In recognition of International Women’s Day, Intuit Developer is excited to kick off a blog series profiling some of the accomplished women in our global Intuit Developer community. Are you a woman building apps that solve problems for small businesses and integrate with QuickBooks? We’d love to meet you!
This week I had the pleasure of talking with Kari Viccars, the head of Marketing at Aider, a New Zealand-based AI startup.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a fifth generation, proud Canadian from Calgary, Alberta. I have a 15+ year career in marketing and communications. I’ve previously worked for several multi-national companies and had my own consulting business – where I started working for tech startups and got hooked. I joined my first artificial intelligence startup, chata.ai, a few years ago as the second employee and leader. After helping that company build their customer base and get traction (especially with the North American Intuit community) I recently made the move to another AI startup, based in New Zealand, Aider. I’m really excited by Aider’s offering, UX, and business model. I jumped on the opportunity to grow my experience in other, equally important markets – in this case Australasia.
Why did you choose this field?
Lots of reasons:
- I chose communications because I love storytelling and writing.
- I chose marketing because I know it is a key pillar and critical element of any successful business. I truly love finding, acquiring, and getting to know my customers.
- I chose AI because it’s a massive challenge getting people to buy in to it right now, and bringing big issues/trends down to the human level is one of my passions.
- I chose startups because I’m crazy. Ha! I love building businesses from scratch with amazing teams and can deal with the crazy ebbs, flows and pressure really well. I’ve always been very independent and startups are a good fit for people like me.
Are there challenges you’ve faced in your career because you are a woman?
I’ve faced many challenges as a woman in my career – everything from sexual harassment to being stereotyped to being “thrown under the bus” by other women! I’ve witnessed many women in leadership deal with significantly more — and different –challenges as their male counterparts. But perhaps the biggest challenge has been the subtle biases.
An example of this, early in my career, I was often one of few women in the room. Something that happened regularly when I was introduced to a group by a male leader: the men in the room would get introduced by their first and last name, but I would just be “Kari”. And I often didn’t get offered the hand shake. I observed this happen to many other women as well. How did I deal with this? is I learned to put myself in charge of introducing myself. I learned to give a strong, respectable handshake and always say my first and last name. It’s subtle, but interesting the level of respect this draws. It’s been a simple practice that has served me well.
How do you counteract other challenges?
- I surround myself with other successful, strong women. We talk about the issues and challenges we face all the time. It’s really helpful to learn from them and to help each other.
- Now that I’m in a higher-level position, I can be direct and call people on their mistakes and biases. I also try to coach and support younger women in business.
This year’s theme for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. How would the business world improve if there were more balance between genders?
There would be massive improvements. We are still very behind. I’m keen to see balance and the business world become a safer, better, more ethical and profitable place for the young women I mentor, my nieces etc.
What do you love about your work? Your life?
I love all the (global) relationships I get to develop in my field. I love demystifying AI and bringing the conversation right down to earth in terms that a regular person can understand. How does this help my business? AI or not, it doesn’t matter unless there’s value. And that’s a huge challenge to get this message across with tech today.
In my personal life, I mentor “at risk” immigrant youth — both men and women. I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping them explore their career options and to think about gender roles/ biases differently. Youth are particularly open and honest about their thoughts, feelings and beliefs – they are so adaptable.
What advice do you have for other women entering tech?
The same advice I would give to young men entering this field – hard work trumps everything. Set your objectives and execute. Avoid drama at all costs.
Young women would take more work to convince that they even “can” enter this field. We are still so far behind in gender balance when it comes to career choices and this training starts at a young age. I often ask young women if they have considered data science as a career – most don’t know what I’m talking about, many say they aren’t smart enough. We have to work to change that self-perception among young women.
How can Intuit / QuickBooks help you be more successful?
My experience with Intuit and the accounting and bookkeeping community is there are so many bright, supportive, successful women in the ecosystem. Intuit has supported my endeavours in so many ways – from making introductions, to supporting our developers, to having us contribute to events.