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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Voices from Xaana.Ai

This International Women's Day, it's an opportunity to acknowledge the strides we've made towards gender equality and to honour the remarkable achievements of women in diverse fields like technology and finance. To celebrate we had the opportunity to connect with several exceptional women who are part of the Xaana.Ai team, to gain insight into their lives and experiences as professionals in the tech industry and their roles in making Xaana what it is.  



Priya Rajgarhia – AI Scientist  

 

Tell me about yourself and what has lead you down this career path?    


AI Scientist Priya Rajgarhia came from Mumbai, India’s financial capital. When asked, Priya acknowledged the enterprise spirit that she inherited from her family but was always looking to do something in Technology and Ai. Priya reflected despite being a school scholar in Science and Mathematics, her family roots in commerce drew her in that direction so she could one day run her family’s business.


However, when was studying business analytics Priya was exposed to lots of computer science languages and & was captured by the way data tells a story that influences people's actions, systems, and processes and that’s fundamental. This was the moment that her career trajectory changed.   


Delivery and Product Manager Paris Tran always felt accountant at heart. “I started in a public practice accounting firm and moved into financial accounting, and during all of my roles it just so happened I was always the person to come to ask for help with systems and I became a bit of a champion of accounting software”. Paris had the opportunity to complete some small ERP implementations, then moved into ERP migration projects and that’s when she discovered a love of doing tech work over accounting work, “when the role came up at Xaana I thought it would be a great transition role for me”.  

 

Luda Halvorson, grew up wanting to be a ballerina, did classes and even started to do it professionally. Following the completion of a Masters in Finance an accounting role was a natural next step for her. “when I first started working as an accountant and I saw financial mapping and other processes being done so manually and I started thinking how can things like this be automated?”. This was what got Luda’s career moving into system accounting.  


Xaana.AI’s finance officer Pragna moved from Bangalore to Australia for her studies, “I knew I wanted to work in finance and I knew I wanted to move abroad and I was lucky to get into ANU and to move here alone was a huge and daunting step to take but here I am. Xaana was my first job out of Uni and it’s been an amazing journey so far, the amount of things I have learned in a short amount of time has been amazing. The way I have been allowed to take ownership of tasks and processes has helped me grow so much” 

 

When did you join Xaana.Ai? And what has your journey been like so far?  


Paris joined the Xaana.Ai team in January 2022. “I didn’t expect to get accepted into the role, but it was a great surprise. It was a huge learning curve for me to get more technical”. “To be honest, it was terrifying because I thought I would be starting with skills that I already had, but my very first call with the teams was all about Api’s, firewalls, CPIs, mapping and I was like what is any of this? So I started googling and self-learning and it was a huge learning curve. A lot of extra hours to put in to learn. I wouldn’t go back to accounting now because the work that I am doing is just so much more interesting.” 


“I always wanted to work for an AI company, and in Uni I heard a lot about Xaana.Ai and I knew that’s where I wanted to work”. This led Priya to joining the team in August 2022 in a marketing role. “When I saw the marketing role come up I applied straight away in hopes I also could work with the product side of the business”.  

“When I joined Xaana I was of course doing a lot of marketing work, but I quickly shifted to the Launch of Algoreus, and after a few months I remember feeling like Algoreus is like my baby, I nurtured it, I protected it I helped to sustain it and grow it. I believe in the vision of Xaana and believe that these products are going to get to places that will change lives.” 


Pragna is a more recent addition to the team starting in 2023. “Xaana was my first job out of Uni and it’s been an amazing journey so far, the amount of things I have learned in a short space of time has been amazing”  

 

“Xaana is super busy and I love it” said Luda. “I feels like I am gaining a lot of experience in a short time and bringing a lot to the company as an individual”. The team is fantastic and is super helpful, so it's been a great experience so far. 

 

What did you want to be when you were younger?  


The diversity of dream careers is a great example of the diverse backgrounds and pathways to our Sector. While Luda had dreams of a career on stage as a Ballerina, Paris had designs on being a cosmetic surgeon. Priya always had science, “When I was younger, I wanted to be a scientist – science and chemistry. Or a cardiologist, maybe an astronaut”.  Pragna always wanted a career in finance or accounting for as long as she could remember.  


