Meet Edlitera CEO! An interview with #CodingIcon Claudia Virlanuta on data science, entrepreneurship, learning and more

Imagine meeting a nice person who does not know you or your name. How would you describe yourself with one sentence only? Who are you?

I'm Claudia Virlanuta, the founder and CEO of Edlitera, a company that helps teams at other companies master innovation and technology skills. Before starting Edlitera, I was a data scientist in my day job, and taught data science skills in the evenings at Meetups, and eventually at the Harvard Extension School.

Now imagine the person you meet is a young girl – would this one sentence change and how?

Depending on how young she is, I would perhaps explain what a data scientist does.

What is your current position at work?

I'm the CEO of my company. This means I get to tell everyone what to do, but it also means that I am the one responsible if things don't go as planned.

What has helped you the most in the years back? What characteristic feature of yours has been of greatest help to you in your experience so far?

I'd say my resilience and my willingness to move past failures and try again. Also, a useful thing I've learned is that it's a waste of energy to be upset about things that you cannot change. We can't always change what happens to us, but we can change how we respond to it. Or, put a different way, when life gives you lemons, make some lemonade!

Have you had any role models or mentors to help you out along the way?

Absolutely! I've had some fantastic teachers, professors, and later on managers along the way, who have inspired me to keep learning and to stay with a problem until I get to the bottom of it. I've also had the good fortune to have good friends and family who were there for me through the low points and the high.

What was your professional dream as a child? What did you want to become when you grow up?

My older sister is a nurse in a hospital, so I grew up playing doctor with my dolls. Then one day I saw a movie about a wedding planner, and for the next few months I wanted to be a wedding planner. At different times, I've also wanted to be a lawyer, a lab scientist, and a farmer. Later on, I realized that the common thread was that I wanted to do something that helps people, and that allows me to work with people who are smarter than me. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but for now Edlitera checks both of those boxes for me, so I'm a happy camper!

When was the a-ha moment for you in your career path? When did you decide to work in technology and when and how did you start thinking about your own business projects in the same direction?

Got my first computer when I was in middle school, and I largely assumed that I'd be working with technology ever since. Working in technology was a natural next step from there. The idea to start a business had been with me for a few years when I finally pulled the trigger on it. I had worked for a few different companies by that point, so I had enough experience to understand that I craved more autonomy than most jobs could offer.

How did your work change in the years? What did your professional development look like?

As a data scientist, I mostly solved problems that were narrow in scope. My work was a lot more technical and specialized than it is currently at Edlitera. As an entrepreneur, the range and scope of problems to solve has increased by a lot, so my focus has shifted more towards working effectively with my team and with our business partners. One thing that data science and entrepreneurship have in common, though, is problem solving.

In terms of professional development, I believe that nothing is unlearnable, and I am always learning. I taught myself programming, then data science, then how to start and grow a business. Looking down the line, I'll probably be the little old lady in the retirement home squinting through her glasses trying to figure out the latest gadget.

What part of your job are you most proud of?

Seeing people grow and inspiring them to learn new things.

You got 3 minutes with your 13-year-old self. What do you say?

  • Grownups don't have the answers. Most of them are making it up as they go along.
  • It's better to make mistakes or fail than to not try at all. When you make a mistake, make sure to learn from it. Then move on.
  • Don't be afraid to speak your mind. Also - speak up! They can't hear you in the back.

What are your next big goals or projects for 2022? Take us behind the scenes and share something we don’t know?

Lots of new and exciting things are coming to Edlitera this year! Keep an eye on and follow me on LinkedIn to be the first to know.