Ekaterina VoronkovaEkaterina has 8+ years of experience in digital technologies and she is alumni of Deloitte Digital UK where she led large-scale digital transformation for private and public sector clients.

Before joining Big4 she founded and sold her own successful eCommerce business and launched several eCommerce for multibillion retailers from scratch on one of the most challenging market with 11 time zones with same-day delivery capability for some of the regions. Throughout her career she did a lot of advisory work and mentoring for various startups in Russia, Belorussia, USA, UK working in FinTech, RetailTech, eCommerce fields with AI, RPA, Digital Twin technologies. She is now continuing her advisory work and building her own start-ups that promise to disrupt UK tech market.

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

I graduated from Top-5 Russian University MGIMO with honours and hold BS in Commerce and MS in International Economics. After graduation I wanted to use my knowledge in Commerce to create a new product on the market and founded a start-up, a pioneering premium merchandise online-store in Russia in 2011. Russian eCommerce market was emerging at that time and there were no benchmarks, so I had to invent processes from scratch, including technical integration of eCommerce platform, tackle logistics etc. I ran it for almost 5 years brining innovative ideas that became eCommerce industry standards and successfully sold the business in 2015.

My expertise was recognised by multibillion euro retailers that invited me to build their eCommerce presence in Russia. As a Head of eCommerce, I helped them to successfully launch from scratch 5 online-stores and developed their marketing strategies.

In parallel to my work, in 2017 I started advisory work with several digital technology start-ups. For example, I helped one of AI-based RetailTech start-up to develop a back-end logic to process 40 key data points and give recommendations to its customers about the clothes they are likely to buy (the core idea of the start-up is to give recommendations on sets of clothes a person would most likely like using AI technology). It was a crucial point of the success of the start-up.
Another example would be the help I provided to one of the start-ups that was soon after acquired by ServiceNow – the company I saw among those supporting WeAreTechWomen community.

In 2018, I got a job offer from Deloitte Digital UK and moved to London after living all my life in Moscow. I had no fear to move (a lot of people asked me if I had any  ) though I had just a couple of people I knew there. Instead, it was a real excitement for me, and I knew that in the UK I would be able to unlock my potential to the fullest!

In Deloitte Digital I worked on large-scale projects for public and private sector clients delivering solutions in RetailTech, FinTech, eCommerce with technologies like RPA, digital twins to name a few. I am not a programmer and was always responsible for delivery of innovative digital platforms and applications or for ideation and business logic for those. The most recent project I had was for the largest public sector client and connected with a delivery of a digital platform enabling key workers to register for Covid-19 tests using RPA technology behind it.

I have now left Deloitte Digital to pursue my own start-up ideas. One of the start-ups I have founded and developing now, Easly, a SaaS eCommerce platform, is designed for grocery retailers, and utilises AI, ML personal recommendations, speech recognition technology for voice-based search, camera product scan technology, NLP and RPA technologies as well as the latest GPT-3 technology. It is truly innovative, and I strongly believe that it will disrupt UK RetailTech and revolutionise online shopping experience. Another one is an online-platform selling online-courses aiming at changing people lives for the better.

I still continue on with the advisory/mentoring for some of the start-ups and really enjoy it. I feel real joy in helping people and driving technology sector.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not always. I founded my first start-up and was making my first steps in digital while experimenting. Also, technology sector was just emerging in Russia at that time in 2011. I got clear about my future career after I launched eCommerce for several multibillion retailers on Russian market. I understood that I want to expand my experience and learn about other technologies. I realised that I enjoy creating something new, solving challenging problems, innovating. I started advising/mentoring some of the start-ups and joined Deloitte Digital to get experience with various technologies and projects. Now I am planning to continue my advisory/mentoring as well as put in life several of my start-up ideas.

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

When I worked with retailers, I launched eCommerce for, I had to convince absolutely non-technical top management to take a certain direction. It was quite difficult as in Russia bias about women in technology are even more obvious.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I like to think that there were several career achievements equally important to me:
– set up my own business and created industry benchmarks not knowing anything about technologies when I started
– launched eCommerce for multibillion retailers on the most challenging market
– created several innovative solutions on the UK market for public and private sector clients

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

I am a real fighter, I never give up and I try as many time as needed till I finally get what I want. It is difficult to fail, but what is important is to accept the situation, reflect on the it and take another chance. Another thing (sorry, in my case there are usually two things that are major factors) is the people. If you want something, open to communication and help people they will always want to support you and it could be a key to fulfil your dream

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

Read about new technologies, solutions, start-ups, make connections with people in technologies, not to be lazy to help others. It is not about university you have graduated (though Harvard, MIT and Stanford are hands down the places of power), but the experience and knowledge you get as technologies are constantly evolving. Technologies are about innovation.

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

I can see some bias with regards to women working tech and women leaders. I think the best solution will be to help each other out, be one supportive family. It is not easy to excel when you are alone and stay apart from others. Ladies who are just starting their career in technologies or women wanting to make a career change will be much faster progressing if we can tell them about our experience. Books, formal lectures, etc. are good, but what is most valuable is the experience.

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

These could be women communities, competitions for women, special nominations, etc. Equity should be introduced in place.

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

I think not all women know how fun it could be to work in technologies and that you don’t need to be of a very technical mindset. There are a lot of creative roles, so technologies are not only about programming. Moreover, not all the founders of successful start-up worked in technologies before they set up their companies. I would have made women aware of that.

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