Natalia Pereldik

Inspirational Woman: Natalia Pereldik | Co-Founder, Funexpected

Natalia Pereldik

Natalia Pereldik is Co-Founder and CEO of Funexpected LTD, developer of the Funexpected Math app, which aims to help children aged three-seven years acquire mathematical thinking, and become comfortable with math from an early age.

Following a career in the investment banking industry that spanned over 15 years, Natalia Pereldik co-founded Funexpected in 2018, and is responsible for managing the overall operations of the company.

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

I’m Natalia Pereldik – Co-Founder of Funexpected company and the Funexpected Math app, which helps kids aged 3-7 years acquire mathematical thinking, and become comfortable with math from an early age.

After graduating in 2003, specialising in Mathematics, I went on to study the same subject at MA level. I spent the following 15 years in investment banking, and worked my way up to Executive Director level. However, once my first child turned three years old, I realised that I still had a huge amount of passion and love for mathematics, and co-founded Funexpected with a former classmate of mine, Alexandra Kazilo. Together we developed the Funexpected Math app.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. Five years ago, if you had asked me what I would be doing in the next few years, I would never have thought I would be the Co-Founder of a company making educational products for children!

This spontaneity might have stemmed from the fact that I am genuinely interested in a wide range of quite differing fields. At school, I wanted to become a journalist, then changed my mind to a theatre actor - before finally opting to go into mathematics.

While I was at university, I understood that I was never meant to be a researcher, and switched my gaze and started studying economics. It was at this point where I decided to go into investment banking. Those years in particular were very exciting, but after my second child was born I felt that it was time for  a change - and that’s when I decided to become an entrepreneur.

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

I definitely have, but I guess this is true for most careers. I would say that the biggest challenges for myself came with co-founding the company. Though in the years leading up to Funexpected, I was working in quite a tough industry, I still needed to get used to the amount of failures that an entrepreneur faces. It took a lot of grit and determination - but you get used to it eventually and we got there in the end.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without a doubt, Funexpected has been my biggest career achievement. We are still a young and small company, but more than 100,000 families worldwide have installed our app already. I am extremely proud of our team, and so grateful to the parents and families who have chosen to use our app.

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

My family. They have always believed in me and I have enormous support from my husband and kids in everything I do.

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

Firstly I would say that you have to be ready to learn constantly. Fields and industries are changing so rapidly that you can’t afford not to. I would also advise anyone to find great mentors. I would say this is universal for any career - learn from people. Not only will they teach you what they know, but they are likely to inspire you as well.

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

Unfortunately, I think there are, and they begin at childhood - from families and in school. Many still believe - and support - the idea that their daughters are not very well suited to STEM. Sometimes, this is a subconscious decision. A parent or teacher will be trying to support a child while she is struggling with her work, telling her phrases like “Oh, that’s okay, you just aren’t a maths person.” And the girls just lose all enthusiasm for the subject.

Then again, the percentage of women in the STEM industry is low, and quite often girls feel that they need to be really ‘outstanding’ to be successful. I think that the more women role models we see, the sooner we will move away from gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, it’s still going to take some time before we get there.

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

For now, I believe that it is very important to ensure that there is a healthy percentage of women in different teams. We need initiatives that help women to find mentors and support their move to more senior positions.

It’s also imperative that we work with children and the educational system, that we speak with parents and change this bias (subconscious or not) in their attitude towards their children. Very often, we find that a kid’s opinion of mathematics, for example, is already decided upon by the time they are 12-13 years old. It’s so important to show children different opportunities and scenarios before that.

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?

To change this biased attitude that many have about girls being bad in STEM fields.

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

Personally, I take inspiration in reading about the paths of other women and in speaking with them about their experiences..

There is a great group on Facebook called Female Founders Community, where female founders of businesses across the world come together to share their experiences and offer advice for others.

There are also some really interesting TED talks that discuss the roles of women in tech in great depths. Two I would specifically recommend would be ‘Why do ambitious women have flat heads?’, given by Dame Stephanie Shirley, and ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ from Sheryl Sandberg.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.


Marie Angselius-Schönbeck

Inspirational Woman: Marie Angselius-Schönbeck | Head of Corporate Communications, IPsoft & Founder, IPsoft's Women in AI Initiative

Marie Angselius-Schönbeck

Marie Angselius-Schönbeck is Director of Corporate Communications at IPsoft - the world leader in Enterprise AI.

Headquartered in New York City, IPsoft has offices in 15 countries across the world and serves more than 550 of the world’s leading brands directly, as well as more than half of the world’s largest IT services providers. Marie is part of the wider executive team and spends her time between New York, London and Stockholm.

Marie is a big advocate of Women in Tech and is the founder of IPsoft´s Women in AI-initiative – which is currently operating in 16+ countries to encourage more females to join STEM Women in AI.

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

Heading Corporate Communications at IPsoft, the largest privately held AI software company, I’m responsible for cultivating our worldwide presence. Last year, I  founded IPsoft’s Women in AI  initiative to promote women in STEM careers.

Within this project, we are featuring a series of comprehensive profiles of women who are adopting and promoting AI technologies in their companies and organisations. These executives are at the forefront of the AI-enabled revolution, propelling their businesses forward and creating massive change across industries.

As the World Economic Forum urged female role models to come forward, I wanted to recognise the contributions of women in technology to inspire and support the next generation of female leaders. To date, me and my  team have succeeded in expanding the reach of the group into 16 countries, with the objective that these stories will open the door for more women to pursue careers in STEM and shrink the industry’s gender gap.

How will automation impact gender inequalities?

As a woman in Tech, and in AI, I am helping to shape the future world and the future of work, which is truly fascinating. In the last few years there have been many reports on how the future of work will unfold, and dystopian visions of robots replacing the human workforce. However, rather than talking about job replacement we really should focus on what tasks will be automated and prepare for that. I strongly believe that this fourth industrial revolution will augment us in our working life, but it is important that enterprises upskill the workforce and that we as individuals prepare for lifelong learning.

It is also suggested that females might fare better from automation, than men, as data suggests they have lower risks of their work being automated than men, given the kind of job profiles where women make up the majority of the workforce, e.g. in teaching, social and care professions. But technical skills will be very important, as will mobility. As a mindset, I hope that parents help their children understand that engineering and its innovations are just as creative as studying social sciences, and maths is a language to master, as is Spanish or Mandarin.

