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Q&A with Tina Sebastian, VP of Engineering at Abstrakt

Q&A with Tina Sebastian, VP of Engineering at Abstrakt

Today we’ve got the inside scoop on the one and only Tina Sebastian, VP of Engineering at Abstrakt!

Tina has been in the software and database development world for over 15 years and has worked for big corporations as well as founded her own company. She has vast experience in the artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP) world, which made her the perfect fit for Abstrakt. Take a look at why she decided to make a leap to another startup and join our team.
 

Question #1: Why did you decide to go from larger corporations to the startup world? You even decided to start your own company before Abstrakt. Tell us more.

Answer #1: The choice between working for larger organizations and smaller startups is a very personal one – it depends on a number of factors including your personality, risk appetite, career stage, goals, and ambitions.

I personally have always leaned towards taking calculated risks in life, including quitting my first engineering job in India to move to the United States alone to pursue higher education. There was no certainty as to how it would work out. I staunchly believe that risk is always better than regret.

I have worked at and consulted for organizations like Wipro, Verizon, and Whirlpool in the past, and also done my fair share of time building startups, including my last one at Card-Boss. (Card-Boss was acquired a couple of months ago.)

While the experiences at larger companies were helpful in developing my skills and work style, I realized along the way that I would be able to make a bigger impact at a smaller startup, especially with regard to innovation and creative freedom. This urge to have more meaning and impact in life is what eventually brought me to Abstrakt.
 

Question #2: What are a couple of things that have made you successful in your career?

Answer #2: I would say being comfortable with failure and the refusal to give up are the two most important things that eventually lead to success, both in career and in life.

I believe that you have never truly succeeded until you have failed first.

Embracing failure, especially when pursuing innovation, as well as the determination to never give up regardless of the noise and naysayers around you. This helps when the unfair curveballs that life throws at you keep you inching forward to success.

Consistency is key. As well as patience over time is also important. As they say, nothing great was ever achieved overnight.
 

Question #3: If you had the opportunity to start your career over, what would you do differently?

Answer #3: If I had the opportunity to start my career over, I would focus more on improving the emotional skills required for my job early on rather than simply developing the technical and engineering skill sets. Warm interpersonal relationships and the ability to adapt and get along with people with diverse viewpoints are far more important than mere technical skills.

I would also pay far less attention to external opinions telling me what I can or cannot do. Instead, I would rely more on my own decisions with the confidence that comes from honestly assessing my own strengths and weaknesses.
 

Question #4: If you’re ever stuck during the product development process, where do you look for advice or technical help?

Answer #4: There are unlimited technical resources online to research and learn from, as well as to share information with the community. I am also a big fan of just reading books.

Having a network of professionals and subject matter experts to fall back on is equally important and this can either be an online community or an in-person one like local meetups.

While there is no dearth of resources to turn to, the best way to make the most out of these resources is to adopt a beginner’s mindset. Having the humility to acknowledge that you may not always know everything is important. Also, you need to be willing to learn from scratch over and over again, regardless of the number of years of work experience or achievements is crucial.
 

Question #5: What made you decide to take the leap and join Abstrakt as employee #4?

Answer #5: The entire process right from the initial online conversation with Greg to the final in-person meeting convinced me that Abstrakt was the opportunity that I had been looking for all along.

Just the fact that I got to meet and speak with every member of the team upfront before taking a decision, as opposed to being introduced to them on the first day summarizes the detailed and thoughtful approach to building the right team at Abstrakt.

The game-changing product and the innovative technology stack involving conversational intelligence using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), both areas of keen interest for me, were also key factors in the decision to join the Abstrakt team.
 

Question #6: You are taking on a big responsibility here at Abstrakt, VP of Engineering. What vision do you have for your team and the product itself?

Answer #6: Conversational intelligence is the future and we are building it one step at a time at Abstrakt. We have a very strong technical and functional team and my vision for the team is to adopt the best engineering practices and evolve into a world-class technology organization, at the forefront of the conversational intelligence revolution.

While we focus heavily on the engineering aspects, we also need to keep in mind that we are primarily in the business of humanity and align our work goals with what is right and fair for everyone, while also not forgetting to have fun as a team along the way.
 

Question #7: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Answer #7: In 10 years, I hope to have learned from the wonders and blunders of my life up to that point and to have evolved into a far better version of myself, both professionally and personally.

I hope to still be at Abstrakt and be a part of its growth story over the next few decades.

The only thing certain about the future is uncertainty and I view this as my biggest opportunity rather than my biggest fear, to be able to define the future on my own terms.
 

Question #8: If you could give any piece of advice to someone reading this post, what would it be?

Answer #8: Every single person is extraordinary, period. We often forget this somewhere along the way and start doubting our innate talents and abilities. Our minds are nothing short of a miracle and all we need to do is to believe in ourselves.

There will always be people who do not see your potential or are willing to readily believe the worst rumors about you without taking the time to verify the facts.

In the face of such inevitable and often painful rejections in life, it is very important that we do not reject or exclude ourselves. Especially from everything life has to offer if only we just keep persisting.

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Thank you everyone for sticking around and reading all about Tina Sebastian, VP of Engineering at Abstrakt. Do you have any other questions for Tina? Hit her up on LinkedIn and mention this post!

Stay tuned for our next Q&A post. In the meantime, snag a demo of Abstrakt.

A quick disclaimer: None of the tips I give should be considered business, legal, or financial advice. I’m just sharing what has worked best for me but you should always carefully consider all your options.

Author

Clare Dobson - VP of Marketing

With experience from SaaS to home services to non-profits, Clare has built proven marketing strategies for various customers. She is passionate about the customer’s success as well as empowering those around her each and everyday.