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. 

BUY YOUR TICKETS

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. 

BUY YOUR TICKETS

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.


Inspirational Woman: Carmen Carey | CEO, Sorted

Carmen CareyCarmen has spent her professional career in the B2B enterprise software market and over the past 25 years, has help to lead fast-growing SaaS businesses that need transformation to realise scale and value.

She started her career in Silicon Valley as VP (Americas) of Global Services at NASDAQ-traded BroadVision where she latterly ran the Americas Professional Services team and was accountable for delivering a significant P&L and the satisfaction of an impressive customer base of global category leaders. She became a global executive when she relocated to London in 2004, as COO of MessageLabs, and have since focused that her career as a transformation CEO.

To date, she’s led three successful exits – ControlCircle to Alternative Networks Group (now Daisy) for Scottish Equity Partners, Big Data Partnership to Teradata for Beringea, and an AIM delist transaction to Hanover Investors. She also holds deep understanding of board governance from executive and non-executive director perspectives, having served on the boards of Arts Alliance Media, Brady, and – before recently being appointed as CEO – Sorted.

As CEO, Carmen fuels Sorted’s strategy, drives business transformation, backs our vision, and supports the leadership team to deliver our growth plans.

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

I’ve spent my professional career in the B2B enterprise software market, and over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with phenomenal teams. To lead and transform fast-growing SaaS businesses, to realise scale and value.

I started my career in Silicon Valley, and my first pivotal career milestone was to become VP of Global Services, the professional services organisation, for the Americas region at NASDAQ-traded BroadVision. I latterly also had BroadVision University, our customer training function, in my remit. I was accountable for delivering a significant P&L, and the satisfaction of an impressive customer base of global category leaders. I became a global executive when I relocated to London in 2004, as COO of MessageLabs, and have since focused my career as a transformation COO and CEO.

To date, I’ve led three successful exits as a CEO – ControlCircle to Alternative Networks Group (now Daisy) for Scottish Equity Partners, Big Data Partnership to Teradata for Beringea, and an AIM delist transaction to Hanover Investors. I also hold a deep understanding of board governance from executive and non-executive director perspectives, having served on the boards of Arts Alliance Media, Brady, and – before being appointed as CEO – Sorted.

Having spent two years on the board at Sorted coupled with the completion of an extensive discovery process to uncover the company’s opportunities and barriers to scale, the team has defined our ‘Sorted 2.0’ vision. We have secured board and investor support for our plan which catalyses the next stage of Sorted’s growth and also defines the next journey in my professional career.  This is a thrilling prospect.

I am thrilled to work with our brilliant customers to help them to achieve industry-leading delivery experiences. It is a privilege to serve the brands and retailers we work with.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The exact path that got me to where I am today wasn’t planned. But on a personal level, one of my first career experiences was in the ecommerce industry, when I joined BroadVision in the 90s, but back then it was a truly nascent space. BroadVision promoted the ‘one to one enterprise’ and had early patents on shopping cart personalisation which we now see as hygienic to the online experience. Needless to say, I became hooked on technology innovation that enables enterprises to excel, and I was fortunate to subsequently join the MessageLabs team and participate in their journey from challenger brand to category leader.

I have had the incredible opportunity of working with some of the world’s biggest brands to execute their online strategies. It was a tremendous career experience that tethered me to innovative industries like ecommerce for life – so it seems fitting that my journey has led me to a company like Sorted. The continuous innovation seen in the sector over the years has inspired me, and I’m excited to help define the new industry-changing developments as they come.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date was my first exit as ControlCircle’s CEO. Working with our team and Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) to transform and grow that business was a humbling and career defining experience.  The most rewarding element of it was being able to share the outcome with all employees, as everyone participated in our employee share option program. When we announced the exit, everyone cheered and congratulated one another – they were all part of the journey, all contributed to this extraordinary achievement, and all participated in the value creation along with our investor.

