Leena Koskelainen featured

Inspirational Woman: Leena Koskelainen | Vice President of Product Engineering, Tecnotree

Leena KoskelainenLeena Koskelainen is Vice President of Product Engineering at Tecnotree Corporation, a position she has held since 2018.

In this role she heads up global operations for Tecnotree’s Product Engineering division.

Before becoming Vice President of Product Engineering, Leena held a number of other roles having started with the company in 2006.

Leena is a technology specialist having started her career as a software developer in 1987. She has held several demanding positions, leading large multicultural teams from all over the world. Leena is highly respected and trusted throughout the telecoms industry and an inspiration to women and girls wanting a career in tech.

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

I have a background in mainframe software engineering from the 1980’s. After that, I moved into the telecoms domain essentially to help people communicate more easily across the world. I’m currently supporting communication service providers by offering high quality customer service and I’m involved with digital transformation programmes to bring legacy business support systems into the modern age with the latest technology, automation, analytics and machine learning capabilities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly, I have simply always been curious and hungry to try new things and keep on learning. This approach has opened up many opportunities; some I was able to handle well and others were a challenge, but this helped me to grow. I have worked for Tecnotree over many years and I have been very fortunate to experience different roles and activities.

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

I once made a career move from working in the back-office of a local Finnish company to a front-line role in an international company. It was a wise move as this came at the point when the internet was becoming commonly used and telecom and mobile services were starting to conquer the word. While it was the right decision, it was far from easy. I went through a series of challenges starting from using English as the standard working language and learning completely new technologies and concepts involved in telecoms. Suddenly I found myself explaining the signalling patterns and SMS protocols over the phone to a specialist in Kuala Lumpur and the next day to someone else in Sao Paulo. It was initially daunting with so many new things to learn.  Little by little I started to see the light in the end of the tunnel, and the day eventually came when I was completely in control. I knew what I was doing, customers appreciated my help and I felt valued. This was probably the most important lesson for me – never give up and the reward always awaits you in the end.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Personally I feel that my biggest achievement has been to learn to appreciate cultural diversity and all the victories and challenges it brings. Being able to think differently and learning to collaborate effectively across the world, brings a meaningful sense of community and togetherness.

Professionally the biggest achievement is related to crisis management. I was involved with a production roll-out which didn’t go so well. I had to stabilize the systems whilst reassuring the workforce. Telecommunication systems are known for their availability and reliability and having that stability compromised can be mission critical.  Managing the crisis became our team’s mission and our confidence grew as we resolved the issues.

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

I learned a very valuable lesson as a child: If you undertake a task, do it properly.  ‘Doing it properly’ is a very relative concept, but I maintain that mantra today in everything I do:

  • When I write an e-mail, I try to write it so that the recipient can understand it without needing to call me and ask what I meant.
  • When I make a plan, I try to cover all aspects, make it as practical and implementable as possible.
  • When I make a report, I collect enough data to have the facts right, make it complete and put it in the format which is clear and understandable for the audience.
  • When I prepare training, I always start from training objectives and make sure the training content is relevant so that employees will learn the key points of the subject.

The list goes on, but my principle is to spend a little bit more time doing things properly to ensure there is no confusion from the outset.

I become very motivated when faced with a challenge. If someone says it can’t be done, I’m ready to prove them wrong.  In business things change all the time so you need to be  relentlessly positive in the face of adversity.

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

The technology industry is full of extremely intelligent individuals who often face challenges in communication and collaboration. The industry needs leaders who can listen, understand, bring people together and utilize expertise. Enabling collaboration, creating excitement and a sense of togetherness are such important qualities to demonstrate through any career journey.

Another important point is to do your best to comprehensively understand issues your business faces. Technology is all about solving everyday problems and getting to the bottom of things is crucial. There is no stupid questions in our field, all questions must be asked as many times as needed to achieve 100% clarity.

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

Generally no, I really don’t see significant barriers. Women have unique capabilities which help them to be successful. I see equal respect towards men and women everywhere I work and I have not faced any glass ceilings hindering my success. Finland is known for its equality, but I think the same thing is also being seen elsewhere. In Asia, Africa, Middle-East, etc. – women are doing well in the field of tech. The only thing stopping women to reach their full potential is not believing in their own capabilities. Women have patience, diligence, accountability and endurance and we are great communicators. This helps us to provide real value in the communities we work in.

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

Women are great assets to the companies they work for but even greater assets to their families. Especially during the years when careers are often built, women often have children and extended families depending on their care and support.

