Dr Nike Folayan

Inspirational Woman: Dr Nike Folayan MBE | Chartered Electronics Engineer and Co-Founder & Chairperson, AFBE-UK

Dr Nike FolayanNike chairs AFBE-UK, a not for profit organisation which was established in 2007 to address the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the engineering workforce.

AFBE seeks to showcase and support the technical talent available within the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community through professional development, career placement services, mentorship opportunities, community engagement and by influencing governmental policies. She is also a Trustee at the Stemettes Futures and EngineeringUK, on the Advisory panel of Tomorrow’s Engineers Code. Nike was on the board of commissioners of the Hamilton report chaired by Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE and Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE. Nike is also a champion for increasing gender diversity in industry.

Nike Folayan is Chartered Electronics Engineer with a doctorate in Electronics engineering. Nike is currently Technical Director and the Technical Discipline Leader for Communications and Control within the Railways Division of WSP, an engineering consultancy where she leads a team of telecommunications engineers working on a variety of projects within the transport industry including railways and the highways projects in the UK, Australia, Middle East and Africa. Nike has also worked for Parsons Brinckerhoff, Mott MacDonald and Harada Limited. Nike’s interest lies in the evolution of Radio and IP Networks and its application within the transport industry.

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

I am a Chartered Electronics Engineer with a doctorate in Electronics engineering. I am also a Technical Director and the Technical Discipline Leader at Major UK Engineering Design WSP, where I lead a team of telecommunications engineers in the UK and India working on a variety of projects within the transport sector in the UK, Australia, Middle East and Africa. In addition to this I am chair and co-founder of AFBE-UK a not for profit organisation founded alongside my brother Dr Ollie Folayan in 2007 to promote higher achievements in education and engineering particularly among people from black and minority ethnicity (BME) backgrounds. I am a Trustee at Stemettes Futures and EngineeringUK. My vision is to continue empower people all around the world to use Engineering as a platform for change. I am currently leading the charge on promoting AFBE’s first national conference AFBELive taking place on 22nd April 2022 at the IET London Savoy Place.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

From a young age I knew I wanted to do something that related to problem solving but I didn’t specifically map out my career in that way. I found engineering and it all came together for me after that.

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

Challenges are a part of life. As a black woman in an industry that is only 12% female and 9% form non-white backgrounds it came with its own unique set of challenges including navigating and demonstrating excellence in a space that some would like to suggest was not typical. How I overcame these challenges is accepting that I needed to be a beacon and demonstrate that I belong by doing excellent work and not allowing people’s perceptions of what I should or should not achieve affect how confident I feel and my ability to be the best

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My Biggest career achievements is seeing the impact of AFBE has had over the last 15 years with over 20,000 beneficiaries, over 50 corporate members and over 2500 individuals from across the world having the shared vision of AFBE. It is meeting people who we have helped and are now succeeding in industries that only a decade ago would have seemed impossible

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

Not giving up when things are hard or when there is rejection and no acceptance. I have found that the higher you get the more interesting the challenge. For me it has been accepting that challenges will come and I should never be intimidated by them. Also understanding that sometimes I need to step away and that is okay as long as I always remember to regroup and refocus.

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

My top tip is never stop learning. You belong regardless of what anyone else thinks. Be confident Be you. Get all the tools and skills you need after that just keep your eyes on the prize and forget the distractions.

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. The gender paygap report demonstrated this clearly. How we can overcome these challenges are through transparency. Leaders in the industry need to accept and understand that these are not imagined challenges. Underrepresented groups and women have to face these challenges.so they must take action and demonstrate real leadership by leading the charge to change attitudes where they exist.

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

Companies need to be deliberate in their recruiting, retention and progression strategies. There is really no point encouraging women to join an industry which they may have to leave because of poor cultural practices within organisations. The most effective way to increase the proportion of women in the industry is by retaining the ones in the industry already and supporting them to progress and attain leadership positions.

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?

If I had a magic wand it would be for organisations to change the culture of sameness and embrace diversity of thought and experiences in all their practices. So many studies have shown that the more diverse a team is the better creativity it brings

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

A good resource is Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon’s Women Tech Charge podcast but also I encourage as many women who can to attend AFBELivenational conference on 22nd April where there will be a variety of amazing guest including Harriet Green who is the former


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.


Molly Johnson-Jones, CEO and co-founder of Flexa

Inspirational Woman: Molly Johnson-Jones | CEO & Co-Founder, Flexa

Molly Johnson-Jones, CEO and co-founder of FlexaMolly Johnson-Jones is the CEO and co-founder of Flexa – a VC-backed startup making the future of work a reality for all.

Flexa verifies the flexible working policies of companies before allowing them to showcase available roles on the platform. This gives users transparency over what companies truly offer, enabling them to seek out jobs that are genuinely flexible. To date, over 300,000 people have used Flexa to help find their next role.

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

I started my career in investment banking and, though very different to the startup scene I’ve found myself in, that first role that led me to where I am today. From the age of 18, I’ve lived with an autoimmune disease – one which causes a variety of symptoms including pain and discomfort that can stop me from walking. During my time working in finance, my condition would regularly make it almost impossible for me to travel into an office, so I asked my employer to work from home one day a week. But flexible work wasn’t so commonplace at the time, and certainly not in investment banking. Ten days later I was sacked.

It was my partner (now also my business partner) Maurice who first had the idea for Flexa. He’d been lucky enough to work for a really flexible employer and, although ready to move on to a new challenge, couldn’t seem to find another company offering the same benefits. Through his experience and mine, we’d both seen how difficult it is for job seekers to access transparency information about how much flexibility a particular role will offer. For disabled people who rely on working from home, parents who have to fit school runs into the working day, people who work better outside of a 9-5 structure, and many others with different flexible working needs – that’s simply not good enough. And so Flexa was born.