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

Utilise the extensive number of free courses in AI, like the Elements of AI course. I would also recommend joining groups of relevance for insights and working with career coaches.

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

We need to understand why women tend to be underrepresented in technology. The current gender gap is stark – only 22 per cent of the STEM workforce is female. That needs to change in the future if a business wants to be competitive. One consistent finding is that we need to promote more females in STEM alongside other efforts – from enterprises and educational institutions – to accelerate the inclusion of women in the workforce. According to a recent EY survey on the future of talent in Europe, 41 per cent of respondents highlighted that promoting female participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a top policy initiative likely to have the biggest impact on the labour market.

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

Young girls and women starting out need more role models. We need to elevate these successful women to help them tell their stories and the broad range of roles available. Enterprises need to support women to go for more senior positions through mentorship and scholarship programs, and potentially re-consider their internal career development programs with a focus on the promotion of diversity, which of course is not limited to gender. AI will transform society – so closing the gender and general diversity gap should be a top priority.

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

Learn from history, and follow Carl Benedikt Frey, who directs the programme on the Future of Work at the Oxford Martin School.

SwissCognitive, a global AI hub, arranges a number of seminars and webinars. I follow Dalith Steiger and Kay Firth Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning and Member of the Executive Committee at World Economic Forum.

I also recommend IPsoft´s webinars on cognitive AI.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

 

 

 


Inspirational Woman: Dominnique Karetsos | CEO & Founder, The Healthy Pleasure Group

Dominnique KaretsosWith a preference for working in disruptive industries and challenging environments, Dominnique Karetsos specialises in growth for sexual health technology start-ups.

Dominnique Karetsos is instrumental in shaping the next generation of sexual health tech brands entering the market and has a true entrepreneurial calling for being part of the sex tech revolution. An established business & brand architect, entrepreneur and innovator, BBC radio broadcaster, Dominnique has nearly two decades of experience delivering results in multi-sector business transformation.
Previously Head of EMEA Intimina for the world’s leading intimate lifestyle company, LELO Group, she is focused purely on sexual health, wellness and technology.

Dominnique now invests and/or sits on several advisory boards. She also co-founded Forbes featured agency, Healthy Pleasure Group, the only integrated agency dedicated to Sexual Health Technology start-ups and Intimology Institute - the school for sexual wellness, with business partner Dr Maria Peraza Godoy.

Healthy Pleasure Collective work with award winning innovations and brands, pairing the latest technology, branding, communications, investment and distribution to generate powerful and lasting innovations that are the motors for economic and social change and to bring more value to our to sexual health.

Dominnique can be seen spreading the word of Healthy Pleasure as Sex expert & Industry speaker on the likes of Forbes, Giant Health, Oprah, Women’s Health, Shape, Bustle, Elite Daily, BBC, TNW, Well & Good, Voice America Radio, Pure Edit.

Dominnique is a key contributor to trend immersion report for consumer insight behaviour including Canva8 and Fashion Snoops.
Healthy Pleasure recently featured in Forbes.

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

Personally, I have been a successful and failed entrepreneur since I was 13 and selling alcohol-free perfume balms in South Africa. I come with a masters in Maritime  and international trade (the Greek blood in me). My love of people and how we move through the world, how we behave and engage with sexualities transcends beyond fascination but drills into how our self-efficacy and sexual identities are our most impacting social and economic life motors. I went from commercial zoning of the oceans to be a business / brand architect & entrepreneur/ investor for 15+ years, but it was my curiosity eight years ago being a co-host on BBC Radio London, coinciding with being a new mum of a daughter and a financially crippling divorce that led me on a  personal journey spotlighted the intrinsic value pleasure and my healthy sexuality contributed to living a fulfilling life.  So I left my successful career for significance and joined a leading adult brand as head of their EMEA and learned the lay of the recently coined SexTech landscape. This space is grossly but not surprisingly polarised - we have family planning or porn and as far as women's sexual health goes we have been historically ignored and underserved. So I realised then we had a lot to do to democratise sexual health for women, dismantle the entrenched social constructs we abide by as women, reposition sex as something ot be explored, empowered and healthy and build the foundations for the internet of smart sexual wellness, health and tech. Tech is the solar plexus of this movement. tech is the facilitator to close the trifecta between sex and health. Be it a smart vibrator that helps us communicate to our partners what we desire in the bedroom (Mysteryvibe.com)  an STI testing and sharing platform (iPlaysafeapp.com) to verify our safe sexual status, to reengineering pleasure products for trans women ( my-exo.com), tracking our hormones (elara.care), biotech printing of skin for FGM victims (HP Group Lab)  to a The School of sexual wellness, Intimologyinstitiute.com

Today I am immensely proud to say I am surrounded by business partners, teams, my soul sister co-founder Dr Maria Goddoy, all of whom are trailblazing changemakers. As Ceo and Founder of Healthy Pleasure Group , we are powered by fiercely curious and proven experts committed to democratising sexual health and bringing all their worldly entrepreneurial and unique skills to define and reshape this challenging landscape, every. day.

Healthy Pleasure Group is an ecosystem in essence. We have The Agency - an end to end incubator type offering where we take you to market from concept to shelf. By taking brands to the market we lead the way for a new sexual wellness landscape and consumer behaviour.  The Lab - this is were medicine, science and research meet to create innovative solutions to our problems that historically have been ignored and finally, The School of Sexual Wellness. this is an online platform for sexual enlightenment where education is authentic and delivered by credbile experts.

Lead. Launch. Learn is what powers our mission to facilitate the connection between sexual pleasure and our overall health and wellbeing. Our well-engineered experience in Sex, Health and Tech is proven because we understand that  Human-centric technology is critical to not only help brands but their customers to value this part of their health but drive the cultural conversation that sexuality is something to be embraced, researched, and experienced – not hidden.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I only knew it had to involve travel, people, stories, risk, and reward and it was always powered by passion and led by curiosity. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and only my grandfathers were educated. My greek grandfather a diplomat and politician while my south African grandfather an esteemed criminal attorney dedicated to defending African communities during the apartheid era. I planned my need to learn and be educated, academically and worldly education and I knew I had an immense desire to blow shit up and change taboos.

