People @ Billie: Meet our VP Product Vanaja Sriskandarajah

Take a look “behind the curtain” and learn more about the people who shape Billie. In People @ Billie we introduce our diverse team of bright talents and learn about their respective expertise and field. One of these great talents is our VP Product Vanaja Sriskandarajah. Read here how her path has taken her from working in Investment Consulting in Sydney and founding her own company to working in Product at Berlin Fintechs.

Vanaja Sriskandarajah
Vanaja Sriskandarajah, VP Product at Billie

So what is your background and what brought you to the start up world? 

Originally I come from a finance background in Australia. I was working in Investment Consulting at Mercer, providing investment advice to a range of corporate and institutional investors. I was thrown into the fintech space when a friend convinced me to co-found an investment app with him. The idea was to make investing accessible to a younger generation, as the latter often believe investing is relegated to those with deep pockets. 

We went through an accelerator program, which was a great experience and it was my first exposure to tech, product, marketing, and what it takes to set up a company. This venture was really where I learned everything about entrepreneurship and we even raised funding only six months in. However, later on, I made the personal decision to move to Germany with my partner, as he wanted to return back home. 

When I arrived in Germany, I was initially based in Munich and I was working remotely for Mercer. At the time, the simple act of opening a bank account was a challenging experience. The bank would snail mail me to request information I did not have and we were constantly going around in circles. I stumbled upon N26 and opened an account there, and the experience felt lightyears ahead of what I previously encountered in Germany. As I was interested in Fintech and the startup space, I decided to send a speculative application for a Business Development role and I started working for N26 in Berlin in January 2017. 

So you started in Business Development, when did Product first become an option for you?

I was working in Business Development initially, but I almost fell into product management through a combination of luck and opportunity. An Insurance partnership I was working on was soon ready for development, but we lacked a product manager. The then Head of Product asked if I was open to stepping into the role and I immediately welcomed the opportunity to try it out. 

I knew almost from the beginning that I loved being a product manager. It brings a lot of different experiences and skills together because it’s at the intersection of business, technology and user experience. You get to explore different ideas but in the end, it is your responsibility to turn an idea into reality. I enjoy the creativity but also working with a team to deliver tangible value for your customers.

This how Billies have spent the past year working from home – apart from working.

What made you interested in Billie?

I had a great time with N26 and got to work across a number of different products, but the role inevitably changed as the organization scaled. Billie approached me and I was intrigued by the business model and thought it sounded very interesting. I met with Christian, our MD & Co-Founder, to learn more about the company and I quickly realised there was a very strong management team behind the idea. 

I also felt that the B2B fintech segment was a relatively untapped market, compared to the more glamorous but crowded B2C space. I could see the potential of a financing product serving small business needs and the significant growth possibilities. I personally also wanted to move back to a smaller start-up to experience the exhilarating growth phase again.

The switch to Billie also meant a switch from B2C to B2B. Did that affect your decision?

Ultimately whether it is B2B or B2C, there are people using your product. Whilst in B2C you can have millions of users, in B2B the number of users is usually smaller. Therefore, you can have a much deeper relationship with your customers and really understand the context in which the vast majority of them use your products.

Curious about a career in Engineering? Read about our Director Ahmed Gaber.

You have been with Billie as of July 2019. During this time what have been your favourite projects?

What I love about Billie is that there is never a lack of interesting or challenging projects. We want to build simple solutions for our customers, but there’s a lot going on in the background to make this happen in a scalable way. There’s been a number of projects that I’ve enjoyed working on - more recently I worked with the Salesforce and Payments teams to build a payment interface for our internal operations team. It met the twin objectives of ensuring our customers receive accurate and timely bookkeeping data, as well as establishing a scalable and efficient internal tool to help us deliver this. 

What do you like about working at Billie?

Probably the fact that there are a lot of smart yet humble people that make up the company. We have a truly collaborative culture and everyone works to support each other in what they do.  I think these are the key ingredients to a successful working environment. It means we can tackle challenging projects together and have a lot of fun in the process of delivering them. 

This year has been quite a ride and your team, as the entire company, too, has shifted to a remote set-up. How did this transition go?

Overall I think we adapted really smoothly to a remote working set-up. I also found it remarkable that we transitioned to a fully remote set-up within a day of making the decision to close the office in early March. At the start, I think some were worried if we could be equally productive in a remote working set-up and if we could translate our more creative collaborative practices to a virtual environment. However, we found new tools and rituals and made it work quite seamlessly. 

I personally liked that remote working and the general turbulence of the year meant that certain work/home barriers were broken, and you could see your colleagues balance kids on their laps or have random cats walk into your Zoom call and it was considered completely fine. It made me feel more connected to my colleagues and I hope it is something that sticks post-covid.

Do you feel Billie is the right working and growth environment for you, too? Check out our current job openings on our career page. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Patrick Dolan

Patrick Dolan

Patrick is an experienced business recruiter and gives exciting insights into the Billie world on our blog

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