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

Learning from my mistakes, which to a large degree is about accepting you don’t and will never have all the answers. Hence you need to build strong, balanced teams and have the strength of character to get back on your bike when you fall off.  We all do and will make mistakes and take missteps along the way, and we become better for it if we allow ourselves to learn in the process.

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

  • Be bold, make sure you’re heard and don’t be afraid to take risks. You can’t always play it safe if you want to be successful.
  • Have mentors. Identify women you look up to who are in the role you see yourself fulfilling in three to five years’ time or have traversed an inspiring path to their current state. Engage with them about their career journeys and learn from their wisdom and experience.
  • ‘Do your homework’ and know your stuff. Have confidence and make choices with conviction. It is critical in this context that you own the outcome – successes and failures – and take ownership when you make a wrong call.  Be prepared to understand why your decision was not successful and apply your back-up plan. Always be learning.

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

According to a recent PWC study, only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women. So, while workplace diversity has made significant strides across industries over the years, there remain disparities that need to be addressed.

The best way to drive diversity and inclusivity is through information and representation in the industry. To date, there is a clear lack of visibility of women in technology, and this can actually serve to discourage women from starting a career within the industry, let alone become leaders in it. To overcome this, an increased awareness of the value and importance of building a diverse workforce that fosters a sense of belonging is needed.

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

There are multiple things that companies can do to support women in tech, including initiatives such as Women in Leadership programs, that clearly define a path to leadership positions for women. It would also be great to see companies offering more training and understand focused on bias in the workplace and how best to promote diversity and inclusion.

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?

Women need to be encouraged from a younger age to pursue careers otherwise shut down by stereotypes. Promoting opportunities in STEM education and setting up sponsorship and mentorship programs to engage girls in technology is a great place to begin. It is also important to embrace internships and apprenticeships and think laterally about your overall talent acquisition and career pathing strategies across functions that are central to all organisations, e.g., sales, marketing, customer success, finance, legal, etc., that are not STEM specific and embrace the application of a broad base of skills and styles.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Online publications I would recommend include: UKTN, Retail Tech Innovation Hub and TechCrunch. Networking events are always a great option too. I would recommend Manchester Tech Week and London Tech Week. There is also an abundance of high-quality content on the TED talk channel and HOTTOPICS.HT. Ultimately, it is about what excites and inspires you.


HeForShe: Róbert Wessman | Chairman & CEO, Alvogen and Founder & Chairman, Alvotech

Robert Wessman

Róbert Wessman is Chairman & CEO at global pharmaceutical giant Alvogen, and founder and Chairman at biopharma specialist Alvotech.

Róbert grew up in a small town in Iceland. From an early age he had a strong interest in both medicine and business; it was the latter path he chose to follow when picking his studies and he attended business school. However, he has since set up and developed a series of highly successful healthcare businesses to realise his vision of improving people’s lives through greater access to affordable medication. Róbert’s achievements have made him the subject of three Harvard Business School case studies on business excellence.

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

I grew up in Iceland, in a small town on the outskirts of Reykjavik. From a young age I’ve been fascinated by the world of healthcare and struggled to choose between medicine school and business school when I was applying to the University of Iceland. Eventually, I chose business but have been fortunate to have the opportunity to combine my business experience and interest in medicine by taking on management positions in the healthcare industry. Today I am the CEO and Chairman of the global pharma company Alvogen and the Chairman of its sister company Alvotech. What unites my companies is our mission of improving people’s lives through better access to high-quality affordable medication.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never had a strict plan; it is so important to be open-minded about opportunities when they come up. What I have always had was a focus on purpose, on giving back to my native country Iceland and contributing in some way to making the world a better place. Therefore I took on the task of turning around the failing Icelandic drugmaker Delta some twenty years ago. That successful transformation led me on to new opportunities and, ultimately, to where I am today.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I certainly have, and perhaps the hardest moment of all was in 2013 when the ultimate storm of personal and professional challenges hit. I was training for a competitive cycling race and one day I had a severe accident, crashing into a car that had stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. My spine was severed in two places and there was not an inch of my body that wasn’t cut and bruised. The doctors were not sure I would ever walk again.

