Vicky Brock featured

Inspirational Woman: Vicky Brock | Co-Founder & CEO, Vistalworks

Vicky Brock

I am co-founder and CEO of Vistalworks, which has built intelligence software and risk profiling tools to help governments, banks and enforcement agencies tackle online illicit trade and cybercrime.

I’m currently based in Tallinn, Estonia, leading our fast growing EU business, and also head up the UK company, which has a tech and data team based in Scotland. My day-to-day challenges are (I assume) pretty normal for a tech CEO – building team, ensuring product and business strategies are executed and fit for purpose, funding and growing the business in a sustainable and ethical way, balancing going fast with the necessary level of process to function well, keeping focussed on the mission while scanning the horizon and not missing important detail.

Vistalworks is my 5th tech start-up. Previously I founded and led Clear Returns, a retail technology firm named Top Tech Start-up In Europe by the European Commission, and co-founded a web analytics firm that was one of Google’s very early analytics partners. I was named Inspiring Woman of the Year by Scotland Women In Technology and Scotland’s Most Inspiring Business Person at the Entrepreneurial Scotland Awards, won Innovator of the Year at the 2014 FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards, and is currently one of the UK’s Top Female Tech Leaders, as named by Business Leader Magazine.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not once. My entire life’s career plan can be summarized as: 1) Get out of Norfolk 2) Don’t starve/die/fail/run out cash 3) Don’t accept any cr** or let anyone take my CEO job title ever again.

No one in my family had any exposure to business or entrepreneurship, so I didn’t recognise what I was (which is a test-tube grown start-up entrepreneur). Nor did I have a route map until fairly recently, I just made it all up and learned on the way. Though my Dad was a plastics engineer in a factory that made bottles, so I did have hands on exposure to machines and factory production lines. My Dad bought my first computer – an Acorn Electron – which must have cost a huge amount. With that, I had the tech and computing skills long before I had any awareness that these were in some way useful or might lead to a career.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

We all face huge and horrible challenges in a lifetime; I most certainly have. And for the very biggest one – where I felt there was nothing left that I could do within my open company that would better the situation – I had to learn when to walk away and to say no and mean it. I did learn for myself that failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen. There is life and work and an identity and a career after failure, and you will never be as scared of anything quite as much again once you have lived through that. For me, it turned out the long term, grinding fear of failure was worse and more toxic than the actual category 5 hurricane type experience of living through it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Bouncing back from a career and start-up disaster that had got me to the point of wanting to die, and that had left me losing all sense of who I was. And ultimately learning from that in a really positive and constructive way (after crying non-stop for about a year) so that the next product, team and business I built was infinitely better as a result – and I was a better person along with it.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

It has never really occurred to me to be nice – I have always felt time was running out, so I am horribly relentless and I fight hard and keep fighting (sometimes for too long).I keep pushing on and innovating until I make what I want to happen a reality. I am aware that is not many people’s definition of success, or even of good company, but my goal was always economic independence and the freedom of opportunity to follow my own path. I hate being told what to do. In fact, being a tech entrepreneur is probably the only thing I am capable of doing. (I have been told by a head-hunter that I am unemployable).

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Forget perfection, and instead split your time between being reasonably great and making sure the right people know just how amazingly great you are. Find trusted amplifiers to champion how great you are. Don’t assume the CEO/boss intuitively knows how great you are and how much you deliver – specifically tell them. And definitely don’t be modest (no one else is).

If all your energy is going into being perfect and working harder than anyone else, the critical aspect of being seen to be great will get missed, and you are at much more risk of others claiming your credit. As a CEO I absolutely do not tolerate anyone claiming other people’s success – it is one of the deadly sins -but I do still really need people to realistically amplify their own achievements, otherwise how am I meant to know?

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are unfair barriers to equality and success that should not be down to women to fix – yet here we are!

Personally I aim to be the CEO, stay the CEO, create better conditions for all, inform and influence those in state power if I can, and pull other women up alongside me. If you have power then you can and should change the problem things – like pay disparity, macho ad hoc salary negotiations, anti-flexible working, the woman expected to do the team admin, the assumption tech women don’t know what they’re talking about or must work in marketing, the assumption that my very good product that definitely exists and has paying customers is wildly inferior to the imagined product some wanna-be entrepreneur has in his head. The basics….

Being in charge and fixing and absolutely not tolerating the basic stuff is a very good way to overcome at least some of those issues. And personally, I wouldn’t invest in, work alongside, or be on the board with any CEO who wasn’t committed to that.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Grow up, get a grip and stop being scared of half the population? Or in more filtered terms, grow up, get a grip and start facing meaningful financial and legal consequences of their mis-management, toxic culture and poor leadership.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Stop trying to fix the women, and instead tackle the problem of over promoted, over paid and under qualified men. Especially in leadership positions. And make governments listen, legislate and enforce – because asking predators to set their own standards and guidelines has a track record as long as the whole history of time for not actually working.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I tend to read and listen to “other stuff” when I’m not working. My absolute favourite is Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast, which is a deep dive into some of the most important revolutions in history – the English Civil War, the French Revolution. I’m currently on episode 65 of the Russian Revolution. Making space in your brain for history and philosophy is a wonderful thing – I still regularly reread Sophie’s World, a novel about the history of philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. My absolute favourite business book is “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, which turns the management theory of constraints (my daily world) into an enjoyable and enlightening novel.


Inspirational Woman: Sonia Hardy | Chief People Officer, Connect Childcare

Sonia Hardy

I’m Sonia Hardy, the chief people office at Connect Childcare – a Lancashire-based tech firm that specialises in nursery management software.

I have over 10 years’ experience in the employment law and HR space – having worked for many businesses across the UK with 300+ staff across multiple sites – and have extensive experience in all areas of HR. I now primarily focus on the ‘people strategy’ and this is where my passion lies

My career spans the full employee experience, including coaching and mentoring, employee engagement, talent acquisition, and succession planning, to name a few. At Connect, I’m responsible for fostering a positive company culture, and ensuring the firm not only attracts and retains highly talented professionals within the industry, but also provides them with a fulfilling career. I believe that this is the key to delivering first-class customer service.

While I’m not a ‘techie’ in the traditional sense, I work for a software firm, and I think it’s important to raise awareness of the plethora of roles that are available for females within the industry – whether they’re tech focused or otherwise.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all – I left school with no idea what I wanted to do, other than knowing I didn’t want to go to college.

I started out on my career path studying for an NVQ Level 2 in business admin at the North West’s leading law company. While there, an opening came up in the HR department which was the start of my career in that sector. I’ve worked my way through the ranks from HR admin to managerial roles – whilst successfully gaining the Level 7 CIPD – which then led to working for many major businesses, including Forbes Solicitors and Warburtons Bakery.

In and amongst my time in the HR space, I also qualified in criminal law and spent 10 years representing clients both in the police station and the Crown Court – this has also been one of my life’s passions and interests and I learnt so many valuable people skills during this time.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, one of the biggest hurdles was getting back into HR after spending time in the law sphere. Given the HR landscape is very fast-paced, any taking time out means you have a lot to catch up on – and everyone wanted experience. It was extremely difficult to get someone to give you a foot in the door, and I’ll be forever grateful to the lady who hired me.