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

Yes. From day one. Being one of few women in the world as a maritime logistician, this was ( and maybe still is) exclusively a man’s world. I encountered sexual harassment, discrimination, minimizing of my thoughts, ideas. Sometimes it was because of age, sex, maybe my attitude. I can communicate this now because I have the language to name it. At 24 I only knew it was not right and something felt wrong but never had the language to name the problem, no one to tell it to and no social media to share it  and call it out. I worked in fortune 500 global companies and even there, I was instructed to stay in my lane - not stay in your lane and make it your own type, more like a don’t colour outside of the lines. When I got brave enough, I dealt with each challenge differently but a running theme for me has been something my father taught me. He used to say that what other people thought of me was none of my business. The only control we have is to listen and how we then react is ruled by the attitude with which we listen with.  I apply this to all my challenges from sexual harassment to conscious uncoupling through a crippling divorce so that my daughter maintains a loving relationship with her father, to overcoming loss, everything really.

Challenges are not unique to me alone. We all go through them, but these ones specifically  I truly believe were all in preparation for my turn to play my part in revolutionising sexual health for human beings. I know this is where I am meant to be and I am forever grateful. I have been walked out of meetings, laughed at, hissed at, all in the name of a menstrual cup. 4 years later and that very same retail outlet has a sexual wellness category in 200 stores with that very menstrual cup. The very same investment houses that asked me to pitch without saying the word sex or vulva are investing in sexual health brands and smart vibrators. As an industry category, Sextech is categorically excluded still. ED can be advertised on Facebook but not vibrators for women. We still encounter double standards. In VR tech women are few and far between in this space. VR equipment is still designed and built for men’s faces. The same can be said for PPE equipment. It was not long ago that you could ask apple suri where to buy adult entertainment or book a sex worker but ask it where to go after you have been raped and the answer was, “sorry I am not able to help you.”

Is it changing? Yes. Thanks to #MeToo movements, mainstream media and more women and men demanding change, innovation and solutions that relate to their problems. So we are headed in the right direction. We are not close to home though.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Today. right now. I have the privilege to dream big and believe bold. I get to blow up shit, disrupt and build. I get the chance to work human-centric first and do it with brands and people that want the same. To travel the world and be given the opportunity to listen to others stories and share mine. My career for the first time is led by my curiosity and not by necessity.

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

Kindness. From others to me and from myself to myself. It is the currency of our future.

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

I think this applies to any industry but learning the value of NO. Understanding that saying no means you understand your value and by saying no you are saying yes to the right or better opportunity which is true to your calling. Tech is still dominated by men and as women we are often raised to believe that saying no is being rude or we are not a team player. No means only one thing. No.Nothing more nothing less.

Don’t be afraid to ask for an expert opinion or support from others. People really do want to help. I challenge the idea that women are each other's worst enemy. EGO is the enemy. There were many who lifted me up and took me with them. But only when I asked for help and I knew exactly  what I wanted help for did I start to see my career move in the right direction. If you don’t ask the answer will always be no. Cliched but true.

There are so many opportunities to get involved in Tech today. As Peter Thiel explains “There is no reason why technology should be limited to computers. Properly understood, any new and better way of doing things is technology.” decide what you want to do in tech, where you want to learn or innovate the change and then go for it. Take the chance. Believe in yourself.

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

Yes, there is but like most industries, I believe the way to overcome it could be to concentrate our effort in three areas: Innovation ( for women, by women), Investment and Education.

All three have their own barriers but when we work to break all three together we will see this industry fast track. As consumers, women must demand innovation that resonates with  our issues and wants - we hold the purse strings and roam 50 per cent of the planet. We need more investment houses dedicated to female founders and entrepreneurs, companies like HerCapital or the Case for Her and the biggest catapult is Education - we need to encourage women to believe in themselves and go after a future in engineering, STEM, medical etc but one the ways to do this is to raise girls seeing what we asking them to imagine and that is  she can change the world.  She needs to be  raised with the positive beliefs and self-efficacy that she too is worthy to her voice, her choice and her opinion.

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

 Invest in women. Innovate for women by women. Make education accessible for women. We need to take other women with us. Not this, ”I'll send the elevator down for them” speech. Instead do the work and take women with you on your journey to the top.

There are currently 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?

Hahah I think you know my answer by now. I would make funds available for investing in female founders, education accessible and put even more magic over what we are doing to democratise sexual health for women.

I must confess that I would love to see women experiencing pleasure as part of their healthy daily habit, having the ability to express and request what we want sexually, as a standard indicator for empowerment. When we give ourselves permission to validate our erotism and sexuality without guilt and through pleasure, becoming responsible for it and generating a healthy speech towards ourselves, recognising our differences in sexualities. When we can do this only then we close not only the orgasmic gap, but any gap that we are able to close in bed will translate into our surroundings…we will ask for a salary increase, surely we will able to choose, study and exercise male-defined careers, we will raise our kids with a different sense of gender equality, we will become aware that our equality lies in our differences, not the other way around.

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

Podcasts:

Learning:

Reads:


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.


Inspirational Woman: Brooke Candelore | Product Manager, BrightGauge

Brooke CandeloreBrooke Candelore is the Product Manager for BrightGauge, a ConnectWise solution.

After graduating in 2015 with her Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, Brooke gained experience in web application development and artificial intelligence while working for BAE Systems. She joined the BrightGauge team nearly three years ago and since October 2019, has been defining the strategy for ConnectWise to expand its BrightGauge BI and Reporting offering for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to serve SMBs.

Tell us about yourself, your background and your current role

I’m currently a product manager at BrightGauge, a business intelligence platform that helps IT service providers better manage their data and demonstrate the value of their work to clients.

BrightGauge came into the ConnectWise family in October 2019 as part of its acquisition of Continuum. My role is to define the strategy for ConnectWise to expand and enhance the BrightGauge business intelligence (BI) product. I work closely with the engineering team to construct and drive the roadmap for ConnectWise’s BI/reporting offerings.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’m very fortunate to love my job - but I never imagined a career in computer science was something I’d follow. In high school I wasn’t particularly interested in computers. The terms CPU and OS meant nothing to me! When I went to college I started as a Mathematics Major but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with this knowledge.  I definitely didn’t want to be a lawyer or an actuary!

I think it’s fair to say that my career has been a series of plans and pivots! My introduction to computer science came through a friend’s father. He suggested that there were going to be lots of jobs coming down the line in computer science. I was intrigued and spoke to the head of Computer Science at my college. He turned out to be one of my career’s biggest - and earliest - influencers.

