Raquel Velasco’s Story – Head of Product at Viva

Monday, 26 July, 2021
Raquel Velasco - Head of Product at Viva

When did you join Viva and what attracted you?

I joined Viva two years ago, straight out of my MBA. Having previously worked in oil and gas, I wanted to move to an industry that was doing good for society. I was looking for a mission-driven company that was trying to tackle big and important problems that affected everyday people. So the scale of the work and scale of impact was important to me. I also wanted to be using deep tech; I graduated with a physics degree from Oxford, and I loved the idea of using tech innovation to solve challenging problems.

It’s also the size of Viva that was appealing. I came from a really large corporate, and when looking for my next move, I knew that I wanted to join a much smaller company where I could have a greater impact. I had interned at a very early-stage start-up where they were still trying to find product-market fit, and for me, there was not enough scale. I wanted to work for a company with an established presence and a stable, proven commercial model, yet also one where I know everybody in the company and can have a personal relationship with them. Viva offers both.

Tell us about your current role?

My current role is as Head of Product. Product in itself is the bridge between our customers and the tech side of the business. Our main remit is to be the voice of our users in shaping technical solutions, and so, a big part of my role is combining strategy and technical feasibility to prioritise different aspects of our technology on our roadmap.

The product team is really growing – from two product managers at the beginning of the year, we’re going to be a team of seven by the end of this year. My role is very much a networking role,  empathising with our users and every single part of the business. This means translating needs across the different teams, helping them connect the dots and understand each other.

What’s special about Viva’s culture and values?

Autonomy is one of our values and really resonates with me. Each of us are trusted to do our jobs and are not micromanaged or expected to micromanage. Everybody takes ownership of the outcomes  that are going to be delivered. We all really believe in improving transportation for individuals in a more sustainable way, and I think all of us really rally behind that mission – it’s bonded us together.

One of the things that really struck me, as I joined, was just how helpful everybody was. There’s no attitude of “that’s not my job”. If you see somebody struggling, we reach out and say what can I do to help you? I’ll take this piece on, or let’s solve it together. Every problem is shared and that makes for great camaraderie.

What advice would you give to someone looking to join the team?

We really value intellectual curiosity and look for people who will always ask and challenge why we are doing something. We are very passionate about our products and our mission.  We want people to not shy away from applying if you don’t have a traditional background. We have tons of people here who have taken a more circuitous route. I didn’t join directly into the Product Team immediately.

Originally, I came in to manage a couple of projects, but Mark, the CEO, knew that I wanted to use my product and strategy background and also lead a team so he was happy to make that opportunity for me.  We embrace learning on the job and if you want to pivot or grow quickly in your career, Viva is a great place to do this!

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