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Liselotte Munk, is an experienced Board Member and CEO with a proven history in creating strong results in the international tech industry. She is also a powerful leader in international business development, people management and sales & marketing.

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

I have been CEO at insurance solutions provider, Fadata, for five years. Prior to joining Fadata, I was Industry General Manager for North and Central Europe at DXC, where I helped grow the business and became a Thought Leader in digital transformation for the insurance industry. In total, I have over 25 years of experience in the software and insurance industry.

I have restructured the company with central strategic people and strongly believe that we will accelerate scaling up our growth pattern over the next 4-5 years.

I have also recently started a board position at a mid-sized bank in Denmark, a listed company. My background in finance and more recent experience of tech, will lend perfectly to helping the company with its digital transformation. Furthermore, I enjoy applying my work and life experiences to mentoring young women at the Danish IT university.

Despite my senior role in a tech company, I do not come from a technical background. I completed a master’s degree in finance and business economics, so my roots lay in the financial industry, which is the career path I followed, until I was head hunted to Fadata. I grew up in the countryside in Denmark and was the first in my family to take a university degree. Moving away from my family at a young age to pursue education has been my biggest learning experience, not least because moving from the countryside to the big city was considerably life altering. It forced me to become highly independent, a trait that has served me well over the years.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I know many people that can say they have, but for me, I followed my passions and naturally fell into the roles I have held in my career. The only time any planning occurred was when my husband and I sat down to discuss juggling our family. We decided that only one of us could follow the career paths we were on, and my husband graciously stood down in order to be more flexible and take care of the day-to-day needs of our two sons. So rather than a career plan, it is better described as a family project.

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

Beside my own management team now, I have always been the only female in every work team I have been a part of. It never occurred to me that this was a challenge, but looking back, it indeed was.

I’ve found that male dominated workplaces are extremely focussed on “the numbers”, while I was also interested in the development of people, understanding different cultures, structures and people’s motivations. I can’t say with confidence that I have succeeded in changing the priorities of any of my peers along the way, but I truly believe that empathising with people has made a difference to the businesses that I have been involved with. To make change happen, you have to do things differently. Yes, understand the numbers, but it is not essential to solely focus on them. Every company analyses success by numbers, but it’s what drives people to achieve them that translates into progress.

My education and the roles I have taken in my career has seen me residing in many countries. Moving between the different country cultures has presented some challenges along the way. Also, dealing with cultural parameters in an international company can be delicate, which is why I invest so much of my time into people.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I don’t believe I am there yet. I’m sure I have more to look forward to. Overall, I would highlight my dedication to changing management structures. Changing management perspective that people are solely a resource, into recognition that people have lives and should be treated as individuals, has positive, visible business results. Changing habits and cultures cannot happen overnight, so any shift, however small, I consider to be a huge achievement.

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

My family has been of enormous importance throughout my career. I have been extremely lucky to have had a very mundane private life. There has been no major disruption to my career, and my family have always been supportive, even when I have had late nights at the office or taken countless business trips. It’s grounding to know that you have a home life that you can count on. My sons, now adults, have never complained about the time I have put in to become successful and we enjoy a harmonious relationship. My commitment to my career has undoubtedly demonstrated to them that to reach the top you have to work for it, and I am glad that on reflection they recognise that they have a choice to do it differently, and that it is OK not to strive so much if they prefer an alternative way of life.

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

Have trust in yourself and remain authentic as a person. Do what it takes to prepare yourself and be interested in the details but also be prepared to admit when you do not understand them (tech jargon, for example). You don’t necessarily need to learn everything, instead, it is far more beneficial to understand the value of such information. You will be surrounded by people that have knowledge you do not, so lean on them to give you the foundation to make the decisions you need to in the various areas of business. Remember that the tech sector has its very own, very detailed, language as well as a very individual culture, as most businesses are global native established, so be flexible and embracing.

Absolutely find yourself a peer network outside of your company and make time for that. You will benefit from having people that are not invested in your business and that you really trust, people that you can call upon if you want to understand more or get new perspectives.

What barriers for women working in tech, are still to be overcome?

The tech industry remains extremely closed, dominated by peers that have wonderfully loyal relations, but are less likely to welcome outside talent. I would implore CEOs to break the mould and make the bold decisions to cast their net further to find the potential candidates that aren’t currently being considered. Very simply, more companies need to step up and consider females for the roles. Equally, however, there needs to be an increase in female candidates for the roles. The pool of male candidates is undeniably greater. Tech education establishments and companies could do a lot more to attract women to the industry. Simply changing the description of jobs and courses is a step in the right direction. Paying women equally would also be a game changer!

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

Firstly, women need to ensure that they have the education, skills, experience, motivation and competitiveness to step into tech roles, especially the big ones. Armed with this toolbox, they have a strong chance of progressing their career. However, more companies could recognise the female traits that often sees them trailing behind their male counterparts on the company ladder. Traits that can be beneficial to the organisation of a company and therefore best suited to management level roles. Women are naturally housekeepers. We instinctively volunteer our time for the jobs that aren’t necessarily our responsibility and aren’t visible or rewarded, allowing men to take the spotlight as they singularly focus on the tasks they are contracted to do. When I mentor young women at the Danish IT university, one of the most important messages I deliver is “take the power and refuse to make the coffee”. Companies could certainly do more to ensure housekeeping is shared between genders. Or how about create value in the extra work women volunteer to do? Surely the ‘can do attitude’ is a golden attribute to praise and nurture.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

This is much bigger than simply tech and gender. For equality to truly happen, a new foundation with equal values needs to be established for all. The world has been designed by men, for men and breaking a 5,000-year paradigm does not happen in a short space of time, so I definitely don’t envisage it happening in my lifetime. But, if a plan to change can be upheld, and our new generations are instilled with the right principles from an early age, then a change will come.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Tech is such a broad subject. Read anything that helps you to stay relevant. Industry news, trends and insights can be found in specialist industry media and local business broadsheets. Podcasts are a great way to keep abreast of the tech industry, and they are much more accessible, primarily speaking of business values and trends, so much easier to digest than overly technical articles. In the insurance tech industry, InsTech provides a fantastic podcast. And, absolutely keep networking, networking, networking.

I love to read to improve my learning, however I prefer a good novel to anything business related. The psychology of people is an absolutely fascinating subject and any book that nails down the many facets of personalities I will find riveting. I believe you learn more about how to navigate a career and life in general from such texts. Authors like for instance Dostojevskij and Karl Ove Knausgaard understand human psychology and provide profound knowledge of how human psych works.