Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Inspirational Woman: Erin "Mack" McKelvey | Founder & CEO, SalientMG

Meet Erin "Mack" McKelvey, Founder & CEO, SalientMG

Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Throughout her 20+ year career, Erin (Mack) McKelvey has led transformative teams that accelerate revenue and market position for publicly traded and privately held technology companies.

In 2013, Mack founded SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in go-to-market and executive visibility strategies and programs that create market and category differentiation for B2B technology companies. SalientMG’s clients have included Rovio, Etsy, Verizon, Starwood Hotels, ExecOnline, UberMedia, Caesars Entertainment and SquadLocker.

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

In my 20+ years of experience, I’ve led market differentiation and transformation for public and private tech companies including SIRIUS XM, VeriSign, CGI, British Telecom, and Lucent Technologies/AT&T. Most recently, I was the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Millennial Media; where I greatly contributed to the company’s growth from start-up stage through its successful 2012 IPO. In 2013, I founded SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in go-to-market and executive visibility strategies and programs that create market and category differentiation for B2B technology companies and the executives who run them. SalientMG’s clients have included Rovio, Etsy, Verizon, Starwood Hotels, ExecOnline, UberMedia, Caesars Entertainment, Sparkfly and SquadLocker. As its CEO and Founder, I oversee our team’s high-impact marketing initiatives for growth-stage tech startups, including executive visibility efforts promoting underrepresented leaders.

I’m also a startup tech advisor and investor, speaker, and business/industry awards’ judge. I serve on the Advisory Boards of technology startups, including Real Atom, a female-founded commercial real estate fintech startup based in DC; I am also on the Board of Trustees for Creative Spirit, a non-profit which seeks to create jobs for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. I am an active mentor in ACP’s US Military Veteran Women’s Program and Women in Marketing (UK). In addition, I am an investor in several companies, including a martech company which enables digital transformation in the QSR and Retail sectors. As the wife of a former active-duty US Marine, I also support my husband’s military foundation and charitable work.

I am a public advocate for diversity, inclusion, and representation in business, technology, and advertising. I have been a contributor to Fast Company, Fortune, Entrepreneur, MediaPost, Luxury Daily, CMO.com, and other business and trade publications on leadership, diversity, visibility, management, and marketing innovation for the past 10+ years..

I worked with Business Insider to create the 2016, 2015 and 2014 lists of “The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising”. In 2013 and 2012, I was named one of “The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising” by Business Insider. In 2012, I received the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Silver Medal Award for outstanding industry contribution. In 2010, I was listed on the inaugural “Mobile Women to Watch” by Mobile Marketer and I was a contributing author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Twenty five years ago my biggest goal was to land my first job in tech. But as my career progressed through a series of positions at prestigious high-growth companies, I became more intrigued by mentoring, investing, ownership, and inclusion. It’s best to have a plan for your career but not necessarily one set in stone—embrace change because it may be for the better.

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

One of my most infamous career challenges is one we can all relate to: the first six months post-graduation. In that tense and confusing waypoint between the educational and corporate worlds, I applied to countless companies, only to receive zero responses. After speaking with a friend who ran into a similar silence before changing her name on her resume from “Alexandra” to “Alex”; I changed my first name on my resume from “Erin” to “Mack”, a made-up nickname. The risk paid off and soon after I received a massive response rate to the same resume, with a name other than my given one. While grateful that my social experiment proved fruitful, it was, I believe, my first glimpse into the struggles women face in the tech industry. (And possibly the first spark that led me to eventually found a company that could help impact representation, SalientMG.)

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Founding SalientMG. Starting any company is a huge risk. It involves market differentiation, product-market-fit, an amazing team, money, a great deal of luck, and incredible clients. Even with all those factors, the success of a company is not guaranteed. In the early years of launching SMG, each day was similar to navigating a minefield. But, I’m proud to say we fought through some of our early growing pains and I see not only the company and staff grow, but myself as well.

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

I learned to use my fear as a catalyst, not a deterrent. There have been many times in my career when I was afraid to take risks such as changing my name, starting a company, or investing in start-ups. Many would have listened to that small voice in the back of their mind telling them to play it safe but I realized that fear is not always a bad thing. It’s a reminder that the best chances aren’t the easiest decisions to make.

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

Stay relevant. In the past few decades technology has expanded at an exponential rate so much so that some categories are beginning to bleed into one another. Keep your skill set sharp but don’t be afraid to venture into other fields in technology and gain outside insight. It’ll increase your networking opportunities, expand your skill set, and expose you to different approaches you may not have considered otherwise.

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

Of course. While I hate to say it, quite a few barriers I faced when first entering tech still exist today. However, the one thing that has changed is the power of technology. Platforms such as LinkedIn allow us to maintain or create connections with like-minded individuals and using that we are able to showcase our talents to larger audiences. The rise of social media allows us the opportunity for visibility and helps us to bypass the barrier of falling under the radar simply because of our position in the field.

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

Just listen. There are a multitude of women whose talents are underutilized because of their gender, experience, age, or title. Everyone’s ideas, no matter how small or large, have the potential to create or transform industries. The only thing preventing us from ushering in a new wave of tech is personal biases. We need to stop underestimating those without advanced degrees, new grads, those countlessly passed over for promotion, or those entering this field later than what’s deemed normal. Treat every co-worker with the respect you would treat your employer, take the time to have a conversation and share ideas, it may just change your perspective.

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?

According to the World Economic Forum, just 24% of experts quoted in the media are women. See the correlation? One of the fastest ways to impact the tech industry is to flood it with women’s voices, ideas and expertise. Women must take control of their visibility. Digital is the great equalizer. Creating and placing meaningful content and amplifying that content via social is the best way for women to start. Utilize social to create conversation; lead it. Normalize seeing women on stage at tech conferences talking about technology, not being a woman in tech. Normalize reading about women’s innovation, not how they strive for the ever elusive work/life balance. Normalize creating room for women to share ideas and create diverse teams to implement them. Raise your hand to be one of those expert sources for reporters and champion other women to do the same.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

All of the above. Make yourself known wherever you can whenever you can. Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, and websites are all opportunities to be exposed to a unique audience. Never pass up an opportunity no matter how significant or insignificant it may appear. You never know what exposure it may bring and where it could lead your career.


Camellia Chan

Inspirational Woman: Camellia Chan | CEO & Founder, X-PHY

Meet Camellia Chan, CEO & Founder, X-PHY

Camellia Chan

Camellia Chan is CEO and founder of X-PHY, a Flexxon brand. In 2021, Camellia won top 10 Women in Cybersecurity award in Singapore for her work with AI.

In this piece, Camellia talks to us about her journey into tech entrepreneurship, what excites her about the cybersecurity industry and her biggest achievement to date.

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

I’m Camellia Chan, the Founder and CEO of next-generation cybersecurity solutions and hardware storage solutions provider, Flexxon.

From an early age, I was always interested in business and entrepreneurship, searching for opportunities to connect people with what they needed. Even as a young girl back home in Malaysia, I looked for ways to make a little extra pocket money! It was years later when I was at university where I combined this passion for entrepreneurship with technology.

Lots of people think that if you’re a deep tech company founder, like myself, you must have years of formal education under your belt and a formal degree. I can safely say that isn’t always the case – it certainly wasn’t for me. In university, I studied business management and picked up a specialisation in IT. In my second year, I assembled my very first PC, and as they say, the rest was history – I was hooked.

Armed with this love for building tech, I started working in an electronics manufacturing company and picked up logic circuits. My colleagues in the engineering department taught me the ins and outs. I then spent a lot of my time studying a variety of technical topics that I am interested in.