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

One of the early challenges I faced was attending computer science classes that were largely male-dominated. They spoke a language I just didn’t know. Bits, bytes and reboots. I had no clue what they were talking about! This was a world I knew nothing about and felt completely uncomfortable in. Added to that, a lot of the guys were really into computing gaming, something I just wasn’t interested in.  To be honest, I felt like a fish out of water.

The key thing that helped me overcome these early challenges was gaining confidence - confidence in myself as a person, and confidence in my abilities. Plus the realisation that everyone had things to learn definitely helped! I remember doing one class on CPU and cache design. Many of my male fellow students knew all the theory and statistics - but had no clue about how it all worked in practice. The field was well and truly-leveled after that I can tell you.

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

Confidence has been instrumental in my success. It’s about celebrating the wins, and learning from the things that didn’t go so well. If I’m finding something challenging I think about the achievements I’ve had. I tell myself that if I could do that thing well, then I can certainly do this thing too!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are two things that I’m most proud of. The first is becoming the lead of the integrations team at BrightGauge. Under my leadership we went live with 28 integrations - all achieved in just a couple of years.  This doubled the total number of integrations that had been done previously.

The second is that I’ve been privileged to mentor some really smart women, all of whom have gone on to achieve really significant goals in the technology and engineering industries. One of the ladies I mentored came out of a Boot Camp. At the time she was very new to IT.  I mentored her in computer science and after about a year she secured an apprenticeship with Microsoft. She’s still there now!

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

My tips are equally applicable to a career in technology as they are to any other line of work. First, I’d say keep an open mind. Be flexible. Be prepared to change direction. A great example from my own personal experience is when I went to graduate school I entered a PhD program. I loved the topic so much that I wanted to spend all my time researching and increasing my knowledge. But after a while I realised I didn’t like the environment. The nature of what I was doing was very uncollaborative. I didn’t want to spend 8 hours every day with my own thoughts. I wanted something with a faster pace, something with more collaboration. So I switched and completed a Masters in Computer Architecture instead!

The second tip I’d give is to be passionate about what you’re doing. If you’re passionate about something you will be successful.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

When I was a graduate student I went to a lot of conferences. Typically there were three women in the room for every 100-200 men. I didn’t feel comfortable, especially because I didn't want the guys to see how slow I typed my notes! The Grace Hopper conferences were an eye opener for me. The aim of these events is to bring together and connect women in computing. It was inspiring to hear other women's challenges and to know I wasn’t alone.

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

Yes, I think there are still barriers. In my experience, it can be a challenge to build a rapport and relationships with men in the same way I do with women. But try hard to find other women wherever they are. If you hire a female, have her sit close to another female - at least in the early days. Harness the value of girl-power!


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Fiona Howarth, CEO Octopus EV hr featured

Inspirational Woman: Fiona Howarth | CEO, Octopus Electric Vehicles

Fiona Howarth, CEO Octopus EV hr, Inspirational WomanFiona Howarth is a leading force in the electric vehicle revolution in the UK, heading up Octopus Electric Vehicles (part of the Octopus Energy Group) and championing the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

Bringing an enthusiastic energy to the industry with a passion for teaching others about electric vehicles, Fiona not only focuses on delivering an amazing service but also ensuring that everyone has access to honest and reliable information. As a mother of two young girls, Fiona looks to their future as motivation to continue work in the EV field - ensuring we look after the world that they, and their children, will live in.

Also passionate about equality and supporting women in leadership roles, Fiona founded a professional network for women in 2015, called The Stellar Set. The group has grown by word of mouth and now has >250 senior women as members who meet over informal drinks, listen to inspirational speakers and act as sounding boards for each other on a broad range of topics.

In 2020, Fiona was voted the winner of the Electric Vehicles category at the inaugural Women Powering Smart Energy Awards; and also recognised as one of the Top Women in EV by the EV Summit.

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

I am the CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles - helping individuals and businesses make the switch to clean, green driving.  We offer independent impartial advice and support throughout their electric journey - from choosing and leasing a great EV, to charging up at home and on the go with inexpensive, renewable electricity.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was honoured to be awarded a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Engineering when I was a student. As part of the development process with the RAEng, I did draft a 5, 10, 20 year plan. I recently found it as I cleared some papers at my parents' house - and surprisingly, I did plan to work in management consultancy after uni, and latterly run an electric car company.

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

I have always wanted to run my own business - and twice, I've tried business models where it was either too soon, or the market wasn't structured for the business to succeed in the time I had available to give it.

Always in life, there will be things that work and things that don't - and being able to recognise those things that don't work quickly and feel ok walking away can be a strength. Those experiences gave me skills and experience; and led me to meet people that got me to where I am today.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have been honoured to lead the EV business for the Octopus Energy Group - from hosting events so that drivers can get behind the wheel of an EV and trying it for themselves and get constructive advice if they are thinking of switching to an EV, through to launching green energy tariffs designed for EV drivers - partnering with smart charging companies like EO Charging and Ohme to make this super easy for drivers.

Octopus EV customers in 2019 saved carbon that is the equivalent of 260,000 fully grown trees - and often saving >90% on fuel costs.

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

Finding something that I was passionate about, and something I believe is doing something good - for customers and the world in which my kids & their kids will live. It significantly increases my motivation and drive - and makes the hard days easier, because you know it's worth it.

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

Persevere - and find a job in a subject you feel passionate about, and a culture that works for you and enables you to thrive.

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

There are barriers for women working in all industries. Overall, we typically don't back ourselves as quickly as our male counterparts - which means we may be less likely to take on the risky projects / jobs, and not gather the experience, which then will be useful to gain further exciting projects / jobs in the future. Through research & discussions, I've picked up 3 key insights:

  • Focus on the good bits, not just the bad: One woman I used to work with would write down - every day- 3 things that she did well. We shared a boss that rarely gave us recognition, but she got strength by doing this for herself. It made her much more resilient than I was at that stage.
  • Back yourself: Try things, take the risk - and don't worry if it goes wrong. You'll be in a much stronger place to get it right next time.
  • Back others: Find other women in your networks and help them to back themselves too. Give them the nudge to apply for that next job etc.

