Rosa Von KroghTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Even as a child I was always inquisitive about people and their place in it. I would ask questions such as “Do all people see the colour blue in the same way?” and “What happens when we die?” Although I’m sure this curiosity freaked my parents out, they would listen, reflect, share and ask back, which would further sparked my curiosity. That’s why I studied Chinese, anthropology and marketing – to get to the core of what people have in common and what makes us unique. And that’s also why I went into business and service design and eventually as Head of Insights & Innovation at NoA Ignite. At its core, design is all about unravelling people’s needs, wants, pains and dreams. When you’ve understood that, you create services that make their lives better. Such as a total redesign of a banking service to make it easy to take smart economic choices or a laundry service straight to people’s doorstep to help them save time and energy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’m a planner: I always pack my son’s lunch and clothing a day in advance, book my calendar weeks ahead, and keep my desk meticulously clean and free of clutter. I also always set goals for the year ahead, both privately and professionally. In fact, – and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this – but one year I even arranged a new year’s party with post-its for the guests where we set goals for the year ahead (combined with plenty of champagne, of course). That being said, I’ve never set goals of climbing the career ladder. My career goals are always connected to personal and professional growth: learning a new design skill or program, getting better at listening, improving my patience, working more closely with sustainability and so forth. To me, these types of goals feel tangible and motivating.

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

I guess the positive thing with messing up so often is that I constantly learn from my mistakes. When I started out as a manager, for instance I was so set on creating a direction for my field and department, and was so eager to share my thoughts and vision, that I forgot to ask people what they wanted, and how they saw things. No wonder my team wasn’t all too happy with my management. I quickly realised my shortcomings, however, and have since worked hard to create an environment of honesty and sharing, with monthly one-to-ones, department meetings and weekly employee satisfaction surveys. Although I still often talk too much, I try to listen as well. Because my team has so much to teach me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

That is a really difficult question. What is a great achievement? Being promoted to manager, getting to speak about sustainability at the SHE Conference, or writing a book for children of divorce, perhaps? I would actually say that it’s neither. Instead I want to highlight something that has taken me years to tackle: saying sorry. Being a person who often makes mistakes, such as interrupting someone when I get too eager, or letting my stress affect those around me, I’d say my greatest achievement is to having learnt how to say, “I’m sorry.” Those magic words make all the difference.

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

Great mentors. My Dad had a unique ability to cheer me on – regardless of what I pursued or what it resulted in. Mom, was more result oriented and focused on how hard work always pays off. I think the combination of the two perspectives has made me fearless and diligent. With time I’ve gained new mentors as well, such as Ronni Møller Pettersen, a former client, and Director at SpareBank 1, who continues to guide me on my career path, and my previous boss, Stian Fossum, who has taught me a lot – about business strategy and about leading with the heart. Currently, I have an amazing mentor in my leader and design director, Marte Holmøy. She is warm, wise, patient, sharp and has a unique ability to see the people around her, and recognise their strengths. I know I can always call her to get guidance when I get too impatient, or just need a pep talk. I would never have been where I am today without these wonderful mentors.

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

Focus on your own strengths and interests. Don’t try to copy other people. Only you are you, and you’re born with a unique personality and skill set. Also, don’t let society dictate what success looks like for you: for some excelling means solving a problem with excellent code, for others it means taking on leadership responsibilities, and for some creating a new startup that can make a real impact in the world. There is no right or wrong answer. You’re in charge of your own definition of success.

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

I want to say no. I actually want to scream NO. But the truth is that men still comprise a high percentage of those in the tech space. I’m no expert on where these barriers come from, but I do believe that we should push against the narrative that men are more suited for tech. In NoA Ignite our female engineers are just as qualified and able as our male engineers, and they are growing in number. Elisabeth Grace Becker stresses that the real difference between the genders lies in the level of confidence. “Reports show that female computer science professionals with eight years of programming experience are only as confident in their skills as their male peers with zero to one year of programming experience.” Meaning that women who are highly qualified underestimate their own skills. We can help change this by altering how we talk about our own skills and abilities, and those of our female colleagues. Lastly, I want to add you don’t have to gain an education specifically in tech to get into the tech space. Look at me. I came from the social science and marketing, and ended up in design, without formal design education. It’s all about daring to jump into new areas without knowing exactly where you’ll land. Like Pippi Longstocking says, “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”

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

Focus on getting women into your company. As McKinsey has found, “having a diverse workforce isn’t just about a company feeling good about itself. Gender-diverse companies outperform by 15%. On top of that, ethnically diverse companies perform 35% better.” But you can’t just stop when you’ve recruited women. You also have to give them the tools to succeed, such as good mentorship, and strong policies.

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 would start early in life. To get girls interested in maths, and confident that they are just as good as their male counterparts. I had this terrible maths teacher who told me my head was just not meant for maths. That stuck with me. Even when I got straight A’s in finance and statistics at university, I told myself that I couldn’t really excel in these fields. I would wave my wand to make sure that didn’t happen to any other girl out there, and then I would continue focusing on girl’s higher education – not only teaching programming and maths, but also communication and tech leadership. So that girls come out confident on the other side – in their skills and ability to lead others.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Podcasts: Nudge – about consumer psychology, Masters of Scale – about growth strategy, Exponential View – about tech trends and use cases.

Books: Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg, Becoming by Michelle Obama, We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, Hooked by Nir Eyal, Running Lean by Ash Maurya, Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder.

Ted Talks: If I should have a daughter by Sarah Kay, How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek. Why we have too few women leaders by Sheryl Sandberg. Mee too is a movement, not a moment by Tarana Burk.

Rosa von Krogh will be speaking at The North Alliance SHE Conference from 5th March to 19th March 2021.

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