Women In Tech: Driving Positive Change: An interview with Vilia Ingriany of Sixty Two
It is an unfortunate fact; Women are underrepresented in the tech sector and the industry is not yet where we all want it to be just yet. We at Half the Sky have launched a Women in tech series that shines a spotlight on some of the work and career journeys of the most inspirational women around the world in the tech scene bringing to your attention, their, successes, challenges and can-do spirit.
Today we would like you to meet Vilia Ingriany designer & technopreneur from Indonesia. Vilia holds a degree in Software engineering and has worked in software development and design in Canada, United States and South East Asia. She cofounded Sixty Two a global family of digital product strategists & designers, driven to craft positive & impactful digital experiences. Based in Jakarta, Vilias and team want to put great design front and centre of product development in the region.
HTS: Vilia can you share a litle about your career journey and what got you interested in tech?
Vilia: Yeah, wow that’s going to be a long story!
HTS: Stories are good!
Vilia: Yeah! Okay where do I start? I knew for a long time that I liked design. Since my high school days I knew that I liked creating stuff, right? And then when it came to university back in Vancouver, I managed to study Computer Science. I thought I wanted to be a coder and do programming. But as it turned out, I realised that it wasn’t really my thing? And I discovered that I actually liked the earlier part of the product development process- strategizing and designing the solution. So that’s kind of where and how I learnt about crafting and creating something and how I realised that it was what I really liked to do.
After university, I started learning a lot more. I landed myself a job at a nice agency in Vancouver, started working my way up from there and started a team of designers as well. One thing led to another and I landed myself a job in San Francisco, doing user experience design where we worked with quite a number of pretty cool clients like Google, Twitter, HP and Adobe…a lot of amazing partnerships there too.
After San Francisco, my husband and I decided to travel. We were born in Indonesia, so we decided to see some family and see if we could perhaps freelance there. So we left our lives in SF and started travelling quite a bit. I spent almost a month in Bangladesh working on research and design projects, it was pretty cool. It was amazing when I got the chance to actually talk to the end users themselves, like field agents and the participants on the ground in Bangladesh.
I kept freelancing and when we landed ourselves back in Indonesia, we started picking up quite a bit of work in this region, which necessitated that we start a team. There was quite a bit of traction and need for product strategy and product design, which is really where my specialty lies. So- designing for apps, the web, the whole digital ecosystem. I figured out that there was a need to have a product design team managing a variety of clients in this region and in North America as well. That’s how we started, really.
HTS: Do you think there were any differences in the design scene in all the different places and countries you’ve worked in?
Vilia: Oh yeah, absolutely. Just in terms of the way design is being perceived and prioritised in the different regions- quite different, in organisation as well as in society! My experience in Bangladesh was very interesting because I was there for a research project and research trip to learn more about how the products were actually going to be used and all of that.
What was interesting when we started heading back towards this region and towards Indonesia was the many amazing collaborations we started to get here in Indonesia, in Singapore, HK, and other countries. I started realising that design here is pretty cool as well, but it’s cool in a different way. Like, it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison to what it’s like in North America, because the way of life here is very different from North America.
We had a partnership with Grab, and through our partnership we were able to find out a bit more about how design and product design is being done in several different countries in Southeast Asia. It was very refreshing to see how it’s different and cool in its own way. In fact, how we came about naming our studio Sixty Two is actually- I’m not sure if you know, but 62 is Indonesia’s country code!
HTS: Ooh so cool.
Vilia: Yeah! There’s a bit of meaning behind it. The hope and vision is that it will help move the needle a little bit and start turning eyes from West to East. It’s not about copy-pasting whatever’s in the West and doing the same thing here its about trying new things and creating products which service the local needs.
HTS: Yup. Designing with AR/VR How Did That come about? @Sixty Two. How did you start incorporating it into your work?
Vilia: That’s a good question! To give you a bit of context into Sixty Two and also the kind of design work that we specialise in, a lot of our output includes the likes of apps, web platforms or websites- us getting a chance to think about the whole ecosystem and how they play together, basically.
Technology these days- not only AR and VR, but also AI - is making it a lot more possible for us to experiment with more immersive experiences. If you look at the industry right now, AR is helping a lot with retail, especially these days with COVID. Without you having to go into a store, you’ll be able to see how shoes look on your feet. You’ll be able to try on different glasses without actually walking into a store. So that’s actually pretty cool.
HTS: I find this new technology fascinating, and how relevant it can be for the post-pandemic world.
That’s the idea behind why we wanted to experiment with AR/VR- because we believe, especially that now physical interaction is not possible in a lot of places, that there’s a huge opportunity here to actually connect brands with the customers, and the customers to brands, the other way round, and in a variety of industries. We thought that to do our design work, we should be able to provide more immersive experiences for both our clients and their customers.
HTS: As for tips for our readers, what skills do you think are needed in order to enter and thrive in design and tech in general? And like, make something cool?
Vilia: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I would say resilience and the ability to adapt. As a designer, or as a person, in general, it's incredibly important to adapt, to stay true to your values and to what you know about the core of design as a designer. Values to me refer to what you believe in- we’re truly here as a partner to our clients, and a champion to our and their users.