In 2007, I combined my love for business and technology and founded Flexxon, which is now a leading cybersecurity and industrial memory and storage solutions provider. In 2021, we unveiled the X-PHY cybersecure SSD (solid-state drive) – the world’s first AI embedded data security SSD designed to deliver real-time protection against cyber threats. To date, X-PHY has collaborated with Lenovo to integrate the cybersecurity SSDs in Lenovo’s world-class laptop solutions. These laptops are benefiting from X-PHY’s zero-trust security framework and 24/7 real-time protection to data stored within the drive.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Sure, I made plans, but I also learned to respond and adapt. There are so many circumstances in life and work that come about unexpectedly, from the good people that share your vision to challenges completely beyond your control.

What I’ve realised is that on a near-term basis (daily, weekly and even monthly), the majority of circumstances will necessitate adaptation and are likely to alter your plans. Instead, it’s more important to have a larger goal or vision that speaks to you, such as wanting to create something that can truly help all society, and using that to guide your career.

This is how we responded to industry needs and evolved over the years at Flexxon. We diversified in response to mounting cybersecurity vulnerabilities from our core focus on industrial, medical and automotive NAND storage devices, to incorporate cybersecurity solutions. I noticed a recurring trend when speaking to our customers – that both blue-chip companies and smaller enterprises were victims of a cyberattack or very concerned about becoming a victim – it made sense to evolve the business to include a cybersecurity solution that could address this pressing problem.

What excites you about the cybersecurity industry?

It all boils down to three key drivers:

  • Firstly, the race against cybercriminals. Hackers’ methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated and when the pandemic accelerated digitalisation, it opened up an even larger cyber landscape. Traditional cybersecurity tools, like antivirus, alone are not fit for purpose and rely on humans to maintain good cyber hygiene. My goal is to always keep at least one step ahead of cyber attackers.
  • Next, technology is evolving all the time. The possibilities with technology are limitless and the same can be said for cybersecurity. It’s an incredible and fast paced industry to be a part of.
  • Finally, this is tech for good. Conquering cyber threats then opens up even more possibilities for citizens of the digital age.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am extremely proud of the commercial success we have achieved at Flexxon, but I’m even more inspired by the team that we have. Our people are our first customers and strongest advocates, and we need to create an environment that they can grow and excel in.

One of my biggest motivations for setting up the company was to create a workplace that would allow the team to thrive. I have always emphasised an environment with zero politics, high mobility and plentiful opportunities to learn.

We have made so much progress and delivered great impact over the last 15 years, and I can see how the team has grown to own our shared vision, put their hearts to making a difference through their work, and wearing a bright smile through it all.

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

Being a business owner and a woman in tech are two areas that are known to be extremely tough. Put that together, and you can surely expect that I have faced many challenges along the way to get here.

I believe a major factor in achieving success for me is never ever giving up on my goals. I’ve faced challenging situations in dealing with difficult customers for instance, and each time I learnt to create better processes to protect ourselves against potentially tricky situations – all while holding on to my principles.

As a woman in tech, you may be faced with my doubters and detractors. I know that if these challenges are allowed to get to me, I would then lose the opportunity to fight for our right to contribute equally, or more, to the industry.

Just keep fighting, and you can overcome any challenge.

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

A combination of confidence and surrounding yourself with the right people will stand you in good stead. Here are my four top tips:

  • Go outside of your comfort zone – You might be changing career paths or perhaps applying for a job that isn’t backed by your degree, but if you pursue your passion with hard work and determination you can achieve what you set out to do. Put yourself in positions that scare you and you’ll learn a lot.
  • Build strong networks – A support system is vital in life, and in business. I am a strong believer in building genuine connections and friendships with the people around me. This is where you can lend a hand and rely on the support of your networks in both good and bad times.
  • Build dependable teams – When you’re at the point in your career when you become a leader, remember that no one is an island. Seek out and develop a well-rounded, efficient and effective team that plays to different people’s strengths. Not everyone should be good at the same thing, and you need diverse skills to continue innovating.
  • Learn to accept that things will go wrong – This idea is very much mirrored in the work that we do at X-PHY, as we try to keep ahead of the ingenuity of cybercriminals. If we are overly daunted by each setback, we would never achieve our goals. This applies to leaders and their teams.

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

Progress has definitely been made in the past few years as more women in the industry come forward to represent women in STEM and challenge the status quo. However, statistics still show that women are underrepresented. This will take many years to change as it is a gradual process, but small steps create big change.

To further support this positive trajectory, women can be more involved as mentors for others, sharing in their experience, and educational institutes can offer more inclusive opportunities for female students to get exposure to STEM industries.

Challenges of working in a ‘male-dominated industry’ can often be overcome by hard work and ambition – you just need to confidence to go after what you want. This is, of course, easier said than done but it’s important to remember we live in a wonderful time with tremendous opportunities for everyone, not just for half of us.

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

Hiring and recruitment practices are incredibly important and with visible, female role models in the industry, we encourage women to imagine a future in tech. Talented, driven women – as well as employees of different ages, nationalities and domains – create an impactful environment by challenging norms, building competencies and championing excellence. Fundamentally, it’s crucial businesses recognise this from the get-go and try to address unconscious bias early on when recruiting.

There are currently only 21 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?

One major myth in the tech and cybersecurity industry is thinking that you need a lot of technical knowledge and expertise to enter the industry. Education and learning don’t end once we leave school, in fact it is enriched when we enter the working world, get hands on experience and interact with experts in each field. If I had a magic wand, I’d make it so everyone can access and has the confidence to embrace lifelong learning and constant upskilling.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

YouTube is an incredible resource right under our noses – and I can’t recommend it enough! I follow topics and personalities on innovation and leadership. I love learning about their backstories, unique personalities, and trials and tribulations. Some of my favorite personalities include Alan Turing, Steve Jobs, George Soros and Warren Buffet.

Of course, within your own industry and community, find mentors and build networks that will support you as you co-create a better future for the next generation of female technopreneurs. Professor Annie Koh, Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice) at Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University (SMU), is one of my amazing mentors and I’m very grateful for her guidance over the years!


eleanor weaver

Inspirational Woman: Eleanor Lightbody | CEO, Luminance

Meet Eleanor Lightbody, CEO at Luminance

eleanor weaver

Eleanor Lightbody is CEO of Luminance. She is a former Director at world-leading cyber AI company, Darktrace, where she spent six years as Global Head of the organisation’s Industrial Division. With a wealth of experience in scaling fast-growing technology businesses, Eleanor oversees Luminance’s product development and leads the company’s continued global expansion.

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

After graduating from the University of Exeter and completing my Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Cape Town, I started my career as one of the first 30 employees at Darktrace, the world-leading cyber AI company. At the time it was a young, ambitious start-up spun out from academic research at the University of Cambridge, and it was exciting to be part of the team that helped to grow it into one of the UK’s most successful technology companies today. I saw first-hand the ability of AI to transform an entire industry, so when I saw the opportunity that Luminance presented in using AI to revolutionise the legal sector, I jumped at the chance to be part of it.

Now, in my role as CEO of Luminance, I’m incredibly proud to be leading a team of 150+ across four global offices in London, Cambridge, New York and Singapore, working with clients in more than 60 countries worldwide. Our AI is used by over 500 organisations of all shapes and sizes to automate and augment their legal processes, from some of the world’s largest law firms, to all of the ‘Big Four’ consultancies, as well as multinational organisations including Tesco and Ferrero. I’ve watched our product offering, our headcount and our customer base grow significantly since I joined the business 18 months ago, and I truly think the sky is the limit for a world-beating tech company like Luminance.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and no. I have always been an ambitious person, and I definitely saw myself moving into the business world, but I certainly couldn’t have predicted the route my career would have taken nor that I’d have the opportunity to run such a promising young tech company at this stage in my career. That said, I think there have been key decisions that have shaped by journey. For instance, after completing my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to become more business-savvy but I also wanted to see a bit more of the world and put myself out of my comfort zone. My postgraduate diploma in Business Management from the University of Cape Town helped me to achieve both of these things. It’s also where I met my husband, which was an added bonus!