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

  • Exposure to role models (it's easier to follow a path if you can see how someone has done it before you): through e.g. mentor schemes, networking events with speakers.
  • Create forums to enable them to explore challenges and issues with peers / people who have already done it before e.g. networking drinks / dinners.
  • Flexibility during parenthood - for both men and women. This is really important, because child raising is about both parties - and it's easier for mothers to balance work and kids if the fathers are doing the same.

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?

It has to start at school - removing any stereotyping around STEM subjects being for boys, and making it easier for girls to take them and excel at them. I would get every woman in tech and get them to a school for at least a day a year to inspire the kids. I remember when Helen Sharman came and spoke at my school, actually as she opened our new tech facility. She was hugely inspiring and gave me a confidence boost that women can do the unexpected.

Interestingly - there is a lot of research that shows that girls in single-sex schools (where a subject is not one for boys or for girls, it's just a subject) are more likely to take maths, physics and chemistry.  In the UK, the  Institute of Physics (UK) published the It’s Different for Girls report that found that girls in single-sex government schools were 2.4x as likely to take Physics for A-level than their counterparts in co-ed government schools.

A 2017 report from Australia found that girls attending single-sex schools in Victoria were significantly more likely to study intermediate mathematics than girls in co-ed schools (36.3% vs 21.6%), and similar patterns with physics and chemistry. Furthermore, a 2019 American study found that teenage girls are less likely to do well in maths and science or complete a bachelor’s degree when they have greater proportions of high-achieving boys in their classes. Cools, Fernández and Patacchini (2019, p. 20) found that: “Faced with a greater proportion of ‘high-performing’ boys, girls may become less confident about their own ability in traditionally male-dominated fields such as math [sic] and science."

We are already seeing behaviours of women not backing themselves and it impacting their performance - we must fight that and remind ourselves that we are just as good and we can do this.

https://www.agsa.org.au/why-a-girls-school-the-research/gender-atypical-subject-selection-statistics/

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are a number of great women's groups around, but it's worth checking out WomenInTech, Ada's List and GeekGirl Meetup. Definitely don't restrict yourself to listening to only women. More men are succeeding in tech right now - remember there is no reason why we can't succeed like them, so let's listen to how they think about things, and select what bits we wish to adopt into how we think.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Caroline Noublanche - Apricity

Inspirational Woman: Caroline Noublanche | Founder & CEO, Apricity

Caroline Noublanche - ApricityCaroline Noublanche is the founder and CEO of the world’s first virtual fertility startup, called Apricity. 

Apricity’s digital solution provides access to world-class fertility advisors and assists patients with a fully customised journey, all easily navigated through a mobile app. It also uses AI to develop tools to maximise chances of conception for women.

Caroline Noublanche is an experienced entrepreneur. Before launching Apricity, she co-founded mobile app Prylos which, aged 27, she sold to Swedish giant Doro AB in 2011. Later she joined the AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’. Caroline also promotes a truly diverse workforce, with women making up four out of five of Apricity’s C-Suite.

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

My journey as an entrepreneur started fairly young. I founded my first company, mobile app developer PRYLOS, when I was 27, and sold it to Swedish telecoms giant Doro AB in 2011, where I became vice president.

More recently, I joined AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’ to help them build and launch disruptive startups in the health tech space. I recognised that IVF had experienced very little digital transformation in the past 40 years and was an area in need of disruption - this led me to found Apricity, the world’s first virtual fertility clinic, in 2018.

Traditional fertility treatment is one of the most stressful and emotionally draining journeys you can go through. Apricity manages a fully-customised treatment journey that’s easily navigated through a mobile app. It matches patients to world-class fertility experts, where they can enjoy virtual consultations, and to counsellors who are available for virtual sessions seven days a week. Our aim is to make sure our patients can do as much of the IVF treatment from their homes as possible, and are emotionally supported from beginning to end. This has proven particularly important in the context of COVID-19, where remote consultations and tests have been the only option for most patients.

Working alongside some of the leading fertility researchers and AI specialists, we’re also developing cutting-edge products that better understand the factors affecting fertility and maximise the chances of conception. As CEO, my main role is to lead the business’ growth and momentum, while continuing to provide an excellent service for our patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I sat down and strategically planned it, but it’s always been important for me to see a clear trajectory to my career. I’m someone who’s always looking to improve and develop, and the diversity of experiences and roles I’ve had throughout my career have given me the opportunity to build a strong professional skill set.

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

Something that comes from being very driven is that sometimes you have to understand that not everyone is going to care as much as you do. I always expect the best from the people I work with, but the reality is you can’t expect people to always be on their A game all the time. That said, if a colleague is consistently underperforming, it’s important to be very upfront and transparent with them. Those conversations can be challenging but they’re an inevitable part of running any business.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m not very good at reflecting on my achievements, as I’m constantly looking towards my next milestone. So as soon as I’ve achieved a goal, I’ll consider it done and put all my focus on the next goal - but I’m trying to take more time to reflect as I think it’s an important thing to do!

At Apricity, one of my biggest achievements is helping to scale and grow the team in such a short space of time. What started out as a team of three in 2018 is now a team of 35 across three offices, only two years on. But overall, I’m most proud of what we’re working towards on a day-to-day basis - we’re a company with a truly meaningful purpose, dedicated to helping people through one of the most pivotal things they’ll ever experience.

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

I’m very driven by nature and I like to channel that energy into the rest of my team. I’m always keen to share my visions with them, and to encourage and inspire motivation about what we’re working towards. That ability to look ahead has definitely helped me to date - as a startup, you always need to be aiming towards the next thing.

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

Never stop questioning yourself. Even if you’re doing a good job, you have to continue looking at how you can do things better. At Apricity, we have three core values for how we approach our work - excellence, care and empowerment. In technology, particularly in the healthcare domain, you should always be striving for excellence - that’s not the same as striving for perfection, which we all know doesn’t exist.

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

Barriers definitely persist for women in tech - the proof is in the statistics, as tech companies today are still predominantly male. It's also true that in specific job roles, developers being a prime example, it’s more difficult to find female talent - this comes back to the need for more inclusive STEM learning at the early stages as well as more role models for young girls to look up to.

There is also the very real factor of ‘imposter syndrome’, a recently coined term which disproportionately affects women. As a CEO, I’m acutely aware that women are less likely to proactively ask for a promotion or pay rise, as society doesn’t teach women to be confident and assertive in the same way it does men. Hopefully this is starting to change though.