Connect Childcare is the first tech firm I’ve worked for as an HR professional, and I’d say that I feel more at home in the tech world than anywhere else – its full of creative, talented individuals who want to make a real positive difference.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Achieving my Level 7 qualification in HR while working full time and having children – getting qualified meant so much to me, as I’d been working towards it for a long time.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My two daughters. They’ve inspired me throughout my life – both personally and professionally. I believe that having them by my side supporting me has been a huge reason that I’m where I am today – doing something I truly love on a daily basis.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Regardless of whether you’re on the HR, marketing, sales, or development side of a tech organisation, it’s vital you continue to grow your knowledge of both your specialism and the wider sector. Take advantage of as many resources as you can to do this – there are many online and in-person courses, some of which are free too.

Also, no matter if you’re starting out in your career or you’ve been in the industry for decades, it’s also crucial to build up your network of other tech professionals. This isn’t only useful in helping you to get a head start in finding job opportunities, but it also allows you to build up communication skills and confidence.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, women are sadly underrepresented in the workplace despite years of trying to close that gap. In fact, a survey carried out by Tech Nation showed that a mere 19% of tech workers were women – with only 5% in leadership positions, and 3% actually wanting a career in the sector.

It’s believed by many that the problem starts as early as education – with only 9% of females in 2019 studying a STEM qualification to an advanced level.

It’s no secret that tech is a male-dominated environment and the shortage of female role models already in the industry is a major barrier.

More needs to be done from a school and college level, as this is a great time to provide students with the information to help them learn about the opportunities available when working in the tech world.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Providing support and mentorship to women in tech roles is something companies should provide to help them carve out their career path within the sector. Attracting females to the industry in the first place is crucial, but allowing them the chance to progress is just as important.

Support for women returning to the tech industry following periods of time off – such as raising children – by providing more flexible working arrangements to help the juggle of family and career, is also pivotal. Females are still seen as the primary child carer in households and returning to work following such a life-changing event can be extremely daunting. This applies to every industry, not just the world of tech.

Research has also shown that women are less likely to apply for roles without advanced qualifications, so it’s highly likely that they’ll instantly be deterred from applying for a role as a result.

Again, no matter the sector, one consideration all organisations therefore need to make is questioning whether the qualification is necessary or not. Passion, eagerness to learn, and transferable skills are very powerful attributes which shouldn’t be overlooked.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I’d encourage more sector interaction within schools, colleges, and universities across the country. It’d be great to see more industry leaders deliver talks and workshops on the tech landscape and encourage females to take the relevant subjects as early as possible. This would arguably help students to understand what working in technology involves, as well as the plethora of positions available.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

While I don’t have default go-to places, there are lots of online news outlets where you can read articles, listen to audio content, and connect with people from the industry. Podcasts are my personal favourite, as you can listen in the car or when doing jobs around the house.

You mentioned that Connect Childcare is a nursery management software firm, what role do you think technology plays in the future of the early years education sector?

A crucial one. There’s been lots in the news about EdTech and how it’s helped not only nurseries but higher and further education institutions to adapt to different learning models during the pandemic – and for many settings, those digital changes are here to stay for the long term.

While nurseries specifically have remained open for much of the past 18 months, many have relied upon technology to help them do so – whether that’s been to record observations, communicate with parents, or take contactless payments to improve the efficiency and safety of the setting, digital solutions have been pivotal in helping childcare environments to keep operating and providing learning opportunities to support child development.

With technology’s growing adoption rate in people’s personal and professional lives, I can’t see it ever taking a backseat in the sector. Busy practitioners and parents need to be able to record and view information about children’s education quickly and from anywhere – helping to create a holistic learning environment, which reduces admin for staff, fosters parental engagement, and extends education into the home.


Inspirational Woman: Temi Ogunkanmi | Senior Cyber Security Cloud Assurance Consultant, Gemserv

Temi OgunkanmiTemi is an experienced cyber cloud security professional with 3 years’ experience in the private sector.

She is passionate about leveraging technology and the flexibility of cloud solutions to deliver best in class cloud security services to support our clients on their cloud transformation journeys.

Temi has an extensive working knowledge of cloud, network and infrastructure security. She continually identifies and delivers service improvements and innovations to maximise efficiency and ensure customer satisfaction with our service. Her expertise includes: development of cloud security patterns, implementing micro-segmentation, facilitating firewall ruleset audit training, running proof of concepts for network visibility tools, backup infrastructure security assessments, current state assessments, disaster recovery, cyber recovery strategy, and non-disruptive disaster recovery test environment. She has been responsible for the delivery of these projects on time and within budget, and for ensuring that quality of the delivery exceeded expectations.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am an Electronic and Electrical Engineer who loves technology. I started off my Cyber Security Career at Deloitte, where I worked in Resilience – Disaster and Cyber Recovery, Cloud and Infrastructure Security Assessments before I moved on to Network Security – Micro segmentation of Business-Critical Application and cloud network security design patterns.

I have recently joined Gemserv as a Senior Cyber Security Cloud Assurance Consultant. I am currently supporting various clients with their cloud security configurations or 3rd Party provider’s configurations to align with best practice. I am also supporting our Business Development and Marketing teams to build our cloud proposition and go to market strategy.

You can check out our initial offering here: Cloud Optimisation – Gemserv

Describe yourself in three words?

Inquisitive, Determined, Chill

What are your hobbies?

Reading, Football (Chelsea FC), Basketball(watching), Hiking, exploring new cities, trying new restaurants without any prior research and many more.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly. At various junctures I take stock of where I am, where I want to be and what I need to do to get me there.

In my second year at university, I sat down and thought about what industries or capabilities I would like to work in based on the modules I had enjoyed and my relevant work experience. I was able to come up with a list of 4 industries/capabilities, from there I developed a list of companies, researched, applied and so on.

Once I got into my first role at Deloitte, I thought about what I wanted to achieve (technical and business skills), I then shared that with my various managers, and we discussed what I needed to do to achieve that. I developed a plan and worked to make that happen. Rinse and repeat since then.

 Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Working as a consultant is fantastic, but with my technical background, I have found that sometimes I’ve had to do a lot more advisory, and strategy related projects as opposed to my default setting: technical, find and fix the problem etc. I have had some really good managers, who encouraged me to step back from the detail and see the benefit in building stakeholder management, presentation and business development skills. Being able to look at client’s problems or requests from a different perspective, communicate better with the business and tell a coherent story enables better understanding and investment to make those fixes.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date was when I led the implementation of micro-segmentation for our client’s Business Critical Applications and Critical Infrastructure Services. It was my first time leading a team for a long term, large scale project. It was a perfect blend for me in terms of technical difficulty and stakeholder engagement. It was a fantastic learning opportunity in so many ways and we were successful, which is always nice following a yearlong project with many challenges along the way.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think the work ethic my parents instilled in me plays a big role. From my time at university to now, I have a belief that I always must give my best. I also learnt that research is pivotal. Prepare yourself for everything. With the internet, there is so much information at our disposal and you can apply it to job searching, in your role, to build up your skills, learn something new etc. Prepare and execute – and do it to the best of your ability.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Regularly evaluate where you are – your role, skills, and level of satisfaction. Identify where there are gaps and what you can do about it. Develop a plan and then do it. Try to broaden your perspective, keep your finger on the pulse with regards to best practice, new technology etc. Utilise those ahead of you, talk to your managers, senior managers, directors etc. They have invaluable insight. Go to industry events and try to expand your network.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do think there are still barriers and that is mostly due to biases (conscious and unconscious) that women are not interested in tech or able to perform within tech roles.