Joining Darktrace was another pivotal moment in my career. Whilst a lot of my friends pursued more ‘traditional’ career routes in law or accounting, I took a risk on a young company with a promising technology at its core. I think you have to be bold and brave in your decisions, particularly when you’re young and can afford to do so.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The proudest achievement in my career so far came last year with the launch of our latest product, which is the first AI in the world capable of taking a first pass review of any incoming contract straight out-of-the-box. It reads each component within a contract, colour-coding whether each section is compliant or non-compliant compared to what an organisation has negotiated and agreed to in the past, meaning lawyers can instantly understand where risk lies and where to focus their time and attention. We’ve already seen significant uptake of the technology and I’m incredibly proud to have overseen the launch of such a pioneering innovation in the industry, working closely with our R&D team in Cambridge and creating a consistent feedback loop from our stakeholders and customer-facing teams. The release of this product represents a significant milestone in the company’s growth journey and it’s been hugely rewarding to be at the forefront of it.

On a personal level, I’m also proud to act as a spokesperson for the potential for AI all around the world. I’m lucky to have been invited to speak to world-leading publications including The Financial Times, the BBC and The Times, as well as attending global trade missions and industry events. I hope that I inspire other women to pursue a career in tech by doing so.

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

Grit. There are always going to be challenegs and setbacks in your career, but I think it’s about how you handle them and who you surround yourself with that makes all the difference. Particularly in a young company like Luminance, creating an environment where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes, voice their opinions or challenge others has been crucial.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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

My top tip for women looking to start or excel a career in tech is to always put yourself forward for job opportunities in the sector when they present themself – even if you feel you lack the experience. This might seem like a daunting prospect in an industry traditionally seen as being very male dominated, but I truly believe that many female students and graduates are unaware that the skills they have developed throughout their studies or early in their careers could mean they thrive in this industry.

I often find that female graduates join Luminance with a variety of different backgrounds and degrees that don’t necessarily relate directly to technology, but they excel in a range of roles. For instance, a lot of our Product Specialists and back-end Support Team studied Humanities subjects, but their problem-solving skills and ability to clearly convey information has made them perfectly suited to product-related roles. Many have even started to learn coding in the context of their role, despite having no previous experience! One of our female software developers actually studied Arabic at university but developed an interest in coding and now works in our R&D hub.

There is evidence to suggest that women are less likely to apply for roles if they don’t meet every single one of the requirements listed in a job specification. I would truly encourage women to reflect on what they have learned throughout their university studies or career so far and use this to feel more confident about their suitability when applying for roles.

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

I’ve had plenty of challenges in my career, but I am fortunate never to have experienced the glass ceiling. That’s certainly not to say it doesn’t exist, but I’m lucky to have worked for organisations with flat, meritocratic structures. I’m determined to create a culture at Luminance where everyone feels that they can succeed, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, age, or level of experience.

Also, I’m a firm believer that age does not necessarily equal experience. In fact, in many cases, age doesn’t matter at all. I find that you can tell who has the potential to excel early on in their career, and it is a case of exposing those individuals to a wide variety of tasks, challenges and people that will help them develop into leaders. For this reason, I am a strong advocate of hiring young, bright, and ambitious people – often graduates – and giving them the chance to shine.  Many of the people in my senior management team are under 30 but have that ‘can-do’ attitude which is vital at a fast-growing technology company.

There are currently only 21 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 advocate the real range of opportunities within the tech sector. There is a wealth of opportunity out there for women beyond coding – for example, all of my sales leadership team and 50% of the senior management team are female! The tech industry is highly interdisciplinary and we need to start portraying it as such. This will ultimately make the sector far more accessible to women.

This starts with tech companies doing more to encourage career flexibility and supporting lateral movement. For instance, I started my career in marketing but realised that I was far more interested and suited to sales. This decision and ability to easily pivot ultimately put me on the path towards becoming a sales director and then CEO. If organisations allow and support lateral moves, recognising the strengths and interests of each individual, then I believe that they will be more likely to attract and retain talented female employees.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m a big believer that women should actively seek out opportunities within the tech sector via networking. This may seem intimidating, especially as a woman trying to enter a traditionally male-dominated field, but I believe that many female graduates could start a highly successful career in tech by leveraging connections. The tech industry is competitive, so I think women should seize any opportunity to showcase their skills and ambition in ways that simply aren’t possible in an online application.

Opportunities can come about by connecting with people in the industry, either through LinkedIn, alumni groups, or careers fairs, asking relevant questions about their work and demonstrating real industry knowledge. If you can convey your passion for the tech industry and the people in it, then I think that you have a real chance of being presented with valuable opportunities – at the very least, you will have connected with new people and experienced a great lesson in networking. It’s also important to remember that networking isn’t one-sided. Once you have entered the tech sector, you can act as guide or mentor for women looking to educate themselves about the industry and find opportunities.


Kateryna Danylchenko

Inspirational Woman: Kateryna Danylchenko | CEO, International Bureau of Credit Histories

Meet Kateryna Danylchenko, CEO, International Bureau of Credit Histories

Kateryna Danylchenko

Kateryna Danylchenko, has over 15 years in the finance industry and joined Creditinfo Group as the International Bureau of Credit Histories (IBCH) Ukraine CEO in 2020. In 2021, Kateryna was recognised as one of the top-50 most influential women of Ukrainian Fintech.

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

I am the CEO of the International Bureau of Credit Histories (IBCH) in Ukraine, which is Creditinfo’s subsidiary and one of the largest credit bureaus in Ukraine. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, I headed the office in Kyiv but now I’m temporarily living in Prague and leading operations from here.

Since the war broke, my main focus has been people’s safety, business continuity and trying to ensure Ukrainians, particularly those who have fled Ukraine still have access to financial services. We’ve been working on a project with central banks, international monetary organisations, banks and other financial institutions (FIs) to provide Ukrainian refugees access to credit reports through partner Credit bureaus, including other markets Creditinfo’s subsidiaries. Also, we have recently launched a direct-to-consumer channel via chatbot for Ukrainians to easily access to their credit history.

Using alternative data and data we already have on file, our credit bureau is able to facilitate access to finance for Ukrainians and our refugees living in Europe, so they can do basic things like open a bank account and prove their ability to make payments on time to landlords or new employers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think it’s hard to plan your career because you never really know what is going to happen. There have been several things that have had a major impact on my career and the direction it has gone in so far.

Firstly, when I started my career in Raiffeisen Bank Ukraine risk team in July 2007, I realised that effective risk management in banking is about more than just high-level policies and calculations. It requires close-knit teamwork and most of the people from that first team have gone on to become not just old colleagues but my true friends, mentors and above all valuable influences on my career path.

After the financial crisis in Ukraine, in 2015 I was offered the chance to join the advisory team of the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group). The switch from banking to consultancy was challenging but it was a great learning opportunity and exposed me to different cultures and markets.

Another thing that changed the course of my career happened when I was approached by Creditinfo to head up the Ukraine office. Everything that I had learned in banking credit risk management and the IFC consultancy project management proved to be instrumental to understanding how to address the growth needs of the credit bureau in Ukraine.

It’s extremely difficult to plan anything in life, and I think it’s important to be open to opportunities and always be willing to try something new and learn new skills, even if it doesn’t fit in exactly with your ‘plan’.

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

I’ve faced a couple of major challenges during my career so far but there are two which really stand out. The first major challenge came when the international subsidiary of the bank I worked for decided to sell its business in Ukraine. Knowing I would no longer have a job was hard to come to terms with, but I wanted to see my role through to the end. I stayed at the company to support the merge and help my team members find new roles within the new structure or at other companies. Although it was a stressful and challenging time, I am so glad I stayed. I learnt a lot during that difficult period but the main take away is that being a good leader sometimes means putting the needs of your team and peers before your own.

