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Women in Tech: Vânia’s career journey

Vânia Santos works in at OLX as an Engineering Manager. Here, she tells us about her career journey, what led her to OLX and her recent opportunity to speak at the European Women in Technology conference in Amsterdam.

Vânia Santos
Engineering Manager

Hi! I’m Vânia and I’m stoked to have the opportunity to talk a bit about myself on this forum!

I’ve started my path in technology way back in 2000 (yes, way back!) when I took the decision to move with my high-school studies towards the technology area. I was 14 years old, and I found myself at a difficult age, in a difficult area and in a difficult environment – I was the only girl in my class at university, which often made me doubt the choice I had made. However, it was through fighting to find my “place in the world” and collecting, step by step, both defeats and victories that eventually made me stronger.

Having finished university, I focused on becoming the best BE software developer I could be. I’m proud to say that I’ve worked in a range of typically ‘male dominated’ environments and industries, such as telcos, online betting and financing, where I have always been able to outgrow myself and reach Senior level roles. Much of my growth has come from having to make hard decisions at difficult moments arising from incidents on the platforms, which is the nature of my work. I’ve learned to stand up for myself, communicate my thoughts in a clear and assertive way, and learn from others as well as from my own mistakes.

There was a point in time however, where I felt I could be doing more than finding tech solutions: I could be influencing people to grow themselves, expanding my impact by making people’s lives better and easier, bringing assertive questions and pragmatic decisions, focusing on steering the direction wheel towards a better and bigger vision and strategy… Although I was already thinking about this for some time, the “realisation” moment came when I became a mother, and I understood even more the value of nurturing people to help them become their best selves. I knew then that I wanted to put my skills to people’s service, helping them to navigate the highly demanding tech industry and to grow themselves to be the best they can be, all while respecting their choices and capacities. 

At this point, all my natural soft skills started to develop, and I joined OLX because I wanted to do and to learn more, and what’s better than to work with a global business connected with sustainability with millions of customers? It turned out to be a great choice, because today I work with a lot of incredible professionals that believe in me and recognise my performance and potential; giving me the opportunity to be myself and the opportunities to experience other responsibilities, widening the road for the future.


One of these opportunities was to be a speaker for OLX at the European Women in Technology conference, where I could share my thoughts and experiences about the importance of growing teams and organisations, while taking an individual’s feelings into consideration. The topic seems fairly simple, but in fact can be incredibly complex: from creating impactful communication patterns through to helping people to understand the power of making strategic decisions and helping them to do this. It was incredible to see the amount of people engaged with what I was describing – facing the same issues, asking the same questions – and having the opportunity to help them to consider other perspectives and approaches to solve their problems.

If I could, based on my experience, share some advice to anyone intending to speak to people it would be this: regardless of the topic, audience size or speaking mode, just speak about what you know. People want to connect with a speaker sharing first hand experience, which for me made it a lot easier to explain my line of thought and answer questions; ultimately making it easier to help people, which is the ultimate goal to go up on a stage.

To finish, a word of encouragement to any women starting the journey in tech or who would like to get into the tech world. Today, differently than 20 years ago, tech is an industry that is thriving by welcoming diversity and inclusion – and even though the gender ratio is not balanced yet, it’s a much more open minded, supportive and sensitive community. It took a couple of decades and a lot of hard work from our previous female colleagues, but finally the feeling of belonging to the tech community is incredible, and we can make it even better, together!

This is a challenging industry, filled with non-stop innovation demands that require perseverance, resilience and a relentless will to win – and that needs new perspectives, backgrounds and courage. You’ll not be alone and it’s indeed a great new world to grow into! 

Thank you for reading!

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