To overcome the barriers, we need to push hard, we need to put ourselves out there and try and secure these roles. My fellow Women, find an area in tech you’re interested in. It could be machine learning, data analysis, data science, computer vision, cloud, cyber security, big data & IOT etc. Then do some research. Understand what it is, the roles available and the skills required. Then, start to learn the skills, there are so many free resources out there – Udacity, Udemy, YouTube. Upskill, be armed with knowledge, and apply for the roles!

We also need to be bold once we get into Tech. You are there because you are capable, continue to develop yourself and go for new opportunities as they arise.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think cultural shifts from the top-down will help. If the leaders of companies show (in words and action) that they trust and respect women in tech then that will permeate through their companies and through the industry. More transparency about requirements for promotion would also help women advance more in tech, it’s not always clear how promotion decisions are made.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I think we need more seeds sown to encourage girls to consider tech. I would have every science or maths teacher in primary and secondary school encourage girls who show an affinity for the subject. Encourage them that there is a path for them in the future.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Podcasts – Science Vs, The Cyber Hacks, Let’s Talk Tech.

Websites – wired.com, Tech Crunch, Financial Times, CNET, Business Insider, Forbes, Android Authority

Conferences – Women in Tech, CES show, AWS re:invent, IET and Eng Talks, Tune in to the announcements from Samsung, Google, Apple

There are so many free resources out there – Udacity, Udemy, Youtube. Upskill, be armed with knowledge and apply for the roles!


Yewande Akinola featured

Inspirational Woman: Yewande Akinola MBE | Chartered Engineer, Innovator & Speaker

Yewande AkinolaYewande is a chartered engineer, innovator and speaker. Her engineering experience includes the design and construction, innovation and manufacture of buildings and systems in the built environment.

She has worked on projects in the UK, Africa, the Middle East and East Asia and has been named the UK Young Woman Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineering & Technology. She has also been awarded the Exceptional Achiever Award from the Association for BAME Engineers and the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, U.K. (ACE). She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. She is passionate about STEM communication and has presented Engineering programmes for Television. In the 2020 New Year Honours list, Yewande was awarded an MBE for services to engineering innovation and diversity in STEM.

She has recently been appointed the UK’s Innovation agency (Innovate UK) Ambassador for Clean Growth and Infrastructure.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a chartered engineer, innovator and speaker. I am passionate about the role of innovation, creativity and engineering in our world today. My engineering experience includes the design and construction, innovation and manufacture of buildings and systems in the built environment. I have worked on projects in the UK, Africa, the Middle East and East Asia and have been named the UK Young Woman Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineering & Technology. I have also been awarded the Exceptional Achiever Award from the Association for BAME Engineers and the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, U.K. (ACE). I am a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. I’m passionate about STEM communication and have presented Engineering programmes for Television. In the 2020 New Year Honours list, I was awarded an MBE for services to engineering innovation and diversity in STEM. I have recently been appointed the UK’s Innovation agency (Innovate UK) Ambassador for Clean Growth and Infrastructure.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria, I spent my time building models of my ideal home with whatever materials I could find. But it wasn’t until my mother, an artist, made a suggestion about my university studies that I considered pursuing a career in engineering over one in architecture. Also crucial in my decision was finding an engineering degree at Warwick University in the U.K. that focused on developing countries—using little resources and lots of creativity. As I soon discovered, engineering is indeed the practical tool for creating a better world.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As I have progressed in my career, it has sometimes been a challenge being black and female, but I have found ways of navigating it. I’ve learned to feel comfortable as myself and stay true to who I am. It’s a work in progress.

What is more frustrating for me is seeing other young people like myself come up against these same challenges – challenges of not finding as many opportunities in the industry; not progressing up through the ranks as quickly as they should because of issues around unconscious bias. It’s a shame that when young people speak to me, it’s one of their worries. I wish for them that they could just enjoy being engineers.

As a result, the industry has lost out on a lot of talent, whether gender or diversity based.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have had some amazing opportunities in my career so far. I still feel there is a very long way to go still but I am very, very excited about the future. The highlights range from the design of iconic buildings in London to the design of a huge hotel and waterpark resort in Asia. The last couple of years have been very humbling. Winning the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the year, AFBE’s Exceptional Achiever Award and Management Today’s 35 under 35 awards have inspired me to continue to ‘raise the game’. Daring to dream, having tons of fun and challenging myself help keep my engineering interests alive. So whether it is a primary school in the countryside or a 300m tower in East Asia or water supply scheme for a remote village, it is always my hope that my contributions have a positive inspiring impact.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I believe in huge possibilities, and I’ve discovered that there is no lack of possibilities and opportunities out there. Yes, whatever challenge you’re faced with may seem difficult, impossible even, but remember that, as the saying goes, “difficult does not mean impossible”. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the very fact it is not impossible is all you need in terms of a mandate to be able to solve it. It’s a question of taking the challenge to bits and then dividing it up into manageable chunks.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in engineering?

First, I tell my mentees to focus on learning as much as they possibly can. I want them to enjoy their experience in industry. I don’t want their early years in this profession to be scarred by challenges of being in a minority.

I think they should find ways to enjoy and learn, be creative, meet new people, express oneself and obtain the global perspective that engineering offers. One should never compromise on what is good for others.

How do we encourage more diversity in engineering and STEM?

There is nothing more terrible than feeling as though you are only there because you ticked boxes. Having the knowledge and qualification to back yourself up immediately puts you in a strong position with everybody around the table.

Engineering is collaborative, so it is essential to have fair representation of the people you’re designing for. Bringing expertise, experience and learning to the drawing board inevitably leads to better solutions.

The next generation of engineers will be change-makers. They will want to create progress. They will want a better, more sustainable planet, where we consume less energy, live better, eat more nutritiously and generate less waste. To them I say, continue to stay true to that dream and passion.

It’s my hope that organisations see the role they also need to play in a more sustainable planet, and they give these change-makers the support they need.

 What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in engineering?

University – business collaboration is very important. There are lot of things that seemingly get in the way of such collaborations. Organisations are sometimes worried about the financial implications and as such unwilling to take on ‘risks’. Businesses are however in the advantageous position of making long term potentially very profitable investments by attracting females into STEM courses. Schemes such as shadowing experiences, sponsorships, internships go a long way. They help sow the seed of STEM courses in students and help them see the practical day to day aspects of STEM professions. We live in an extremely visual age where real time interactions go a long way.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in STEM, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Organisations – educational through to industry – need to fully support and empower the next generation of female engineers. These engineers will want a better, more sustainable planet, where we consume less energy, live better, eat more nutritiously and generate less waste. To them I say, continue to stay true to that dream and passion. It’s my hope that organisations see the role they also need to play in a more sustainable planet, and they give these change-makers the support they need.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I go wherever there are inspiring Women. I follow Dame Stephanie Shirely on instagram and she is a wonderful source of inspiration. Some of my favourite ‘go to places’ are the Women Tech Charge Podcast- hosted by Anne- Marie Imafidon, How to Own the Room Podcast by Viv Groskop, and Create the Future Podcast- hosted by Sue Nelson. I feel very fortunate to be able to look up to some brilliant women-a few of whom are Dame Anne Richards, Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Dervilla Mitchell CBE. It is super important to find someone you can be inspired by. I would also recommend AccelerateHER! They run absolutely fantastic events!