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

Tech companies need to be more rigorous when it comes to onboarding women at all levels. At Apricity, more than 50 per cent of our workforce is women, which is something I’ve made a conscious effort to maintain.

I also see it as one of my responsibilities to mentor the women in my team, by helping them grow in confidence and develop their skills. When I hear someone doubting themselves, I notice it and try to help them question those thinking patterns. Female leaders are naturally in a much better position to help enact this change, and this is why it’s so important companies are hiring women at the top. Likewise, it’s important for women to see more female representation at a senior leadership level so it becomes normalised.

Last but definitely not least, companies need to make sure their working practices accommodate working mothers. Too often, women still feel they have to choose between having a great career and a family because their workplaces don’t sufficiently adapt to fit their needs - this should absolutely not be the case in 2020.

Currently only 17 per cent of tech positions are made up of women, 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? 

If I could wave a magic wand, I would magic up more female role models in the world, including perhaps a female president of the United States or in France (where I live). Germany and New Zealand are great examples of countries led successfully by women. I think having major global role models like this goes a long way in showing younger generations what women can achieve.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recently read a great book called ‘Lead With Respect’ by Michael Balle, which I’d recommend. The story follows the dialogue between a female CEO and an IT customer and is centred around different use cases within the practice of lean management, a leadership style we follow at Apricity.

I’d add that networking opportunities are also an essential resource and something women don’t always consider high priority, but end up sacrificing for lack of time. I’d recommend always helping others and trying to do favours where you can, as you never know when you might want a favour from them in the future.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

 

 


Zeinab TomTom featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Zeinab Bakhtiarinoodeh | Senior Data Scientist, TomTom

Zeinab TomTomWith a six year working background in Mathematics and Computer Science, Zeinab has been in a male dominated industry for the majority of her career.

 Alongside qualifications in Neural Networks and Deep Learning, Regularization, Optimization and Structuring Machine Learning, Zeinab also speaks English, French, Persian and Turkish.

Today, at TomTom, Zeinab leverages Computer Science, Machine Learning and Mathematical modelling to turn data into a story, a fascinating feature for the users of TomTom products. She is passionate about science and technology, with the aim of using both to make the world a better place to live.

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

It’s safe to say I have wanderlust in my blood. I was born and raised in Iran, moved to France in 2014 to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Logic, and in 2017 moved to Netherlands to chase my dream of becoming a data scientist. Now I can proudly say that I have a BSc in Applied Mathematics and a MSc in Pure Mathematics – two degrees that have in one way or another contributed to getting me to where I am now. So, yes, I’m kind of a nerd – and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Now in my current role as a Senior Data Scientist at TomTom I can honestly say that I love my job. Every day I have the opportunity to help my colleagues make better decisions that are driven by data. The core of my role is to foster the data-driven culture at TomTom, from training to building infrastructure for data products.

Ultimately, I am passionate about making a difference and having an impact. When I am challenged, I am happy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When you have a goal-oriented mindset, setting clear goals and objectives for both the short and long term is a way to make sure you are continuously moving forward. I actually sit down and plan my future quite often. The first time I did this, I must have been around 10 years old. I was fixated on becoming a scientist - working in a lab with a computer and wearing a long white coat. At that age there was more dreaming going on than planning, but this taught me the difference between a dream and a goal – this being the level of effort that is put into actually making a dream a reality.

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

Being underestimated is one of the most prominent challenges I have faced as a female in STEM. I can vividly remember being misjudged by a manager, and in that situation, it was important not to lose faith in myself – but this hasn’t always been easy. In moments like those, I used to think , “Lets prove them wrong!”

It took me several working years to realise that no matter how hard I work or how good I am at my job, there will always be people who will underestimate me. This spurred on a change of tactic. Instead of convincing them I am capable, I now focus on myself, do my best and most importantly, shift aside the fear of failure.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Going through high school, my goal was to become a professor and teach students in the best universities. With that in mind, I started my Ph.D. to become an academic. Towards the end of my Ph.D. studies, I sat down to think about my future, and that moment spurred a change of heart. I didn’t want to stay in academia anymore. I wanted to be a problem solver instead of a theory builder.

I prepared myself for a sharp pivot in my career path, one that I had spent almost 10 years building. And I did it. Successfully pivoting, whilst still completing my Ph.D., has been my most significant achievement to date.

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

Working hard towards clear-cut goals and not giving up along the way. There have been times throughout my career, despite working hard, where I didn’t achieve the results that I wanted. My mantra is that the efforts we make will always pay off, even if it isn’t in the way we had originally expected. The key is to not give up!

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

The world of technology is a fast-moving one, and I’m well aware that sometimes this can look scary. But luckily, where there’s rapid growth, there’s lots to learn. So, absorb information, keep learning and develop the transferable skills that will take you forward in your career. This is what will drive you forward in the tech world.

Technology-based industries are full of opportunity. This means your career path does not have to be a ladder, instead you should hop around, try new things and as a result – grow.

It may sound cliché, but networking is a great way to excel. Finding a mentor within the community helped me to navigate my way through challenges and gave me something to aspire to. Even now, talking to my mentor gives me confidence that everything will be okay, no matter how hard things are now.

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

Compared to my mother’s generation, there are less barriers for women entering tech industries. Global initiatives have also helped to uplift the representation of females in tech. However, I do believe gender bias and stereotypes still exist and are taking away opportunities from women at all stages, from hiring stages to leadership. We all know that these issues are multifactional and will not be easily addressed by diversity leaflets dotted around the workplace alone.

I urge every woman in tech to be bold and talk about her achievements. For some, gender bias may go unnoticed, so we should speak loudly. If you notice stereotyping in your recruitment process, or noticed a significant imbalance, address it with HR.

We deserve to be acknowledged for our success, and these baby steps alone will lead to big changes. As a result, more women will join us in the tech industry, and we need more women to design the world.

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

Create space for women to grow. It’s evident that women will find barriers if they work in an environment where there is no or few women in management and leadership roles. Recruiting more female leaders, mentors and role models will provide women with an avenue for progression through aspiration.

There is currently only 15% 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 believe we are currently dealing with a male-led industry which is daunting for women to break

through. By putting more women in leadership roles at the top of their fields, we will foster

hope and encourage younger women to pursue a career in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Absorbing information is a great way to excel as a woman in the tech industry. I’m a

huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg books, particularly “Lean in” and “Option B”. I would recommend these

to any young professional with a hunger for tech.

