Robyn JoliatI’m Robyn Joliat and I’m the Chief Technology Officer for Reside, a leading provider of professionally operated and managed global alternative accommodations.

Our PropTech platform Reside 3Sixty leverages machine learning and human expertise to curate housing options from a network of over a million rooms and properties in over 60 countries around the world,  used by Fortune 100 like Amazon or Microsoft, to help move or relocate their employees safely.

My journey into technology started a little unconventionally. I have over 26 years of experience in the corporate housing industry and have held a variety of positions within sales and account management, growing our global supply chain while establishing partnerships to deepen our alternative accommodations offering. Being a truly self serve organization, responsibility for our Furniture and Cleaning Divisions has also fell in my purview.

My passion for technology really ignited when I trained our team for new system deployment in 2004, using my experience in front end operations to help inform and enhance the back end tech platform. I learnt as much as I could about how to translate our stakeholders needs into Reside 3Sixty through technology. Swiftly this was followed by me taking over the IT department and the development and strategy of our company’s tech as CTO, making housing a fully-digitized and customizable experience for our customers and guests. Now I’m working on my biggest project yet: launching a Reside 3Sixty marketplace (like a live booking platform but for corporate housing) while continuing to cement Reside’s reputation in the industry as a PropTech leader.

How is technology powering the corporate housing industry?

Corporate housing has traditionally lagged a bit behind the leisure industry and has been slower to innovate itself. Part of the reason for this is the complexities of corporate travel, as companies have strict policies each traveler or employee needs to comply with (think budget, location, amenities) while having a responsibility for duty of care to keep employees safe. In short, there’s much more to get right than just your average trip booked through Airbnb or a hotel chain.

Now, technology is helping improve the experience at each stage of the guest journey. Tech platforms, like Reside 3Sixty, can instantly aggregate hundreds of housing options that comply with requirements for numerous employees. They can also provide connection to problem resolution on the ground and act as a digital store for all paperwork during each stay. Contactless tech and virtual concierges are helping smooth check-in processes and new wellbeing tech, like air purification monitoring, can enhance the in-room stay. It’s an exciting time to be part of the hospitality industry working on the technology side.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! I attended Ohio State University where I studied Hospitality Management, but was never keen on working for hotels or restaurants and wasn’t sure where to go from there. I was fortunate enough to find a small company in Dublin, Ohio, that did corporate housing while attending College. This opened the door for me to see an exciting sector that had its foundation in hospitality but incorporated components of real estate, multi-family rentals, hotels and tourism.

As I learned more and did more, I truly became passionate about operations and creating positive and memorable experiences for guests. Technology is now a part of our everyday lives and so it’s been a natural evolution for this to become a foundation of the corporate housing industry – and part of my career too.

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

Some of the most challenging times in my career have been driven by external events. 9/11, the 2008 housing market crash and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, have all had a huge impact on travel and accommodation. Each of these drove a new business crisis and presented obstacles to overcome. I think what helped me was my ability to adapt quickly, keep our teams agile and challenge the status quo. For me, challenges create a thrill and I thrive on the high after determining the problem, implementing a solution and successfully solving a problem.

During the pandemic though normal business travel ground to a halt, there were still many essential workers needing to be safely moved around the world. By investing in and scaling up our Reside 3Sixty platform, we were able to meet this demand, while guaranteeing a vetted supply chain that met each customer’s individual needs and created a peace of mind in very complicated and unsure times. We couldn’t have grown during 2021 without robust technology to support our operations.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Having begun my career in the industry as a housekeeper, I would say that my biggest achievement to date is simply having worked upward to become the CTO of such an industry-renowned company.

From the start, I drove myself to learn everything about the business, each position it takes to create a successful organization, the inner workings of each department and functionality and efficiencies within operations you can create with the use of technology. Now, as I oversee our IT team the development of our PropTech platform, I’m excited by the endless possibilities that can happen when you creatively drive innovation. From the humble start to where I am now is something I am deeply proud of.

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

Always saying yes! There is no way I would be where I am today, if I hadn’t said yes to what came my way. Whether it was doing a difficult task, leading a project, relocating for a role, building something new, or just stepping in when there was a gap, each new opportunity afforded me the ability to learn, grow, and show my worth to my team and organizational leaders.

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

  • Think of your career as a journey. It’s rarely a straight-line trajectory for anyone, so embrace the twists and turns along the way.
  • Build both business and technical skills. Especially for us in technology, having a sound understanding of the purpose behind your work and how it influences your business can go a long way.
  • Build your corner of champions and experts. This can be a network that you can trust, rely on, go to to assist with those challenging problems or just bounce new ideas to. Find those people that make you think differently as the best ideas and concepts or problem solving comes when you work with others.
  • Don’t get comfortable. Tech is forever changing and what you do today evolves as quickly as you complete it. You have to continuously stay ahead. Keep an agile mindset that allows you to continuously grow and not get too comfortable and keeps you sharp and invaluable. 

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

Yes, I do believe there are still barriers for women working in tech and that these barriers are often created during early education. Girls are still widely underrepresented in STEM and we need to address this inequality during school. Showing them that opportunities do exist, promoting that girls and women in STEM are not an exception, and giving them access to role models to emulate in the workplace can all help. Seeing other women in tech can inspire hope and drive in others, so we must continue to strive for this to be commonplace in the industry. Above all, I think women need to continually advocate for ourselves and for one another.

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

Companies can support their employees by offering continuous training. This is particularly important as technology advances at such a rapid pace and we all need to skill up to keep up. Providing exposure to women working in their organization so they can be seen, celebrated and learnt from is also key and will help further diversify the sector. When we see other women working technology roles, it makes others realize they can follow the same path. I also think getting involved in local or national initiatives to support girls interested in STEM is a valuable exercise for women working in technology to support their career and job satisfaction.

There are currently only 21 percent 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 wish I could show the young women of tomorrow just how dominant they can be in this profession, and how their ideas for the future can be driven and supported by technology.