What advice do you have for women who are just starting out in the tech industry, and how can they best prepare themselves for a successful career? 


“Just go for it, and always look to be upskilling yourself” was Pragna’s advice, while Paris commented “The first thing I would say is your journey is your own, and don’t compare yourself to someone else. That’s exactly did at the beginning of my career, I didn’t go straight into accounting, so by the time I had my first role, my manager at the time was 3 years younger than me and I found that to be disheartening. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with another grad who had migrated from Thailand, that it hit me that we all have different starting points, your journey is your own, and the only person you need to be better than is the person you were this time last year”. 


Luda’s advice echoed Pragna, “just give it a go! Even if you think you might not succeed just give it a go and don’t give up. I had so many moments of I'm very good in finance with my years of working in this space, it was super daunting to then feel like I’m starting again, “don’t give up and pursue your dream! When I was switching career paths, I really thought what if I don’t like this or what if it doesn’t work out for me, but there is always an opportunity to go back”.  Priya commented “there are a lot of women who are leading at Xaana, and it gives me a feeling that I can understand you, you can understand me, and we can work together. I feel like I’m supported, I feel like I'm valued and I feel like what I do here at Xaana means something”.  



Paris Tran – Delivery and Product Manager 


How do you think the tech industry can better address diversity and inclusion, not just in terms of gender but also race, ethnicity, and other identities? 


Paris’ insight was “I was just reading on a forum, that a company just did a recent developer hire, and out of 20 there were only 2 women selected. I feel like here at Xaana we are doing great in this space, we have women leading the development space and the consulting space, but as for the wider industry I feel it needs thinking about”. “It starts from the top down” Pragna remarked. “If leaders showcase the right attitudes and values, it is a flow-on effect to the whole team and organisation” 

 

Have you had any mentors or role models who have influenced your career trajectory? 


When asked about Mentors, Luda noted “I follow so many women in tech on LinkedIn and who share their career paths and challenges etc and find that really inspiring”, while Paris’ experience with a  manager who taught her about work-life balance, they observed “ we are not surgeons here, if you deliver something one hour or one day Late, no one is going to die, don’t take work home, you need your break on your weekend to come back fresh. And that stuck with me”.  


When asked about mentor’s, Priya has sought inspiration and guidance from a number of sources. “If I have to be honest, and If I look directly in the field of AI where I want my career to grow, there aren’t many women and I would love to see more. When I see women like Mira Murati and Dr Maria Milosavljevic, I am inspired to see women reach their levels and this me the belief that women, but can aspire to these leading roles”. Priya also noted “my mother is also a huge influence on my life, and I was raised in a traditional Indian family, but it's not super traditional in a patriarchal way. My mother makes a lot of decisions in our household”. 


Pragna felt fortunate have two ladies in particular contributed to her career path so far. “I had a wonderful leader during my uni internship, and I was so inspired to have started my journey learning from her. And one in my manager when I first started at Xaana.Ai - she put time into my growth, always asked me for feedback even on her own work and would take my advice on how to improve things and that made me feel extremely valued, really understood, and supported me which has inspired me to carry myself the same way”. 



Pragna Mundra – Finance Officer  

 

What is your favourite thing about working at Xaana.Ai? 


Luda – “This is a fantastic team, I haven’t met anyone in the team I don’t get along with and I like that it’s a very quickly growing company, being a part of advancing of technology is exciting.  


Pragna – “It’s the people. Everyone is so approachable and lovely and willing to help and it’s such an incredible team to work with”. 

Paris - “There are so many things, but for me, It comes down to the culture of trust here at Xaana,”  

 

Priya – “We are not only making new capabilities into our products literally every day, we are improving and getting better every day in all other parts of the business. Here I get the opportunity to work in many different business areas, and very quickly. I can test all the knowledge and capabilities I have and use them. I don’t think in any other company or role I would get the opportunity to have a voice and use my capabilities and learn along the way. I think the best thing about our people and our leaders here is that there truly feels like there is no bias towards anyone, if you are saying something it holds value, our leaders make it a point to listen”.  



Luda Halvorson –Technical Consultant - TechnologyOne 

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