As the CTO of Calidofin, Natasha Jethanandani has focused on making Financial Services inclusive. Having been the engineering head at BankBazaar, building technology for financial services was not new to Natasha.
But, his switch to Kaleidofin was “driven by a strong personal motivation”, helping him learn to make more of a social impact on life.
Natasha explains, “I was really attracted to Caleidofin’s mission, providing customers with an intuitive and continuous financial solution to their real-life goals.”
“I fell in love with mathematics with many puzzles at the dinner table. We had just started learning basic programming in school and I was growing fond of it. I created a tool that could take chemical equations and visualize them together with animated floating molecules – I thought it would be a fun way to learn chemistry, ”recalls Natasha.
Computer science 101
Before she was ready to attend junior college, Natasha was selected to attend Asheville School, a boarding school in North Carolina, USA, and it was a huge cultural change.
“It made me independent at an early age. It opened up a whole new world with easy access to computers, email for the first time, and the option to explore math and computing.
She went on to join Stanford University, and initially planned to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.
“But all this changed after taking Computer Science 101. I loved the problem solving, the theory, and the hands-on creation of CS-making products. I loved the logic and the endless possibilities it discovered,” she recalls. is.
At Stanford, Natasha produced multiplayer games from scratch, dubbed into animation software, and did a double major in CS and economics. She also followed statistics and modelling techniques.
“I stayed at Stanford to complete my masters in CS. During this time, I became obsessed with distributed computing and networking. From summer internships at Infosys, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, to camera direction control and to online classrooms. To provide research at Stanford with real-time audio-video detection for feedback – all providing interesting real world exposure to the engineering and products world. ”
Soon after her graduation, Natasha lost her father, the incident that transformed her into a person, making her calm and more focused.
“I came to India to live with my mother. But when I spent a few months with him, she took over the responsibility of my father’s business and sent me back to America. She is my biggest role model in that she faced challenges strongly. ”
In 2002, she joined the .Net Framework and Web Services team at Microsoft as an engineer, which Natasha says is a great way to build a scalable communications stack used by developers around the world.
At Microsoft, she also created a serialization stack from scratch, which taught him the importance of performance and being detail-oriented. Every item in WCF went through serialization, says Natasha. They were the basis for the web services base and at this stage, any gaps would be extended to web service calls.
She moved to manage a team handling API design for web services. “Microsoft provided some of the best learning experiences around leading teams,” says Natasha.
However, in 2008, she left Microsoft to move to New York with her husband.
Before joining Google, the couple decided to travel around Africa and Europe – doing Kilimanjaro, scuba diving, etc. in the Red Sea.
Subsequently in New York, Natasha found herself being intercepted by Google and joined the Chelsea office as one of the lead engineers.
Here, she led the concept and alpha launch of DFP Video. Natasha calls it Google’s offering of DoubleClick in the wedding and video advertising space.
I was excited when I got the chance to demo Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. I worked on a product plan and instilled the idea within the AdSense team. It was a chance to run a startup and build a team within a large organization. “It was great to have the opportunity to work with the smartest minds in the industry,” says Natasha.
Startup and fail
After 16 years in America and the birth of their second daughter, Natasha decided to move to India. In 2013, Natasha’s family decided to start and co-founded the Pinpoint system in 2013.
Natasha says, “We built an Android system with OS modifications to support music. This was my first step in hardware engineering, and we were fortunate to work with an expert in the field. It was also my first attempt to build a startup from scratch and I realized that it takes challenges to consistently prioritize, pitch effectively, and build the right team. ”
She continues, “This was the last point I struggled with the most. With most of my network in the US, I had a hard time building a team in a new city. One important lesson I learned from this experience was that I should start with a full-time co-founder who had complementary skills for me. ”
Nearly a year later, she met the co-founders of BankBazaar and decided to join them “to find out what they had got to build a successful startup in India” and discontinued the pinpoint system.
Lessons learned from the bank market
As Head of Engineering at BankBazaar from 2014 to 2018, Natasha learned how to build a team and e-commerce business, and scale customer acquisitions while balancing engineering investments.
In the four years, Natasha was at BankBazaar, the startup introduced several new products, including insurance, mutual funds, and credit scoring with market success. It also introduced personal finance support in its mobile app and streamlined app acquisitions for over one million installs.
Natasha says, “The personalization of data and improved targeting capabilities required us to provide an incorporated customer data analytics platform, leading to large-scale development in customer applications.”
Building for impact
In 2018, Natasha moved to NeoBank’s startup Kaleidofin, which was founded in 2017 by Sucharita Mukherjee and Puneet Gupta.
“I wanted to increase my influence on the direction of the company in the role of a CTO, head of engineering and product. At the time, Kaleidofin was trying to launch its aided channel app, which allows customers and branch managers such as microfinance institutions and small banks to digitally onboard customers in a goal-based solution. ”
“But it was not easy. We started with everything paperless using the India stack but were impressed by the Supreme Court’s ruling, limiting the use of KYC and Aadhaar-based authentication for payments. This meant investing in a lot of technology around AI and computer vision-based technologies to explore issues in paper-based processes. ”
Being the only woman in the room
Even after two decades, Natasha’s passion for coding and programming remains the same. Today, keeping Techies at work, she says that there are two important things to learn – learning and the desire to learn.
“It is said that you should be good in your basics. Your core ability to see through problems and solve them comes from basics, which need to be strengthened. I also look for people who stay away from work, build products and applications out of work. It shows passion, ”says Natasha.
Being a woman Takei, she says, while it’s often hard to be the “only woman in the room”.
She advises women to openly ask for the things you want, discuss your compensation and promotions.
“Even if you are not working directly with them, find the right role model. When I was at Google, a woman was leading Google Maps. I found that the motivators, “miss Natasha,” even if there are very few, find them. The biggest change will happen when you encourage girls to code first and say that they are no different from boys. ”