Inspirational Woman: Alexa Greaves | CEO, AAG IT

Alexa GreavesAlexa Greaves is the Chief Executive of AAG IT, a Chesterfield based MSP. Alexa started and grew AAG into a £5 million IT managed services provider.

She was National Business Woman of the Year at the 2015 Forward Ladies Business Awards. Prior to AAG, Alexa was Vice President of Corporate Foreign Exchange at JP Morgan Chase Bank. Alexa was a 2021 nominee of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in UK Tech.

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

As a student at an all girls school I was always confident in my ability and a determined individual but I was extremely shy. I went to Bradford University to study Business Studies and can remember sitting in my room on the first day wondering why I was putting myself through this. When I left I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do. I applied for a graduate job in Business Development at Chemical Bank and was told by my Dad that I would never get the job. Probably one of the best things he ever did for me. I was more determined than ever. After taking their skill tests I was asked if I was interested in a position in the trading room. I was placed on the first ever graduate rotation scheme as the only female and then on completion started a position as a Corporate Foreign Exchange Trader. The trading environment was very male dominated, much like the IT industry, with stereotypes and gender bias that make it hard for women to break down the barriers. I successfully transitioned through 3 mergers whilst working for the same bank and ended my investment banking career working for JPMorgan Chase.

The only real reason I left that career was that having had 2 children it was impossible to juggle a 60 hour working week with their needs and my maternal feelings of guilt.

I moved to Sheffield in 2003 and for a period of time worked in our family business, wearing a vast array of different hats – a significant contrast at every level to what I had been doing when working in London. In 2009, the IT company that was then looking after our IT needs went into administration and I, pretty much on a whim, decided to set up AAG.

As CEO, the growth and development of AAG IT Services & AAG Cyber Security is now my main focus. We are a majority female owned and managed business which is unique in our industry and something that I am particularly proud of, although I never set out with this intention in mind.

My business partner and I started this business with no technical capability or industry knowledge whatsoever and for many years have both felt challenged by this. Now, looking back I actually see that this was probably one of our strengths. It forced us to think differently, look outside our 4 walls for guidance and mentoring and to build a strong team with a diverse skill set that looks at our industry in a different way.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I never had a clear vision of what I wanted to do but definitely knew what I didn’t want to do. I have always been ambitious and wanted to be financially independent. A mother who supported me on every step of my journey and who was highly intelligent but never had the financial freedom to do what she wanted to do, which was to leave my father, definitely shaped my thinking. Having done a Business Studies degree, the majority of the course tended towards accountancy and that was definitely something I knew I didn’t want to do, especially as this was my father’s choice of career for me. I was always more numerically minded than artistically creative so I knew my career path would take me in that direction.

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

The main career challenge for me has probably been my own insecurity and strong feeling of imposter syndrome. Starting a business and working in an industry where I had no previous experience or technical capability, made me question on many occasions what I had to offer and why I had done it. Getting my head round the fact that I had no real need to understand the technology in detail was a learning curve that I had to go through.

A real step change for me was attending peer group sessions and supplier/industry events. That definitely made me realise that my skill set, although different to many business owners that I met who had set up their companies on the back of their technical capability, was equally relevant on a completely different level. I was able to challenge their way of thinking, add value and grow in confidence. My skill set was definitely recognising the opportunity that was out there, bringing it back to our business and building a team that could deliver.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am not great at recognising achievement when it happens as I am a personality that always thinks that I, or our team, can do more or better. However, when you take time to reflect and  look back at what you have achieved it is sometimes very surprising. Most people may say that winning a business award may be a major achievement and although I was very proud to win the Forward Ladies Business Woman of the Year award in 2015 I feel more genuine pride in the growth we have seen in AAG IT Services. Amongst our peer group we were small and not really on the map as a main contender. We are now definitely one of the leaders in our field and have the recognition we deserve for that. Building a strong team, and a strong culture is really important to me and gives me far more rewarding feelings of success than my own individual personal achievements.

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

Building a strong team in a positive culture where people thrive and grow is imperative. Also having a loyal team that works together and is genuinely interested in what we do and how we perform.

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

  1. In such a broad sector as Technology, understand the different career paths open to you and focus on what you like doing. There is always an element of what you don’t like in any job but getting the balance right and being inspired by what you do is important for your success.
  2. Alignment to role models that inspire you is always productive. Learn from them.
  3. Attend industry events wherever possible and not only keep up to date with what is going on in your field of expertise but look at ways of how you can differentiate your skills.
  4. Connect with likeminded people that deliver value to you and where you can deliver value back by offering your point of view. Talk confidently about your sector.
  5. Learn to communicate well and show your passion. Be assertive in a positive way that demonstrates your passion for what you do, and opportunity will come your way.

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

When I worked at Chemical Bank I was asked to hang the Christmas Cards up. Why? I was the only female in a 40 strong graduate programme. It was seen to be a job that a woman should do. We have come a long way since then but having worked in 2 male dominated industries I know that there are still a lot of barriers to success for women working in many industries including tech.

Stereotypes exist that create a barrier for girls at a young age. A positive message at a young age can help girls, who would not ordinarily think of a career in tech, to consider their options. We, as a generation, have a duty to communicate the possibilities that are out there, not only for girls but for all minority groups that are underrepresented.

The main reason I left my first career was that there was no flexibility to meet the demands of having a family and continue working. This should never have to be considered a barrier to success but sadly it is. The tech industry is no different.  Someone working part time is immediately seen to not have the same amount of commitment which puts a ceiling on their personal growth and development. Our culture at AAG IT Services actively supports the women and men who work in our team to get this balance right. This should be the norm.

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

Culture is so important to drive the progress needed to support the career of women in Tech. This cultural change needs to come from the top but be seen as positive change throughout the business that is not only communicated but acted upon. Ensuring the gender balance is correct not only at a high level but also departmentally is imperative to drive this message home. Companies need to commit to change and ensure that it is a priority when looking for new talent or elevating those within.

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?

Increase the pool of women available in the tech industry. Although offering re-training to women who may want to enter the industry would have immediate impact we also need to drive longer term change. Getting in at a base level where girls can see the opportunities available to them and removing the stereotypes that exist is paramount to a fundamental shift in the way girls think about the industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I read a lot of business books which are not necessarily just for the tech industry. Two books which I highly recommend are Traction by Gino Wickman and The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Both books talk about how to systemise your business to improve efficiency and grow.

I also attend many networking events , peer groups and industry exhibitions put on by suppliers and vendors. Recently I have attended the Cyber Runway and Cyber Cluster Event supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).


Inspirational Woman: Vivi Cahyadi Himmel | CEO & Co-Founder, AltoVita

Vivi Cahyadi HimmelVivi Cahyadi Himmel is the CEO and Co-Founder of AltoVita and is in charge of the company’s overall strategy, technology development, sales, marketing, and investor relations.

She has lived in over 11 cities, including New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and London, and has a background in Corporate Finance and Strategy & Management.

After relocating for her roles at Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers, Vivi became aware of the challenges of relocating and launched AltoVita with co-founder Karolina Saviova in 2018 to disrupt legacy practices in corporate housing by bringing forward a technology-first solution paired by duty of care. Vivi is listed on the 2021 Global Mobility Top 100.