Finland’s model is to understand the family-related requirements and consciously make it possible for women to work. Some examples of this are the equalization of maternity and paternity leaves, right to stay home to take care of sick child and providing affordable day care for all families even if they work in odd hours or in shift work. Companies can also follow some of these principles and provide support for women who work committedly in the middle of family challenges.

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?

Announce a full ‘Women in Tech’ year campaign and build interesting programmes around it to help executives to understand unique talents and capabilities of women, and make the recruitment of women a strategic priority. Companies must also totally erase prejudice towards women and remove barriers to women being successful.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

In general, networking is very important and exposing yourself to new concepts regularly. It is important to make time for this even when your capacity is limited. Technology changes so fast that if one settles with routines and things already known, they are very quickly left behind in progress.

Anne Lillywhite, Honeywell featured

Inspirational Woman: Anne Lillywhite | Director, Aerospace Engineering, Honeywell

Anne Lillywhite is Director, Aerospace Engineering at Honeywell.

Anne Lillywhite, HoneywellHoneywell is a global technology company, whose aim is to make air travel safer, more efficient and reduce costs.

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

I grew up in the French Riviera, in the beautiful city of Cannes – where I got my first degree. I then moved to Lyon, where I studied to become a research and development engineer. My first job was in Paris, but I soon moved to Toulouse to work for Motorola – my beginnings were in telecoms engineering. I decided to make the move to aviation in 2008, and I haven’t looked back since.

I have been at Honeywell for almost three years now as director of engineering for Europe, based in the Czech Republic, and I currently manage around 300 engineers. We work on cockpit systems, as well as navigation and sensors technology for international aviation manufacturers. Every day is different at Honeywell, which is something I really enjoy. I get to meet and work with interesting and diverse people. I could never work in a company that has just one kind of person – this is one of the reasons that Honeywell is so great to work for.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In short, no! It’s an interesting question, because it’s always what you would like to do. You think that you’ll sit down and make a rational plan, which isn’t always what happens. Having said that, I have made my big career decisions based on mature thinking. For example, when I decided to leave telecoms for aviation it was something that I really thought through. Although it was still engineering, it was as if I were changing from one industry to another. When you leave one company for another, it’s something that needs careful consideration. However, when it’s within a company you tend to go with the flow a bit more and can’t always plan what’s going to happen.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I was very young when I began my career. I got my degree at 21 years old, and I wasn’t always taken seriously. It took me a while to build my credibility. At the time I felt that, especially in the tech industry, you had to work a bit harder to be taken seriously as a woman, whereas for a man it seemed by default they were credible. Luckily, at Honeywell I feel very respected – I don’t feel any less credible for being a woman. They truly believe in the importance of diversity. Also, being a mother of two can present challenges! You really do need to be very organised. I think that this has actually made me a better engineer – my time management has improved massively, which is so important when you’re taking on a big project. This is also something that is valuable for managing a big team. You need to be able to have oversight of what everyone is doing and where that fits into the bigger picture.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

At one of my previous jobs, there was a project that my boss didn’t want me to take on. In the end, we compromised and did it – but with much fewer staff than I had envisaged. I was proud of our success, as I felt that I had proven my capabilities. It also taught me that the biggest challenges build the biggest team bonds!

At Honeywell, I am proud of the results I’ve helped drive as part of our team. So far, we have reached every milestone that we have set. However, what I would say I am most proud of is bringing diversity to the team. I feel like I am shaping the landscape a bit here! We hire a range of people from different backgrounds, which I feel has improved the team. In the last year for example, I have hired engineers from all over the world – America, Greece, Italy, India and France, and we are constantly expanding and looking to improve the diversity of our team. Diversity of people is key to diversity of thought. Diverse teams generate better ideas and enable innovation.

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

I take inspiration from Apollo 13 – failure is not an option! My mindset is that I never fail, I learn. I am very passionate, I believe that you can always reach your goal, even if there are obstacles along the way. Every step is simply a learning. I think that my energy and dedication have been instrumental in my success, and I also believe it’s important to be inclusive. Get help and engage people, if and when you need it, to get the best results.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think that mentoring is great. I mentor a lot of people, from employees in Czech Republic to students back in France. I think it is a valuable way to learn. I’ve always had mentors that contribute in different capacities to my growth, which I think is fantastic.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I like to think of it in this way: we need to make a sandwich. We must build on equality from the bottom up, but we really need it top down as well. From the top, what could make a great difference is if we had the female equivalent of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos. We have a lot of great C-suite women, but the day that we have a female equivalent of these figures, that would make a tremendous difference. To change things from the bottom up, I think that it is important for organisations to diversify their hiring practices. This is what Honeywell has done, and I can see such a difference in the diversity of thought. There is no doubt that this is the best way forward.