The second challenge – something that I am still learning to cope with – was fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion and having to start all over again earlier this year. I’m currently living and working in Prague and the rest of my team is spread out over Europe or staying in Ukraine. In spite of everything we have faced this year, we’re determined to continue business as usual and focus on launching new services and initiatives. This has been the most challenging time of my life and career, but our Creditinfo team has been a huge support.

During the first week of the war, I was staying in a shelter and every afternoon the whole management team had a call to talk about how the team and I were doing and discuss what support could be provided. My colleague Paul Randall – Creditinfo Group’s CEO – also took the time to regularly check-in on us and provide further advice on operations management.

Above all, this was a great psychological support – having the chance to speak with people outside of Ukraine and being able to continue working helped me to maintain some level of normality amid the upheaval and uncertainty.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, I’ve come to understand that the habits you pick up in your professional life feed into your survival skills – it’s all about having a good network of people around you, communicating effectively, and supporting others. As for most Ukrainians, this has been the most challenging year of my life and career. So, I would have to say that my biggest achievement to date, despite everything that has happened, has been continuing to work with and support my Ukrainian colleagues, business partners and clients. I have a great amount of admiration and respect for them – their level of dedication and team spirit in the face of such adversity are really something to be proud of.

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

I am a strong communicator – being able to communicate clearly and effectively with partners and teammates has been essential to building stronger, more successful teams and projects.  I always remember that a simple thank you plays as important a role as constructive feedback. Open communication is key to being recognised for the work you do and learning as much as possible along the way so that you can be the best version of yourself in the future.

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

Understand your core skills, develop good communication with colleagues and partners and get involved in projects that interest you, even if they don’t fall exactly within your remit. It’s important to remember that every new experience comes with its own set of challenges, but identifying the aspects that will help to develop your professional and social profile will  prepare you for the next stage of your career.

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

In Ukraine, barriers to tech aren’t as high as in some other countries. This is mainly because lots of fintech companies and FIs companies in Ukraine are headed by women or have lots of women in senior roles. However, this isn’t the case in every country. There are many things that can be done to facilitate diversity and inclusion but having more women in senior positions is crucial to overcoming barriers.

The most important reason for this is that women in senior positions have a huge amount of influence as role models to other women who then believe it’s possible to emulate their success. They can also speak on issues that have impacted women for many years, like the gender pay gap and workplace diversity and help to implement long-lasting change. Having greater female representation in leadership roles means these barriers will gradually be broken down.

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

In order to support female employees and ensure their successful career progression, it’s important to not jump to conclusions about individuals based on their gender, but to act based on what each female employee actually needs in order to feel like the company wants them to succeed and reach the next stage of their career. One of the most important ways companies can do this is through data. For example, using pulse surveys can help companies track employee sentiment and make tangible changes where necessary.

There is currently only 15% 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?

Visibility and recognition are key to accelerating the pace of change for women in tech.

As a male dominated industry, it’s also important crucial to have an equal number of women and men in senior leadership roles. This sends a strong message to other women who are considering a role in tech, that with the right skills and hard work, women are just as entitled to a successful career and to holding senior roles.

 What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

The tech industry moves at a rapid pace so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest news – whether that be through podcasts, blogs or tech-specific news websites.  It’s also a good idea to follow fintech start-ups on social media or in the news to see what they’re doing and for potential inspiration.

Networking is also key. Attending events or conferences is extremely helpful as you are surrounded by experts and other like-minded people who are operating right at the heart of tech. Speaking with people in the industry is a good way to learn and develop your own perspectives and industry knowledge, or to find out about possible partners to make stronger overall solutions.


Inspirational Woman: Josephine Liang | CEO, CauliBox

Meet Josephine Liang, CEO of CauliBox

Josephine Liang

Josephine Liang is a sustainability expert and CEO of CauliBox, the award-winning, tech-enabled reusable food and drink packaging solution for workplace and event dining. Josephine was awarded a special “Women in Food” award by the Mayor of London in 2019 and was named on Forbes 30 under 30 in 2021.  She holds an MSc from the University of Oxford and a BA from Colby College.

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

I grew up in Hong Kong, and moved to India at age 16 for the last two years of secondary school. I attended the United World College which was really cool as I got to mix with 200 other students from 70 different countries. As I had never been outside of Hong Kong before, it was very exciting.

My love for nature really developed while studying there, as it was a biodiversity reserve. It had all sorts of animals like rabbits, snakes and peacocks roaming the grounds, which began to forge a strong connection between me and nature. The school’s commitment to social responsibility, alongside living somewhere of such incredible natural beauty, sowed the seed of an interest in sustainability.

This interest was strengthened when I moved to the United States for college, studying psychology and chemistry. While studying in an oceanography lab in my third year, I learned a lot about climate change and how much we could see the impact on nature. It shocked me that nobody was talking about what these scientific experts were teaching me. I knew climate change was happening, but it felt like nobody was taking it as seriously in the mainstream as it really should have been.

When I moved to England to study Global Health Science, food waste really grabbed my attention. While many people are going without food, we are wasting 40% of what we produce. Living in Poplar, where poverty is prominent and people have limited access to fresh food, made me think deeply about this. This inspired my idea to pursue a career in social entrepreneurship, as a result of frustrations at problems that were not being solved.

I started my career as a sustainability campaigner, working with companies like Hubbub, Unilever, and Sainsbury’s. Even though I am passionate about food sustainability and enjoy my work, I realise that while raising awareness is important, better infrastructure is essential for scalable and long-term solutions against the climate crisis. This is where Ming [Zhao, co-founder and CCO of Cauli] and I came together to start Cauli, with a mission to tackle a particular tough waste stream in the food supply chain, single-use packaging waste, through smart reuse solutions. We pioneered QR scanning in Europe in enabling reusable borrows and returns. Now, we are on track to divert more than 300,000kg of CO2 emissions by end-2022, the equivalent of the annual CO2 absorption of approximately 15,000 full-grown trees.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, no. my interest in sustainability had been sparked early, and my education furthered this passion, but it was a while before I transformed this into a business. A few years ago, I was working in an office job, doing sustainability campaigning. Although it was a sustainable office that didn’t print paper etc, I noticed how much food packaging waste there always was around me. How despite making all these efforts to be eco-friendly, there was still all this waste. I loved the vibrant street food scene in London, but as the packaging wasn’t recyclable, it produced so much waste. This was when I started to really consider sustainable packaging infrastructures and how I could make a change.

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

The day of the launch of CauliBox, everything went wrong for us! We ended up at the local council building late into the evening using their facilities because the boxes weren’t washed (we had to wash 400!) and then our washing partner fell through. On the day it was raining really heavily, which at an outdoor street food market isn’t ideal. Councillors were meant to come and see how the CauliBox system worked, but only a few vendors and customers showed up because of the weather. Everything we worried could go wrong actually did go wrong!

Rather than admitting defeat, we accepted that this is all part of the process. To overcome these obstacles, you have to look at the long term, not the now. We focused on the successful elements of the launch, the concept was well received and we got over 200 users for CauliBox.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

If we are talking about career achievement, it will be being recognised by Forbes 30 under 30 for my work in social impact – it was an honour to be recognised! However, the proudest moments came early in the Cauli journey. After many late nights working with Ming to design and finalise the initial CauliBox, we were able to recruit our first users within 30 minutes, and I remember being in such delightful shock when I saw people actually carrying our boxes and building the habit of reuse. This gave us the hope and validation that reuse can be the future and is the catalyst to what Cauli grows to be now.

I feel very proud that we are not just replacing disposables but building easy and accessible infrastructures. Waste disposal is challenging, especially in catering, as there are so many regulations. Often eco-friendly waste disposal is also not economical, making it harder for people. CauliBox provides an accessible and affordable waste solution that will make disposal easier for everyone.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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

Surrounding myself with a great network. Ming, my Co-Founder, is the anchor and compass of Cauli. As a founder, especially a female founder, it is an uphill battle, having to overcome barriers from lack of funding – only 2% of VC funding went to female founders in 2021 – to gender stereotyping; it is challenging and lonely going solo, and having a Co-Founder alongside a great network of advisors, other female entrepreneurs, supporters, and more has been essential, opening doors to important connections, resources, and encourage when things are difficult.