Flexa is a platform which vets and verifies companies’ flexible working policies, to create transparency for people about what jobs really offer. After launching in 2019, it quickly gained momentum and soon became my full-time job working alongside Maurice and Tim, our third co-founder and CTO.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I could never have predicted how traumatically my first job would end. From that point onwards, I was much more open and enquiring about which jobs would suit me and what gave me a sense of purpose. I worked in some great roles in research analysis and strategy before throwing myself into running Flexa full time, but launching a startup is completely different to anything I’d done before. To start with, we were figuring everything out ourselves – I was designing websites, building marketing strategies, cold calling potential customers. It’s amazing what you can learn if you really need to! I’m a big believer in embracing the unknown and seeing what you can make of it.

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

As a woman with a chronic illness whose co-founder is also her partner, I face bias on three different fronts in the business world. I’ve found that it can be difficult to overcome people’s preconceptions about who I am and what I’m capable of, particularly when it comes to raising funding. We can’t change the system overnight, but until you get your business off the ground, my advice to other female founders would be (ironically!) to ignore everyone else’s advice until everyone’s telling you the same thing. Until then, simply trust in your own abilities and in the value of what you’re building.We spent far too much time listening to other people’s advice in the early days!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My fight for flexible work has gained a fair bit of attention since that fateful day that I was fired. I’ve had viral social posts, multiple appearances on BBC news, been featured in all sorts of articles and even a spot on We Are The City’s very own conference in April! I’m so grateful for the platforms that allow me to share my story. But my biggest career achievement to date is definitely getting Flexa properly off the ground, building a brilliant team, and being backed by some incredible investors. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought we’d be here.

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

Absolute refusal to fail, determination, and hard work. Plus, having Maurice by my side and vice-versa. Despite what people might think about going into business with your partner, having that mutual understanding and support to lean on has been the biggest help. It really works for us.

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

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your shortcomings. When it comes to a field as vast and fast-paced as tech, you simply can’t know it all. I knew that Flexa was a good idea and that there was a real need for it, but equally I knew that my self-taught website design skills weren’t going to cut it in the long-run. Know your strengths and hire for your weaknesses. Push your limits, but don’t try to do everything!

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

For female founders trying to break into tech, gender bias entrenched throughout VC still controls cash flow. We need more women in VC and in the startup ecosystem for that to truly change. For women at all levels working in tech – or work in any other sector for that matter – expensive child care coupled with limited parental leave and 9-5 office-centric culture, often forces them to choose between having children or having a career. Flexible working environments could change that in a flash and the impact of that across the world of work would be huge.

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

Embracing and normalising truly flexible work is the single most important thing that companies can do to support and progress women in the workplace. Key policies such as letting staff start earlier and finish later, personal choice around working from home, and offering extended parental leave would transform the working lives of women.

But flexible work isn’t just a women’s issue – it’s everyone’s. Everyone works differently, so people need to have access to a certain level of flexibility in order to thrive. We shouldn’t be genedering a way of working that’s “different” to the norm. We should all be empowered and trusted to work in a way that allows us to thrive, regardless of genetics, circumstance, or demographics.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

I would mandate that VCs have quotas for their funds – certain percentages would have to go to female founders. There are so many inspiring leaders who happen to be women, but who are currently overlooked when it comes to funding. Quotas would accelerate the pace of change and pull more women into the space. This would shift the culture and make it a more diverse sector overall. It’s not a perfect solution, as quotas can lead to tokenism and tokenism can damage perception in the long-run… But I can’t see another solution that will make a difference quickly enough.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

Unpopular opinion: I think that reading solely for the purpose of making progress is overrated. Business books are helpful for some, but I prefer to learn new things by trying them out for myself, rather than reading about them. Trial and error has been the most valuable thing for me.

Having said that, I find LinkedIn has been incredibly helpful for meeting other founders, and learning what works in terms of personal branding, so I’d recommend spending some time connecting, chatting, and watching your feed on LinkedIn.


Inspirational Woman: Karen Burns | Co-founder & CEO, Fyma

Karen Burns

Karen is co-founder and CEO of Fyma, a European AI computer vision company whose AI turns any new and legacy outdoor and CCTV camera into a smart device to capture real time data and turn it into actionable insights.

As co-founder and CEO, Karen is responsible for the company’s day to day operations, as well as the development of its growing team and the management of the company’s international client base. Karen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies from Queen Mary University, London, and a Master’s in Film and Video from University College London and Glasgow University.

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

I studied Film & TV at UCL, then completing a Graduate Diploma in Law later and I have worked in tech since 2006, starting at British Telecom and then joining the UK’s Health and Social Care regulator ICT team after that.

My dream was to work in film production when I left high school, however I couldn’t afford to live in the UK without working, which is why I fell into the IT field. My life and work took me from London to Johannesburg and then to Dubai, from where I relocated back to native Estonia in 2014 to work in business development leadership roles at IT consulting companies. That’s where I met my current co-founder and we set up Fyma in the end of 2019 with a small team of just 4 people to start building the best computer vision insights platform in the world for the built environment.

By the way, I did get to work in film production also – I did a 1.5-year stint in Abu Dhabi selling the desert as a filming location to Hollywood studios and managed to get Fast 7 and Star Wars Episode VII to film over there, also working on both productions. I realised it’s not a field for me after all and left to go back to the IT field.

