Mediaplanet caught up with Bobbie Racette, Founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus, to discuss her accomplishments as an Indigenous woman in STEM.
What challenges have you faced as an Indigenous woman in the tech industry? How did you overcome them?
Unfortunately, when I go through our investor list, I count 170 investors who said no to me. When I look back statistically, this might not have anything to do with it, but I can’t help but think that ninety per cent of them were white males who just didn’t understand me or what I was building. So, either I wasn’t getting the message out clearly, or they didn’t believe in me. I hate to say the latter was most likely what was wrong, but whether it was my being Indigenous or a woman or someone who is a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, I will never know.
When I realized I wasn’t getting investor interest, I took a couple of months to re-evaluate who I was targeting. I spoke with a few impact funds, and when I explained what we do and why, I noticed much more interest. So I switched gears and started reaching out to more impact funds and investors, which led me to close my Series A funding round successfully.
How does Virtual Gurus help individuals overcome barriers to employment?
Virtual Gurus (VG) serves underrepresented communities by providing meaningful earning opportunities for people seeking an alternative to the 9 to 5 office work week. VG prides itself on championing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour), people from the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, single and stay-at-home parents, and those with alternate abilities.
What has been the proudest moment in your career as a woman in a male-dominated field?
I recently closed a Series A funding round, and I’m proud to say that I’m the only Indigenous Woman in Tech in Canada to close one. We continue building the technology that will allow us to go global. Virtual Gurus now has a team of 40 employees (and growing) and over 650 virtual assistants.
What advice can you give Indigenous women interested in a STEM career?
We need to create more communities and safe spaces for aspiring entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and all walks of life — to come together, share ideas, and get mentorship and guidance from those with expertise and resources.
Be prepared to learn. Google was my best friend. When I started Virtual Gurus, I had to learn everything on my own, including creating financial documents, building technology and websites, and ensuring I had all licensing to have this type of business.
Persistence, passion, and a clear vision are vital. Don’t be afraid to live your story.