Trine FalnesTrine Falnes is CEO of sportstech app, Spond. Trine has a background in media, having worked for various Norwegian companies before moving into technology.

Trine joined Spond in March 2019 as COO and in June 2020, at the height of the pandemic, was made CEO. Since her appointment, and in spite of the restrictions caused by COVID-19, Trine has guided Spond to 34% growth in that time, with over 1.4 million monthly active users now relying on Spond’s services to run their grassroots sports clubs.

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

I qualified as a journalist and have since worked in media, before moving into tech later in my career, building out and scaling digital products and experiences. In June 2020, I became the CEO of Spond, an app for managing sports teams and group activity. It was a difficult time to take the reins, with sport across the world impacted by the pandemic – and grassroots sport facing a crisis like never before.

My goal is to ensure that this amazing platform gets in front of as many users as possible, while building out an incredible tech organisation of talented individuals. On a personal note, I am a mother of three little ones, who occupy most of my time outside of work. On a less serious note, I love palm trees and the warm places they typically grow (which is ironic for someone living in Oslo!) From a sports perspective, I have played football for most of my life and I am a huge fan of anything to do with sport.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My only real plan has been to make sure I do what I love, to make sure I surround myself with challenges that inspire me and people that I can learn from. That being said, I have always set the bar high for myself, and I am massively motivated by big goals. I have always gone for the big bet over anything linear and business-as-usual. That said, I am quite analytical and structured in my approach, so I think I have developed my own process when it comes to breaking down what may at first seem like huge, daunting deliverables and making them into bitesize achievables.

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

As a woman who has spent my career at the intersection of media, sports and technology, it’s been challenging to observe and experience the role gender still plays – and particularly unconscious gender bias in the workplace. I remember going on parental leave to have my baby in a previous role and feeling so grateful that I could let myself have this time to go on leave and come back to work, knowing that my job was safe and protected. Then, halfway through my leave, I was shocked when it was announced a man had been hired in my position. That was really tough, because not only are you so vulnerable as a new mum, but in reality there is very little you can do in that situation that really makes things better. It really was an eye-opener, and it made the feminist in me even more fierce.

I have a ‘people first’ approach, and I have made it a goal of mine to make sure Spond is a place where we welcome you for who you are. We strongly believe that diversity of experience, perspectives, and background will lead to a better workplace for our employees and a better product for our users. The Spond product is for everyone, and that same inclusivity of course goes for our team.

Spond is filled with brilliant minds and individuals, but ultimately the biggest thing for me is creating a company with a collaborative, intentional culture. I can be tough and demanding, but my goal is always to lead with kindness.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It’s not one thing or moment, but I think my biggest achievement is the consistency with which I have been able to always drive strong results and make a shift, regardless of role or circumstances.

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

The fact that I have always challenged myself to take risks, and – when in doubt – upped my courage. Those big milestones are achieved through perseverance and consistency, and by showing up and giving it my best shot every single day.

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

Find a mentor or someone inspiring outside of your immediate workplace who you can learn from, ideally another woman. I am so grateful to those who have mentored me.

Engage or network with people who have similar roles to the ones you aspire to or solve problems that excite you. If you do not have a tech background but have other killer skills and time to put in, offer to support or advise start-ups in your area of expertise.

Never stop learning! The beauty of the world we now live in is that you can develop and improve any skills through online courses and training. Pick up something that intrigues you and continue building your skillset.

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

Yes, unfortunately so. If there’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it is the shift from work-life balance to life-work sustainability. As a mum and CEO, that is something I am passionate about. The days of working from home and with everything digital, boundaries can become blurred but, on the flip side, there is a lot more flexibility when it comes to finding ways of working that suits family life and boosts productivity. Women are working more than ever, but in addition to our daytime jobs, we still take on most household responsibilities. So, making it all work is a challenge. Life-work sustainability is key not just to attract women but to keep them.

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

I think making gender diversity at the core of hiring is key. So is devoting extra resources into sourcing diverse candidates from day one. I find that while men are often quick to raise their hands, women often need more encouragement and cheerleading when it comes to pursuing more senior roles or taking on bigger responsibility. Mentorship, advisors, or internal career programs are some tools that could be useful. When I started out, I remember reflecting upon that there weren’t that many female leaders to look to, it was mostly men at the top. It is so true that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

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?

Overall, when it comes to gender diversity, parental leave policies are key, both in terms of designing parental leave to include paid leave for fathers and mothers alike (and second parents in same-sex couples). This ensures more flexibility in leave, and delivers job-protection, both for paid and unpaid leave, to care for children. Better parental leave policies are key to a more balanced sharing of responsibilities. In tech specifically, I believe access to funding to encourage more female entrepreneurs and placing gender diversity at the core of any hiring are key.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are so many! I listen to so many podcasts, but Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast is still one of my favourites. I am still figuring out the best way to do OKRs, so I am currently reading Measure What Matters, which offers a quite practical take on goal setting. I also love Brené Brown, both Daring Greatly and her Ted Talk are worth checking out and in Untamed, Glennon Doyle does female empowerment and self-love really well.