Outside of AltoVita, Vivi is an angel investor and a Limited Partner in several venture capital funds in the UK. She is an accomplished pianist and enjoys skiing, hiking, tennis and wine tasting.

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

My journey so far has seen me live and work across the globe. I was born in Solo, Indonesia (to second generation Chinese parents) and have since lived in 11 cities across Europe, Asia, Australia and the US.

I started my career in investment banking, and then spent eight years working in real estate portfolio management. Here I was often dealing with complex commercial and industrial assets. Naturally, I was drawn to the sexy residential asset-class with a hospitality element. Having had to juggle large balance and capital risks, I loved the notion of an asset-light model.

From my perspective, the idea of AltoVita was born from a combination of love for hospitality and pragmatic thinking towards asset-light and minimal balance sheet exposure, as well as leveraging technology to scale fast in the flexible rental market. My co-founder Karolina Saviova and I launched the prototype for AltoVita in January 2018, and soon after we found our product market fit within the inefficient £100bn corporate accommodation sector. We decided to first attack global mobility because of our first-hand experience in the challenges with company-sponsored moves and our nomadic work lifestyle.

As a CEO of AltoVita, my role lies in 5 key areas that aim to deliver accelerated growth to the company: recruiting talent, selling AltoVita products, fundraising, driving the company and product strategy and building an ecosystem of customers, investors and product influencers.

Today, AltoVita has high-profile clients including the US Federal Agency, world’s leading consumer brands: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Google, Shopify and Wayfair as well as leading Relocation Management Companies, commonly known as “RMCs”: Sirva, Cartus, Aires, WHR Group, and NEI Relocation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The simple answer is no. I don’t think many people do sit down to plan their careers, I see it more as a case of chasing your vision and turning your passion into a job that you love. I was always compelled to learn about different cultures, languages and anthropology.

While I was growing up, my parents shared their entrepreneurial work and they travelled together regularly. They often took the whole family on their business travels. ‘Bleisure’ has been a concept for my family for as long as I can remember!

When I was 12, they initiated a ‘big travel event’ by sending me to boarding school in Perth, Australia. This experience sparked my sequential curiosity in history and anthropologies of different cultures and languages.

This is now something that is at the core of AltoVita. Karolina and I have used our own experiences to create a technology which serves over 1,200 cities across the world and amalgamated a diverse and global team that speaks 15 languages and comes from 20 countries.

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

The main challenge I faced as an entrepreneur was having a clear vision for revolutionising the corporate accommodation sector, but no experience of how to run a technology company. I had to learn everything from scratch.

My advice for fellow founders would be to surround yourself with people who you admire. Learn and deep dive into specific subjects too, whether that’s product management, product market fit, fundraising, scaling-up or leadership.

An example of this is when I took coding classes to learn more about the complex technical details behind our platform. Not only did this massively improve my own understanding, but it’s allowed me to have deeper, more meaningful conversations with AltoVita’s talented tech team.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement is that my career path has allowed me to adventure the world, make linguistic anthropological observations, and continuously nurture my creativity. Solving problems and embracing new ideas while traveling is what strengthens a person’s creativity. This is something that I believe is also vital for a successful startup.

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

It may seem extreme, but my mountain trekking exhibitions taught me that preparation can sometimes be the difference between life and death. It started when a college friend asked me to hike up and climb the Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, back in 2008. Because of my lack of experience, I climbed up with running shoes and was unprepared for what I was about to face. After slipping multiple times, I finally made it to the top but it taught me the value of preparation, something which I’ve since applied to my working life too.

Beyond the obvious myriad of lessons learnt from mountain climbing, being prepared, overcoming fear and assessing and mitigating risks is what attracted me to mountain climbing. Subsequently, I’ve challenged myself to conquer a different mountain each year,

Mount Kilimanjaro, Kinabalu, and Rinjani are several glorious mountains I’ve had the privilege to celebrate the breathtaking summit at sunrise.

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

Stay curious and continue to learn would be my top tips for individuals wanting to excel. Read a lot, listen more than speak, engage in activities outside of our comfort arena, and draw on all of that information for insights and predictive decision-making.

I’ve also noted that obsession (a healthy one!) and mental agility and flexibility are key. There’s no place for half heartedness. That’s something I found as we launched AltoVita, I was working part-time alongside my current job and soon realised that I needed to fully commit if it was going to be a success.

Equally, a focus on articulating problems and market size is essential. The best companies are founded because they’re a solution to an existing market or pain point, so it’s important to establish what you want to attack from the outset. Otherwise, you’ll fail to get early traction and validation.

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

There are of course still misconceptions and barriers in the sense that many people think technology is just about coding. However, when it comes to other roles within the section where women have great opportunities to excel, there are a range of areas, from product development, UX/UI design, product marketing and management where women are leading the charge.

When it comes to breaking down these barriers and misconceptions, education and understanding is vital.

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

Companies need to make a conscious decision to support their employees and set an example. AltoVita is female founded and led, so we’re extremely passionate about giving women equal opportunity. Some of our most successful hires have been female!

Taking calculated risks when it comes to employee progression and helping to accelerate their careers and promote from within gives female employees a good chance to excel within their respective role.

Caroline Boyle, AltoVita’s VP of Global Client Success, is an example of how AltoVita’s supportive, inclusive and forward-thinking culture has positively shaped an individual’s successful career progression. Caroline joined AltoVita in March 2019 as a Partnership Manager. Since then, Caroline has been part of AltoVita’s core strategic team leading the global operations and reservation efforts at AltoVita. Recently, she has been instrumental in shaping AltoVita’s product features especially designed to further increase efficiencies and cost savings for AltoVita’s RMC partners.

There are currently only 21% 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?

These statistics don’t reflect the brilliant work and potential for women in the tech sector. Ultimately, if I could do one thing to accelerate change, it would be to tell women that they can be brave and bold. The beauty of running a technology company is that you are allowed to make mistakes, iterate and improve, but make them quickly and mitigate risks thoughtfully.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’ve read a lot of books to help get up to speed in the tech world. The order of the following also mirrors my journey and personal development, starting from AltoVita’s early stages to where we are now.

Firstly, The Lean Startup. This is a great method a lot of early startup founders adopted to efficiently utilise scarce cash to build their Minimum Viable Product. Soon after, I read Traction, which covers in detail each marketing channel one needs to explore to achieve product market fit. Product development is an area I’ve ended up loving and owning. Inspired gave me a great entrance into the world of a Product Manager, particularly when product execution felt a long way off.

When it comes to my own journey and development, Hooked has taught me a lot about habit forming, something which I’d say is essential for all tech founders. Equally, the Balderton B2B Sales Playbook includes a range of strategic insights and practical advice for B2B enterprise software companies to grow their sales engine. For fundraising, Venture Deals was recommended to me by multiple trusted friends and advisors and it’s been useful in navigating the fundraising journey for AltoVita.

Sumo Advantage is a fascinating book about how to think about strategic ‘powerhouse’ partners as a growth catapult in addition to transactional sales. Partnering with giants is complicated, but most companies, even the smallest ones, can benefit from creating such a bond through a strong business development (BD) effort.