With Fyma we are working to measure what really happens in the built environment around us, partnering with large mixed-use real estate developers, cities, and event spaces so they have data to back up decisions and they can stop relying on their gut feeling and data modelling, using real empirical measurements instead. We really are helping to build a more inclusive, equitable – and profitable – environment thanks to the data our platform generates. Additionally, benchmarking insights is something we are currently working on and are expecting to release more on this later in the year. My role as CEO revolves around business development, investor relations and fundraising as well as setting the strategy and roadmap together with the team. I am an NLA Expert Panel member for the Built Environment Technology programme and a Member of the Supervisory Board for the Estonian Innovation Agency as well as belong to the board of Estonian Founders Society which represents the country’s startup founders.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When starting out, I really didn’t, however it has been a more conscious effort in recent years, and I have started to plan this alongside building Fyma. Career planning is necessary, and I see more and more women around me taking a more strategic approach to planning their working lives and career as well as educational paths. Luckily, careers are no longer rigid one-job-for-life affairs and as we evolve and grow throughout our lives, so can our careers.

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

There have been all sorts of challenges, from finding it hard to get back to work post-kids to active bullying in the workplace and being paid much less than male co-workers in the same position or, in one case, a subordinate.

Best revenge is a life well lived, so I’ve prepped a contingency plan and then quit all those jobs where I faced the challenges just mentioned. It’s also why I now am an entrepreneur – it is much more responsibility and effort, but I relish it because the success depends on me, the flexibility is mine to manage, and I now control my own remuneration and the people and clients I get to work with.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Setting up Fyma and taking it through initial phases of growth, fundraising and product exploration with our team, it has been the most rewarding, challenging, growth-inducing and meaningful work I have done. I also get to set an example to other (young) women so they can begin to consider options they perhaps wouldn’t previously due to really high entry barriers and a lack of role models. For this I am grateful for the work I did at Care Quality Commission in the UK where all my top superiors and our programme managers were women from mid-30’s to their mid-60’s – it was just so ‘normal’ around me that I never doubted in my ability to lead or work in the tech field as a woman.

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

I grew up on a working farm in semi-rural Estonia, where we had to work the field as kids on everything from picking potatoes and apples to making hay for the cows. I never went to daycare and started school at age 7, so the first years built grit and a strong work ethic: if you don’t work it means you don’t eat. Running a start-up is not like running a marathon – it’s like running an ultra in a constantly changing terrain. It’s impossible to do that without the foundations that keep you going.

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

Your network is your net worth – build the best, the most varied and supportive network around you that you possibly can (this goes for any field, not just tech). It is this network that will help you to your next job, investment, and growth opportunities. The tech sector is valuing a wider variety of backgrounds, so don’t worry about this too much in entry-level jobs especially. And finally, keep learning – technology is changing rapidly and it is essential to keep abreast of trends, new companies popping up and opportunities emerging that we couldn’t even think of just a few years back.

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

Yes, of course there are. Just a mere fifth of the sector is female and male role models with the embedded networks between them and other structural barriers are very much in existence. According to Crunchbase, just 2.3% of global VC capital went to women-led start-ups in 2020. I’m just reading Mary Ann Sieghart’s The Authority Gap and it starts with how Pope John Paul II greeted the Irish Prime Minister Mary McAleese by reaching out his hand to greet her husband instead with the comment of ‘Wouldn’t you rather be the Prime Minister of Ireland rather than married to one?’ It’s shocking how many top women, absolute world class in their field are routinely snubbed and ignored in favour of their male colleagues, not paid the money and respect they deserve or simply ignored as they’re not as well known.

The more women we have in boards, supervisory boards, committees that have oversight of hiring and expenditure of organisations making sure equitable principles are upheld the faster we will get to a world where this will be less of an issue. The more women speak up on these topics, accept top jobs and even speak at conferences more – the more visible they are and the more ‘normal’ it becomes that both genders work in the field. So I always say yes to board appointments where I can make a change and accept speaking engagements where I can highlight this and I encourage others to do the same.

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

Be generous with parental leave and encourage male colleagues to take longer leave when babies are small. Flexible and remote working should by now be standard, and as women bear a larger burden of household chores, being able to work from home makes that burden much more manageable. Having a policy of no evening events or offering child-care for colleagues with kids for when those events take place should be essential.

Being a woman is not a handicap and the support programmes that are set up inside companies are great, however they will not make a big change if boards and management teams remain male. Change must start from the top and be visible.

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?

Education – having more interdisciplinary programmes exposing young women to tech careers regardless of the field they’re currently majoring in would be a massive step forward in getting more women into tech education and then on to a tech career beyond that. For example, in AI we need people with backgrounds as varied as linguistics, statistics and the visual arts – the more women we can hire for our teams to balance genders the more likely it also is that they’ll not leave the field and carry on working inside it to build long-lasting and interesting careers.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I already mentioned Mary Ann Sieghart’s book, and I thoroughly recommend reading it – it also has great recommendations on how to overcome the challenges outlined in this interview also. Another great one is Caroline Criado Perez’ book ‘Invisible Women’ which again highlights the structural disadvantages and makes it visible for those of us so accustomed to it that we don’t even notice them any longer.

I also love Reid Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale, where amazing female (mostly tech) leaders tell their stories and I have learned so much from them, often going back to re-listen certain episodes when I face similar challenges myself. The Allbright and similar clubs are amazing, as well as venture companies backing female founders (e.g. Sie Ventures in the UK) who come with a whole support network for female founders specifically.


Michal Mor featured

Inspirational Woman: Michal Mor | Co-Founder, Head of Science for Product, Lumen

Michal MorI was born in Palo Alto California, and relocated to Israel at age 2 where myself and my twin sister, Merav Mor, grew up. After serving in the Israeli army, we both studied at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

I hold a BSc in Medical Laboratory Sciences, an MSc in Physiology, and a PhD in Physiology, Cardiac Science. I also taught biology and physiology during my studies. In the final year of my PhD, we both relocated to Tel Aviv.