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

Passion needs to be at the root of your endeavours. Loving what you do is necessary if you are going to work hard.

Find a great mentor to teach you what they know. Mentors with a shared passion but different skill sets are particularly useful.

Being in tune with the world and aware of all that is going on around you.

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

In terms of food and climate startups, I have been to so many events where there is a clear gender divide: there are way more women in consumer goods, marketing and campaigning, and product innovation, whereas deep tech and industry tech companies are dominated by men. The lack of female representation means there are less supporters and mentors for women breaking into technology.

Another well-known barrier is the stereotypes of traditional gender roles. Coming from a traditional ethnic background, the expectations for women from a young age is deeply seeded; even to this day, there are still expectations for women to conform to certain work or responsibilities.

It is important to curate paid and sponsored opportunities for women to upskill, network, and ultimately break into tech. There is also importance to consider lived-in and other experience and other skills of female applicants – we all know how powerful tech skill paired with other expertise is for any company and startups.

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

Hire more women! Pay women fairly! Ultimately it is about creating job opportunities and making sure we hire women into technical roles. There are many jobs boards and networks that target women who are breaking into the tech space. Write gender equity (not just equality) into company policy.

Sponsoring and supporting programmes that help women upskill and offering paid internships or projects for women to build their portfolio is also important to nurture the space.

Creating a welcoming environment for women, including a modern maternity and paternity programme and benefits is essential. It is always a shame for any organisations to lose out on bright talent because they adhere to archaic structures.

There are currently only 21 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?

Remove every single trace of prejudice and discrimination towards any minority group. Ultimately this is not just about women in tech, it is about solidarity in equity for women, PoC, sexuality, and more.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Podcasts – The Peers Project, Big Careers, Small Children

Books – We Should All Be Feminists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez; a favourite classic fiction of mine: The Edible Woman by Margret Atwood

Bootcamps – SheCodes

Networks – AllBright, MeetUp groups, personally, I also love networking at women-only whiskey tastings at Milroy’s, and my Co-Founder Ming likes playing tennis with women’s tennis groups


Simonetta Lulli

Inspirational Woman: Simonetta Lulli Gómez | CEO, GameHouse

Meet Simonetta Lulli Gómez, CEO, GameHouse

Simonetta Lulli

Simonetta Lulli Gómez is an economist and is the current CEO of GameHouse.

In this piece, we talk about her career journey, what it’s like being part of the 7% female CEOs in gaming and what she believes companies should be doing to support women in technology.

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

I am Simonetta Lulli Gómez, economist and current CEO of GameHouse, a videogame production company with one of the longest track records in the industry. Before joining GameHouse, I spent the last several years as head of Spin Master Studios in Los Angeles, leading digital games, connected mobile products and integrations at this global children’s entertainment company, where I collaborated with internal units as well as external partners such as Warner Bros. and DreamWorks. Also, I was president, CEO and chairwoman of the board of directors of Woozworld in Montreal, a virtual world and social network for tweens and teens, and senior vice president at Sulake, developers of Habbo Hotel for 10 years, the largest online virtual world for teens.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest, not really. I knew where I did not want to work and I was a super early adopter and fan of the internet – I knew it was going to be big and then I did risk a bit leaving a very comfortable job in a big TV company in Spain in finance to get into internet businesses in London in 2000. My dad was not very happy initially, I was leaving a super good job to pursue something he could not even understand, but I have done calculated risks in my career that in general have paid off.  I’m more a person that needs to be challenged  and I was guided more by instincts of what could become an opportunity and take the challenge than anything else.

I came into the video game industry almost by coincidence. I was working in England, in the online gambling business, and I wanted to return to Spain. So, when looking at offers I saw that they were looking for a country manager in Spain for Habbo Hotel and that’s how my career in this exciting world began.

Everything you do in life serves you in one way or another and then opportunities (if you are open to see them of course) arise. Sometimes we become obsessed with specialising in one field, especially when we are young, because we have a preconceived idea of what we want our career to be like. In tech more than anything, new technologies arise very quickly and you need to believe and jump. I have a rule, as an early adopter that I am, if I will invest my time or use that new tech, usually it is a good sign and I go for it.

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

I try to take challenges as opportunities and be positive, but sometimes things are out of your control and for those I learnt to try to prepare options and scenarios ahead of time, so that I’m ready, and for my role as CEO in GameHouse anticipating the future is important.

Being part of the 7% female CEOs in gaming is a challenge in itself, but a great honour, as it ties in with my values as a person, to fight stereotypes and inspire new generations. After many years I did realize it is all about believing in yourself and not overthinking too much. In my role I need to take decisions fast and sometimes, I fail on the decision, but I try to make them in a logic calculated way so I can back up the decision and accept the failure as part of the business and mitigate it with the scenarios plan.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

I enjoy what I do a lot, and in every job I think there are achievements that I remember.

Being pioneer in win win partnerships is something I love because I always try to think out of the box.

There are a couple of them that I remember because they were big deals that changed the course of the business. One was a deal I did with M6 France TV for Habbo Hotel that lasted many years where we were partners and was the first big deal with a media company I did. I remember the agreement review took around 6-7 hours on the phone, it was crazy!

Then, another one with Habbo Hotel that I did was a partnership with Unicef, where they were coming to Habbo Hotel, a virtual world for teens, once a week to talk with the teens about important topics such as mental health or drugs. This was maybe 2006 and Unicef had a virtual bus where kids in their avatars were doing a line to get and talk with Unicef about those themes. To know that your game was helping teens was very rewarding.

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

Without knowing it, believing in myself. I do not have issues to make decisions if they are taken in a logical and supported way, and I have no doubt that it was a consequence of how much my family supported me always no matter what.

In my 20-year career, I have worked for several companies and, in general, I have always been one of the few women in the field. A situation that I never wanted to determine my way of acting or my career. And this never made me feel excluded, also because I refused to let it be part of who I was. I mean, I am the same as everyone else, a person’s gender is just that, I’ve never let that affect it, even though it’s something that may always be there.

I would say that this is the biggest factor that makes me where I am today, leading a team in an eminently male industry. We cannot forget that only 7% of the CEOs in gaming companies are women and minority % in programming or other fields, but I believe that soon the industry will naturally become more balanced.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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

Do not be scared of technology, tech is all around us. One problem I see is that we all assume that tech is programming, coding, engineering all of that is a stereotype that must change. Everyone  can work on what we call tech companies without needing to have a tech background. I’m an economist as an example, but it is true that you need to be interested in understanding the tech company you are working on and how the users behave with your products.

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

I do not see a real physical barrier but I believe the problem is educational first. We must teach the girls that technology is not difficult, is part of the opportunities to develop a career,  is super fun and rewarding and something they will engage with. There are not enough girls getting interested or at minimum not being scared of tech to create enough women workforce, because of this, we are already in minority from the beginning of the careers which makes it more difficult to catch up later in our careers.

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

At GameHouse for example, we recruit with an inclusive strategy. Women when searching for jobs they only apply when they fullfill 90% of the job description, while male can apply with only 50%, so our job descriptions are drafted for inclusion.

On top, women in general need more flexibility for their families, and at GameHouse we have a flexible work policy. What does this mean? It means that we trust our people to work responsibly when they can, not when we force them to do it. Of course, with certain common agreements with their teams. This is of course not only for women, we are seeing a lot of men enjoying time with their families as well and we embrace flexibility as a value for everyone, but it helps women as well.

Another thing that helps is to offer part time jobs, we prefer to have 50% of the time of the best people than 100% of people who do not fit well with our values and us. With that, part time is embraced by women a lot, but again as an inclusive company, many of our male co-workers do work part time.