After winning early adopters who took a chance on you (the founders), the team and the product, Crossing the Chasm is the next challenge to get endorsement from the mainstream market which validates your venture to a whole new level. Customer Success is another great read on how it’s instrumental to cross the chasm: to grow revenue and to leverage on your early adopters to win over the pragmatists and sceptics, which make up the majority of the mainstream market.

More recently, CMO to CRO taught me how to break down the silos and barriers across departments and collaboratively achieve KPIs. It has many of the revenue optimisation disciplines which we really needed during Q3-4 last year.

And finally, Working Backwards. I’m currently reading this book now and I plan to read more leadership books as we continue to scale AltoVita. What I love about this is Amazon’s approach to product development – working backwards from a product’s press release and FAQ.

Before reading this book, I was already obsessed at understanding client’s pain points directly before scoping them with the product team. This is a huge focus at AltoVita – something which we factor into our design thinking stage of our Innovation Summit. Amazon’s approach is several notches higher and one that I’m very excited to test.

When it comes to podcasts, I love listening to Master of Scale by Reed Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn). Reed tests theories of how businesses can scale and validates them by interviewing entrepreneurs who have proven scalability tactics. These 30-minute fun and biteable podcasts are my sources of inspiration. Running a startup means that I am fortunate to be able to test these hypotheses and see things through.

Recently I have been listening to the ‘Shorthand for High-Growth Startups’ by Omar Hamoui (partner of Mucker Capital and founder of Admob). Omar’s advice is on-point and practical. It touches on all points of running a high-growth startup and forces you to think about diversified topics from how to maximise valuation multiples and enterprise value to the importance of product velocity, the value of scarcity and building a slack in our team system.


Inspirational Woman: Somi Arian | CEO & Founder, FemPeak

SOMI ARIAN

Somi Arian is a tech philosopher and the CEO and founder of FemPeak, a platform that aims to raise women’s socioeconomic status through tools, training, and mentorship – supporting women so they can navigate the new business landscape, reach their peak potential and achieve financial empowerment.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I was born and brought up in Iran in a very oppressive society. When I was 23 I came to the UK and studied at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where I earned two master’s degrees in political science and the philosophy of science and technology. After school, I went into television, learned filmmaking, and became a producer. Then I started my own marketing agency, Smart Cookie Media, a modern-day marketing agency for thought leaders, and from there, I raised investment to build the FemPeak platform. FemPeak consists of a space where women can come to learn, network, find new business opportunities, and raise investment, so they can gain financial independence, reach their full potential and thrive. The platform consists of four hubs. At the moment we have built our knowledge hub, where women can attend webinars on different topics with our guiding Sherpanis, like the Sherpas that help you reach the peak of Mount Everest.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

When I looked at the 10 corporations that run the world (5 in the West and 5 in China), I realised that none of them were founded, or even run, by women. When I was writing my book, Career Fear (And how to beat it), I realised that most of my references, at least 90%-95% were written by men. I wanted to know why.

In 2020, I launched the think tank for women in business and technology, a series of conferences with leaders across all industries to find out what factors were holding women back from reaching the top tiers of business and technology. Through the think tank conferences, we discovered six major areas that were holding women back: women’s health, self-confidence, tech skills, leadership & entrepreneurship, family & relationships, and financial skills.

The FemPeak platform was born out of the desire to address these challenges.

How did you achieve awareness?

As I wrote my book on the future of work, I noticed that most of the jobs that were being disrupted due to technology were the ones done mainly by women. For example, repetitive tasks and middle management positions. Whereas, the role of the entrepreneur, the founder, the CEO or CFO, in short, leadership positions seemed to be safe. In our current society, these positions are usually held by men. On a more personal note, I went through a break up where I had to make a choice between my career and my relationship. I chose myself. But at the same time I realised that so many women go through this.

It was certainly a wake up call. I noticed that if nobody did something about it, women were going to be left behind in the new age of technology. That was the catalyst for me to realise, something needed to be done to get more women into these roles now.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

Because I have been building my profile in LinkedIn and online for a very long time, I have managed to garner a big following. So, when the idea for FemPeak came, I approached my network. Initially we were backed up by some of my LinkedIn contacts, FemPeak members and Sherpanis, and my personal connnections. This is how we got the initial seed funding, we still do not have VC funding, which is coming up in this next stage of the company.

What are the key successes?

At the moment more than 60,000 women have joined our mailing list, and so far, we have almost 18,000 subscribed to the platform who are actively participating in events. Thousands of people are signing up for webinars daily and over 840 have upgraded to premium membership.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

The way things have played out for humans so far, women have always seemed to be less interested in tech and finance, and definitely invest less than men. This aversion to technology and finances has presented a huge challenge for me, but by educating and encouraging more women to explore these topics to their full extent we have been able to bridge this gap. Our webinars on Blockchain, Web3, and crypto, have certainly been very well received with plenty of women signing up for each session.

What are your plans now/for the future?

Keep growing the FemPeak platform, the next hub coming up is the career hub, which will act as a talent pool. Next, we’ll be building our FemTrade hub, a marketplace for female-led startups to sell their products and services, and after, we’ll be launching our investment network hub. Another area that’s been garnering a lot of attention is the Web3, crypto, blockchain, metaverse space, which I believe is critical to focus on as it seems to be where the future is heading.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

The most important advice I could share is to “Know yourself”

You have to know yourself well enough, to know if the entrepreneurial path is really for you. It is definitely not for everybody, so you must question whether the typical way of life, imposed by our society, feels right for you. For example, the pressure to get married and start a family most women have to endure may sometimes come at the same time when your business is about to take off. You have to know yourself to see what is the right path for you.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

For me, it’s about being so passionate about what you are doing, that no amount of failure will put you off the path to success.

That, and trying to get at least 7h of sleep everyday, and cutting out unnecessary distractions like social media consumption and entertainment like TV shows, films, etc. It has definitely been a game changer.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

  • Cathie Wood, CEO and CIO of Ark Invest
  • Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy
  • Ray Dalio, co-chief investment officer of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, since 1985
  • Oprah Winfrey

What are your favourite inspirational/motivational quotes?

The desire for a sense of community is understandable, but to purchase it, at the expense of self-esteem, is to create a new kind of loneliness. – Nathaniel Branden

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/somiarian

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/somiarian/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/somiarian

Website: https://www.somiarian.com/

Podcast: https://www.somiarian.com/podcast/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheSomiArianShow


Christina Seelye

Inspirational Woman: Christina Seelye | Founder and CEO, Maximum Games & CEO, Zordix

Christina Seelye

Christina Seelye is a skilled and experienced technology expert as well as a valuable resource regarding global products, digital transformation and advancing startups.

Seelye is based in Walnut Creek, California and graduated with a B.A. in fine arts from Sonoma State University in 1992.

Seelye began her career in technology by joining Click Action in 1999. She guided the company through significant industry changes, including electronic software distribution, subscription revenue models and direct consumer marketing. Seelye leveraged a buyout to raise the funds necessary to purchase and spin off the company as an independent entity, leading to its eventual acquisition by Avanquest Software in 2004.

Originally a division of ClickAction (formally MySoftware), Elibrium provided small business professionals with effective Web-based solutions, and offered access to state-of-the-art Internet business services with up to 200 percent more value than services previously available only via the Internet. As CEO and president of Avanquest Publishing USA, Christina led the international software company through a series of strategic mergers and acquisitions to establish it as the premier publisher of consumer technology, ultimately growing revenues from $8 million to $65 million.