In 2014, I teamed up with 3 long-time friends and entrepreneurs to found Lumen, a company focused on bringing metabolic health to the general public. We spent 4 years on research and development to create a product that measures metabolism through the breath. In 2016, beta trials for the Lumen device began, and in 2018, Lumen was officially launched on Indiegogo.

I am an Ironman athlete and trained for many years, and in my spare time I do competitive pole acrobatics. I live with my husband, Daniel Tal Mor (the CEO of Lumen) and my three children in Tel Aviv. I have never lived more than 50 meters away from my twin sister.

I’m the Head of Science for Product at Lumen and my role is to take a complicated metric like metabolic flexibility and make it accessible to everyone through research, our technology and of course all the fascinating content within our app.

My latest groundbreaking project has been launching the monthly cycle feature. Through the breath, we’re able to tell women how their metabolism responds to each phase of their menstrual cycle. So many health products are geared to men and their physiology, and we wanted to use our tech to cater to the specific needs of women and their bodies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I’ve always wanted to work in the field of medicine, but found my strengths in the world of research and tech. I fell in love with the idea of tackling a problem and hypothesizing about it. All this while I was training for the Ironman and trying to understand how to better fuel my race together with my twin sister Merav, of course. Between training for the race and the world of research, I found a problem worth solving. Suddenly I found a gap between the science world of nutrition and our daily lives – how come we know so little about what fuels our bodies?

Ultimately, being an entrepreneur is like research, you need to dig and find the answers to find a problem worth solving for many.

The plan was always to be involved in research, I just didn’t imagine it would turn into a company run together with my sister and all the people we love and respect.

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

The challenges have mostly been related to balancing my role as a mother and an entrepreneur. I’ve had to learn how to give myself a place in both of these worlds of entrepreneurship and family life. Sometimes the two overlap, it’s hard to be totally present at work or with my kids. The big challenge is prioritizing and managing your time so that you can be present at work or with family.

I feel that the challenges I have at Lumen or work are exciting – all the bumps along the way are part of a process – we’re the first to build a device that measures your metabolism through the breath so we’re starting from scratch. It’s the challenge of making something complicated into something accessible and simplifying it. Our body is a complicated machine, so how do you create a personalized experience which is easy to use and understand?

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Introducing the metric of metabolic flexibility to the world has been my biggest achievement. The concept that our body innately understands how to switch between fuel sources like fats and carbs is new to most. People think they either have a fast or slow metabolism, but that is a misconception. We can actually train our body to burn fats and carbs more efficiently if we know what to eat and when. It’s really the key to all health – if you’re able to feed your body what it needs to fuel your workout properly or a day at the office, you can eventually train your metabolism to burn through carb stores and burn fat more easily when you wake up. Your capacity for carbs increases and yes, one day you can better process a piece of pie.

It’s true that metabolic flexibility exists in the academic literature and articles, but it doesn’t exist on a global stage and scale because of how hard it is to measure it. How do you bring a metric to the everyday lives of people? The fact that we can give you a tool to measure your metabolism and how flexible it is, it’s a changing and guiding variable which has a life of its own for people to use as a feedback tool every day.

Back in 2014 we started with our first prototype until we launched it on a global stage with a validation study from SFSU and today we are peer-reviewed. We made sure that it really measures your metabolism according to global standards and actually does what we claim.

The fact that today, we’re able to help our users lose an average of 1.5 kilos a week, increase their metabolic flexibility by 66% from month to month and sleep more hours (about an average of 7) is a huge accomplishment. We’ve made people live healthier lives in a sustainable way by helping them build habits in small steps without drastically altering their lives.

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

Our team. Myself, our co-founders and my twin sister. Merav (my sister) and I worked on the initial prototyping of Lumen before our co-founders came on board. Lumen’s CEO is my partner, Daniel Tal Mor, who supports me daily. Most people might find it funny to work with their spouse, but the support it provides is amazing and he adds so much to our growth and the process of running a company like Lumen. Our other co-founders are friends of Daniel (Dror our CGO and Avi our CTO) and have experience working in tech together.

The most amazing part of our team is how we aren’t afraid of our knowledge gaps and we benefit from learning new things from one another. I have learned so many new skills beyond research from my team and they have learned a lot about research from me. I can confidently say without a good team you can’t go forward.

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

Similar to my previous response, surround yourself with a team or a community of people who are like-minded thinkers. They’ll push you to get out of your comfort zone in terms of seeking knowledge in areas where you might be less knowledgeable or less comfortable.

All the things you don’t know should be seen as opportunities for growth. The fact that I don’t know something is an opportunity to improve, even if you won’t be the best at it. Because in the startup world you have to pick up so many skills on the way to creating something meaningful. It’s not about being the best at everything, but be good enough at it that you can work with your teammates and speak the same language.

My twin sister Merav learned python just to understand what language our developers were speaking, and she got support from the team to do so.  My partner and now CEO, started reading academic articles and filling his knowledge gaps in the nutrition world so that he could speak the same language and move forward with us on a research level.

So don’t be afraid to learn new things together with your team.

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

My twin sister and I have had the privilege of ongoing support throughout our academic and tech careers from our peers and colleagues. However, at the beginning people weren’t sure what to think of us. The question of “what are these two sisters doing ? Are they doing this research as a hobby? Is this really going to be a career or a hobby”. Men of course will more easily be seen as ambitious for pursuing an invention from scratch.

So surround yourself with a supportive team, and if they’re doubting your motivation then just move on and protect your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a nice hobby.

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

The biggest issue of women at the workplace is childcare. We have a constant time and moral dilemma. Are we good moms? Are we contributing to work enough? Companies need to provide support and infrastructure for women to have that home and work balance with that understanding in mind.