This happened at the very same time that Alvogen was preparing to expand into 35 countries, a huge moment for the company and I simply could not abandon my team at that time. I could barely hold a phone or type because my hands were so badly injured but, still, I persevered, typing emails and speaking to the team from my hospital bed. And we did it – Alvogen is a well-established global company today.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I really believe, particularly in the pharma industry, that we achieve as a Team – so many different talents are needed to develop a new drug and bring it to market. So, I would say my greatest achievement is building up an incredibly talented, diverse team across my companies, united by a common vision and mutual respect.

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

This may sound obvious but self-belief and a positive attitude. You will never motivate people to work with you to create something amazing from scratch if you are not enthusiastic yourself. It is hugely important to stay positive, even in the face of challenges.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I believe we all can learn from each other every day.   I am often asked if I have a role model and my answer is that I am not motivated by on single role model.   My role models are people I am seeing every day across different walks of life. The key is to listen to people, ask questions and seek advice.   In the same way I try to give input to others, to help them to reach their outmost potential. I have also been asked numerous times to lecture at Harvard Business School (HBS) going over our HBS cases, our goals, our mission, our failures and our successes hoping that students can benefit from our story.

What can businesses/government/allies do to help diversity and inclusion?

I come from Iceland, where we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong legal and policy framework to support diversity. Iceland has been named the world’s most gender-equal nation for 12 years running in World Economic Forum research now.

With the benefit of my Icelandic heritage, I think there are some useful learnings that could be applied around the world. In particular, Iceland has generous parental leave provisions, with five months for each parent and two months to share. This helps challenge assumptions about gender roles and make sure women’s careers do not suffer. Iceland’s system of equal pay certification for large employers is another thing to look at. We at Alvotech Iceland are incredibly proud to have our Equal Pay Certificate and have rolled out process and policy learnings built up from the certification journey across our global operations.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

Life is interesting, because we are all different as human beings.  We come from different cultures, nationality, upbringing and religions.   That’s why diversity gives all of us the opportunity to learn as long as we live.  We are all born equal, we share the same planet, sun, sky and oceans and that’s the only way to look at life, in my mind.   This applies of course to gender equality also.   Gender equality is the right thing to do on a human level – and it makes complete business sense!  As a father and a husband as well as a CEO, I obviously want to live in a world where everyone can realise their full potential, regardless of their gender or other factors.

Alvogen and Alvotech could never have got to where we are today without our many talented female colleagues. Numerous studies show that diverse, collaborative workplaces are associated with better business performance.

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

Don’t be afraid to prioritise your health sometimes! Drive is important but there were moments during my recovery from the cycling accident when I should not have tried to do everything and take every meeting as if nothing had happened.

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

Alvotech is due to list on the Nasdaq later this year and I am very excited about this new chapter. Alvotech is an expert in biosimilar medications.  Biologics are a very effective type of medication, but very expensive.   Around 40% of world sales of pharmaceuticals are biologics.  Due to their cost, there is still a high proportion of patients in need of those products, who cannot afford it.   Further access to capital will help us at Alvotech do more towards our vision of increasing access of affordable medicines for patients, while lowering costs for healthcare systems.


Inspirational Woman: Dayo Akinrade | Founder & CEO, Wisdom

Dayo AkiniradeI am the founder and CEO of Wisdom, Wisdom is a social audio app with the mission to democratise access to mentorship and create an open and diverse community centred on knowledge-sharing.

My journey in tech started as an IT Management Consultant at the ‘Big 4’. Then, driven by the lack of diversity in London’s tech ecosystem, I joined the founding team of OneTech, London’s largest diversity in startups programme, backed by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. My first venture into startup was Africlick, a cultural dating app targeting 1 billion Africans globally.

