Pat Hume

I’m the CEO of Canvas GFX, a visual communication and collaboration software company we classify as a re-start-up.

The Canvas software brand goes back decades but the company we are today is actually brand new. We bought the software assets with a view to creating something very different and building a company around that product. In July this year we launched Canvas Envision, which gives anyone the ability to create interactive visual documentation containing real 3D CAD models. We believe it is set to change the way that manufacturing based companies communicate their product data right across their organizations and ecosystems. My career spans 40 years and I’ve had the fortune to work at some big companies, including IBM, SAP, Avaya, and Lotus – but Canvas is the first company I’ve been part of which has sold a product while it’s still in Beta. We had nine customers for Envision before we launched it commercially. Alongside Canvas I am a founding partner of early stage VC Wisdom LLP and a mentor for the Creative Destruction Labs program.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did not – but I knew very early on that I wanted to be a CEO. So rather than plan individual steps I looked to give myself the best and broadest grounding. I studied Economics and Mathematics at college and I joined IBM, where I was lucky to hold a wide range of roles, because I knew that I would get the variety and the exposure to general management best practises that would stand me in good stead as a leader. Perhaps most importantly I sought, and was fortunate to find, great mentors who taught, supported, and prepared me.

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

Well, the 1980’s was an interesting decade to be an assertive, career-oriented woman. I met with a lot of hostility and there aren’t many names I wasn’t called at one point or another. Diversity and inclusion were way down the agenda, and there were significant challenges in simply getting senior male executives to take me seriously as someone who could advance through the organization. I overcame these by working harder and never making excuses myself. It wasn’t always easy but, like I said, there were always good people around to support me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would say my best achievement thus far is to have become a CEO by the specific route I have taken. I have led software engineering, product management, marketing, sales, finance, HR, and operations. That means I know what it feels like to face the challenges my own management team faces in all of these areas. I’m not just telling them to get on and do their thing and bring me results; I can truly empathize. I believe that makes me a better leader because I can remember the feelings inspired by the successes, the challenges, and the failures I had in those parts of the business. As a leader your job is to empower and assist your teams to solve their problems. And I’m still closely involved in everything we’ve got going on. I hope if you ask me the same question in a few years’ time that I will be able to say my biggest achievement has been the success of Canvas GFX.

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

Maybe this is a cheat answer, because the one thing is actually a combination of things: Success in my experience is all about your mindset. While nothing guarantees success, I don’t believe you’ll get it without that mindset. For me that means having the courage to take risks, giving everything your best effort, refusing to be knocked off-course by failures, and – I can’t stress this enough – finding the right people to support you on the journey. You will not – you cannot – know it all. I still place enormous value on the advisors I have around me today after more than 40 years in the business. And it’s why mentoring is so important to me today.

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

In line with the previous answer I would advise them to work hard and learn at every opportunity; advancement requires dedication. Develop a great support network – and remember that doesn’t just mean finding people who are more senior than you. One of the best mentors I ever had was a direct report whose perspective and experience far exceeded my own at that point. Make it known that you want to advance; hidden talents are likely to stay hidden. Be prepared to get outside your comfort zone. If it helps you to do so, bear in mind that few people ever really feel one hundred per cent confident.

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

Well, we see there are still discrepancies in terms of representation at the most senior level, and in certain fields, and in remuneration – and we have to take those challenges head-on. But I am optimistic because I have seen so much positive change since I first started out and I believe it’s very important to celebrate how far we’ve come. We need to keep working to ensure women have the same opportunities to succeed – and to fail as part of that success – and we need to invest our own time in bringing through the next generation.

There are 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 would like to start educating girls at high school age about the opportunities, the openings, the strides we have made, the requirements in the workforce, and the personal fulfilment that working and being successful in this field can be. And none of this has to be at the expense of other things in your life.


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