Recently at Lumen we had a day care for the summer with childminders to watch our children in the office. We also have rooms for women to breastfeed. Companies can follow through further also by accommodating different maternity leave time frames and being flexible with time off. For that reason we have started things like “family days” around the holidays in case you might need a half day off or more time with your kids if there’s a long break.

There are so many practical things companies can do that pay off in the end since it enables women to stay productive and focused at work , sometimes at a higher rate than men.

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? 

It starts with supporting the concept of “the working mom in high tech”. Women need to feel they can be great mothers and great techies at the same time. We think of high tech as the all-consuming endless hours endeavor which doesn’t allow you to have a personal life, but it’s not true.
I would tell companies to give women the feeling they can be both and create programs or infrastructure for it.

From an education standpoint, we need to start when we’re very young in primary school for girls to be familiar with tech and science. Programs specifically designed for girls at a young age that teach them about tech and research in a way that relates to them. Currently early learning about tech or science is very male dominated and oriented. The language these programs use isn’t catered to women. I put my two girls in programs about science and tech in a way that relates to them more and gives them a greater motivation.

In fact most industries teach a certain thing in a very male-oriented way. We need programs that are catered to women , tailored to them and their needs.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

From my end, I do a lot of reading in my industry in terms of academia and research. THere are many really interesting podcasts for entrepreneurship generally such as “How I built this” , but I would advise for any woman to dig deep on the research and trends within the industry she is pursuing.

Also , I really recommend competitor analysis- it saves so much time when you see someone is already doing what you’re thinking about and then making it better. You don’t always have to invent the wheel. Your starting point is therefore a lot better and saves you time.


Liz Ashall Payne featured

Inspirational Woman: Liz Ashall-Payne | Co-Founder & CEO, ORCHA

Liz Ashall PayneLiz Ashall Payne is co-founder and CEO of ORCHA, the world’s leading provider of digital health accreditation ad distribution services.

A trained Speech and Language Therapist, for almost 20 years Liz led NHS transformation programmes, helping to unlock the power of digital across the UK and Europe.

In 2015 Liz founded ORCHA, attracting investment from Sir Terry Leahy and Bill Currie.  The organisation has grown exponentially, now providing digital health assessment and distribution services in eleven countries and in the UK to organisations in 50% of NHS regions.

ORCHA has won numerous awards, whilst Liz has been selected as a Tech Trailblazer by the BIMA 100, picked as a Healthcare IT Leader by the HIMSS Future 50, named Entrepreneur of the Year by the British Chamber of Commerce and has featured within the LDC top 50.

Liz was appointed a NHS England NIA fellow, is a coach for the NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur program, a member of the OCS Advisory Board, the Tech UK Health and Social Care Council and is the Associate Vice Chair for Standards for the British Computing Society.

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

I started my career working in the NHS as a healthcare professional, working in complex paediatric care. This passion for me started before I worked clinically. From when I was 15, I wanted to help people and that was still my passion when I started seeing patients.

By the end of day one, I felt really frustrated, because had only been able to see six patients.

I got really interested in how can we improve efficiencies, so that we as clinicians can see more patients. And I managed to get to being able to see about 10 patients a day.

I got the bug and I went around basically any other service you can think of in health and care, exploring ways we could see more patients

Then technology started to emerge as an enabling driver to support us in efficiencies and achieving better health outcomes. I thought, wow, we have a real opportunity here, particularly with the rise of digital health, because I can deploy a digital health solution to a million people all at the same time and they can all use it without being compromised.

So that’s really what ORCHA is founded on. ORCHA stands for the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps. We review and rate more digital health solutions than anyone else in the world. Our mission is to get high quality products to people who need them. In order to do that you have to answer the question, which apps are high quality?

We review and approve, and we repeatedly do that job every time a product updates and changes. Then we put that information into digital health libraries and formularies. Doctors are used to using formularies to find a trusted drug to prescribe from. So, we’re doing that, but for digital health.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I planned to be a clinician but then discovered my true vocation. Since ORCHA was founded, I have never veered away from my vision and I have never looked back.

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What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt, my biggest achievement has been to surround myself with a fantastic team of talented individuals.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

The past year has seen digital health take a huge leap forward, now is the time to catch up, build systems based on trust and inspire developers to create genius products to help solve our world’s health challenges.

As part of this, there will be a big focus on upskilling healthcare workers in 2022. ORCHA’s digital health training academy, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, will be open for all UK healthcare workers from March 2022. This UK-first service will offer free, CPD-accredited training in digital health skills. We’re excited about the potential of our academy – we want it to be a catalyst for real progress.

Additionally, our clinical teams at ORCHA believe digital health is extremely well placed to help the NHS tackle the elective surgery backlog. The BMA estimates that, between April 2020 and October 2021, there were 4.13 million fewer elective procedures. Digital can support across a broad spectrum of the priority medical conditions, in particular ophthalmology, MSK, cardiology and dermatology.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech?

Yes, I do. Since founding ORCHA, I noticed that whilst we were recruiting men and women equally to graduate roles, the males were more confident in asking for promotions and salary increases. I asked myself why and reflected on my own career progression. Then I looked at how few women were founding businesses and becoming chief executives and at the challenges they face throughout their careers: women get pregnant, they take maternity leave, they go through the menopause.

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

Companies must support women – but women have to grasp the challenge, too. We now have female-only sessions every six weeks to mentor our staff, with guest speakers. No subject is off the table: we recently had an open discussion about menopause.

As a female business founder, I believe it’s important for me to live and breathe my role. For this reason, I am our main media spokesperson. We work in a rather male-dominated industry, so it is vital for our organisation to show we are dynamic and different.

A shout-out for the North!