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

My name is Christina Seelye. I’m CEO of Zordix, as well as founder/CEO of global video game publisher Maximum Games, and its independent label, Modus Games. I am passionate about all things tech and am thankful to have been in the industry for over 20 years. I’m currently on the board of directors for two organizations dedicated to elevating and empowering women—the Women Presidents’ Organization and Women In Games International. A project close to my heart is Games Giving Back. Modus launched the initiative in 2020 to raise money for a series of charities. We’ve been able to raise funds for the Exceptional Women Awardees Foundation as well as Save the Children, Colombia. I look forward to continuing to use gaming to leverage resources for communities in need through the program.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Well, once upon a time I was a music major and thought I’d be a rock star. That clearly didn’t work out, haha. It can be difficult to map out a specific career plan or to know exactly where you might find yourself in the future. I know people who knew what they wanted to do from a young age and set out to do it. But I probably know a lot more people that didn’t know exactly where they’d land, tried a few things, and ended up finding a successful career doing something altogether different from what they envisioned at a young age. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. For me, establishing my career plan had everything to do with finding a place where I could do my highest, best work. Career planning is about being intentional, not necessarily moving up the ranks of an organization. People can have successful careers being individual contributors or leading a department or leading a company. Establishing goals that promote personal growth, whatever that means to an individual, is one of the best things a person can do planning their career.

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

I chose to lead in a male-dominated industry. And it wasn’t too long ago that I quite literally was the only female in the room during pitch meetings and business events. Even today, I’m one of two female CEOs of public gaming groups in the world. There just aren’t many female leaders in video games, but that, thankfully, is changing. So yes, that has been a challenge, but it also contributed to my drive to do what I do. Of course, I experience challenges on a regular basis. Like everyone, Covid was a challenge for our business and the culture of our business. Challenges never stop presenting themselves. The wins wouldn’t be as powerful without overcoming these barriers and roadblocks.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m grateful to lead such a talented global team. Propelling Maximum Games from what it was in 2009, operating from my home, into the rankings as a top 20 publisher is something I’m humbled to reflect on regularly. We had a vision that grew into a reality and developed from there— our capabilities as a company increased, we learned along the way, and we’re not afraid to try new things.

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

My ability to learn from failure and find motivation in challenges. Surrounding myself with people that are as passionate and excited about the industry as I am and that care about what we’re accomplishing is a major factor of success. It’s never just about what you bring to the table, it’s about finding the people out there that are confident in what they bring to the table.

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

Be an avid learner. Stay as up to date as possible on industry trends, pay attention to what others in the industry are doing, and take every opportunity to hone your skills or foster your creativity. Find a mentor in the industry and learn from their experiences. To the women, specifically, remember that you belong at the table; so don’t shy away from being present. Learn your strengths and what you can contribute that is unique to you– where your power lies. Understand and develop those skills.

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

I do. And of course, those barriers are different depending on where you work, who you work for, etc. As women, we should never underestimate ourselves and our abilities. The key to overcoming stereotypes is to never sell yourself short. Have the confidence to go for what you want, not settle for what you can get. Speak up when you see inequalities. Even in women-run companies, there can be toxicity and sexism. It’s everyone’s duty to change this.

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

Help open up career paths for women, especially in leadership roles. Hire qualified women and offer mentorship programs. Be an example. It’s vital for women to see other women doing what they hope to do one day.

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?

At Maximum Games, 40% of our leadership is women. I think it’s crucial to encourage women to apply for the roles they aspire to within the tech industry. Essentially, normalize women’s place in tech.

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

Get involved with female-centric organizations like Women In Games International and the Women Presidents’ Organization. Involve yourself with groups that promote women. These organizations do incredible work, and it’s a great way to be a part of a support network of women striving to bring awareness and combat assumptions about women in the gaming industry.


Inspirational Woman: Olivia DeRamus | CEO & Founder, Communia

Olivia DeRamus

I’m an American who’s lived in London for six years, and though my professional background is in international development, I started my own tech & media company called Communia back in 2019 and am currently building it as CEO and founder. 

You’re the founder of Communia. Tell us a bit more about this and how it came to be.

Communia is a social network for women designed to help you support others, and yourself. You can make friends, network, and access #MeToo support in a safe space that encourages your authentic, unedited self.

I started the company during a difficult time in my life, back in 2019. Long story short, I was sexually assaulted when I was a first year in university, and though I was found in the right when I reported it to the school, my abuser sued me for defamation, demanding millions of dollars I didn’t have in an attempt to silence me. The lawsuit lasted years, and during that time, I was totally isolated and unable to ask for help without endangering those around me.

Eventually I realized that I had to stop waiting for the courts to protect me and find some other way to start feeling like I had a sense of empowerment again. I thought that if I could facilitate the stories and voices of other women, then I could start to feel like I had a voice again, and maybe solve a lot of the problems that I was facing. Namely, being so isolated, having no way to talk about what I was going through safely, and such a lack of information about what I was going through online. As I worked on first the original editorial site and then the app, I realized more and more that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram really don’t allow us to have honest and vulnerable conversations – no matter the topic. So we made sure that the Communia app became a space that you could talk about sex, relationships, mental health, work… everything that a woman deals with, so people could access support and conversation for whatever they’re going through, instantly.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It’s certainly harder to grow a business in any industry that tends to be a boy’s club. It’s difficult to be taken seriously just because I’m a woman, and especially because I’m challenging the way social media apps generally operate (particularly issues around user safety). But I’d much rather take risks in creating positive change than go along with the status quo to make the path a little more comfortable.

What has been your biggest achievement to date? 

Every time I see a woman in need of support, advice, or help – whether it’s to do with a relationship, mental health, #MeToo issues, or any of the other topics we cover on the app – be given such kind and empathetic advice from our community. That’s the biggest accomplishment I’ll ever achieve. Just being able to provide a platform that actually helps others like that, especially as many people really don’t think it’s possible for a social network to be a truly helpful and kind place. You should see some of the comments we get on IG! But we’re proving them wrong every day.

Communia offers users a safe space as a social media. Do you think more and more women are distrusting of social media apps? 

That’s completely accurate! Consumers, especially women, are smart. We can see through the corporate language blowing off the real issues that we’re experiencing on these mainstream social platforms. It really baffles me why these tech companies, with the smartest people at their disposal, are making such obvious mistakes. Users make social media platforms successful, so why is their wellbeing not the #1 priority? I’m really interested in finding ways to care for and reward our users, instead of ignoring them.

What do you think people/companies/governments can do to protect those who use mainstream social media platforms from abuse, trolling, etc?