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Twitter: Yewandae 

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Avye Couloute

Inspirational Girl in Tech: Avye Couloute | Maker, coder, Tech Advocate, Social Entrepreneur & Founder, Girls Into Coding

Avye CoulouteAvye Couloute is a maker, coder, Tech Advocate, workshop leader and Social Entrepreneur.

She began attending coding & physical computing workshops at 7. Nowadays she is very active in the tech & maker community, dedicating a lot of her spare time to exploring & learning about coding & technology.

Among other activities, Avye led a regular coding & physical computing workshops for Coder Dojo at Kingston University & the University of West London and have entered and won competitions with the robots which she designs and makes.

Avye is enthusiastic about sharing her skills & experiences with others and she is an Arm ambassador, part of the GenArm2Z program which enables young people to talk to tech leaders about how technology is being used & shaped for the future.

Aware of female under-representation in STEM education & careers, Avye was motivated to found Girls Into Coding to encourage more girl involvement in tech, to offer them the opportunity to develop their digital and making skills. She has received the Diana Award, the Diana Legacy Award and the FDM EveryWoman Tech Award in the “One To Watch” category for her work to create opportunities for girls to engage with tech and for fundraising to provide girls with microcontrollers, physical computing kits & STEM themed books.

You can follow Avye and Girls Into Coding on Twitter.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

My name is Avye and I’m 13. I started coding & attending physical computing workshops at 7. They were fun, so I began joining loads of similar events and continued to explore what I was learning at home. To share my skills & experiences I started co-running coding workshops alongside two adult mentors & soon took on the responsibility for preparing & leading my own for CoderDojo at Kingston University and at other community tech events.

I noticed that the majority of attendees at my workshops were boys and so, almost three years ago I founded ‘Girls into Coding’ to get more girls into tech. I also design & build robots, and have won a couple of competitions with them. One of my wheeled robots has gone through a tonne of iterations and I use different versions of it in my different robotics workshops.

What sparked your interest in Technology?

I’ve always loved making stuff with unwanted objects, stuff from the recycling or anything that was going. I remember making a Time Machine  (not a real one). I got the family involved & together we conjured up this contraption which had loads of dials, levers and the insides of old electronic devices glued all over it. Later I would start adding basic electronic components like bulbs, buzzers & switches to make my creations more interesting. This sparked it all off and when I later discovered the microbit and components like servos and motors I saw how tech could really bring my creations to life.

Tell us a little about your social enterprise, Girls Into Coding?

I founded Girls Into Coding in 2018 and since 2020 my mum Helene has been project managing and giving the mission the full time attention it deserves. Girls into Coding offers girls aged 10-14 free opportunities to explore Coding, physical computing, robotics & 3D printing. – developing confidence & a sense of belonging in tech settings, while enabling girls to see their potential. Our overarching objective is to contribute towards a situation where girls & women are engaged in STEM activities, education & careers, equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers.

To promote inclusivity and keep our workshop events hands-on through the pandemic, we developed materials & resources, designed & manufactured a range of robotics kits suitable for remote workshops.  We post these out to the girls along with other hardware, so they all have everything they need at home to participate in our live online workshops led by myself & our team of dedicated mentors.

What has been a highlight for you since working on Girls into Coding?

I am really proud of what I’ve accomplished with Girls Into Coding, we’ve helped to inspire more girls to give tech activities a go. I’m delighted to see more girls engaging with STEM  and that these opportunities have been  accessed by hundreds of girls throughout the UK and internationally, including girls from India, Kenya, Canada, USA, France, Ireland, Spain, Nigeria, Singapore & South Africa.

How do you manage your time with your schoolwork?

At times it’s very challenging because I have a lot to prepare, but once it’s done, it feels good. When you’ve prepared, you focus more on the outcome, and if you decide to put lots of effort into it, the outcome is going to be a better experience for all.

You have won lots of awards for your work, how does that make you feel?

Winning awards is a great feeling, it’s always a massive boost and reminds me that what I’m doing  with GIC is important and has real value. The awards always allow me to reflect on all the support & opportunities that I’ve benefited from – from different groups & individuals in the wider tech & maker community. Winning the awards really helps to raise awareness of issues that we’re trying to change.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on an IoT project for my Girls Into coding workshops.

I am also working on a personal AI project linked to reducing our use of plastic food & drink packaging . It’s very challenging, quite a slow process but I am learning a lot.

I am also working on a voice recognition project.

If you could change one thing in the world to create a better society, what would it be?

I would like people to work together to ensure that everyone can benefit from new developments more or less at the same time, so no one gets left behind.


Girls into Coding crowdfunding campaign

Help Avye empower girls through tech!

Girls Into Coding aims to engage at least 1000 girls every year with hands-on workshop opportunities and inspiring talks. This is to contribute towards addressing the gender gap in tech and to sustain girls’ interest, initially so that they continue pursuing Tech activities and ultimately, so they are engaged to consider STEM education & careers.

Crowdfunding to help give at least 1000 girls FREE access to Tech Opportunities

For Girls Into Coding to continue to make these opportunities inclusive and accessible to girls from a diverse range of backgrounds we work tirelessly throughout the year building relationships, applying for grants securing sponsorship, and fundraising.

Our target is to reach at least 1000 girls per year and so far this year we’ve reached just under 500 girls.

Through this campaign, we want to raise £10,000 to help us achieve or exceed our goal of reaching at least 1000 girls a year.

The money raised will contribute towards:

  • Delivering FREE Girls Into Coding workshop events
  • Buying components, materials, and equipment to develop new hands-on activities & resources for the workshops
  • Posting  the kits out to the girls (including return postage) for the hands-on workshops
  • Providing coding kits for girls to continue their STEM journey at home and beyond.
  • Providing STEM-related books for the girls.
  • Covering Project Management & Logistics Cost

FIND OUT MORE & DONATE

Cecilia Harvey

Inspirational Woman: Cecilia Harvey | Chief Executive Officer, Hyve Dynamics

Cecilia Harvey - CEO of Hyve Dynamics (1)Cecilia Harvey is the Chief Executive Officer of Hyve Dynamics. With over 20 years experience in finance and technology, Cecilia is an advocate for responsible technology leadership that seeks to inspire, elevate and disrupt global businesses and communities.

Graduating from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Cecilia Harvey was soon captivated by the energy of Wall Street and the lure of a career in banking. After working her way up in the banking industry, her roles have since included being the COO of Citigroup Markets and Securities Services Technology, and positions with Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital and IBM.

Cecilia’s recent achievements include being featured in Forbes Magazine in 2019 as a leading lady in technology, a 2018 WeAreTechWomen TechWomen100 winner. Cecilia is also the founder and chair of Tech Women Today, a professional organisation focused on connecting and advancing women across various areas of technology.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

If you would have told me that I would have a career in technology I would have told you that you were absolutely crazy. For the last 20 years I’ve been working in banking and technology. Today I am the CEO of Hyve Dynamics, a sensor technology company. As a child I l played chairman of the board with my barbie dolls and I was practically attached to my Commodore 128 computer so I guess it was inevitable that I would one day be the CEO of a technology company.

After I graduated from university (Wellesley College) I worked in Fixed Income Derivatives origination at Lehman Brothers in New York.  Although I was on the trading floor, technology was the foundation of capital markets businesses. Trading systems, electronic trading, eCommerce, and data were all critical to the growth of capital markets businesses.  So very early in my career I was learning how to think strategically about technology in order to grow a business. Eventually I moved onto roles at companies where I was managing global banking technology programs.