I’m incredibly proud of my Bolton roots and have lived there most of my life. The North of our country is blessed with such a powerful entrepreneurial drive. Being part of this encourages me every day. My company is based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, a world class location for high-tech business and leading-edge science based in the Liverpool City Region. We’re surrounded on the site by amazing tech expertise and organisations, which has allowed us to collaborate and grow during the pandemic. Since we’ve been based here we have managed to start a recruitment drive for over 100 staff and key board members, which has also enabled us to expand in 11 countries.


Eliane Lugassy

Inspirational Woman: Eliane Lugassy | Co-founder & CEO, Witco

Eliane's LugassyEliane Lugassy is CEO and co-founder of Witco. After studying business law and obtaining a degree from ESSEC, she began her career at Rothschild & Co in Paris on Mergers and Acquisitions.

She accompanied several real estate projects, including the sale of the “Cœur Défense” building.  In 2016, she left finance to create Witco an application that improves tenant experience in all buildings while facilitating their management. Offices, residences, coworking and co-living. Witco adapts to all types of properties thanks to flexible technology and personalised support, and will be critical to businesses as WiFI is.

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

I studied law and passed the Bar before going to business school and graduating with a Masters in Corporate finance. I started my career at Rothschild & Co investment bank where I worked in mergers and acquisitions, and I left to start Witco in 2016. I am the CEO of Witco, and the proud solo female founder of a tech company.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I could never have planned how things turned out, because I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship when I was younger and I wouldn’t have know where to even start. I wasn’t even groomed to get into business school and think about “unconventional” career paths.

But I’ve always been very ambitious, I have it in my veins. So at every step of my education and career, I’ve always looked for ways to challenge myself to the highest standards.

I worked hard to get into Rotschild as a young graduate because it was one of the best investment banks. But I also quickly figured out that my path in investment banking would limit my opportunities at some point because the more time you spend there, the more difficult it is to leave (you’re so well paid, and it’s a specific mindset, a specific work culture that isn’t easily transferrable to other industries).

I also had the chance of spending 6 months in Boston and was surrounded by brilliant entrepreneurs who had all graduated from MIT, and they inspired me tremendously. So after 3 years at Rotschild, I decided to leave and start my own company. I could take this risk not thanks to family money but because I had saved a lot instead of living as lavishly as my salary allowed at the time. I was also naïve I guess because the way I got into entrepreneurship and founding a tech company is a complete case of “I didn’t know it was impossible, so I did it”.

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

I can think of 2 big challenges : the first was that I didn’t have a co-founder to start Witco with, and starting a company is a hard and lonely adventure. Most the people I knew back then were working in very safe, prestigious jobs in law or finance and were quite risk adverse. I’m proud of where we are today, but it would have been a lot easier if I had had someone with a complementary expertise next to me at the start.

The 2nd biggest challenge is that I feel a lot of founders (at least in France) had a head start because many were groomed to go to top business schools, had rich networks, and sometimes even a roadmap into entrepreneurship. I have been learning all of this on my own, step by step and sometimes feel like I “lost” some time, even if no education and experience ever amounts to nothing.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Definitely building Witco and seeing how far we’ve come. “It’s still day 1” but I’m proud of the important steps we’ve passed and of the amazing team we’ve built to power Witco onto its next phase of growth.

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

Resilience. I was never handed what I wanted, I always had to work hard for everything I desired. I’ve always aspired to the best I could possibly get, so I never had any other option than keeping my head down, working hard, getting back up again every time I failed and trying harder.

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

Be resilient  and be obsessed about your subject. Centuries of wisdom about achievement say nothing else : work hard and you can achieve anything.

But also opportunistic: keep a close eye on the market to catch emerging trends.

Finally, get your hands dirty and ask questions: if you want to be credible, you have to be curious and willing to learn any chance you get.

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

Oh yes, the glass ceiling is real! The tech world is not diverse, neither is the entrepreneurship and the VC worlds. But I don’t think that’s entirely the system’s fault: I think women hold themselves back a lot too. Obviously that’s also because of the way we educate girls. I advise women to not waste energy to fight the system from the bottom and save this energy to build their company. Instead they should learn how to adapt to the system: they shouldn’t limit themselves and believe STEM education/tech careers/entrepreneurship is not for them. They should also learn to be as confident as men to sell their story and their project. Women also need to learn the system’s code and language: when you’re doing a funding round, you have to make sure you’re going to make the investors confident in your chances of success. And they might have a very specific profile for a founder with potential, so learn how to behave and speak to fit that profile. And when you’ve succeeded, you can start changing the system from the top 

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

Be intent on introducing as much diversity as possible in your teams and management positions. Countless studies prove how diversity impacts business positively in more ways than just the top line. I also believe mentorship is very important to make women grow and be able to rely on a support system that’s going to make them stronger and more confident.

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 would change how girls are educated, not only in school but also by society. I would make sure boys and girls are educated the same way. This is to me the biggest obstacle to women’s success in tech but also in any industry or position of power.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My number one source of inspiration is podcasts: I’m obsessed with them and listen to many different ones constantly. On my industry, on entrepreneurship… About networking, I wouldn’t recommend so much networking events but rather to force yourself to organise 2-3 meetings per week with interesting people outside of your immediate network to broaden your perspective, help you analyse things differently…


Monica Eaton-Cardone featured

Inspirational Woman: Monica Eaton-Cardone | COO & Co-Founder, Chargebacks911

Monica Eaton-CardoneMonica Eaton-Cardone is the Chief Operating Officer of Chargebacks911 and Fi911.