We did a study a couple of months ago of over 300 women, and the results were very clear cut. Women are telling us that they need tech companies to simply listen, and actually take action on the issues we’ve been very loud about facing. For example, an overwhelming percentage of respondents shared that their reports of abuse/harassment were never followed up on, and if they were, that they weren’t taken seriously or that nothing happened. Tech companies have the resources to take action when abuse happens, they just don’t want to. And though I whole heartedly believe in free speech, there’s a difference between speaking your truth and harming others through your words. There needs to be more regulation of what’s acceptable in our online world, just like our IRL lives are regulated. That’s why I’m excited about the UK’s potential online safety bill, though I do think it doesn’t go as far as it should. Lastly, women need to have more power over their own digital experiences, and I’m proud to say that’s what we’re giving them at Communia, through how we’ve designed the basic user experience. And if our small team can do it, there’s no reason why larger, and vastly more funded social media platforms can’t do it too.

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

At first I really wanted to find a mentor in the tech world who was a lot farther along than me, and actually that hasn’t quite happened yet. But my journey building Communia did cause me to realize that the women on your level or just above you have so much to give and teach you. You don’t need to have access to super high flyers to have extremely effective support and mentorship. Turn to those accessible to you and you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll benefit. It’s what a lot of Communia is based on, the concept of horizontal mentorship. That every woman has the power to be someone else’s mentor. As for how I mentor others, I love to do it through the app. People are always asking questions and it’s so easy to lend advice and support in that manner.

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

For the legal system not to be swayed by how much money you have access too. There are so many women who have their voices taken away, or dreams and lives crushed because wealthy men have manipulated the courts through their deep pockets. There needs to be serious reform in the law to safeguard vulnerable people against those who use their finances to exploit grey areas and loopholes in the law.

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

It’s great to be ambitious, but today’s pervasive ideal of success isn’t going to define the quality of your life. That’s going to be your family, relationships, and friends. Prioritize them both.

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

Right now I’m focusing on scaling Communia and developing further our digital & IRL products. There’s no end to what you can create through tech, but it’s certainly always a challenge reaching the finish line! Ultimately though, my hope is that we’ll become the ultimate resource for women who are going through, well anything, to come and find the answers they need, a place to express themselves authentically, and access instantaneous community support. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile to work towards.


Peggy Choi

Inspirational Woman: Peggy Choi | CEO, Lynk

Peggy ChoiPeggy Choi is the founder and CEO of Lynk and an alumnus of the Wharton School where she studied Finance.

In her previous career in finance, due to her academic background in computer science, Peggy was an investor at TPG Capital in San Francisco, worked as a private equity investor in the technology space at Silver Lake Partners, and worked with some of the largest technology companies in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs. In 2015, Peggy founded Lynk to make knowledge more accessible. As the leading expert knowledge provider in Asia,  Peggy is responsible for the company’s global expansion, working with over 180 leading organizations across the globe, including top Fortune 500 companies.

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

I’m the founder and CEO of Lynk, an AI-driven knowledge management platform that is disrupting the way business decisions are made. I was a computer science major and began my career in finance working in banking and investments in the U.S. and UK for several leading firms. I was a private equity investor in the technology space at Silver Lake Partners in London, worked in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs in New York, and most recently was an investor on the team that helped create the Special Situations strategy at TPG Capital in San Francisco.

Throughout all of my professional experiences, I recognized a common theme among businesses of all sizes and individuals in all parts of the globe: access to valuable insights, knowledge and expertise from the right advisors, mentors and experts is crucial to inform important decisions. I wanted to help make those insights accessible to all. In 2015, I founded Lynk with the mission of making knowledge more accessible to everyone.

Lynk addresses one of the most significant obstacles in business operations head-on: a lack of access to the expertise and knowledge that executives need to make the right business decisions. Lynk aims to democratize access to human knowledge from over 840K experts with experience from more than 1.5M companies. Through our data-driven solution, Answers, we provide businesses with the expertise they need, from go-to-market strategies to product feedback and customer research.

As the pandemic forced offices, meetings and networking events to go remote, there has been an increased need for connection among professionals, especially those looking to build networks of expertise within their own organizations and beyond. To build on our existing offerings, we will be launching new solutions that  enable customers to more easily manage and organize their knowledge networks.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I studied Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania and Finance at the Wharton School and thought I would continue with a career in finance. It was through my early experiences that I recognized the need for a platform like Lynk.

Across all industries, not just banking and investments where I was working, I saw a need for access to credible, vetted information to help business leaders make informed decisions. Additionally, my parents were artists and entrepreneurs, and they often came to me with questions on how to scale their businesses; however, I didn’t feel like I could give them the best insight, and I knew there needed to be a way to enable access to that knowledge and expertise in a scalable way.

I knew with my background and skills I could be the one to fill this gap, so I took the leap into entrepreneurship. It’s been tough, as any founder will agree, but it has been a rewarding journey and I am so proud of what Lynk has accomplished.

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

Founding a company is challenging and can be incredibly intimidating, especially as a woman. There are definitely certain biases against women in business and leadership that I have faced during my career. I have had meetings where investors asked me about family plans and marital status – to which I have politely called out that those factors don’t impact my commitment to my business or ability to run my company. It takes confidence and conviction to call out those biases and fight against them.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am proud of the work that Lynk is doing to democratize access to knowledge and provide valuable insights to companies at scale. Launching a global company has been one of my – and our team’s – greatest achievements and I’m proud of how much our team has accomplished since it was founded. I’m also very excited about what’s still to come for the company and our efforts to transform the knowledge management space.

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

Throughout my career I have maintained a growth mindset. I’ve learned that not everything is always going to go according to plan. However, I have always kept my mission and goals in mind and with every setback I’ve faced, I try to find something positive to propel myself forward. As a founder and business leader, I’ve learned that it’s important to constantly grow and evolve —  for myself, my company and my team.

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

Something I’ve learned throughout my journey is that as an entrepreneur, we’re not in the business of pleasing people. We are in the business of building and creating something meaningful. My advice is to be confident in your abilities and your passions and stand by them. There will always be people who question you or have certain expectations that don’t align with your goals. Keep perspective on what you want to achieve in your career and find others – whether that be partners, employees, investors or customers – who share the same beliefs.

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

While more women than ever are pursuing careers in tech, I think the historical lack of representation of women in the industry still poses a barrier today. There are so many women with intelligent, creative and important ideas and skill sets. It is crucial that we encourage them to explore their career goals and chase big ideas, and support them as they take on every challenge. I’m passionate about making the tech space more inclusive towards women and people of color. As more women enter the tech field, we are showing the next generation of girls and young women that they too can have careers in technology and even become leaders in the industry.

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

It starts with the simple step of hiring more women in the tech industry. Diversity is in Lynk’s DNA and we’ve made it a priority to be inclusive. We’ve grown to over 200 employees spanning eight countries and representing 20 nationalities. This is important to our company as it gives us a diversity of thought and perspective and makes our workplace and hiring practices more inclusive moving forward.

I also encourage companies and individuals to help women by providing them with access to resources and information to empower them to take more leadership roles in the tech space. Networking is extremely helpful and I see great value in collaborating and sharing ideas to help other women learn from your experiences.

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 think we have made progress in turning the tide to make the tech industry more inclusive towards women, but I think there is still a ton of room to improve. We need to amplify the voices of women already in the tech industry so that they can lead the way for more women to be inspired, encouraged and empowered to pursue careers in tech.

