 14 that there was no way I could go through my life without doing this for someone else, so I’ve been working in the sector since that age.
When I was 18, I was able to take on the HCA role legally; taking care of people’s care plans, helping with their finances, administering medication and their transport needs. It really opened my eyes to a lot of the inefficiencies, problems and underfunding. This also included the lack of awareness from the general public, which does feed into the disparity between social care and acute healthcare which more people have had experience with. People have a vested interest in how acute healthcare is performing. With chronic social care, its much less likely you or a loved one will need to reach out for that sort of help, especially the younger you are, so you wouldn’t know anything about it.
A lot of our piece is about raising awareness. So, I decided I was going to do something about this once and for all.
Winning the TechWomen100 award
Tell us about your award win
My colleague and co-founder for the business actually nominated me. When the email came through I kind of laughed, as you never think you will be nominated or win this type of thing! As women, we all have imposter syndrome to one extent or another. So when I started my company, I had very limited awareness of business, operations and management. I didn’t know if it was a feasible idea, so it’s been an upwards learning curve for me. To that extent, I always feel like the dumbest person in the room and I’m always the one asking the questions. So, for me winning the award I felt that imposter syndrome a lot more.
I also think that when you are affected by something personally – almost all my team are affected by people in their lives needing social care – you tend to reach out more and give back. That’s what has been picked up on in terms of being selected for this award. I think a lot of people probably follow quite a conventional career path, and the fact that I have deviated from that and done a few of my own things to help out probably influenced the selection.
What did it mean to you to win the award?
I don’t want to come off as too modest but looking at the other people on that list and the things that they have achieved, it was awe-inspiring. I try not to think too much about being selected to receive the award, but what it meant to me in a wider perspective was the network that I built from it. Seeing people’s stories, and what they had to overcome to get to where they are, was awe-inspiring. From this experience came many one-to-one meetings, network building and awareness of new initiatives. It also gave me a lot of confidence and drive for my own business; that’s been the most valuable thing.
It validates your platform and allows you to have a wider reach to the people you can help. It has allowed me to reach more people than I would have before.
Why do you think awards like TechWomen100 are so important?
There is a sense of entitlement amongst a lot of people for this sort of recognition. If you already have a platform for opportunities, and then you’re seeking to take over a specific platform made for somebody else, that highlights the issue because we’re pushed out of our own spaces. The other reason it’s important is the representation. I genuinely didn’t know there were so many women in the positions they are in. The statistics for the number of women in Director positions, CFOs etc, are quite stark and quite damning. In the start-up space, only 1% (World Bank figures) of venture capital goes to female founded start-ups, which is dire.
So, visibility to other women and visibility to creditors, other companies, employers, investment banks; it legitimises you in that space. It makes people more likely to invest in you.
The CEO of the company who runs the award is incredible. The amount of work she has done in promoting women in tech over the years is incredible.
Working in the tech industry
Do you think people have any misconceptions about women in Tech? And how do you think you’re viewed in the industry?
Yes. 100%. I think there are a few different stereotypes there. It sounds silly, but there is a preconception that women in tech are ‘unattractive’, and ‘attractiveness’ is still an important metric by which to judge a woman. I’ve seen this a lot; I have seen people hiding their work sector on their dating profiles so they don’t feel marginalised. Dumbing yourself down is, I think something we have all done. I would be surprised to meet a woman who hasn’t done that at some point in their life.
I think there is a capability gap. The idea that you’re probably smart, but ‘smart for a woman’ is an inference that I get a lot.
Managing meetings is difficult. It’s difficult to be taken seriously. You can see it in people’s eyes that they think you’re naive. Then you come back a couple of months later, having actioned everything you say you were going to action; you’ve secured contracts and produced amazing results – you see it in their faces, it’s a realisation.
Overcoming challenges and inspiring others
What challenges have you faced, if any, in your career?
One time, myself and my co-founder first thought something was off, was after our last three meetings with female care home magnates being really positive, and then a small time lawyer treated us like we had no chance and said we were getting ahead of ourselves. It challenged us, because it was really hard for us to get what we wanted out of that meeting. The lack of trust in our ability makes people a lot more reluctant to support us.
What do you think would encourage more women to work in the tech industry?
Definitely representation. I think awards like TechWomen100 go a long way to achieving that. I think what’s helped me, and what I hope to give back, is these one-to-one sessions, networks, mentorship, that has been more valuable than anything. You can see things statistically improve, but its hard to relate personally until you see the whites of someone’s eyes. They are vulnerable with you and tell you things like ‘this is how many times I’ve failed’, ‘this is how many times I’ve cried and been set back’. Vulnerability would encourage women into any space.
Technology by its nature is futuristic. So, if you pick your clientele, your mentors and creditors well, then you can be aligned in your vision. But there are going to be stakeholders that you interact with that are sceptical. Set your own boundaries and define what ‘good’ looks like to you.
Corporate social responsibility is a huge driver of the tech industry now so that should give women a lot of inspiration to join. We’re glad that we are starting a business at the start of this. We’re going to set the precedent I think for a new generation of business.
Advice and inspiration
What advice would you give to other women looking to begin or further their career in the industry?
I think the advice I would give is don’t think very deeply about it! Have that childlike interest in what you’re doing and forget about everything else.
Ignore the consequences, ignore how you think people will react, or how many women will be in a space. They are very real problems to deal with, and to cope with them, its worth having a space or community. But in terms of actually succeeding in what you want to do, don’t think about that stuff, because the rest of it will fall into place if you’re on the right trajectory. I mention a genuine childlike passion, because viewing things through an adult lens, you’re thinking about KPIs, return on investment – whilst they are all important, it’s unsustainable for you as an individual. I think as long as you have a wonder and excitement for what you’re doing, you can’t go wrong, nothing can stop you.
If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?
At the time I thought I was covering all my bases, now looking back I was extremely naïve. I would say find yourself a good lawyer – I think it really helps you cover all angles (specific to starting your own business!)
Be so sure in your own identity, that nobody can rattle it. You will get gaslighted, you will get undermined. You will have people inferring that you didn’t do something as well as you did, or you should have been doing something else. People will project their expectations onto you. In a high-pressure environment such as tech, you will start to compare yourself to your male counterparts.
Be honest with yourself, don’t overstate your capabilities. Be the best judge of your own capabilities and try not to let other people’s words or opinions’ impact that.
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