Monica has worked tirelessly to educate merchants and financial institutions about hidden threats in the rapidly changing payment fraud landscape. Leading Chargebacks911, the company was founded in Tampa Bay, Florida, expanding internationally to also become Europe’s first chargeback remediation specialist to tackle the chargeback fraud problem. In ten years, Chargebacks911 has successfully protected more than 10 billion online transactions, and has recovered over $1 billion in chargeback fraud.

Recognizing that the impact of chargebacks goes beyond merchants, Monica also created Fi911, giving unrivalled support to financial institutions with innovative back-office management technologies. Fi911’s pioneering DisputeLab™ tool streamlines chargeback management for acquirers, automating legacy processes and standardizing methods that, simplifiies, and speeds the end to end workflow, improving the customer experience and accountability for all stakeholders..

Monica is a passionate diversity advocate and is committed to developing and sharing innovative solutions that empower the global fintech space. She has earned numerous awards, distinctions and special recognitions, including the Retail Systems Awards, where she received the ‘Outstanding Individual Achievement Award’, and being named ‘Global Leader of the Year’ at the Women in IT Awards.

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

If I were to pick one characteristic that’s always defined me, I think it would have to be ambition.

I started working at a very young age. At the same time, completed high school at 16, then went on to launch my first business, which I sold before I turned 20. Since then, I’ve been what you might call a ‘serial entrepreneur.’ I like to take ideas, work them out and build on them, and eventually developing them into successful businesses.

Currently, I serve as the Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911, as well as  Fi911, our brand devoted to serve the world’s largest financial institutions. Day to day, that means leading a transatlantic team of nearly 400 extremely smart and talented people. I’m very excited by what we’re doing; although the problem we’re seeking to address can seem like an obscure payments industry issue, it will ultimately cost the industry $250 billion this year. The growth and reach are staggering – there’s tremendous opportunity here for us to provide value.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew that I could work hard, and that I was capable of doing great things. However, I also believe that you can only ever try to make concrete plans for the short term. To be honest, if you’d have told me fifteen years ago that I would soon launch and lead an industry-defining fintech company, I never would have seen that coming!

What really appeals to me about financial technology is the fact that it changes so rapidly. Looking five years ahead and expecting the world to be close enough to today’s reality to make any sort of meaningful plan is just not going to work with a static mindset. I believe that it is better to understand what your values are and what broad problems you want to solve in the world, then adapt your approach to a changing environment until you’re the one driving the changes.

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

Absolutely! In fact, Chargebacks911 is actually the result of one of my biggest challenges.

I set up an eCommerce company in the mid-2000s. We were growing fast, and our customers liked our products. However, I found that chargebacks were seriously cutting into our bottom line. When I looked into them further, I found that many of them were fraudulent. I was literally being robbed under the guise of consumer protection.

I scoured the internet looking for solutions, but there was nothing on the market capable of addressing the issue. Most other merchants, as well as the banks that worked with them, just dismissed chargebacks as another externality, like shoplifting in a retail store. Things were so bad that we almost had to shut our store down entirely.

But, rather than giving in, I decided to tackle the problem head on. Even though I had no formal experience in software development, I was able to create a solution to the problem. In fact, it worked so well that other merchants and banks started coming to us and asking us to consult with them! This was the seed that eventually grew into Chargebacks911.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

When I think about our growth, it’s truly been a wild ride. We had 11 customers in 2011. Fast-forward ten years, and we now serve 45,000 merchants across 87 countries, 27 different verticals, and dozens of currencies. Even despite that success, I think the most important thing that we’ve done as a company has been to start a conversation about the problem of chargeback fraud.

When I started Chargebacks911, nobody was talking about chargebacks or chargeback abuse. That meant that anybody who didn’t want to pay for a purchase could do so and be pretty sure that they would get their money back. We’ve played a significant role in turning things around and changing the way people view the chargeback process. Payment brands have systems that work in tandem with our own, and more companies are coming around to the idea that they can fight fraud—and actually win.

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

My first job was when I was twelve years old. I worked at a mink farm, skinning pelts and earning a dollar a pelt. I found out early on that the only way to succeed at work is to engage yourself. So, I decided to make it into a game, challenging myself to do a little better every day. Within a month I had broken the company record.

I have always found engagement to be the key to success. You have to throw yourself into the work and really let it become your obsession. You can start a new project and say that you’ll push yourself, that you’ll do it for the money, or that you’ll treat yourself to a vacation after it’s over. It will still be a struggle, though, if you don’t really believe in the project. Creating success is the best inspiration for motivation.

If you’re truly engaged, your own passion for the project will propel you forward.

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

Over the years I have learned many lessons. Besides perseverance, which is the cornerstone quality of any entrepreneur; being a woman in technology and business, I’ve also learned to appreciate the value of developing thick skin. There is never a shortage of nay-sayers and to stay ahead means being willing to consistently challenge the status quo. But being determined to not give up and having the motivation to continue to raise the bar, isn’t successful if you aren’t also just as conscientious about improving yourself. I call this, ‘being professional’ – this means being willing to reframe criticisms into opportunities and strive for outcomes that are constructive, above all. Having good work ethic with an insatiable appetite for improvement, whilst maintaining the discipline to uphold high professional standards may not be easy in the short run, but pays in dividends long-term. To think of it another way, this really boils down to your influence on technology, process and people. Similar to the properties of a triangle, one without the other two, creates an imbalance. I really believe that, if you get these three things right, and if you commit and are honest with yourself about whether these philosophies are part of your everyday life, then everything else will fall into place. I believe these principles will always serve you well, both in and out of the office.

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

It’s definitely true that there are some barriers in place for women in tech. That’s evidenced by the fact that women earn just 19% of computer science degrees. And, even among that small minority, only 38% of women who earn a degree in computer science will end up actually working in the field.