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

My greatest piece of advice to my younger self would be to not leave anyone behind. It’s so important to take the time to make sure everyone on your team is on board and up to date with what you’re doing. I found that I could sometimes get caught up in how great an idea was that I didn’t take the time to make sure everyone understood and was included. Sometimes it is very important to slow down.

Something else that I have learned with time is to acknowledge and act upon feedback. When it is constructive, feedback is a vital way to learn and grow within your career.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I love being at Honeywell, and I think it is a truly fantastic company to work for. I feel trusted as both an engineer and a leader. As for the future, I am looking forward to continuing to bring success to the company. Whether it’s as the leader of this team, or in the next role that remains to be seen. Although I am very focused on results, I also care very much about people and think that our drive for diversity is, and will continue to be, a key effort for the future.


Inspirational Woman: Tanja Lichtensteiger | Engineering Manager, Sky Betting & Gaming


Tanja Lichtensteiger

I'm Tanja Lichtensteiger and I'm an Engineering Manager at Sky Betting and Gaming based at its offices in Wellington Place, Leeds.

I manage six software engineering Squads and we are all responsible for making our Sky Bet product the best in the industry. I have been working professionally in technology for 18 years since starting as an apprentice software engineer at 16 years old.  I discovered my enjoyment for software engineering when I started coding at eight years old and haven't stopped since.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all, which would surprise many friends as they have me down as a planner. I stumbled into tech after learning how to code at eight years old and that led me to where I am now. I knew Technology was an industry I wanted to get into as I grew older but I struggled to find the right path. A lot of doors closed on me, including University, so I can't say things ever went to plan. I feel lucky that I was able to land a very good apprenticeship in Switzerland which set the foundation of my career. Since then I've just focused on working hard, learning as much as I can and consistently building great tech products. I never sought the next step, somehow the right opportunities just naturally came my way and I grabbed them.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

 As a mixed-race woman in Tech I can say from my experience that sexism and racism existed in technology when I started 18 years ago and are present even now. Phrases as "Women aren’t as technical as men",  "Women don't belong in tech" or "why are you here? Aren't you the cleaner?" bring up memories of past challenges. Thankfully the environment has much improved with a lot more support and people willing to stand up to do what's right. More of us willing to use our voice.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

After a long career it's pretty hard to decide on one. Personally I feel it's the individual achievements I gained through working with technologists more than technical achievements that mean more to me now. Whether if it's helping coach a budding software engineer into an extremely capable technical lead over the span of a few years or helping a squad upskill on new technology that they're excited about. Don't get me wrong, I love building and successfully delivering amazing technical solutions, but the tech we build will eventually go out of date. Those individual moments of growth are with these people for the rest of their lives.

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

Resilience. I'm passionate about technology, but I believe that passion would've died a certain death if I listened to the feedback that I "did not belong here" or took every stumble as the end. That bouncebackability needs to be practiced and nurtured, embrace the struggle and come out stronger for it. Because if you can stand up after every fall, you can achieve anything.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I believe mentoring is a very valuable opportunity for both mentor and mentee to grow. I mentee a couple of women in technology and I find the process not only benefits them, but msyelf as well. It gives me a lot of food for thought. Either different perspectives on tackling a problem or new challenges I would not have come across. It's satisfying to see my mentees successfully take the steps forward that they want in their career. By being a mentor I am paying forward what others have done for me. I have a couple of informal mentors both in Tech and outside, who I came across naturally and now consider good friends. I believe in having a growth mindset and allow myself to constantly learn from people around me.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Employers need to realise that hiring those only from traditional paths (University degrees) isn't wise as it excludes amazing talent who come with transferrable skills from other walks of life.

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

Some people will find fault in you no matter what, do it anyway!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I'm looking forward to watching my squads grow not just as excellent technologists but as great human beings while we, together, go solve some extremely complex technical challenges that face Sky Betting and Gaming. It's exciting and something I can't wait to get my teeth into. I know that after it, myself and my squads would have gained so much in knowledge and levelled up significantly.

