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

My name is Filippa Jörnstedt and I am the VP of Global Regulatory Analysis & Design at Sovos. I head up our team of lawyers and regulatory experts who perform the research and analysis that power our global VAT solutions.

My specialty is working in the field of where technology meets tax control; more specifically in the cases where governments seek to put in place requirements to ensure that taxes flow in as they should. I help businesses comply by designing tech solutions to meet those requirements.

I have a degree in Law (LLM) from Lund University in Sweden and specialised in public international law during my studies. For a long time, I wanted to work internationally within the public sector, but gradually moved into the private sector and found my spot working with international law in tech. 

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the very beginning of it, yes. However, I hadn’t quite factored in the risk that I might not enjoy parts of it once I began working after law school. Quite soon I felt that that surely, I’m never going to get good at anything that bores me, so I put the plan to the side and instead decided to be more open minded. I decided to focus on some of the things I felt were most important to me, (international law, international environment, dynamic day to day, intellectually stimulating, being part of building something) and started experimenting with different roles. Quite quickly I found a job that sounded like an odd fit experience-wise but ensured I had those main things, and I soon realised that I had a blast at work.

So, it took me a little while to change from having a plan for everything to instead being more open minded and yet at the same time, clear about what is important for me. I’m glad that it happened because it took me on a new path that I’ve enjoyed a lot over the past decade.   

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

I think everyone at one point or other faces challenges in their career, whether it be having to learn a new technology or dealing with self-doubt as to whether you can accomplish what you set out to do. For me, I’ve always tried to stay true to myself and what I wanted to get out of my career. Having strong mentors that will always tell you the truth has been instrumental in helping guide me through tough periods or uncertainty.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would say that I’ve experienced many small ones rather than any singular massive one. However, what I think they all have in common is the satisfaction of building The tech companies I have worked for tend to build sophisticated solutions in short timelines when governments decide to introduce complex new compliance requirements. Being part of that team effort of understanding new reforms, designing a solution to help our customers, building it and seeing it go live in time to meet the deadline is equally rewarding each time.

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

Not worrying so much about the optical illusion of success but defining it rather as getting good at something that you enjoy.

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

I have two main tips, one for finding what interests you and the other for defining career success.

Finding your thing:

1. Find an area that you think is intellectually interesting or fun or rewarding.

2. Find people you trust, respect and who believe in you, and 3) then allow yourself time to get good at your profession.

Career success:

People love working with people who get things done.

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

From my perspective, this begins early in the education system. Traditionally, roles in STEM careers have not always been appealing to women because of the real or perceived culture in education and training. Even in roles such as mine, which doesn’t rely on an education in STEM, can often be intimidating for somebody with no prior understanding of tech as an industry.

But on the positive side, I believe this is already changing and the industry is becoming more inviting for women.  A clear way companies can help (and really have the responsibility to do so) is by allowing for cross-functional training and education within the workplace.

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

There are certainly systemic factors in place that explain this low figure (15% of women working in tech), however a significant thing companies in tech can do to ensure that people stay in this sector and get the knowledge needed for themselves and their companies to succeed is focused on providing opportunities for internal rotations and well-designed training programmes, or at a minimum creating a culture of knowledge sharing.

People often need cross-functional experiences to grow in this space, and in the absence of that they may very well rotate out of tech entirely. What is true is that this is an increasingly competitive issue, and companies that manage to retain key talent are the ones that will thrive going forward.

There are 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? More opportunities for women to explore technology roles once they are already in the workforce. Cross-functional training and job rotations play a pivotal role in identifying exceptional talent.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Your best resource is a boss who believes in you and gives you opportunities to grow and try out new things. Try to find people who fit that description, and then stay and learn.

A good manager will find opportunities for you to grow, so I always recommend people brainstorm with their managers and other senior leaders. My view is that it’s always better to be honest about interests, goals and dreams; most good managers are eager to help you try your wings, regardless of if that means that the talent leaves the team to another part of the company or even leaves altogether. Careers are long, after all, and opportunities to work together come again.

Read more about our inspirational women here.