The ‘Women in Tech show’ is an excellent podcast for learning about a variety of projects conducted by women – it’s simply inspiring. Similarly, Women in Tech conferences and webinars are great for networking and learning. Getting out there (whether physically or virtually) and connecting with some of the best women in the industry, will leave you with a spring in your step and the aspiration to drive you forward.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Inspirational Woman: Roberta Lucca | Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, Bossa Studios

Roberta Lucca

I believe we can all live multiple lives in our lifetime. I first learned it from my mom, who has been my first leader and high achiever by example.

Throughout my life journey in Brazil and the UK, I developed my eagerness for experimentation. That led me to become a computer scientist, then turned marketer, turned entrepreneur, turned angel investor, turned content creator, turned public speaker. I never lost any of these skills but added them to my toolbox of life.

I spent most of my last ten years building one of the most successful video game companies in Europe. Bossa Studios won multiple awards, including a BAFTA, on its way to becoming a multimillion-dollar business.

Currently, I’m hyper excited to be launching a podcast called Hyper Curious, where I talk with leaders in different industries about their A-ha moments in life and how they embrace changes by following their curiosity. It will be soon available on Apple and Spotify.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at the start. I realised the importance of planning my next steps rather late in my career.

I remember vividly my A-ha moment about it. I was working so hard on a project that I thought would lead me to a big promotion. It turned out that despite being highly praised about what I achieved, the job I wanted to take was given to a colleague of mine. I didn’t see it coming so that was a big cold shower for me. As I was reflecting on what I did wrong and getting advice on how to do better next, I realised how much he had planned that jump and engaged with the right people in the organisation to open the doors for him. He did not only know what he wanted. He told people about it. Meanwhile, I was just heads down doing my job thinking my boss would notice my deepest wishes.

Since then, I plan my career moves, I sit down to set my intentions and goals (personal and professional) on a yearly basis, and revise them every six months. This year I took a step further: I took the time over the holidays to define my Beta Lucca 2025 Vision/Dream.

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

I'm so interested in how embracing challenges in our lives, rather than fearing them, can keep us curious and evolving - which is one of the reasons I wanted to interview inspirational people (including Mo Gawdat, Sharmadean Reid MBE and Amy Landino) about this on my podcast.

For me, I’ve lost count on how many career challenges I faced. I failed in most of the things I’ve done. It’s painful on the micro-level, when you’re fighting to overcome a challenge - like the one above. But on the macro-level, it’s incredible the reward that comes from taking action and putting yourself out there, starting new things, experimenting with something you’ve never done before, and proving the doubters wrong.

That’s how you achieve great things in life. The cover of the magazine with the most successful person of the year is lie or at least a simplification of what it takes to succeed. Whatever you define as success for you, there’s no overnight success. Overcoming challenges every day is what makes you who you are. It’s a journey.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I won a BAFTA Award! This is the Oscars of the Video Games industry. Worth noting, it’s not about the Award itself, but the representation of it. I was one year into building Bossa Studios with my co-founders and an incredibly passionate team. That was my very first startup, right after “dropping out” of the corporate job I had. To be recognised by the legends of the Video Games industry for something I was an active agent of creating was just out of this world.

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

I never thought I wouldn’t. In fact, I never had a goal of achieving success. I have been always focused on finding what it is that I love doing, doing more of that, less of what I don’t like and looking after my finances on the way, of course. I think that my supporting system has played a huge part on that too. My mom, my sister, my husband, and my best friends always believed in me, even at times I doubted myself.

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

It depends on what they want to do and which stage in their career. If they are starting out now and love video games, make a game. You have all the free tools out there to learn and practice. There is no excuse not to make it nowadays. If you want to be a graphic designer of technology products or a marketer for a technology company, create and connect. Create a mock-up of how you think an app could be so much better or create a marketing plan to help a company market their products better to an audience you know inside out. Then, don’t hold that yourself. Find the C-level people or founders in these organisations on LinkedIn or Twitter, connect with them and share your work. If they are the right employers for you, they will love it.

To excel in their career once you’re into it for a few years, do a lot of soul searching so you can find the real value you bring to the world. Follow your curiosity, practice new skills that may seem unrelated to tech - like improv theatre. Improv can help you so much to be a better communicator and connector.

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

There are tons of barriers, starting by the lack of role models. You can only be what you can see. Plus, women typically revisit their goals and ambitions in life when they have children. That’s a natural thing, a moment of big change in our lifestyles, priorities and how we see the world. On top of it, being out of the market for a year put women in a certain disadvantage, compared with their male colleagues who have not stopped.

How can we overcome those barriers? By actively being a role model to the new generations, showing them it’s possible, and by finding the right partners in life who will be supportive of you becoming a successful women in tech, and sharing the burden that a life with a child brings.

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

Encourage their great talented women to go onto great challenges inside the organisation and in life. Train leaders to identify nuances of communication. For instance, according to research related to attribution theory, most of the time when women succeed, they attribute the success to external factors, while men attribute the success to their efforts. When things go badly, women typically take the blame of the situation while men attributes the failure to things out of their control. Knowing these nuances could make a whole difference next time a manager is talking to their women or men reports about the performance of a project they were involved with.

There is 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?

Make everything that involves tech look as cool and creative as fashion & design!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

  • - Book: I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was. It helped me see it’s ok not to have a one path in life but to embrace my multipotentialite life.
  • - DailyOm website: I’m loving the inspirations there as an antidote to the overwhelming bad news everywhere
  • - Podcasts: The Knowledge Project - great interviews with people who mastered their craft. Hyper Curious - my show about following your curiosity soon to be out!

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Inspirational Woman: Piyali Mitra | MD, Pods Programme Lead, Group Technology, Barclays

Piyali Mitra

Piyali Mitra is the Pods Programme Lead at Barclays.

Piyali joined Barclays in 2016 and is currently responsible for enabling cross-functional collaboration and accelerated delivery for the bank’s group wide growth initiatives.

Piyali’s brand is complex problem solving, backed by thorough analysis, strategic thinking and a client/shareholder mindset. An influencer, mentor and a keen collaborator, she is comfortable challenging the status quo to deliver the right outcome. Piyali is an advocate for nurturing diversity of thought and experience at the work place. She believes any business requires a balanced workforce that accurately represents the society which they serve, in order to build the solutions their customers truly need.

