#ItoWomen – Natashia’s Story
A people ambassador and expert – Natashia Variava’s story on how values-driven decisions led her to transport tech
Natashia Variava is Head of People at Ito World, where she works closely with the leadership team to advise on people strategy and ensures that Ito World is hiring from a diverse group of candidates. Core to Ito’s strategy is building an inclusive environment where all groups of people are welcome and valued.
When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Natashia is against the notion of tokenism. For her, it is important that businesses are prepared to do the hard work to build truly inclusive cultures, and this is what drew her to Ito World.
Natashia has been with Ito World for two and half years, starting as a freelance talent consultant, now working with the Leadership team on Ito’s people strategy.
As a transit data company, Ito World operates in an industry traditionally dominated by men (crossing tech, data and transport). Natashia has shared her story as part of #ItoWomen, an initiative to showcase the career paths and stories of women across its teams, to inspire more women to move into STEM-based careers, and to promote a more balanced and inclusive workforce.
Growing up in South Africa and moving to the UK with her single mother at the age of 19, Natashia faced challenges in attending university full time, due to astronomic international student fees. Instead, Natashia studied business psychology by distance learning through the University of South Africa and began working in HR and people in 2006. In the early stages of her career, Natashia worked in the media industry and was often the only POC and woman in the company. In 2012 she landed her first job in tech at a social media giant, encountering a culture that favoured a young, male workforce.
From there, Natashia transitioned into consultancy work, working with a wide portfolio of tech start-ups on their people strategies. After reaching out to Ito World via LinkedIn, Natashia’s journey with the business began. The team has doubled in size in those two and a half years, and Natashia has played a central role in upholding Ito World’s culture of respect, collaboration and diversity as the business continues to grow.
“We are a collaborative and welcoming culture; we aren’t focused on titles or hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy. We don’t use phrases like ‘culture fit’, we’re open to a broad range of people because you can’t achieve diversity if you’re trying to make people fit into a specific culture.
“When we are recruiting, we look beyond face value and try to see the potential in people; we don’t look for specific universities, but at people’s broader career achievements and aspirations. I don’t think you can make a stand for diversity and inclusion if you aren’t looking at people and their talent holistically and without assumptions.”
As Natashia comments, “Ito World is genuinely collaborative, and every project feels like a true team effort. All the senior leadership see the importance in people and no teams are siloed. We have a very pragmatic culture – rather than processes for the sake of it, we work out what will actually be the best way of getting the job done and what will achieve the best outcome. We may not have the resources of a large company, but we have invested time into making Ito a great place to work, where everyone’s view is welcomed and valued within a culture of respect and empathy.”