Diversity is critical in tech, as it enables companies to create better and safer products that take everyone into consideration, not just one section of society. Moreover, a 2020 report from McKinsey found that diverse companies perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees, and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion. Despite this, women remain widely underrepresented in IT roles.
However, today we are introducing Tanya Vucetic, who leads the BlockForms business as an experienced operations professional and data science practitioner. BlockForms is a SaaS company that offers an enterprise application designed to eliminate the friction created by forms. The company is dedicated to delivering an intuitive, reliable product for insurance brokers that improves client engagement and employee performance by streamlining data collection and forms management.
With a background in international M&A, integration, and bespoke systems implementation, Tanya Vucetic brings knowledge of best practices across numerous organizations as well as seven years of treasury and valuation experience. Vucetic’s experience ranges from operations at the HNA Group and finance at Pacific Life and AIG to data science for the world’s largest eCommerce company. As a management and data science consultant, Vucetic honed key leadership and analytics skills that make her a vital internal asset. Vucetic earned her MBA from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, MSc in Computational Analytics from Georgia Tech and BA in International Economics from UCLA.
Tell us more about BlockForms, who are your clients, what are they looking for?
BlockForms is a web application that streamlines filling out forms for Insurance Brokers. Insurance brokers interact with countless forms that ask the same questions in numerous ways and formats. BlockForms consolidates these complex redundant forms into one digital form such that the broker and their clients only input their data once, but complete many forms simultaneously. Using BlockForms reduces the repetition of paperwork, resulting in a faster sales cycle, fewer errors and happy clients.
What are the do’s and don’ts when starting a software business such as yours?
Beyond knowing your customer, be your customer. Experience the problem you are solving firsthand as many times as possible before diving into developing a solution. My co-founder and Head of Sales, Benet Heames is an Insurance Broker himself. It wasn’t until our third co-founder and CTO, Ali Akhtar and I spent a year experimenting with these forms that we had a clear vision on how to tackle this solution. Yes, a full year!
Avoid making assumptions when questions arise. The short-term time saved on not having done more research will undoubtedly cost you more time and money in the long-run.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
This business is the thread in my non-linear career path. After spending seven years in finance and operations for international corporations, I pivoted to developing a technical skillset as a Data Scientist and have been developing machine learning and AI models as a consultant for over three years now. As CEO, my background in finance, operations and data science has equipped me with the required skills to navigate the nitty gritty back office work and serve as the liaison between our clients and communicating (translating) those needs to our development team.
What prompted you to become a Data scientist? What kind of training and past work experience do you have in the field?
The predominant tool used in Finance is Microsoft Excel and while Excel is an extraordinarily powerful tool, it is very limited in its scalability and processing power. I clearly remember the day I woke up and decided, I need stronger faster models which requires studying statistics and learning to code. Since jumping headfirst into the field, I’ve built technology that informs which items can or cannot be shipped in a box together, whether or not a train can operate in certain weather conditions, if you’re brushing your teeth effectively and much more.
What is the one technology trend within your industry that cannot be ignored?
There are a large number of industries that are desperate for innovation, but complete disruption is not yet an option. Meanwhile, there is enormous opportunity there for optimization. If you come across an experience that could be improved upon, I challenge you to explore that thought because you are probably right!
How did you come up with the idea, how did you find the right people to build the software? Any tips?
BlockForms was my co-founder, Benet’s idea. As mentioned above, Benet is an Insurance Broker himself and he lives and breathes the problem we are solving. After communicating his idea to a mutual friend, Benet (Head of Sales), Ali (CTO) and I were introduced to each other as a capable team. I have landed the CEO role within our team because of my leadership skills, technological know-how and finance experience. Benet is a rockstar salesperson through and through and Ali is a talented developer and designer.
The key to building anything is joining forces with people who have completely different skillsets. Whether you become partners or you decide you need strictly work-for-hire, I suggest really knowing what you’re great at and letting others handle what you’re average or not-so-great at. Having a CTO has been instrumental to keeping our costs low, but if you’re looking for contract developers – don’t be afraid to ask. I will personally connect you!
When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
Let’s face it, we’re all human and life happens. When I suffer a setback, my partners step up without hesitation and the ball keeps rolling. We pride ourselves in giving each other the space we need amidst crisis ultimately never skipping a beat in the long run but reworking what we need to in the short run.
When we experience a setback together, for example, an important prospect passing on our software, we again get through it together. Your team is crucial to your business’ success and everything we’ve confronted has been solved by communicating.
Is social media marketing important for businesses like yours?
Our target customer is highly relationship and referral based. While running ads in professional networks and industry specific publications is highly advantageous, I look to social media for more personal reasons as an entrepreneur who is female with a technical background. I am frequently told by women that they wished they had known the career path I’ve chosen was an option. My intention when sharing BlockForms and data science on social media platforms is to inspire others to pursue entrepreneurship and mathematics.
What are your future goals?
My future plans for BlockForms is to scale the business across multiple industries that heavily interact with paperwork. As an entrepreneur, I will stay involved in building multiple businesses from the ground up. However, my passion project is in education research related to inspiring children to be curious about how YouTube and their tablets work in addition to using these services and devices.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Keep your eyes on your own paper.” In other words, don’t be concerned with how others are getting the job done. As a tech start-up, my partners and I often feel pressured to raise money because raising money in tech is more highly celebrated than conducting business. It is my job to protect our shareholders and raising money prematurely will dilute BlockForms unnecessarily. While others are raising tens and hundreds of thousands here and there, we are fortunately in a position that we don’t need to. The market will hear from us when we are well-positioned for hyper-growth.