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

I grew up in Mumbai, India, as the youngest of four daughters. I am a qualified Chartered Accountant, and have worked across three continents in Investment Banking, Corporate Finance, and delivering complex Transformational Programmes for global banks. Currently, I am a Managing Director within Group Technology at Barclays, leading on a key strategic priority for the Group COO bringing cross-functional teams together and enabling delivery of our growth initiatives.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The only thing I planned for in my career is change! Growing up in Mumbai, which is famous for Bollywood movies, I always wanted to do something in the creative industry – following in the footsteps of my grandfather, a successful Hindi film producer and director of his time. That idea changed very early, when in college numbers, accounting and financial management fascinated me. Since then I qualified as an accountant and decided I wanted to be an Investment Banker closing multi-million dollar deals – and as luck would have it, I joined a large US bank in Mumbai and within a year transferred to Wall Street – something I had never dreamt of, let alone plan! I’ve not looked back since then, only embracing change and the opportunities and challenges it brings

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

Absolutely – I have faced challenges. The mantra that gets me through challenges has been around my mind-set of embracing it – knowing that there is something to learn, and something to take away from a tricky or difficult situation has been instrumental in allowing me to face the challenge. Analysing the why and the what, and becoming aware and tackling the issue at hand rather than ignoring it. To be more specific – about five years ago – I made a wrong career move. Being true to myself, understanding why that role and organisation was not right for me and being able to be honest and have those discussions with a number of stakeholders, allowed me to get out of the role, introspect and truly understand in what context I will flourish and then target specific opportunities.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement has been my ability to successfully span Front Office, Finance Restructuring, and Operations roles. I have always strived to become an SME and gain deep knowledge, whilst also maintaining a broader perspective by doing different roles that enable me to look at the same circumstances, problems and think about solutions from a variety of lenses. Also adopting an infinite learning mind-set has allowed me to be successful in these varied roles and not feel like an imposter (most of time).

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

Believing in myself. Period. If you don’t believe in yourself how will someone else? And, of course I do have doubts time and again, but I use it to identify and further harness any weak spots to become better and play my A game!

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Your career is a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the small achievements along the way, there will be short-term setbacks but it’s not game over, so keep your chin up, and keep your eye on the end goal.

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 is an unconscious bias that exists for any form of diversity. One way to deal with this is to ensure both managers and colleagues are clear on what they bring to the table, what expectations they set around work life balance and how they will deliver the work. There are many unsaid things, which then leads to expectation mismatch – and clear communication can solve this easily.

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

I think men have to take part in diversity conversations and supporting the progress of women. It’s not a token or an allowance women are looking for, and it’s not just for women to bring other women up. For any company to truly support diversity of all kinds, they need to believe in the why – and that why needs to be a business imperative that the senior management truly believe in. For example, diversity is good for business as it mirrors the societies we serve. They need to articulate this “why” clearly – and promote women who are competent to prominent roles – and walk the talk.

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

I enjoy Azeem Azhar’ Exponential View podcast, I also enjoy HBR Ideacast podcast and Thrive Global podcast by Arianna Huffington. In terms of Books – Start with Why by Simon Sinek and How Women Rise by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesin are pretty good reads.

Learn more about how we’re using tech to solve customers’ problems

Find out more about Tech careers at Barclays


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

 

 

 


Laura Romanin

Inspirational Woman: Laura Romanin | Founder, WeKleen

Laura Romanin is the CEO and co-founder of WeKleen™  and is the first product line from Eco CoLab Ltd which is a powered partnership with Lovelace & Turing Limited.

WeKleen™ license partnerships include small and large landlords of commercial and private luxury residential real estate to solve the current inefficiencies of high consumption waste, water and value added services, with a special emphasis on smart city integration technology.

With councils and municipalities across the globe recognizing the need to provide a world of convenience, social responsibility and efficiency for communities to thrive, WeKleen™ services offer an effective solution for adopting more responsible consumption habits. cities and communities.

Shortlisted as ‘App of the Year’ category by BusinessGreen Technology Awards and selected by Mayor of London, Better Futures an initiative that supports clean tech businesses was part of the 12-month year old start-up success that started in her kitchen in West London. In 2019, Laura was invited to speak at Financial Times to share her expertise in the future of car care and why a new alternative is essential to protect our planet.

She is an activist in climate change and has over ten years in retail as a brand creative working at Net-A-Porter & Selfridges on project with focus of sustainability.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

Yes, I always wanted to be in the sustainability and tech industries. But every opportunity before that, prepared me for my current role as Founder of WeKleen and as a brand creative working with fashion and beauty brands creating compelling content to tell their story.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being shortlisted business category by BusinessGreen Technology Awards launched less than a year.

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

Having a close tribe of women: peers and mentors who have supported, inspired and continue to encouraged me to live out my fullest potential. It’s critical to have a supportive community around you -  that is safe, where you can pass on knowledge, and where you [can] open your arms and wrap them around each other to create a strong unit.

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

There’s three tips I would recommend:

  1. Download information: Read books, go to seminars, listen to podcasts, watch docu-series.  Listen and learn as much as you can in the area of interest so that
  2. Create meaningful connections: Paving your way to a new opportunities or advancements to one’s career takes time, patience, and more than a few matcha lattes—it requires making real connections. Think of social media platforms as physical spaces. Networking is your email signature line. It’s your profile on LinkedIn. It’s your business card. If you start looking at the micro-actions you undertake on a daily basis as networking, you can realize you have a far bigger chance of making an impact  that will improve your career than if you worry about that one big cocktail reception to collect business cards.
  3. Be clear what you are asking for: I always had a hard time ‘asking’ in beginning of my career

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

YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP recently launched on International Women’s Day 2020:  sponsorship programme to build the next generation of women leaders in tech. the world leader in online luxury and fashion, is strengthening its commitment to driving gender equality in technology with the launch of a new internal sponsorship programme for women. Pairing rising female talent in its technology team with senior business leaders over a period of 10 months, the initiative aims to provide advanced learning and development opportunities for employees on the path to leadership.

BUMBLE, Wolfe Herd, who founded Bumble in 2014, is fueled by a utopian vision of social justice, where women feel empowered to make the first move in all areas of their lives, and it drives virtually every decision at the company. It influences her hiring: 82 per cent of the employees are female, along with almost all of the executive leadership.

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


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.