I’ve held various roles in large organisations that have helped to prepare me for entrepreneurship and understand how to run technology as a business. Being the COO for markets and securities services technology at Citigroup which was a tech organisation of over 8,400 people globally, over 1,000 systems across over 50 sites is an example of previous roles that helped me to understand how to run technology as a business. You are working in a highly regulated environment and need to focus on governance, risk and controls, budget efficiency, and people management.

Also in previous roles, I engaged with various vendors that were often tech companies. Large banks partner with and make strategic investments in technology companies. So in my previous roles I saw the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to tech start-ups and scale ups.  I witnessed strategy, management and client service that worked and did not work in terms of them receiving investment, getting the sale and building strong relationships. I saw the growing pains and challenges of those tech companies.

Eventually I worked directly with tech start-ups and scale-ups. My combination of large corporate and tech start-up experience prepared me to be the CEO of a technology company. So my journey was very unique and that experience was priceless.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never planned my career, I planned my life. I wanted to design a life that I loved and my career was a small component of that life. I created my own definition of success. My definition of success was not according to what the industry or others defined as “success”.

Ultimately whatever job I chose had to align to the type of life I wanted to live or else I knew I would leave that role. So designing a life I love is about being the best version of myself.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

My biggest career challenges started with me and ended with me.  I overcame them by learning how to get out of my own way.  I learned to focus on things I could control and to be accountable for where I went wrong. I had the power to decide if I was going to let various distractions get in my way. Those distractions included fear, doubt, naysayers, toxic work environments and toxic people. These distractions were not the challenges. My ability to tune out these distractions and move forward was the challenge and once I learned this I realised there is no challenge I cannot overcome. It’s not the water surrounding the boat that sinks the ship. It’s the water that gets in that sinks the ship.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Becoming the CEO of Hyve Dynamics has been my biggest career achievement to date. I recognize in this position as a female technology founder I have a responsibility to be a force for change in the technology industry and to be a role model for other women and specifically black women aspiring to have careers in technology.

One of the reasons why I feel so privileged and passionate about being the CEO of Hyve Dynamics is to be leading an organization that is focused on healthcare equality and saving lives though medical remote monitoring.

As a sensor technology company, our sole focus is optimising our patented sensor skin technology and improving the precision of the data that is wirelessly collected in real time from the sensor skin. Hyve’s sensor technology is addressing issues such as the COVID 19 pandemic and making basic medical care accessible to all. Being the CEO of a company that is truly delivering “tech for good” and leveraging this platform to be a force for change has been a significant career achievement.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Iron sharpens Iron. A major factor in achieving success has been having a strong personal and professional support network. I am so blessed to have an amazing family and friends that keep me humble and grounded.  Also professionally I have worked with talented individuals and teams that have helped to keep me sharp.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Overall,  people need to create options for themselves:

  • Have your “Career Emergency Kit” ready: (a) names of 3 headhunters, (b) updated CV, (c) linkedIn Updated, (d) alerts set up for open roles at various career site.
  • Interview even if you are happy with your current role: Interviewing keeps you sharp and allows you to connect with people. You understand what hiring managers are looking for and you keep pace with what is going on in the industry. Also peolpe may remember you for roles that may open in the future.
  • Understand the difference between sponsorship vs. mentorship: Find sponsors that are key decision makers that will refer you for career opportunities.
  • Know Your Worth: What is the salary for someone in your role and with your level of experience? If you are not getting paid the market rate salary, what are you going to do about it?
  • Don’t stay in a bad situation: Go with your instincts. If you feel you are not in a place where you will progress, recognise your power and start exploring your options.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Focus on what you can control and influence. For me the ability to overcome barriers involved me thinking of ways of how I strengthen myself to jump over those barriers or find a way around them.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

  1. Powering Your Pipeline – Build a diverse talent pipeline and provide the pipeline with the right resources and support to prepare them for promotion opportunities and to successfully fill future leadership positions.
  2. Invest in and sponsor female technology founders – Having more female founders will encourage more women to enter the technology industry.
  3. Diversify suppliers –  Support economic inclusion of technology suppliers with diverse leadership. Companies should ensure they are working with suppliers that have diverse leadership.

There is currently on 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

More investment and sponsorship for female technology founders.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Resources for remaining relevant. Reinforcing your network with individuals that can provide knowledge on career opportunities and industry trends. These types of resources keep you relevant and and ready for new career opportunities.

How would you describe what it means to be a tech leader?

For me being a tech leader is about being a force for change and demonstrating responsible leadership. The days of not being accountable for the impact of your technology on the general public are over. The days of being hands off are over. The days of being silent on social issues are over.

This is not just for technology. However because tech is such a fast growing industry and because technology has such an impact on everything we do as individuals, businesses and societies it is important that leaders are responsible in terms of how they evolve their tech and lead their teams.

We can no longer have this naive optimism about technology.  Can your technology be potentially cause harm to the general public. If so what are you doing to mitigate that risk?

Also it terms of leadership,  it’s not just technically and operationallly are you doing the right thing but also socially and environmentally. The same way we push the limits in terms of what our technology can do, we need to push from a social impact perspective in terms of how we as tech leaders can navigate our organisations. With this type of leadership, those are the companies people will want to work at. Those are the companies that clients will want to do business with.  Those are the companies that will lead the industry.


Padma Ravichander featured

Inspirational Woman: Padma Ravichander | CEO, Tecnotree

Padma Ravichander

I am Padma Ravichander, CEO at Tecnotree – a post I have held for the past 5 years. 

I have been in in the IT industry holding global CXO level positions for the likes of HP, Oracle, Dell-Perot and most recently, for the past decade, for Tecnotree. I am a Canadian citizen and have lived and travelled globally extensively. I have always been in the technology field, mostly focused on telecoms and financial services leading and managing large, global product engineering organisations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really but if you ask me if I am happy with my career development and progress – I would say yes both in terms of the field I am in, the career opportunities I have enjoyed globally, the leadership opportunities I have been given and the learning they have all provided me.  My career has also introduced me to global customers, across various continents and has exposed me to managing and integrating large teams to deliver technology solutions across numerous cultures.  It has been an exhilarating journey and I have enjoyed the opportunity and the challenges along the way.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As a woman in the technology field, I have often met challenges along the way – but I have never shied away from any of them.  During the initial days of my career I was often the only woman in technology and in many situations among many of male colleagues.  Often, I would have to work harder and longer to prove my capabilities and sometimes found it hard in senior positions to break the “old boys club”.  But my critical strength was always my passion for my work, competence and an enduring spirit to see a job well done. These three attributes have inspired me to overcome some very hard and negative situations.  It’s not always important to win every argument but it is important to participate, to put your ideas across effectively and to learn the ability to negotiate and influence others in the process.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In every one of my job opportunities, I have had great triumphs, excellent achievements and several firsts however if I were to pick one it would definitely be what I have done at Tecnotree. We have turned the company from being in a difficult financial position of debt re-structuring in 2016 when I became CEO of Tecnotree, to a fully financially stable company in 2021 completely out of debt restructuring.  Today the company is leading digital transformation of CSPs in emerging markets, has launched a fully cloud enabled digital BSS stack ready for 5G along with a fintech solution for a digital wallet and an e-commerce platform to cross-sell and upsell partner offerings in the areas of sports, entertainment, gaming, healthcare and education. We call this our Tecnotree Moments platform. The journey has been unstoppable in 2021 too with the increase of 16% in revenue, 60% in net income and the share price reaching a 52-week high this year.  The Market Capitalisation of the company surged past 400 Mn euros registering an increase of  approx 1400% over the last 24 months. In addition, the company has won several new awards, recognition from industry analysts, media and associations like Gartner, Financial Times, TM Forum, Omdia, Kauppalehti, etc. It’s a great achievement by the team over the last 3 years achieved through lots of dedication and hard work by many employees across the globe and the results speak for themselves.