At the end of the day for me, it is all about having a transparent and fair process, where both men and women are treated as people and not based on their gender. Of course, the values and culture of the company must embrace that, and we must act by example, not theory only.

There are currently only 21 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?

Those women who are in tech or interested in tech stay in tech, the real problem is to get more young blood interested in it. To not think ever it is not a women career.

I would impose new tech, STEM programs for kids as a mandatory subject for several years starting in elementary, make sure the girls engage with it in a fun way and before 12 years old when they decide the type of subjects they want to study.

I would as well do a lot of education & internships at college level to show how tech companies are like any other company, but more interesting because you must continuously learn, so you never have a boring moment and I think that suits very well women mindsets.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

As for Podcasts in my own gaming field I will recommend Rise & Play from Sophie Vo, she always interviews women on gaming and the information and angle is very interesting for women in general.

Lean Start Up is a book I read when I was creating a start up and the philosophy and the mentality made me think about how I approach projects of any type. I would recommend it not only for start ups but for people in general.

One other book that I read many years ago was about Time Management. I can not remember the actual title, but I think that any other time management books might help anyway,  as they teach you how to manage the really scarce and limited resources you have. For me it was crucial to shift the mentality about my own time management and even more when you have a family.

Deconstructor of fun podcast for mobile game enthusiasts.


Kseniia Stolbovaya

Inspirational Woman: Kseniia Stolbovaya | Co-Founder & CEO, DAN.IT

Meet Kseniia Stolbovaya, Co-Founder & CEO, DAN.IT

Kseniia Stolbovaya

Kseniia Stolbovaya is the co-founder and CEO of DAN.IT EdTech, an organistion that helps young people break into tech. The online courses are available in the metaverse, and the programs are designed to prepare people for the future of tech.

Kseniia is also a trailblazer for other female entrepreneurs who want to use the metaverse for their business.

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

I’m the CEO of the international EdTech company, DAN.IT, and we provide tech training for people who want to switch to tech from other industries. I have a Master’s degree in psychology and a Bachelor’s degree in law. Initially, I planned to continue as a psychologist after graduation, but in my last course, I was invited to work for a large publishing house in the position of learning and development specialist and I took that challenge. In a year, I became the head of the subdivision, and in two years I started my long journey within the international car rental & leasing company – first as an HR, after HRD and for over 7 years as the COO. At that time, I realised that mentorship/ training and tech are fascinating fields for me. So I started to look for opportunities to combine those two great passions of mine – and this is how I got to DAN.IT. I still provide training for some groups, conduct educational webinars and career consultations. But most of all definitely, I am involved in our company growth and our Metaverse centre launch.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I feel like a more intuitive person and didn’t chase to get a career promotion. I was interested in the job itself, mastering new skills and always curious about the business I was working for. When I was the HR manager for a car rental & leasing company, I thought it was crucially important for me to understand the standards of service, operational flow, and understand the bottlenecks of the process. This is how I got appointed for the COO position.

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

Mastering a new role is a great challenge because you need to learn something new and perform new tasks you didn’t encounter before. I  suppose that my whole career path is about challenges, but I take them gladly and continue learning even now.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Switching to tech was my biggest career achievement. I believe it was the greatest challenge I have ever met, and it took me months to find the right company with values and corporate culture I share. Tech companies prefer to hire from inside the industry, and it takes time and effort to prove that you are worthy of the position, learn and get acquainted with the industry.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

BUY YOUR TICKETS

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

Actually there are two of them – passion and persistence.

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

  • Learn more about tech companies
  • Get acquainted with the industry
  • Discover tech jobs in demand on the market, find out what skills are required for a specific job
  • Define what is your personal skill gap for the role you want
  • Find a good mentor or course and get ready to fail a couple of first interviews

This is what I call a 5-steps guide for tech industry starters

  • Be ready for constant learning
  • Devote time for reskilling or upskilling
  • Keep the focus on your target
  • Be ready for failures
  • Keep motivation to go further

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

The key barrier I can see refers to personal persuasions or even superstitions which keep a woman from taking on new challenges or roles.

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

Show case studies of  women who are happy in their technical role.

Educate about tech. Most people still think that Tech is about programming only ) It is far from the truth. Very talented UI/UX designers, Product Owners, Digital Marketers are women. And great FullStack developers as well, for sure )

Encourage women to try themselves in Tech. This is about short courses or long programs which can help master tech skills or professions.

There are currently only 21 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? 

Eliminate all superstitions in the heads of women ) But definitely, as I have no magic wand, I will continue using education. We need to trust ourselves and start believing we can achieve success in the field we choose as long as we are motivated and continue learning.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

 https://www.amazon.com/Future-Tech-Female-Achieve-Diversity/dp/1479875171

https://medium.com (perfect articles on Data Science)

https://www.amazon.com/Zero-One-Notes-Startups-Future/dp/0804139296


Inspirational Woman: Zeinab Ardeshir | Co-founder & CEO of PillSorted

Zeinab ArdeshirZeinab Ardeshir co-founded PillSorted, a personalised pharmacy service, nearly three years ago with the aim of disrupting the traditionally transactional pharma experience and instead delivering a compassionate, more relationship-focused experience.

The healthtech – which works with a number of NHS services to deliver medications – uses technology to get medication dispensed and delivered to patients in a timely manner, which in turn means that pharmacists are able to optimise their time consulting patients.

Zeinab holds a Doctor of Pharmacy from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and a Postgraduate diploma for Overseas Pharmacists from Aston University and prior to Co-founding Pill Sorted, spent nearly 11 years working as a pharmacist at Boots and Tesco.

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

I’m Zeinab Ardeshir, the Co-founder, CEO and Chief Pharmacist of PillSorted. I’m a qualified pharmacist and worked as a community pharmacist for 17 years before starting PillSorted, in various countries.

I’ve always particularly loved community pharmacy, because it’s such a rare blend of science and human relationships.

I set up PillSorted in November 2019, right before the pandemic hit, to deliver a pharmacy experience that combined compassionate care and technology. PillSorted is a product of my love for community pharmacy and my desire to ensure pharmacists are providing the best care possible. Pharmacists are often seen as glorified retail assistants, however I believe their potential is untapped and they could be delivering more holistic care. We provide a completely personalised pharmacy service for people who are on multiple medications, delivering their medication and dosage information to them each month and reviewing their medications constantly. Many of our patients are elderly people who have different medical prescriptions, so our service is designed to provide ongoing support and make managing their prescriptions easier for them.

There are many manual and repetitive tasks in community pharmacy, which is where companies like PillSorted can help. In the same way that we can get groceries delivered on-demand, I  wanted to create a company that could provide something similar for antibiotics. I want PillSorted to play a role in providing preventative healthcare for the community, which is so important given the NHS staff shortages we’re currently seeing.

As the CEO, my focus is on customer care and the clinical side of the business, where my Pharmacist background helps. My co-founder Mohammad ensures that the operations run smoothly and together we make sure all teams work in unison.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I made a very conscious decision to move from being a pharmacist to an entrepreneur pharmacist, as I’ve always prioritised taking care of patients – it’s been my north star in all my career decisions.

Moving from a clinical focused background to being a Founder of a healthtech has definitely been a big change and a learning curve! I enjoy the multifaceted aspect of leadership, from marketing, finance, people management and moving the business forward and towards a common goal.

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

Starting a company was one of the pivotal changes in my career and definitely hasn’t come without its challenges. I started from thinking I wasn’t good enough, to realising that there are many questions that no one knows the answer to, and that it’s okay not to know everything.

I’d like to think I’ve embraced all the challenges as learning opportunities and am always asking questions.

And, having a great mentor helps too.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Growing PillSorted from zero to where it is now is my biggest achievement to date, but it’s just the beginning. It has given me the chance to take care of patients more than any other time in my career and has been truly rewarding. I feel very lucky to have an amazing team of people in all aspects of the company.