Prior to this I studied for a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Manchester and a M.Sc. in Technology from University College London.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

As a child my mother was pursuing a PhD and she spent vast amounts of time in her computer room. So from an early age, I had a sense that computers were important and knew I wanted to work with computers one day. I occasionally will sit down and plan my career, although I plan only a few years in advance as, in my experience, the tech industry advances quite rapidly and opportunities more than a few years away can be impossible to predict. I aim to create where I hope the industry will go and then focus intently on executing toward my goal.

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

Having worked in London’s largest diversity startup program, I’ve observed firsthand how lack of access to mentors contributes to systemic inequity and disadvantages founders from minority groups. I observed that would-be mentors on LinkedIn have a clear problem: they have no way of engaging the many inbound requests they receive so they ignore them all, unless they get a “warm introduction,” which is itself a crystallisation of systemic inequality. Hence, Wisdom was born from my mission to democratise access to mentorship using the power of social audio technology.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In March 2022, Wisdom was featured App of the Day in Apple’s App Store with Apple saying ‘Logging into Wisdom is like showing up at a party powered by conversations between thought leaders and big thinkers’. Given that the App Store has approximately 2 million apps, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that Apple recognised our mission and decided to feature Wisdom.

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

Unfortunately, resilience, as a Black woman in tech I am often underestimated, with experienced individuals often expressing surprise and disbelief at my education and qualifications. I say ‘unfortunately’, as the tech industry must continue efforts to #breakthebias.

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

When job hunting, do not just select the company with the highest salary, candidates should consider the company culture and what archetype of person is successful there and if their personality is a natural fit.  Candidates often do not consider that job hunting is a two-way fit between the employee and employer.

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

I believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, although the barriers are often invisible and structural which presents an additional challenge to overcome. Companies that employ large workforces should seek to embed diversity and inclusion into every aspect of the organisation, including their products, brand, team, processes and policy. Once a company is authentically diverse, it will naturally attract women to work there.

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

My observation from consulting for high-growth tech companies, is a trend where organisations are experiencing ‘diversity fatigue’. Human Resources departments are managing multiple diversity initiatives and justifying return on investment is a challenge. I think companies can benefit from holistically examining the company culture and being honest about what archetype of individual is successful within their structure. Oftentimes that archetype embodies stereotypically male characteristics. When that is so, a deeper examination and ultimately transformation of company culture may be required.

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?

Studies have indicated that genderisation at the earliest stages of child development can impact their future career choices. I would raise awareness on genderisation of children as related to gender-specific toys and attitudes to girls in STEM subjects – which hopefully would go some way to increasing the pipeline of women opting to participate in tech. Encouraging curiosity and leadership and the embracing of hard-fought skills like mathematics and science in our girls must be intentional.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recommend that women who work in the tech industry seek out a set of mentors that can serve as a sounding board and trusted community of advisors. Today, information is readily available on the internet, however, mentorship brings benefits beyond information. It provides an external challenge from a fresh perspective and enables an individual to benefit from the mentor’s lived experience. Women in tech can use the insight and advice from a mentor, to accelerate their desired career outcomes. Of course, Wisdom is a great platform to connect with mentors.


Adela Wiener

Inspirational Woman: Adela Wiener | CEO, Aurachain

Adela WienerFrom college graduate with no tech background whatsoever to CEO of leading low-code software development platform, Adela Wiener, CEO of Aurachain, has a habit of defying all odds.

Growing up in communist Romania surrounded by fear and constraints, she believes no one should underestimate their constant desire to learn and push for better. It’s this determination that has enabled Adela to carve out her own role within the tech industry, committing over 12 years to the development and global growth of a tech company and leading the charge to empower companies with the tools to build and launch their own innovative business applications.

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

I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost my entire career. Just eight months out of college, I made the decision to leave my marketing role in a tech company for a new venture – supporting a colleague at the time with a new start-up, the legacy company which became Aurachain. I learnt everything I know from the ground up through different technology roles – from analyst to project manager to solutions architect – before moving into operations and business development, embarking on international expansion.

With a strong pedigree in the process automation space, we saw that the future was increasingly going to be about empowering organisations to build their own digital process applications rather than having to rely on others to do it for them. We essentially reinvented ourselves as a platform business and moved into the low-code application platform market to help organisations create enterprise grade digital applications with very little to no coding skills.