It’s an incredible turn-around story which has been truly an inspirational journey for me.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

The success of an organisation is never just down to one individual. It’s always the result of a great team coming together and believing in a shared purpose. We all work together seamlessly with extreme focus, commitment and dedication to see it through.  The one major factor for Tecnotree’s turn around is our Tecnotree Team!

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Firstly, you have chosen absolutely the best field to be in especially post Covid.  Being digital is no longer a nice to have but a necessity for all lines of business and digitally connected communities.   The technology field poses huge opportunities for men and women alike to learn, adapt and excel.

My top tips are to:

  • Seize every opportunity to learn and contribute. Technology is a dynamic, ever growing field and staying relevant non-stop is key
  • Be agile in your ability to adapt and change in your work environment and be perceptive to the greater purpose and vision of the organisation you are serving
  • Aspire to be the absolute best in everything that you are at work and at home, creating a winning spirit and a leadership quality that becomes part of your DNA
  • Share and celebrate your success at work with your teams, and your family – always

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

In the 21st century, I believe we are in a digital age, where physical attributes of gender are no longer really relevant. What truly matters is your intelligence and ability to create and to innovate.  In this new age, where  instant gratification is propelled by the high speed internet, intense automation and ubiquitous access to information, success is no longer measured by one’s physical abilities or wealth but by one’s capability to innovate and create new experiences that are unique and can touch and empower the lives of others.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

In our post Covid world, I feel companies have a greater opportunity to support women especially those returning to work after having children.  Working-from-home (which was once a request denied to many) has become part of the way we work which has enabled a much  better work-life balance for both sexes, creating more opportunities for men and women to work. This will create a far greater gender diversity in the workplace helping to enrich the contribution we all make to the teams we work in.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Nature has a way of self-correcting itself.  I believe that with the pandemic behind us our acceptance of new work models will force more gender diversity in the global talent pool which will blur gender differences and force a richer work experience which will cause a greater amount of men and women to contribute to work products.  Diversity, regardless of industry is a necessity. It strengthens the capacity of an organisation in terms of how it reacts to change and how it delivers on results.  Most successful companies with a strong outlook, and a good balance sheet have been proven to be driven by diverse teams that are equanimous.

At Tecnotree the impact on our bottom line is well documented by the diversity of our organisation. We have a global foot print with an HQ in Finland and offices across the globe, in Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, France,  Dubai, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, The UAE, The Middle-East, India and Malaysia. Tecnotree is among the top 100 most inclusive companies in the world today in terms of the Diversity index – something we are proud of and something we want to continue to build on.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

All the above and more.  One of the keys to success within technology is to always continue learning. Micro-Learning whereby you can improve your knowledge within key areas helps you to respond to challenges quickly and dynamically. And with today’s e-learning tools this is more easily and readily available on demand.

For women beyond technology who want to be the true benefactor of the new digital age we are entering in the 21st century I have 2 pieces of advice:

  1. There is nothing wrong to desire to have it all and you can but what we need to realise is that you cannot be successful alone. Far more success comes to those who collaborate and share success as a team – whether that is professionally with work colleagues or personally with family and friends. You have to trust, care and nurture people along the way in a way which makes them believe in your success as much as you do.
  2. Finally, for great success, you need thorough planning, and impeccable execution and discipline. We are truly blessed to be in this time of change, because with every change comes the opportunity to change, learn, grow and experience new forms of inclusion and diversity. With this we look forward to a new beginning.


Inspirational Woman: Nabilah Hussain | Head of FinCrime, 3S Money

Nabilah HussainBeing raised along with my three sisters in a single-parent household by my mother, I always had a shining example of an independent and hardworking role model.

It was this support from my family that drove me to attend Queen Mary University, where I received a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Mathematics, Finance and Accounting, and subsequently, an International Anti Money Laundering (AML) Diploma from the ICA. But like so many graduates, I graduated from university having little idea of where or how I wanted my career to progress.

One thing I did know is that I wanted to work with technology and to establish a career that I not only enjoyed, but that also constantly challenged me to learn and grow. So by chance – and walking past a high-street bank job advert – I fell into finance, which led me on my path to FinTech.

I spent nearly six years at Metro Bank, starting as a Customer Service Representative, working my way up to Risk & Compliance Manager. I later moved to BFC Bank where I was the Financial Crime Officer and I’m now Head of FinCrime at 3S Money. In my current role, I manage a team of Financial Crime and Compliance Officers and lead our efforts in tackling risk and compliance for client onboarding. I also work on consistently developing and enhancing our AML policies and procedures in line with regulatory changes and ever-evolving risk challenges in the FinTech space.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely! However, I’ve never been one to set very long-term goals. I find they can often become intimidating, overwhelming and most often unattainable.

Setting short-term, manageable goals allows me to plan more efficiently. I find these far more effective and achievable. I believe they give you a clearer sense of direction to help work out the steps needed to achieve desired outcomes.

I also like to use personal affirmations, focusing my energy on controllable aspects – such as my mindset. Given that we regularly encounter variable factors in our personal and professional lives that we can’t control, these help me remain grounded so that I can realign the best version of myself.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes absolutely. It took going through lots of challenges, big and small, to help me find my niche. You have to be fluid and adaptable when moving through your career. For instance, if you try to rail against the challenges you’re facing too much, you’ll only crack and burn yourself out. By working with the challenges you face, and in many cases willingly put yourself in challenging situations, over time you become more resilient.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My greatest achievement has to be finding my niche. As I mentioned, I came out of university with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next. With no direction and little guidance, it would have been really easy for me to float around different industries, working in various roles before I found what I really wanted to do. I fell into finance almost by accident and from then on, having found my niche in compliance early on in my career, it’s really helped me focus my efforts.

Another achievement is that I’m now an advocate for female empowerment and leadership. I’ve experienced first-hand from my mother the positive influence strong female leaders can have on others. I channel these values in my professional career by sharing my experiences and helping my peers to grow.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success?

Growing up, my mother always instilled in us the true value of working hard, and encouraged us to be ambitious, independent and dedicated from a young age. Her determination and ethos helped define how I work and interact with others today, and she’s played a huge role in my success. I wouldn’t be here without her. She is also part of the reason why I’m now a passionate advocate for female empowerment and leadership in the workplace.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

It’s really challenging to shadow people when working in a big corporate environment, and networking isn’t for everyone. I’d advise everyone to do their research online. The internet is an incredible resource and you can learn so much by researching about the broader industry and reading and listening to first-hand accounts from those on the front lines, so to speak. Getting a realistic sense of an area you want to work in and what that actually entails is invaluable, as then you can make informed career decisions at every stage.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Perhaps because I entered the industry at a time when there was already a lot of positive change, I haven’t personally experienced any barriers as a woman in finance or fintech. I’m often told how lucky I am to have not experienced barriers in my career because of my gender.