At Lynk, we are committed to creating a diverse workspace, uplifting the voices of women experts and providing access to knowledge and education to women and girls around the world. In 2020, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we launched Lynk Elite Expert Women. The yearly initiative encourages women who are experts in their field to sign up for our platform and, with each new sign up, we donate to the Malala Fund to support equal education for girls. Through this initiative we hope to provide access to information and resources for women to excel in their careers while also empowering women to share and monetize their expertise.

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

Resources for women working in tech I’d recommend include:

General Finance Tech Media:

Inspirational Authors:


Naomi Owusu

Inspirational Woman: Naomi Owusu | Co-founder & CEO, Tickaroo

Naomi Owusu

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

I started my career in tech after university as a Project Manager at a software company called Kupferwerk which was later sold to https://intive.com. After Kupferwerk, I worked as a freelance digital media consultant before I moved on to starting my current company, Tickaroo along with my 3 other co-founders. In my current role, I hold the position of CEO at Tickaroo and I’m responsible for business strategy and growth. Tickaroo provides a Live-blogging SaaS solution for news publishers and media corporations that enables them to share breaking news in fast, efficient and bitesized manner.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not at all. I found out that I was a bit of problem solver as I was always focused on finding solutions for all types of problems that I encountered. This actually kind of lead me to where I am now, endlessly looking for tangible solutions for whatever problems come my way. At University, I actually studied education and psychology, so tech was not where I thought I would end up.

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

I am my biggest critic and always think a few steps ahead in order to make sure that I have the right approach for taking on issues and tasks. In the past, this at times had led to some misunderstandings with my co-workers born out of the frustration of things not going the way they were supposed to.

I know now that I have to explain my aims more clearly and break these goals down into smaller and more tangible chunks. I’m now also in the habit of actively mentoring others around me and giving them the opportunities to learn and establish their own ways of working which is something that I very much encourage. I think on the one hand impatience can be a good thing, especially in the beginning of a company, it gets the ball rolling and can drive a team to stay on track. But as a company grows, it can also become an obstacle.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It is probably starting Tickaroo, as we started without any investment and we are now Germany’s market leader in live blogging and content delivery. For me, the development of our software and seeing where the company is now at is very much my biggest achievement to date.

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

Never giving up. Seeing obstacles as an opportunity to learn and to grow personally, but also as a team is what’s giving us great success. We have a great team!

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

Try new things, always! Broadening your horizons is the key to growth. If someone says to you that your idea is too progressive, you are on the right path. Just wait for the right timing. If you have an idea that you are passionate about, go for it, and find the right people that can help you execute your plans. Most importantly, Stay true to yourself. This way you do not have to sell yourself short. In the end business is all about growth.

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

I can only speak for myself from my experience, but I believe that the abilities of women continue to be chronically underestimated. It took us 5 years to find an investor. It turns out that was not such a bad thing after all because we had to bootstrap for 5 years, which made the company more resilient and self-sufficient. But giving easier access to venture capital for women would help. If more investors believed in companies run by women, and if women had more opportunities to lead tech companies, i feel like this would inspire more women and make it easier for them to break into the tech industry more easily.

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

I get the impression when a man starts working at a company in tech, it’s easier for them to find a mentor. Someone who is able to share guidance, expertise and access to a network. I often times feel like women are on their own. Frankly, because there are not as many of us in the industry. Therefore, it would be great for more companies to provide mentorship schemes for women in an effort to make them feel supported and valued. This could also go a long way to gain employee loyalty and really build a culture of inclusivity. Lastly, employ more women! Although this goes without saying.

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 thing that must happen is that more decision makers need to take their own goals into account during the hiring process. If they were to reflect on what ideal applicants have actually achieved, what skills they bring to the table, and what short, mid, and long term goals this applicant should be able to help the company accomplish, then I truly believe that the numbers will balance themselves out. No magic. Just simple reflection.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

One book I would like to recommend to women in tech is one by Ben Horowitz called ‘Hard things about hard things’. But above all what I would recommend is to seek and establish a network of people who believe in you and that will challenge you to also be the best you can be.

Extra thoughts:

In a world where we deal with complex interdependencies, we need more perspectives to solve complex challenges. I think it is very important to diversify the workforce in order to get different perspectives for problem solving. If you only employ people who have similar perspectives or mindsets you will always react similarly to challenges and maybe limit your ability to learn as fast as the world is changing.


Inspirational Woman: Jennifer Johansson | Founder & CEO, Placed App

Jennifer Johansson

Jennifer Johansson is founder and CEO of recruitment platform  Placed App.

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

I don’t identify myself as a ‘female’ entrepreneur. Where I come from, in Gothenburg, Sweden, being a woman and a leader in business is not unusual. In early life, I grew up with a strong female entrepreneurial presence, which seeded my desire to set up my own business eventually. My mother is a serial entrepreneur and, from an early age, I have always supported her in her ventures, from accompanying her on business trips to handing out flyers.

I came to the UK aged 18 to study a 4-month advanced English course to improve my language skills. English was always my weakest subject at school and I was intent on improving it. Thereafter I settled in London, working in various hospitality roles before joining a global concierge service for the rich and famous. Here, I was charged with arranging the most exclusive experiences for our high net worth client base; from booking a table at the most exclusive and in-demand restaurants to curating art and travel experiences. As Head of Relationships, I became connected with some of the owners and managers of the coolest private members clubs, bars and restaurants. It was a great job to have at the age of 20, and it came with a lot of perks. I dined for free at some of the most exclusive restaurants, attended cool venue launches and got priority entry into nightclubs.

It was in this role that I realised that these places were always recruiting – especially for lower and entry level positions. The hospitality industry is the largest employer of people under 25 years old but I discovered that the way in which businesses in this sector were recruiting was ineffective and out of touch with how young people consumed media and searched for jobs. “Staff Needed” signs in windows was still a common recruitment tactic and job seekers would often need to bring along a printed version of their CVs to interviews. Businesses were also struggling to attract staff right from the onset because they were not communicating all the things that made them a desirable employer.

I’ve worked in the hospitality industry since the age of 14 and I’ve always found it a lively, fun and vibrant industry to work in. It’s great if you’re a people person and love providing a service, so I’ve always been curious about the UK’s hospitality recruitment problem. In Sweden, working in hospitality is a respected career route; one in which there is ample opportunity for progression. In the UK however the industry has an image problem. People assume it’s always poorly paid and the working hours are unsociable.  This has in part contributed to the ongoing recruitment and retention issue.

From what I could see, nothing was being done to optimise the way in which employers search for talent, advertise jobs and redress the hospitality industry’s negative image. So I began envisioning a way in which these problems could be tackled using technology and AI. Here, the cumbersome recruitment process would not only be automated but highly targeted and accurate. Prospects would be able to create a profile that didn’t just celebrate achievement and experience, but personality. Jobseekers could be matched to employers that aligned with their values and role desires. Meanwhile, employers could showcase all the unique aspects that made them an attractive business: from culture and career progression to benefits. AI could take a leaf out of the dating industry’s book with a matching algorithm supported by machine learning to match candidates to recruiters, saving time and money for businesses in the process. Meanwhile, the algorithm would recognise employer’s hiring patterns in order to improve the quality of matches to always ensure that they’re recruiting the right candidates. This is the fundamental idea behind the business I have called Placed App – to make the recruitment process simpler than traditional methods by centralising advertisement of a job and communicating with candidates directly in one place.