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

The obsession with delivering the best care possible has always been at the heart of my career. I’m also brutally honest with people around me and more importantly, with myself. Being true to oneself is absolutely key in making consistent decisions. I also have an incredible support network, particularly my children, who motivate me and are in my corner.

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

Go ahead, be brave and ask questions! We have an amazing female software developer who is incredibly detailed in her work and has a positive attitude. She has been brave to join a sector that is completely new to her. She has been the only developer in our organisation for a while, has asked lots of questions along the way and has pioneered the creation of our operating system as a result. There will always be people in your corner.

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

I think like many male dominated industries, it is challenging to find the right career advice at the right time. Becoming a founder, venturing into business, or asking for investment can all feel like daunting tasks just as being the only female tech developer in a team can be daunting. We need to think of ourselves as pioneers and feel confident that mistakes are learning opportunities and nothing more. Barriers become much easier to overcome when they don’t stem from a fear of failure.

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

Creating a culture of nurture and mentorship enables women to flourish.

Companies need to provide training, to create career progression pathways, to proactively offer them to women and to encourage women to keep these decisions in their forecast.

Our employees trust their time and careers with us and we need to enable their career progression and the feeling of success being part of a winning team.

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

It starts in school. Educating girls to flourish in STEM topics and showing the excitement and impact that science brings to people’s lives is important. Women are naturally nurturing characters, so showing the impact that the STEM sector can have is especially important.

During their careers, encouraging women to consider choices that include learning and stepping up to the opportunities, are of utmost importance, as they would never know if they enjoy a new profession/ skill until they try.

For women who have been fortunate enough to succeed in their careers, holding the hands of the younger generation, helping them envision different perspectives so they make informed choices, is the most important contribution.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I have used Coursera for my learnings and would recommend using any of the notable online courses. It is a true blessing to have this wealth of knowledge at your fingertips and being able to learn at your own convenience. I’ve learned a lot from YC Startup School and also following thought leaders in the industry. I prefer a mix of learning methods such as podcasts, well written subjects, and short videos. There’s a plethora of knowledge and I’d advise making it a priority to block time out of the day to learn and think.


Meeri Savolainen

Inspirational Woman: Meeri Savolainen | Co-Founder & CEO, INZMO

Meet Meeri Savolainen, Co-Founder and CEO, INZMO

Meeri Savolainen

Estonian born Meeri Savolainen is co-founder and CEO of INZMO, a Berlin based insurtech transforming the laborious insurance process with its full-stack solution where everything from buying a policy to making a claim can be done in an instant.

INZMO focuses on B2B2C solutions across multiple verticals from consumer electronics and bike insurance and most recently launched Germany’s first fully digital rental deposit guarantee service.

At INZMO, Meeri is responsible for administration, legal matters, company culture, marketing and financial affairs. Meeri has a Law degree from the University of Tartu, one of Estonia’s most prestigious universities and previously worked as a tax and corporate lawyer for Ernst and Young.

To fulfil her passion for breaking new ground to lead social change, she left the corporate world in 2015 and founded INZMO with co-founder Risto Klausen whom she has been working together on several projects since 2010.

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

I’m the co-founder and CEO of INZMO, a Berlin based insurtech focussed on serving the rental and home contents industry and digitising the laborious insurance process with our full-stack platform where everything from buying a policy to making a claim can be done in an instant.

I have a Law degree and previously worked as a tax and corporate lawyer for Ernst and Young. At INZMO I am responsible for overall execution, our resources and the image/brand of the company.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly – my background is law and I graduated from the University of Tartu in Estonia with an MA in Law. At the time this was very much the career path I wanted to take and I invested a lot of time in my studies to gain the qualifications to become a lawyer.

After graduating, I joined the team of corporate lawyers at Ernst & Young. I liked my job, worked with fantastic people and had an excellent experience. However, it was all a bit too safe and I felt I was capable of taking more risk and wanted more responsibility. I know I can go back into corporate law and consulting in the future. I’ve always been driven by innovation and I wanted to create something new, something that hadn’t been created before. I wanted to lead and develop my own team and achieve something bigger.

When I’m asked how I would describe success – for me, success is when you have the sense of fulfilment and I get that from building my businesses – seeing it grow, cultivating a great working environment, attracting talented individuals, and all of us pulling together and sharing the same vision for the business that we’re building. That’s my plan for the next few years.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, several! Starting from finding the perfect niche to funding the company.

One of the contributing factors for the low numbers of female founders in my sector and tech more broadly is without doubt the gender funding gap. And rather depressingly according to Atomico’s latest State of European Tech report, it appears the gap is widening with female founders having raised the lowest proportion of total capital since 2017.

However, the perpetual funding challenge has shaped the way I run my startup – and for the better. We’ve been forced to learn to grow without VC cash, to do more with less and with an approach geared towards responsible and sustainable growth

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

On a personal level I’ve learnt to become more patient and have become a much better listener! As a fast-growing startup and working in digital insurtech which rewards hyperspeed, I’ve been used to quick fixes, being always on and had the same expectation of my teams.

The pandemic however changed all of our working lives. No longer working in-person as frequently with colleagues meant I wasn’t always aware of their personal situations (and vice versa) and how they were having to adapt to address unforeseen challenges.

And, because of that it was important for us all and particularly the senior team members to be better listeners, more respectful of individual situations and understanding of the need for flexible working patterns as we found it had a direct impact on levels of creativity, productivity, and collaboration.

On a professional level, I’m massively committed to gender diversity and really proud of the fact that my startup has a 60:40 female/male split. In fact six of the nine senior leadership positions are held by women.

As a female founder in insurance, a centuries old industry with let’s face it a bit of an image problem – male dominated, overly old fashioned, slow to change, clunky IT systems – I’m acutely aware more needs to be done to attract female talent to the sector.

Our gender balanced business has helped us appeal to a strong number of exceptionally talented female candidates who want to work with us because of the number of women already at the organisation, and who occupy the most senior positions.

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

My co-founder, Risto. We are very different personalities, we cover very different areas and have very different operational skills.

We find this makes for a successful working relationship as we know what the other is responsible for. Risto is highly technical and manages product and business development. With my background in law and a passion for organisational psychology, I’m responsible for all administrative, financial and HR matters.

However, in spite of our differing skill sets and division of responsibilities – as co-founders we very much share the same central vision for the business we’re building and are equally motivated to make it a success.

I talked earlier about the gender funding gap and there are obvious benefits to presenting a mixed founding team when it comes to the fundraising process.

How do you feel about mentoring?

Throughout my journey building INZMO, we’ve had (and are very fortunate to still have) several mentors (literally around 10 people) offering advice, support and help with various aspects ranging from fundraising, sales, hiring and leadership.

Our mentors have played a critical role in our success and have helped us avoid common mistakes startups often make in our industry. We are always happy to learn from others and take every opportunity to share these learnings with our team. We encourage and invest in a lot of resources for our team to have great coaches throughout their journey with INZMO.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

The lack of gender diversity within the insurance industry and particularly among senior levels is well documented. While there has been some progress, it has been frustratingly slow and the appalling sexism experienced by Amanda Blanc, Aviva’s, CEO at the firm’s AGM last month (May 2022) was sadly all too telling about the state of our industry when it comes to supporting gender diversity agendas.

The one change I would make to accelerate the pace of change would be to increase the representation of senior women in our field. A more diverse business is a more productive and innovative one. And we know having visible role models will have a substantial impact on our junior female colleagues. It sets the scene for their progression as well as the reality of the opportunities and challenges inherent in our sector and how best to navigate these. At INZMO we actively celebrate the female leaders in our business and encourage them to regularly share their knowledge – both about the industry and being a woman in insurtech.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

The best advice I’ve ever received was to ask myself this question before I embark on any project or adventure: “Why are you doing this?” – I would definitely offer this piece of advice to my younger self.