Having said that, I’ve never worked for a company like 3S Money before. There is so much female empowerment and it’s actively encouraged by our CEO. Nearly two thirds (61%) of our team is female and I’m one of five female heads of department. We recognise the value in having different experiences and opinions in the workforce, which is why culture-add always comes above cultural fit.

I’ve also been appointed as a mentor in our internship programme at 3S Money and I’m currently offering coaching and training to a compliance intern in my team. I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to influence a culture that tones from the top to create a skilled, inclusive, and friendly work environment.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress and careers of women working in technology?

We need to lead by example. After all, it’s our future leaders we need to worry about. We need to see CEO’s taking tangible action to make gender equality a reality. It’s critical they realise that it’s their own responsibility to educate and explain the importance of diverse teams and how everyone benefits from learning from each other. Otherwise, nothing will change. It all starts from the top.

What I want to see is CEO’s challenging themselves to monitor the number of female hires they make each quarter and watch the changes within those teams over time. It’s by holding our own companies and the broader industry accountable, that we will watch positive change follow.

There are currently only 17% of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I’d increase the awareness of inequality in the midst of great change. As only by being aware of a problem can we all come together to enact change for good. I have an amazing team of women supporting me at 3S Money, there is a genuine sense of female empowerment, support and community.

Creating a top-down culture will also help accelerate the pace of change. Ivan, our CEO, is a true advocate of female empowerment and has created a culture where everyone is supported and all opinions are valued and respected. If we had more environments like this, we would see the pace of change skyrocket.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

EventBright is invaluable. For me personally, I knew I was interested in compliance so I wanted to find and attend all the compliance events I could. It helped me understand what the industry looks like and what working in compliance would actually entail. As well as what I needed to do to enter the industry. When I did eventually apply for a job in compliance, I not only had the knowledge I needed, but I also had a clear view of the current risk climate in Finance.


Inspirational Woman: Diana Florescu | Board Member & Director, Wolves Summit

Diana FlorescuDiana Florescu is a leading light in the investment and start-up world in Europe.

She is a non-executive director sitting on the board of directors and advisors at Wolves Summit, bringing five years of experience in leading corporate-startup engagement programs as well as one of the largest early-stage investor company.

Her objective is to make Wolves Summit the region’s leading innovation and startup event acting as a soft-landing pad for international founders and investors that want to do business in this market and equally, as a gateway for ambitious founders looking to scale in the UK and beyond.

Founded in 2015 in Warsaw, Poland, the conference grew to become the largest tech event in Central and Eastern Europe. Wolves Summit dedicates itself to fostering deep and productive collaboration between regional and international angel investors, VC funds, corporations, and the most promising startups in CEE.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I started my career in startups. In the last seven years, I’ve held various marketing and sales roles working at all levels up to CxO.

I’m a board member and director at Wolves Summit, one of the largest tech conferences in Europe. I’m a founding member at Grai Ventures, a venture building studio headquartered in Romania. Formerly I led global marketing at two of the world’s largest networks of accelerators and corporate innovation companies.

Over the years I’ve specialised in building and delivering B2B marketing and strategy programmes for some of the world’s largest accelerators, tech conferences and innovation consultancies. My projects span multiple sectors including technology, gaming, media and entertainment, retail, among others. I’ve honed my global perspectives by working and living in five countries including the UK, USA, Qatar, Germany, and Romania.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I did plan the basic path by which I sought to become qualified and stay effective in my career as a marketer. However, careers do not progress in linear or predictable ways. As an entrepreneur, my career is so much more than a job: it’s a big part of my life. I launched and failed my first business when I was 19. I learned a ton from it, and then I spent a few years honing my skills as part of larger organisations knowing that it’s only a matter of time until I would start a new venture.

In the early days of my career, it was less about comparing jobs but rather taking a holistic approach to how my career fits in with my broader life ambitions. Some of the greatest changes and opportunities resulted from these practices: regularly seeking change and self-improvement, willingness to take calculated risks, empowering others, and surrounding myself with mentors and experts seeking constant feedback.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My greatest accomplishment is sitting where I am right now. I believe that life is a constant work-in-progress and that all moments, the great huge ones and the small quiet ones, all make-up who I am.

There’re a few good ones I always look back on and smile at: winning the Lloyd’s Banking People’s Choice Award with my first company, Local Spoon, having worked and lived in five different countries, Grai Ventures ranking no 1 in Google Search for “media for equity” and having our publications recognised internationally.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Balancing self-confidence with humility.

I left Bucharest, my home town, when I was 18 years old. I remember juggling two part-time jobs and university. I also decided early-on to join the world of startups. I’ve always valued autonomy at work and making a meaningful impact, however, the startup life could be filled with a lot of risk and uncertainty.

These early experiences and career choices taught me how to become my own best advocate; how to develop a sense of who I am, what I can do, where I’m going coupled with the ability to influence my communication, emotions and behavior on the way to getting there.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

If you have the time (and resources) to pursue a bachelor’s or Master degree, this is a great way to begin or advance your career in tech.

As someone who has a Masters degree in Technology Entrepreneurship, I will say that my education gave me the foundations for an entrepreneurship career. I’m not a software engineer but I can work closely with a development team and “speak their language”.

It’s true that most of the learning and applicable know-how I’ve gained has been “on the job” or self-taught. Shortly after graduation I joined Startupbootcamp, one of the world’s largest networks of accelerators. I was exposed to hundreds of startups and technologies every year.

I’ve also built a support network over time and surrounded myself with people that I can trust and I can ask for help when I need it. There are many non-profit organisations and communities designed to support ambitious people to advance in their tech career such as Women Who Code, ProductTank (product owners and managers), Dribble (for designers), GrowthHackers (for growth marketers).

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Every technology company talks about its dedication to diversity and inclusion, however, the numbers show only slight progress in this area.

The overall tech and venture capital industry needs to become more inclusive. Starting in this industry has always been biased towards those with demographic privilege. There are hundreds of overlooked candidates that could provide unparalleled value to the industry if they are supported in getting experience at leading funds or technology companies in Europe. While the pool of talented Black professionals or women in tech is wide and deep, this group lacks visibility and opportunity.

It’s encouraging to see more initiatives and funds popping up on the market to support diverse and/or underrepresented founders entering the tech market and progress through their careers. At Wolves Summit we are proud to name some of them our partners including The Female Factor, Women in Tech, Perspektywy, Women in Law.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Having worked at all levels up to CxO and across multiple organisations, I’ve seen how a gender-diverse board could make a huge difference to the company’s overall performance. At Wolves Summit, 60% of our employees including senior management are women. Without having a diverse representation of culture and backgrounds, organisations often will not understand the many barriers that women face.

Also, businesses pursuing gender diversity should champion successful women, and highlight female role models – setting an example for other female employees across the organisation and proving that it’s possible to get ahead.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

I’m a big fan of podcasts. I often listen to Women at Work – a podcast from Harvard Business Review that looks at the struggles and successes of women in the workplace. When I want to learn from some of the most successful CMOs and how they got to where they are today, I tune in to CMO Moves – a podcast hosted by Nadine Dietz, former Adweek Chief Community Officer.

I’m also part of a few communities that value diversity and inclusion in tech such as Diversity VC, a non-profit partnership, made up of interested individuals working in venture capital, who seek to increase diversity of thought in the venture industry.

Would you like to share any exciting updates or news?