I have since taken the company on a full transformation from a service provider to a platform business, securing series A funding and growing Aurachain into a low-code software development platform and a challenger in the market, changing the way business and IT teams collaborate to deliver better apps.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I sort of fell into the tech industry. I had no tech experience and I’d always hated computer science at school! Once I graduated from college, I worked in the marketing department for a tech company, despite having no tech background whatsoever. A colleague there was creating his own start-up and together, with three other colleagues, we created the legacy company of Aurachain. I made a promise to him that, regardless of whether I liked or hated it, I would not leave in the first six months. Fast forward 15 years later and I’m the CEO.

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

When I first embarked on international expansion, we didn’t have a product or a sales culture and knew nothing about marketing. I had little understanding of international markets, but I continued to push myself and learn on the job. So, to say we faced challenges would be an understatement! Everything was learning by doing and it was incredibly hard.

I also found we struggled in some markets much more than others. I felt more comfortable in the Northern American market than some European markets culturally. I’d always worked with US technologies and vendors and within that culture so that was my comfort zone.

However, I’m a firm believer that nothing teaches you better than the school of life and learning through experiences outside of your comfort zone. Almost four years later, after a difficult journey, we won our first clients in Western Europe and Australia.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I took several risks to make Aurachain the company it is today and (thankfully!) it paid off. Despite being a successful IT services business carrying out multi-million-dollar contracts and winning bids against the ‘big four’ consulting firms, we realised the company wasn’t where it wanted to be. I made the bold decision to embark on a full-scale company transformation to turn Aurachain into a low-code platform business, and we entered the market at a truly pivotal time for the technology. The pandemic gave us an opportunity to show the true value of low-code as businesses had to evolve their technology stacks and critical business applications quickly.

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

I have courage and a risk DNA – I truly believe there’s nothing I can’t achieve for the business. But I’m also nothing without my team. I’ve built an incredible team that I love. Aurachain is anything but a pyramid where decisions are centralised. Everyone has a voice and has made a great contribution to where we are today.

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

Push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you invest in yourself and your knowledge, you can do anything. That was the whole philosophy that guided me through my career.

The tech world today is an infinite world, so you cannot operate with a finite mind. Those who believe that the tech space remains a largely unchanging landscape with the same players, or where the same rules apply for long periods, are probably not prepared to undertake a career in tech. This is a space where disruption is common and change is the norm, regardless of whether we’re speaking about career goals, outcomes, and metrics. So, the only rule is to be ready – always embrace surprises and see opportunities in them.

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

Yes, I do. There’s still a lot of bias around female founders in tech, but the situation is improving.

I have always been the kind to follow my own intuition and beliefs and not to ask for permission, and this is exactly how I approached my career in tech. Once I decided I was passionate about it, my gut feeling told me this was my mission, even though nothing was in my favour to succeed. So, if a fearful young female born in a communist country with absolutely no tech background can become a relentless tech entrepreneur, any other woman with a passion for tech can do it too!

Marisa Peer once said, “Make your belief of where you want to get, then link the journey with pleasure, not pain, and finally, make the unfamiliar, familiar”. I think this expresses very well the mindset I would recommend not just for a tech career, but also for life in general.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I feel every tech company should have a well-balanced team with an equal ratio of women to men, and when it comes to investing in female founders, venture capital funds should operate in the same way.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I am a big reader and I am all about personal growth, self-discipline and living in harmony. From this perspective, some of my favourite authors include Menis Yousrsi, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. I also love Simon Sinek and Brene Brown.

I’m currently very focused on understanding all the aspects of SaaS scaling for the Aurachain growth journey, so I am a member of the On Deck community and an avid reader of any material around what the venture capital world calls ‘blitzscaling’.

I also love podcasts. One of my favourites at the moment is Village Global Venture Stories, which covers all things venture capital and tech through interviews with leading tech entrepreneurs and investors.