Adapt your skills to fit a variety of different scenarios and contexts. I'll say, had I stuck with my thinking from the North American design industry, I wouldn't be able to do a good job designing for users in this region, right? Same thing the other way around, too. So staying true to your values, who you are and obviously, your know-how is important, but know how to adapt as well.
As for resilience, I think you just have to be like, head on in a variety of different scenarios. Because as a passionate designer, you will face a variety of different challenges that might actually make you question why you became a designer in the first place, and whether or not you should continue with your route. Because the world is changing so fast, especially now, and even before COVID. Every other day, someone creates something new and cool, and you kind of need to stay in the know and up your skills quite often. And obviously, stay up to date with what's actually going on and make sure that you can adapt to it, and that you're prepared for it.
Lastly, know where you can bring value. So not everything can be solved by digital, right? Sometimes in-person interaction is still key. I always think that digital and online interactions are here to enhance experiences, but your offline experiences are still crucial. And so it's really about knowing when to do what really.
HTS: Considering the audience of half the sky, I was just wondering if you have any advice to women who are or might be interested in entering the field?
Vilia: For sure. I would say that I would not be here today had it not been for the help of a variety of amazing people in my life for the past 10-15 years: strong people as my mentors, a kind and considerate group of people. They actually helped me get here. I know it's tricky, but having someone to talk to, having someone that you can trust, someone you can get advice from or just share challenges with, is the key, I would say. So do that if you can, if it's possible. I would say find that mentor.
That's one. And as a young designer/ technopreneur, I would say keep on. Know why you want to get into tech in the first place. Because without knowing that, I wouldn't be able to motivate myself to want to be a better designer on a daily basis.
So know what makes you tick, know what made you interested or intrigued you in the first it maybe designing or building applications or you may love problem solving. Knowing your why is incredibly important. And once you know that, know that it will evolve. Me as a designer ten years ago versus me as a designer right now? They’re two different 'me's, two different Vilias.
HTS: You talked earlier about finding mentors. And we also just talked about women helping each other being really important. I was just wondering about how you found your mentors. The second question would be about women supporting each other in the workplace- yeah, how do you do that?
Vilia: The people who I consider mentors are the people that I loved working with. These are people that have influenced me personally and career wise. One of my biggest mentors was one of my first bosses in Canada, he was the one that opened up the possibilities for me. I'm still very good friends with him today. And once a month we would talk, just to like exchange ideas. He was one of the first people that gave me a chance to explore what I liked and I didn't like, and where my strengths were and so having someone like that to help me realize my potential- that was very, very important.
And mentors don't have to be your superiors, or people who have been in the industry for a long time. I would consider a friend of mine a mentor, because she came from a completely different industry- from healthcare. I learned tons from her. I know 'mentor' 's an industry term that seems to signify that you need to find someone more senior and more experienced than you, but for me personally, it's more about surrounding yourself with people that you like, and who are valuable to you. That could be valuable in itself as well. It's more like having a healthy professional relationship of support. That's my definition of mentorship.
As for supporting other women, I think you can do that at a lot of different levels. I'm usually involved in a variety of conversations with other leads and business owners that are women as well to just share challenges and all of that. There's a lot of interesting conversations surrounding the workplace. But also, within the respective teams that you are taking care of, there's a lot that you can do as a business owner, as a team lead, to support your team members who are women, right? For example, if they have kids, if they're married, or if they have any other responsibilities. In this day and age, it's not that fair anymore to assume that the primary carers of children are women. But it still happens, unfortunately, right? Although it should be a shared responsibility, it still happens that the primary responsibility falls to the ladies.
But when that does happen, then like, how can you as a company, how can you as a leader, help to support that? One of the things that we do is to allow any of our team members who become parents to have flexible work arrangements ad work remotely of that’s what they choose. We craft our policies, to see the individual and their particular needs everyone goes through certain things at some point in their life whether that’s kids, looking after parents or a need to recharge and rest. As leaders, and as a company we look at we can support our team members at the different stages of their life.
HTS: The technology sector overall still suffers from a low representation of women. However, In terms of the design field, there seems to be a decent representation of women do you think there are still difficulties in your industry?
Vilia: I think representation still matters a lot. I've met quite a number of female designers or female tech professionals who have started their journey, but at some point kind of dropped their careers for family and all that. I’d be very interested to see how we could get female professionals to help support each other going forward in the future, to get them back on their feet really. It's a shame because these are amazing designers that have made really, really cool design works that are being used by a lot of people. If it's their choice, what can we do, right? But if support is what they need to get back on their feet, then I would be very, very interested to know how we as women can support one another in that way.
HTS: I guess that's where the strength of start-ups comes in, because there's always a chance to create a new culture, depending on what you believe in.
Vilia: Yeah, and I'd like to think that I've been given this opportunity to lead a team on our own, and I don't want to take that for granted. I do believe that we can make a difference here, at least a small difference, starting from us, you know, from this little team that we have. I'm hoping that the positivity that we started here can kind of radiate elsewhere too, slowly but surely.
Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing. By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career. The world is your oyster, and it starts with you.
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