Gen Z and Millennials are digital-first; by using technology to target and attract candidates from a wider talent pool, employers can optimise their recruitment efforts with quality applicants. Using technology to match compatible candidates with compatible employers ensures that positions are filled with people who are a better cultural fit for companies. This saves a huge amount of time and money on the recruitment process.

I set up the business in 2017 and managed to gain vital backing from some high profile investors including the chairman of Burger King, the former chairman of Wagamama, the Casual Dining Group and the founders of HR tech company Thomson’s Online Benefits. Since inception, the business has raised approximately £3m in funding. We also work with some of the UK’s biggest employers, not just in hospitality but in retail and care too: from O2, Ocado, Co-op and Sky to Whitbread, Greene King, BCPartners group and Pizza Express. We have 2,000 employers using our solution nationwide, and this figure is growing. Currently, the business is undertaking a Series A funding round, and the funds will be used to fuel our geographical and global expansion.

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Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew that I wanted to set up my own business.  In early life, I grew up with a strong female entrepreneurial presence which stoked my ambition to eventually start my own venture. But I didn’t formally draw up a plan to shape this. I started work early in the hospitality industry, which enabled me to get a greater insight into the problems the sector faced. This ultimately inspired my business idea. I knew I had to do it.

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

COVID-19 has presented the biggest challenge for me and the business, although the experience has certainly strengthened my resilience. Almost overnight, the hospitality industry ceased operation as lockdown was enforced in March 2020. So we immediately knew we had to diversify our market scope in order to weather this. Diversification of our product offering had always been on the cards, but it was a long term plan. The pandemic catalysed this change. Within three weeks into lockdown, we were out pitching our services to other sectors. That was when we saw huge demand from enterprises and much larger clients than we were used to working with pre-pandemic. We began immediately supporting essential retailers and care providers to strengthen and grow their workforce in the wake of the pandemic. Our business grew despite economic adversity. Our revenue increased 25% month-on-month in 2020. In 2020, we were just six staff members. By the end of 2021, we were 22 strong; by the end of this year, we hope to have grown our team to over 60.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement is not necessarily launching my business, Placed App, but managing to take the venture to where it is today, regardless of the lows (and there have been a lot of these! But the highs have kept me going). We don’t have one of these stories that you often read about tech startups where we became almost an overnight success. In reality, it took us a while to find a product market fit and we needed to go through quite a few iterations of who we were selling to, how we packaged/positioned the product and the features of the product itself. The resilience of not giving up and to keep going is definitely my biggest achievement to date.

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

I’m lucky to have come from a very supportive family. I was taught that I could do and be whatever I wanted to be. So whenever opportunities came my way, I would always approach these with positive energy. I think being optimistic is one of the most important attributes an entrepreneur needs in order to succeed – especially in the very beginning of a business journey when a lot of things might not work out as well as you would want it to.

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

I’m not a typical tech start-up entrepreneur. I’m a sole female founder, a first time entrepreneur, I’m non-technical with no business background or university degree. Less than 2% of investment raised goes to female-founded businesses. By contrast, your ‘typical’ start-up founder is male, from a management consultant or investment banking background or has started or existed a venture before. So my advice, particularly to women looking to crack into or advance their career in technology is:

  1. Don’t be put off just because you break the mould.
  2. Research the industry and learn about the problem you’re trying to solve thoroughly.
  3. Prove that you are the expert and the right person to develop a solution practically because you have the knowledge and mindset, not just because you have the proper credentials on paper.
  4. Grow your network and learn from people within the industry
  5. Proactively get involved in projects within tech
  6. Develop and enhance your skills – find appropriate training programmes and courses
  7. Find a mentor

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

Yes, absolutely there are still barriers. I think a lot of women are put off by the idea of becoming a tech entrepreneur because they have no experience in tech, or aren’t a software developer. The truth is, you don’t need to be. I had the idea, and I enlisted developers to bring the idea into something tangible. So I think there needs to be more education and understanding of what it takes to become a tech entrepreneur.

Also, there aren’t enough women in leadership roles within tech companies, and I can see how this can be quite intimidating to some women. But the more women that start to assume these leadership roles, the more this will become normalised and more accessible.

Finally, ​​less than 2% of investment raised goes to female-founded businesses. It’s also no coincidence that many VCs are men. There needs to be more women VCs to address this huge imbalance.

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

More coaching and mentoring within companies is needed. Men working in the field should also help support and advocate women to progress, particularly in a sector that isn’t gender diverse. I’ve had great experiences with mentoring, particularly in the earlier stages of my startup. Finally, addressing the gender imbalance in the tech fields starts at school. Workshops would be really helpful in getting children, especially girls, to consider this as a possible, and exciting, career path.

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?

The change needs to be sustainable, so it starts from addressing misconceptions at school about careers in technology being only for boys and men. Children need positive role models and girls need to see more women in this space. This attitude shift will make women’s entry into technology much more attractive and accessible. The entire ecosystem of tech entrepreneurship needs an overhaul too. As mentioned, we need more women VCs and we need men in influential positions to support and advocate women too.

What have you discerned from your own entrepreneurial journey in raising investment – do you think your gender didn’t get in the way of this?

I think my knowledge of the sector I was addressing and the robustness of the business idea I had superseded the fact that I was a woman with no technology or business experience or university degree. But absolutely, there were instances where I felt that my gender could work against me. I also know that there are other women within my business network that share a similar story. There are many female entrepreneurs that are concerned that their wanting to have children whilst growing a startup will be met by disapproval by investors – current or potential, and it’s this kind of fear that can prevent women from starting up or scaling a business. It’s a problem that does need immediate addressing.


Amy Golding

Inspirational Woman: Amy Golding | CEO, Opus Talent Solutions & Founder, _nology

Amy Golding

I run Opus Talent Solutions. We exist to solve big problems in the talent space.

We help companies build their teams in future-focused, hard to find skills, specifically Tech & Digital and Renewable Energy. We both find experienced people new opportunities, and run retraining programmes to give people from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to enter the tech space.

We now have eight global offices and place thousands of people a year in tech across 50 countries.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Ha. Absolutely. I wanted to be a Lawyer. And then a football commentator. And then a journalist. And then a yoga teacher…. And now I run a tech training and recruitment company!

I did an English literature degree and was a sports fanatic in my spare time. The word “Tech” terrified me. It was like an alien landscape. The unexpected twists my career has taken is what has inspired me to launch a business showing people that you can get into tech from ANY walk of life.

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

Massive challenges. Huge ups and downs, both personal and professional. I lost all my savings in my first business, and then built a bigger one! You’ve got to stay positive and commit to the choices you’ve made and your belief in yourself.

A corporate career can offer you security. You know that every year you will earn a little bit more, and all the other employee benefits, but then you can’t complain about everything else that comes with the “9-5”.

If you want an entrepreneurial career, you have to think about it more like the stock market. You know that some days you will lose money and some days you’ll make money. But you hope that over five years, you’ll make a better return than keeping it in the bank, where you know it’s safe and can only go (very slowly!) in one direction.

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

We got our first big Private Equity backing last year, which felt like a real milestone. It’s nice to get approval every now and again that you’re on the right track! It also means that we now have endless opportunities to achieve our goals to reshape the tech talent landscape.

