This month we sit down with Rahayu Rahim, Marketing Programs Manager with Blackboard Asia, to discuss her view on how women’s involvement in EdTech within Asia is changing and her advice for girls considering a career in STEM.
Q: Rahayu how did you find yourself working for a technology company such as Blackboard and what do you like most about working in the EdTech field?
It was always my intention after graduating to go into a role where I’d be writing.In fact my first job was as an editor for a business consultancy’s newsletter. I discovered quite quickly that whilst I enjoyed writing, it was more of a hobby, not necessarily a career. My next role took me into the field of technology with an audio-visual company and that’s really where my interest in this space kicked off.
I started off in events and marketing but my goal was to move into digital marketing after realising how exciting this field could be. I’ve been quite lucky in my career and have achieved the goals I’ve set along the way through a great deal of hard work and effort.
This is my fifth year with Blackboard. My role is challenging and I enjoy working with EdTech clients. Today, we can’t function without technology--it plays such a huge role in our everyday lives. And even the older generations are becoming tech-savvy--my parents, for example, are on Facebook. I like seeing the impact our work at Blackboard has on our future. I won’t be moving out of the technology field anytime soon.
Q: Do you think Blackboard can play a role in encouraging more women to pursue careers in STEM fields?
I think there are a lot of women involved in STEM, particularly in Asia, although the greater public hasn’t necessarily been exposed to all the wonderful things they are doing. Traditionally society has recognised males in the STEM fields but there are women reaching some amazing goals. We have female clients in the Philippines who are involved in a range of STEM projects for the higher education sector and we are starting to engage with them to showcase the good work they’re doing.
While education does tend to attract more women, in EdTech we are seeing more women entering the space running projects with greater breadth and depth. I’d like to think Blackboard is contributing to this change.
Q: What motivates you?
I thrive on client relationships and feedback.
I’ve been running the Teaching & Learning Conference in Asia for five years now. Blackboard has clients in Asia who have been with us for 17 or so years, and each year we work alongside them to make this event possible. Their feedback is invaluable and we use their guidance to create a bigger and better event the following year. Seeing their reactions when an idea come to fruition is incredibly rewarding.
Q: What is your top piece of professional advice?
Something I remind myself of every day is the importance of compromise. Whether it’s in your job or personal life, it’s important to give 100 percent.
We often hear the phrase ‘compromise is a dirty word’ and that this dirty word connotes less than the best. But the truth is, compromising can help you get what you need done, while learning skills and tactics that will prepare you for future success.
Q: Do you have any advice for young girls looking to pursue a career in STEM?
It’s a simple message: Be brave. While fear of failure for some can be strong, I would encourage any girl—or boy for that matter-- to go into STEM with an open mind and heart. Failing is how we grow. It’s a learning journey and one that we all need and should experience throughout our lives.
Q: What is the greatest digital transformation you would have seen in your career to-date?
I would say students learning on mobile devices. It’s the convenience of technology in the palm of our hands. While it’s not a new technology, mobility has been a significant agent of change within the field of education. We’re seeing today’s students opting to use mobile over more traditional devices such as laptops. I, for one, reach for my mobile to answer emails even with my laptop beside me most of the time. With advancements in mobile technology happening so rapidly it will be exciting to see what the future holds in this space.
Q: Is there a book that has influenced you or that you would recommend?
I really like When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It is an autobiography about a young, well-respected and successful doctor who becomes a patient fighting for his life. They say to not judge a book by its cover, but honestly this cover is what attracted me to the book in the first place. The front cover shows the author in a doctor’s uniform and the back cover shows him in a patient gown. I’m rarely a fan of autobiographies but this was really gripping and kept me company while I was on a flight. It’s sadness, happiness, heartbreak, longing, gratitude all in one. One quote from the book that really resonated with me is “You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” An absolute eye-opener.