I’m excited about the upcoming edition of Wolves Summit on October 19th-21st which will run both online and in-person. We’re expecting over 400 people on-site and thousands online, it will be by far our largest edition since the start of the pandemic. This year’s event includes over 15 topics including: IPO & Private Equity, Corporate Venturing, AI for Earth, Circular Economy, Technology Transfer, Embedded Finance, Manufacturing, 5G & IoT, Emerging industries, Healthcare & Sexual Wellness.

I’m particularly excited about joining ITV, Brand Capital and startup founders on a panel discussion about media for equity. The full event programme and line-up of speakers are now available on the website at https://www.wolvessummit.com/agenda-2021


Sruthi Mohan featured

Inspirational Woman: Sruthi Mohan | Solutions Engineer, Cloudera

Sruthi MohanSruthi Mohan is a Solutions Engineer at Cloudera in the DACH and Central EMEA region. In this role, she works across multiple industry verticals to help architect modernised data platforms.

Prior to joining Cloudera, Sruthi honed her skills and built her career working with companies such as Cisco and SAS Healthcare and Lifesciences. Sruthi is a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace and currently sits as a D&I Advisory Board Member at Cloudera.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Having studied Environmental Studies, with a focus on Chemical Engineering and a minor in Economics and Business, I’ve found my somewhat untraditional tech education incredibly useful for my career development.

For example, my minor in Economics has proven immensely helpful when navigating value management conversations, understanding what market potential exists for my customers  and informing them on why Cloudera is the right solution for them. On the flip side, my interest in environmental sciences has helped shape my understanding of the wider industry and supporting our customers in this space. In both cases, it has been the problem-solving mindset I’ve learnt throughout my education that has really equipped me for my role today in technology. It’s all about the skills you learn and how you apply them. It doesn’t matter so much how you get them or what you apply them to, so long as you can align the two, you’re on the road to success.

At present, I am focused on ascertaining where my key strengths are and how I can optimally make use of them for my current job role and industry that I work in.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was never the girl in school who sat down and had her year on year career plan. However, as I’ve developed through my professional life I have started to curate a plan around my own board of directors to ensure my career is going in the direction I want. Simply put, this is the idea of having not just one career mentor but multiple, offering different perspectives and helping to shape your career progression. After a colleague first brought up this notion of having a personal board of directors for your own company – yourself – it made me question; what does a board of directors mean to me, who do I want to have a seat at the table and what role will they play?

For me, it was important that the members of the board were invested in my life, willing to let me vent when things weren’t going to plan and there to give me honest feedback at crucial moments. Having input from people who are going to cushion the truth and tell you what you want to hear is ultimately not going to take you in the right direction. As such, these members have often been those closest to me, such as my mum and dad as well as my best friend.

Secondly, I realised at this stage of my career, it was important for me to include people that I didn’t know that well and who I didn’t work closely with. This has been invaluable for me in gathering an ‘outside’ perspective as sometimes you can be too close to a task to have clarity. I was able to receive guidance from others on things I was or wasn’t doing well in a way that meant no long-term relationships were in danger of being damaged.

Lastly, and what has been most important for my current board of directors and career, is ensuring that I am accountable as chairman. And this would be my advice to anyone looking to build their board of directors – you can get counsel and guidance from your board but it is you who is ultimately responsible for the decisions you make.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

When I first started out, I suffered a lot from imposter syndrome. Questions of whether I belonged there were asked on a daily basis and I had an initial worry I wasn’t capable enough. Looking back, I suppose it was nothing out of the ordinary for someone working their first ‘proper’ job. I’ve managed to overcome this feeling by learning to accept within myself that I am good enough for the role I was hired for. On this journey, I have actively requested advice from others, asked questions and sought mentorship to lay these self doubts to rest. My managers have played an important role in bolstering my confidence in the technical sales space and making me recognise that not only could I achieve my goals but I could always go that one step further.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date would have to be dealing with what seemed a major professional setback at the time in a positive way. It all started with keeping a positive attitude throughout it all which led me to see the “setback” as an opportunity to reflect, reassess and act, rather than a disappointment.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Mentorship has and always will be key to my development. Part and parcel of this is having access to a blend of strong male and female mentors to provide fresh perspective and guidance on the journey.

Within such a male-dominated industry as tech, I’ve found it extremely useful to first have a fleet of male mentors. Men often don’t see the same ‘ceilings’ on ambitions that some women have grown to internalise. In my experience they have helped challenge and provide alternative viewpoints to support my progression. Seeing that men don’t encounter the same challenges as women, and that they tend to focus on what they can do – rather than what they can’t – by default, has given me the encouragement to adopt a similar mindset and do the same. That being said, it can’t go unmentioned that female mentors are equally as valuable. Unlike our male counterparts, I’ve encountered first-hand how female leaders can relate to the issues that we as women face, offering a level of empathy and understanding.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Go for it! We want you in the tech industry to shake up old ways and bring a fresh perspective to the field so we can drive positive change for future generations. By bringing true diversity to the tech sector, you and I can help overcome gender biases and challenges such as better informing AI to lessen prejudice and inspire new talent into the industry. My overall advice to women is to be your authentic self, be bold and don’t hold back.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are certainly still many barriers for women in tech. This was an industry predominantly designed by men and they continue to be the heavy majority today. So first of all, for example, less representation is a starting barrier. This then also bleeds into other obstacles experienced as well. But they can all certainly be overcome and I think the best approach to do that is to change the obstacle into an opportunity. For example, I can use my lesser representation as an advantage – I am able to really hone in on my uniquely different perspective to challenges we face on a daily basis. This has particularly come in handy in customer conversations to add diversity of thought to an issue.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

The technology industry needs and wants more women in tech, to bring a new, more diverse, offering to the business. However, to make this happen, we need to see an institutional interest in attracting more women into the space. Companies need to drive greater awareness around the avenues available to women, the benefits that come, and how they can create real societal impact. What’s more, this encouragement for women into technology roles should also be reflected in educational systems and via government support. It is only when this holistic approach is taken will we really start to see meaningful change.

The accessibility to support systems and internal programs within companies is also vital to support women’s progression within technology. It is for this reason that I am a D&I Advisory Board Member at Cloudera, working to encourage a more diverse workforce. As part of this, we have a committee in place that meets on a regular basis to discuss and reflect on these matters. The committee also arranges inspiring sessions from a DE&I perspective on a monthly basis. Beyond this, we have multiple newsletters that guide us with suggested books and blogs on this topic. Most importantly, we are a group of employees who genuinely care and prioritise diversity issues and that is reflected in each and every one of our day-to-day interactions with one another.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

This is a tough one, as I’m not sure if there is one thing that can change but rather it is many small things changing all at once that usually results in a large acceleration. However, if I had to pick one, I might choose to invest more in getting young girls into STEM programs. Your career progression unbeknownst to you, can start at such a young age, based on the types of content and situations and opportunities we are exposed to. As such, it is crucial we get in there as early as possible to help inform and shape the minds of the next generation and open them up to every opportunity available to them.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love reading and so I can recommend many books, but I don’t believe they necessarily need to be women specific for women to be able to benefit from them. HBR’s Managing Yourself which is a collection of articles on this topic was one of my recent reads that was a favorite. Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion was also wonderfully insightful especially given that I came into reading this book from a pre-sales perspective. Grit by Angela Druckworth, while also not just about technology was also inspirational in that it made me question and find the source of my “why” or “raison d’être” which then further helped me find the grit to push through challenging situations – a lesson learned that is relevant for life but also specifically my professional role.