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

Working hard. Caring a lot. And feeling like I can be “myself” in business as I am in any other setting.

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

Put as much effort into every task and every interaction as you can. You never know where the next important opportunity will come from. So never act like any task is below you or any person isn’t important.

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

There are still barriers to being a woman in any walk of life (both in work and not). But I don’t think tech is particularly stand out in this regard.

In fact, the shortage of female talent in tech can actually give you an edge if you have the confidence to really push forward in a male dominated environment. Tech companies are desperate for diversity of thought to make their products more innovative, so there is a huge opportunity out there for women in tech to make themselves heard.

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?

We have over 1,000 clients that rely on us for helping them find tech talent. One of my big frustrations is that so many of them say that supporting women (and any kind of diversity) is top of their agenda… so please can we find them a ready-made, experienced female developer for their team…. The fact of the matter is, very few exist. And if we find you one, we are literally just taking them off someone else. The tech community is no better off. Women are no better off.

We launched our _nology initiative to actually bring more women into tech careers that did not see it as a pathway that was open to them previously. If a company really cares about investing in female talent, then you’ve got to use programmes like this where you are bringing new talent through, not just using up the small pool that already exists.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

If you are working in tech, understanding what your company CEOs/founders are trying to achieve will always help you get more perspective and be better at your job. The Masters of Scale podcast series is great for this. As are the Tim Ferriss interviews.

I think over the next decade, we will start to see a lot more people that came through tech-pathways becoming CEOs. And any really talented technical women that also understand business will be pretty formidable.


HeForShe: Matthew Cheung | CEO of Ipushpull & Co-Founder, Work In Fintech

Matthew CheungMatthew is a CEO of ipushpull, an enterprise real-time data sharing and workflow platform, and co-founder of Work in Fintech, an edtech inspiring young people to build careers and companies in fintech and web3.

Previously, Matthew co-founded RANsquawk, a ground-breaking real-time audio news service for institutional traders. Matthew has nearly 20 years of fintech experience and an alumni of Imperial College and City University.

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

I currently have two roles: one as CEO of ipushpull, a no-code data sharing and workflow platform, and the other as co-founder of Work in Fintech, a social project that aims to increase diversity and opportunity in the fintech industry.

I’ve been working in the city since I was 21 and working in fintech since I was 25. After cutting my teeth in investment management and later in trading, I co-founded my first business in 2005, RANsquawk (now known as newsquawk), creating the world’s leading financial audio news service for traders.  Fast forward a decade, I decided to get more deeply involved in the tech side of fintech and co-founded ipushpull.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak which likely comes from my parents who were immigrants and both ran their own businesses. My mother was an Irish nurse and built a retirement home and my father, from Hong Kong, ran his own optician practice. I was the first in both families to go to university.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In a way. In my early years, I wanted to be a palaeontologist, then an astronaut, a graphic designer and later an accountant. However, after watching the movies ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Trading Places’, the allure of trading jumped out at me. I was always fascinated – and still am – about the financial market which  to me is a living, fluid, self-organising system and inter-connected web of economics, politics and ideas.

I took A-levels in Accounting, Economics and Statistics and then did a degree in Investment & Financial Risk Management – so I certainly tooled up in the right areas to become a trader.

I always wanted to run my own business, but my first company was not planned at all – it happened out of necessity, i.e. I needed a job.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It turned out that I was an average trader but an excellent research analyst. So, after a stint at trading, I became a financial market analyst and excelled in that role utilising my natural curiosity and foundation in economics and analysis.

Unfortunately, after a year or so working as an analyst, the company I worked for shut down. At this point, my co-worker and I decided to set up our own business, providing real-time financial market analysis. We were quickly profitable and went from zero to £2m+ revenue in a couple of years. However, we were less experienced with the operational side of running a business and made quite a few mistakes. We learned through trial and error. All of the great resources that are now available online just didn’t exist back then.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Refocussing my perspective and giving back.

After starting my career thinking I could become rich quickly through trading, then later achieving success quickly in my first business, I look back now and realise how short sighted I was by not investing for the long term.

My perspective changed when I left my first business and went into the second. There was a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, I was having a child. I have a 5-year-old daughter and the day she was born, my perception of life, meaning, purpose and responsibility literally changed overnight.  Secondly, the older you get, the more you realise the less you know. Finally, moving away from a business which literally was open from 6pm on Sunday night to 9pm on Friday night without ever closing meant that I was switched on all the time. Now that my schedule is more balanced, I have more time for self-improvement. I’ve learnt so much in recent years and feel that I have only just scratched the surface.

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

There’s not one thing. It’s a combination of hard work, resilience and having a thirst for knowledge. Also not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone gives you an edge, that’s something everyone can attain, but few do. Lastly, resilience means you can always bounce back and, provided you learn from your mistakes, you can improve and become better and stronger.

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

I’ve been mentoring high school and university students for the last 2 years.

When I was growing up, even though my parents were entrepreneurial, they weren’t wealthy and we didn’t have any family, or network, or any one to lean on for advice. My high school was also unhelpful when it came to career advice.

Because of the lack of guidance, mentoring and network, I felt that I could offer this to students at my old school, so that they would not have to learn the hard way like I did. It turns out that offering my expertise and network just before Covid was good timing.

I found out quickly that, because of the pandemic, 14–16-year-old students didn’t have any work experience in 2020 and 2021. Businesses just weren’t equipped to do it, either virtually or face-to-face. Work experience for me was a big deal and eventually led me to my first job in the city so it was important to me that these young students have the opportunity to do this too.

This was one of the reasons why I started Work in Fintech.

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

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela once said. By generally raising the standard of education in schools and making a conscious effort to educate the younger generation about diversity and inclusion, you can help form people’s minds, attitudes, perceptions and ambitions in a highly positive way.

Also, people, governments and businesses must take it upon themselves to change for the better. People should maintain a bias for positive action even when it’s uncomfortable and hard work. One person can make an impact on the world. So, imagine if every person made a small change…

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

I think it’s vital.

Having a daughter and seeing first-hand the experiences my wife had when she went back to work after maternity leave, opened my eyes to the way women are treated, and the assumptions people make, when returning back to work. The lack of support and consideration for working mothers became even more apparent during lockdown where it was generally ‘accepted’ that women would take the brunt of childcare. Furthermore, the cost of childcare in the UK is one of the highest in the world – the government must subsidise it further.

If you have more than one child, childcare is so expensive that it often forces one parent to stay at home to bring up young children, and more often than not, it’s the mother. That means that a huge talent pool of hard working, educated women are taken out of the employment pool. I’ve no doubt that the collective output of that demographic would be worth substantially more than the subsidies!

We need more gender equality in the workplace. A more diverse and inclusive work environment means better decision making and a better culture.

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

It would be a few things: take the long view, take more risk with your career when you’re young, mix with people you admire and look up to.

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

My current challenge is building and scaling a team to take ipushpull to the next level and becoming the de-facto tool for data sharing and workflow, replacing emails, file sharing and manual processes.

My next challenge is providing fulfilling and meaningful lives to people through education, enrichment and learning. This will start with Work in Fintech, a decentralised community, where we’ll help people from all backgrounds build careers and companies in fintech and web3.