Jada Smith featured

Inspirational Woman: Jada Smith | Advanced Engineering & External Relations Executive, Aptiv

Jada SmithJada Smith, vice president – advanced engineering & external relations, is responsible for driving Aptiv’s advanced engineering roadmap in addition to her role in promoting Aptiv’s technology with external stakeholders.

Previously, Jada was Global Director – Software EOS and Tools at Aptiv’s Advanced Safety and User Experience division (formerly Electronics & Safety). She began her automotive career in 2004 as a software engineer at Electronics & Safety and following several progressive engineering and managerial roles in infotainment and corporate engineering, was named to her current role.

Named one of Automotive News 2017 “Rising Stars”, Jada also led Aptiv’s Agile transformation, a journey focused on improving quality and efficiency.

Jada holds a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Purdue University and a Master of Business Administration from Indiana University.

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

My undergraduate degree is in Electrical Engineering Technology and I have an MBA, but I really consider myself a software engineer.

My pursuit of a STEM career isn’t surprising, since even as a young child I was always very interested in understanding how things work. To this day, I am still fascinated by the technology we take for granted, and incredibly impressed by the brilliant people who invented it. In college I jumped at the opportunity to work as a co-op student working in the Electronics & Safety Independent Test & Verification group.

Today, I’m surrounded by teams who are not only shaping mobility now, but in the future and, as the vice president of advanced engineering & external relations, I have the privilege of being responsible for driving Aptiv’s advanced engineering roadmap, promoting Aptiv’s technology with external stakeholders, as well as, leading initiatives to drive gender diversity in Aptiv’s engineering workforce.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not when I first began my career. However, that all changed when I realized that the only thing standing in the way of my success… was me. I’d been mentally putting up barriers and waiting for someone to see my value. When I got out of my own way and took charge of my career that’s when the planning really began, and hasn’t stopped. Part of this journey meant taking a hard, honest look at my skills and figuring out how to gain the skills I was lacking. The other part was seeking out opportunities and charging after them before they get snapped up.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Of course, who hasn’t? Personally, who I am and what I bring to the table has been shaped by many people and experiences – both good and bad, big and small. And I wouldn’t erase any of them because many of them have faced me with a challenge that taught me something.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think one of my most cherished moments of my career when colleague sent me a congratulatory note after I’d received an award and said that he was using my story to motivate his daughter. It is humbling, but also incredibly rewarding to know I have an impact on young women, including my daughter, who knows she is capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to, whether that is following in my footsteps by pursing a technical career or becoming the president of the United States.

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

Never, never, never quit. Life is hard and we can’t give up when things get hard. We have to have the confidence to believe in ourselves, as well as the grit and determination to push through, even when we are intimidated or unsure.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have had the privilege of mentoring others, both formally and informally, throughout my career. And I wouldn’t be where I am without my own mentors, coaches and advocates.

To be successful, we have to seek out feedback, both good and bad, so we know where and how to improve. This feedback can come from anywhere, but when it comes from a mentor or coach, it’s something we should celebrate and cherish. These individuals want the best for us, not because it helps them, but because they care about us, both personally and professionally.

I am proud to say that who I am now, and who I strive to become, has been shaped by many people along the way.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

More women in leadership positions within the technology industry. We’ve all seen how the STEM workforce is crucial for generating new ideas, receiving and commercializing patents, and providing the flexibility and critical thinking required in the modern economy. And as women, we’re the problem solvers. We get stuff done. And when you combine the two – that’s powerful and one we need more of in leadership.

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

That trying to achieve the perfect work / life balance at all times will only be setting yourself up to feel like a failure. Instead seek to balance the moments. Focus on making choices and identifying what’s important in each moment. Each hour. Each day. Each week. Doing this requires being willing to make tough decisions and stand by them, but it’s allowed me to successfully have a career and be a great mother at the same time.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I was given some advice from  a senior leader in my company many years ago. He said that someone is going to throw me the ball when I least expect it and I need to be prepared to catch it. He looked me in the eye and asked “Are you ready?” It was with trepidation that I said yes, because I was scared, but I meant it. Since that moment, I have been thrown the ball many times, and I have caught it every time. It has come from many different directions and when I didn’t expect it, but I was prepared to catch it.

Each of these opportunities have been unique and helped me to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined. They have also helped me learn to expect the unexpected and not be so focused on a particular role or path that I lose sight of a special opportunity. I don’t know what my next challenge will be, but I will face it as I have the others with courage and determination. One day, I hope to look back over my career and the imprint I have left on my company and the people in it, and proudly say that I made a difference.