Name: Haidee Thanda
Job title: Senior learning platform architect, Shopify
Currently lives in: Ottawa
Education: Kundalini Yoga Level 1, Miri Piri Academy; BA in psychology and social sciences of health, University of Ottawa; Master’s in educational studies, Concordia University; Master’s in instructional technology, Concordia University
First job out of school: Leading an R&D team at a fertility clinic
It took a few attempts, but Haidee Thanda finally got her dream job. She’d bounced around several schools, learning everything from yoga instruction to nursing, before finishing an undergrad and two Master’s degrees (with a break between them). But all the change was worth it, because she found a path to the heart of everything she’d studied: technology, healthcare and education.
At Shopify, Thanda works internally with employees using a technology platform that helps them continue their learning. She also runs the Ottawa chapter of Hacking Health, an organization that identifies problems in the health sector and unites experts to build prototype solutions. Her greatest pride at Hacking Health, besides the “magical” dedication of her volunteer team, is changing mindsets in the health community and seeing progress in a sector that doesn’t always welcome change. Needless to say, she’s making some big moves in her field, even if it took a long time to get here.
During her time of flux, Thanda’s parents were worried she’d end up a professional student. “My parents are South Asian and have a very linear path in terms of how they view careers,” she says. “They trusted my instincts but also made me defend my interests.” Between Master’s degrees, she got a job she was unprepared for—leading research and development at a fertility clinic—and the project her team worked on failed. It was a huge setback, but it taught her to dust herself off, and it was where she discovered her interest in tech.
When she was starting out, Thanda worried that looking young and having an outgoing, playful character would prevent her from being taken seriously in STEM, but that hasn’t been the case. She has flourished, and she knows that it was hard work that got her where she is today. She says women often attribute their success to luck, and she’s had to work to overcome that self-doubt. “My greatest achievements aren’t just [from] luck,” she says. “They’re the fruit of my dedication and commitment.”
In the end, Thanda thinks it’s all about getting over the linear-career mindset and trusting your gut. “I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew who I wanted to be,” she says. “There’s real value in following [something] you love and any interest, even if you don’t quite see where it’ll get you. Eventually, the dots connect.”