The important thing I’ve learnt about business is not what you do, but why you do it and I’ve applied this to both my professional and personal life. It helps to eliminate noise around you, gives a purpose and meaning to your actions and motivates you to achieve whatever goal you’re working towards. This is how I talk through company objectives with my teams and ensures we’re all on the same page and highly motivated.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We’re always working on developing and enhancing our product portfolio. Looking ahead we’re planning to integrate AI and machine learning into our platform to take even more friction out of the customer journey and enhance the customer experience.

Our ambition is to become a one-stop shop for the tenant’s home insurance needs – from insuring the actual moving process to contents and consumer electronics insurance. And we want to make everything in the insurance process instant. Not only the purchasing of a policy, but in the future, we also aim to make claim settlements in minutes after receipt of a claim.


Inspirational Woman: Lauren Flanagan | CEO, Sesame Solar

Meet Lauren Flanagan, CEO of Sesame Solar

Lauren Flanagan

Meet Lauren Flanagan - CEO and Co-Founder of Sesame Solar that’s backed by Morgan Stanley and VSC Ventures. As a 5x founder and CEO, she is active investor/advisor in several women-led companies and serves on the board of Springboard Enterprises, where they’ve backed approx 900 female-founded companies. Her most recent and exciting venture is co-founding Sesame Solar, makers of 100% renewable mobile nanogrids for disaster response.

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

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak, from selling shelled walnuts as a young girl to founding successful companies as an adult. I worked with Steve Jobs as a leading software ISV for NeXT and Apple and was a SaaS pioneer. I’ve co-founded and built five companies from the ground up in addition to founding two angel investment funds to support female-founded companies.

As part of my mission to help women succeed, I am on the Board of Directors at Springboard Enterprises, the leading peer network for women-led tech companies seeking scale. Since inception, we’ve backed approx. 900 female-founded companies, resulting in 26 IPOs and 225+ M&As. Through my angel fund, BELLE Capital USA, I am also an active investor and advisor in many women-led companies, including HelloAlice, Vyv, Joylux, Nopsec, and Shyft Moving.

My most recent and exciting venture is co-founding Sesame Solar, makers of 100% renewably-powered mobile nanogrids for disaster response. Our renewable power pop-ups give communities access to medical services, clean water, telecommunications, Wi-Fi, and much more in less than 15 minutes. Through Sesame Solar, I’ve been able to exercise my passion for giving communities real solutions that adapt to the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events due to climate change. Recently, Sesame announced our first-to-market integration of mobile solar and green hydrogen power generation for disaster response.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I consider myself to be a visionary problem solver. Throughout my career, I have found ways to leverage technology to help those around me. Whether that’s through a company I’ve founded or a company I’ve backed, all of my ventures have revolved around realizing a problem and coming up with a solution to fix it. I never relied on a strict plan or a prescribed formula to get where I am today.

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

I had a very bad experience with a venture capital investor in one of my companies. I profoundly disagreed with the direction he wanted our company to take, and when I expressed my opposing view, he told me, “You need to learn the Golden Rule—he with the gold makes the rules.”

After that, I decided to shift the focus of my career to investing and strived to be the kind of investor who would do what’s best for all stakeholders, have the founder’s back, and follow the real Golden Rule – treat others how you’d like to be treated. Since then, I have co-founded two angel funds, invested in 40 companies, and served on the board of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator and peer network that actively helps women-led tech companies to scale their businesses.

To date, Springboard has been a growth catalyst for approx 900 women-led companies, and 80% of the companies are still in business as independent or acquired entities–a strikingly low failure rate. We currently have 8 unicorns among our alumnae. I am very proud of my work at Springboard. I have helped dozens of women learn how to protect themselves and their companies from the occasional bad investor. My bad experience with one investor was a deep learning experience, and motivates me to create a world where anyone can make an impact with their ideas.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

560 catastrophic events are expected to happen every year by 2030, but a core challenge is bringing power to impacted communities in a fast, flexible, and fossil-fuel-free way. Helping co-found and create a solution to this widespread problem has been my biggest challenge and achievement yet. Before Sesame Solar, communities impacted by natural disasters did not have options to mitigate the effects of extreme weather disasters using a 100% renewably-powered, mobile solution. I’m very proud of Sesame Solar and our culture: we’re a multicultural team of visionaries, engineers, architects, environmentalists, and technicians focusing on mobile, fast-to-deploy and easy-to-use solutions for the existential threat climate change poses to our planet.

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

When I approach a complex problem, I try to break it down into its most basic elements–first principles–and build a solution on that foundation using visioning exercises. This requires thorough discovery and visioning processes that have led to the creation of many novel solutions.

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

I live and work by two mottos:

  • ABL: Always Be Learning. It makes you more ABLe to succeed. Strive for a beginner’s mind vs thinking you know the answers.
  • YOLO: You Only Live Once so be bold and go for maximum impact.

With these mottos in mind, I try to keep an open mind with a learning mindset combined with calculated boldness that has allowed me to create innovative solutions throughout my career.

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

Yes. While opportunities and conditions certainly have improved for women in tech, we’re not nearly where we need to be. Women-led companies still receive only a fraction of angel and venture funding. As women, it is essential that we lift each other up and create opportunities for each other to succeed. From women investing in other women-led companies to women in technology holding more networking events to connect with each other, it is vital that we don’t wait for the male-dominated industry to change, rather we need to create the change ourselves. I’ve dedicated the past 20 years of my life to creating opportunities for female entrepreneurs through funding, mentoring and advising.

I like to say that we women are the solution to our capital access problem. We control most of the wealth in the US, yet do very little of early-stage investing. If women started investing in women-led companies, it would be game-changing for female and other underestimated founders. That’s why I started two angel funds of women investing in women-led tech companies–to teach women how to do angel investing and/or get more comfortable with making alternative investments.

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

It’s simple – companies need to invest in women as leaders. Women are consistently facing barriers to entry such as: lack of access to opportunity, implicit biases and an inability to set healthy boundaries. To address some of these issues, companies must ensure there are more women represented on an executive-level or implement full-scale DE&I training programs.

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?

If I had a magic wand, I would give unlimited access to mentorship opportunities for women at every level in tech. Whether that’s for a high-school girl who has an innovative idea but doesn’t know what to do next, or a woman with the drive to become an executive team member at a male-dominated company. We need to lift women up by providing them funding, mentorship and with insights from our own experiences so they can break down barriers better and faster than we did before. Serving as a mentor is one of the most important things I do, and being a mentee has been transformational for me. I was an early member of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneurial Network (DWEN), which helps women and girls with their entrepreneurial and tech aspirations.

I’ve been blessed by some great mentors in my career, including the late, great Ellen Hancock, a senior executive at IBM, National Semiconductor, Apple (where I met her) and Exodus, who was kind and encouraging to me at the beginning of my tech career and with whom I had the privilege of learning from for 15 years on the Springboard Enterprises board of directors. Kay Koplovitz, truly one of the great entrepreneurs who founded USA Network where she created the advertising-licensing model and put sports on cable, launched the SciFy channel, then served on President Clinton’s National Women’s Business Council, then founded Springboard Enterprises, and the Springboard Growth Fund, and most recently co-founded the first women-led SPAC, Athena Technology Acquisition Corp, is a daily inspiration. Kay never stops innovating, lifting up women and making an impact in all she does.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My favorite podcast to date is Dolly Parton’s America

Songwriter, singer, musician, storyteller, actor, producer, businesswoman, and philanthropist who’s given millions of books to children in honor of her illiterate father, Dolly has had a tremendous impact on her community, and helped fund the technology and research at Vanderbilt University that led to the Moderna vaccine. Humble, kind and caring, she inspires me to do more. Shero!

Other good podcasts:

  • The Energy Gang – discusses the latest trends in energy, cleantech, renewables, and the environment
  • How to Save a Planet – breaks down climate change issues in a digestible way
  • Mothers of Invention
  • Invention
  • Understory

Great pitching opportunities and learning events are offered by Springboard Enterprises’ Dolphin Tanks, which I named and co-created.