#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Vida Ha

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – Lucille Ball

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My name is Vida.  My parents are of Cantonese Chinese ethnicity but were born in Vietnam and fled after the war when my mom was already pregnant with me. My family sought out refuge in Indonesia before arriving on American soil: shortly after, I was born. While my family, including my older siblings, had their Chinese names translated to English, my parents got to pick out two names for me – a Chinese one and an American one. For the American one, my dad picked Vida from a baby book to symbolize our journey from Vietnam to Indonesia to America.

–What celebrities I follow on Instagram:

@amyschumer, @mindykaling, @aliwong  Women rule comedy these days – these women are fierce, funny, smart, and beautiful – everything I aspire to be!

What do you do to relax:
Two years ago, I decided to train to run my first half marathon in my mid-30’s.  I’m one of the least athletic people you’ll meet – I used ballet and math club as an excuse to dodge any kind of sport as a kid.  This seemed like a daunting goal, but I finished that half I signed up for and have done at least 3 more since then.   More importantly, running is now one of the things I can’t go without.  If you’ve ever thought about running a half – don’t think about it anymore – just sign up for one 3 months out and start training today – it doesn’t matter how long it takes you – just that you finish!

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I worked at Google as a software engineer from 2005-2010, which was a really magical experience for just 2 years into my professional career.  In a short time, I went from being a graduate student to running jobs on 1,000 node clusters that touched millions of users.  It was amazing, but I was eager to explore life outside of Google’s walls, so I left to work at a couple of startups and saw how difficult it was for the rest of the world to have access to comparable Big Data technology. Hadoop was harder to program, difficult to install, and procuring so many new compute instances was a slow and expensive process. Luckily, there are always people in the world who notice these inefficiencies – around that time, Matei Zaharia created Apache Spark as a PHD student at the UC Berkeley Amp Lab, and then some of his colleagues decided to cofound Databricks with him to bring Apache Spark to the cloud. I now work for Databricks with customers that are applying Big Data technology to innovate in every industry. One that stands out is a customer who’s using Big Data technology for research in correlating health and genetics data to medical conditions – I’m excited to see what comes out applying state of the art data technology for health research!

Ideal Job:
I can’t say for sure, as I’m the type who always wants to chase the future.  In 10 years time, I believe technology and innovation will enable things we couldn’t see being possible today, so I wouldn’t want to limit myself to not pursuing one of those ideas.  I’ll still be in technology for sure in some form of another.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Write your own rules in life.  Too many times I see people who compare themselves to others or pursue a path in life that’s expected of them rather than what they really want.  I could never imagine living a life with that much predictability.  I believe in exploring the world and leaving yourself open to pursuing any life-changing opportunities that may come your way.

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