I believe that one of the main obstacles is a lack of role models who manage to find success in the field, then turn around and lend a hand to inspire and uplift younger women who come after them. What would help would be for every woman who breaks through the glass ceiling to commit to a minimum of bringing two more women with her. This can be done through mentorship, through advocacy, and through the building of networks among women working in tech.

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

The first step is simply to realise that they’re there at all.

There are thousands of women who want to work in tech, who have both the hard and soft skills necessary, and who may be even better-equipped to lead successful companies than some men. We need to develop these individuals from the beginning of their careers, encourage their talents and provide the skills necessary to grow.

From there, we also need to develop ‘on-ramps’ for women who are late to start in tech. Far more young boys are told that they can one day be billionaire CEOs and computer geniuses. They develop a passion early, and by the time they are studying computer science or data analytics, they have already been coding for years. Women might develop a passion for technology later in life after being exposed to it through work, so there needs to be space for them to circle back, pick up any skills they may have missed, and join the workforce.

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 think it’s fundamentally a pipeline problem. Going back to mentorship, many young women are unable to see themselves as potential leaders in the tech industry, so few commit to learning the skills needed to get in on the ground floor.

I’m not big on magic wands, but I do believe in education and finding self-worth through effort and hard work. That’s why I created an organization, called Paid for Grades, that provides literacy tutoring services, career-planning lessons and general life skills acquisition to young people. Once we foster a wave of young women who are applying to colleges for degrees in STEM, we can start to move towards a truly meritocratic workforce that reflects the real world.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m a member of a number of organisations – Women in Technology International, the American Business Women’s Association, the Electronic Retail Association—I could go on. Every one contributes something, and I give as much as I can back to each of them. These organizations targeted at serving women in technology are great resources, and can help women in tech to build out their networks.

Whatever part of the wider tech industry you’re in, you’ll be able to find groups of people who will support you. This is true for women, as well as persons of colour and LGBTQ people. The ecosystem is very diverse; most of us just need to find the means to tap into it.


Vicky Brock featured

Inspirational Woman: Vicky Brock | Co-Founder & CEO, Vistalworks

Vicky Brock

I am co-founder and CEO of Vistalworks, which has built intelligence software and risk profiling tools to help governments, banks and enforcement agencies tackle online illicit trade and cybercrime.

I’m currently based in Tallinn, Estonia, leading our fast growing EU business, and also head up the UK company, which has a tech and data team based in Scotland. My day-to-day challenges are (I assume) pretty normal for a tech CEO – building team, ensuring product and business strategies are executed and fit for purpose, funding and growing the business in a sustainable and ethical way, balancing going fast with the necessary level of process to function well, keeping focussed on the mission while scanning the horizon and not missing important detail.

Vistalworks is my 5th tech start-up. Previously I founded and led Clear Returns, a retail technology firm named Top Tech Start-up In Europe by the European Commission, and co-founded a web analytics firm that was one of Google’s very early analytics partners. I was named Inspiring Woman of the Year by Scotland Women In Technology and Scotland’s Most Inspiring Business Person at the Entrepreneurial Scotland Awards, won Innovator of the Year at the 2014 FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards, and is currently one of the UK’s Top Female Tech Leaders, as named by Business Leader Magazine.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not once. My entire life’s career plan can be summarized as: 1) Get out of Norfolk 2) Don’t starve/die/fail/run out cash 3) Don’t accept any cr** or let anyone take my CEO job title ever again.

No one in my family had any exposure to business or entrepreneurship, so I didn’t recognise what I was (which is a test-tube grown start-up entrepreneur). Nor did I have a route map until fairly recently, I just made it all up and learned on the way. Though my Dad was a plastics engineer in a factory that made bottles, so I did have hands on exposure to machines and factory production lines. My Dad bought my first computer – an Acorn Electron – which must have cost a huge amount. With that, I had the tech and computing skills long before I had any awareness that these were in some way useful or might lead to a career.

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

We all face huge and horrible challenges in a lifetime; I most certainly have. And for the very biggest one – where I felt there was nothing left that I could do within my open company that would better the situation – I had to learn when to walk away and to say no and mean it. I did learn for myself that failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen. There is life and work and an identity and a career after failure, and you will never be as scared of anything quite as much again once you have lived through that. For me, it turned out the long term, grinding fear of failure was worse and more toxic than the actual category 5 hurricane type experience of living through it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Bouncing back from a career and start-up disaster that had got me to the point of wanting to die, and that had left me losing all sense of who I was. And ultimately learning from that in a really positive and constructive way (after crying non-stop for about a year) so that the next product, team and business I built was infinitely better as a result – and I was a better person along with it.

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

It has never really occurred to me to be nice – I have always felt time was running out, so I am horribly relentless and I fight hard and keep fighting (sometimes for too long).I keep pushing on and innovating until I make what I want to happen a reality. I am aware that is not many people’s definition of success, or even of good company, but my goal was always economic independence and the freedom of opportunity to follow my own path. I hate being told what to do. In fact, being a tech entrepreneur is probably the only thing I am capable of doing. (I have been told by a head-hunter that I am unemployable).

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

Forget perfection, and instead split your time between being reasonably great and making sure the right people know just how amazingly great you are. Find trusted amplifiers to champion how great you are. Don’t assume the CEO/boss intuitively knows how great you are and how much you deliver – specifically tell them. And definitely don’t be modest (no one else is).

If all your energy is going into being perfect and working harder than anyone else, the critical aspect of being seen to be great will get missed, and you are at much more risk of others claiming your credit. As a CEO I absolutely do not tolerate anyone claiming other people’s success – it is one of the deadly sins -but I do still really need people to realistically amplify their own achievements, otherwise how am I meant to know?

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

There are unfair barriers to equality and success that should not be down to women to fix – yet here we are!

Personally I aim to be the CEO, stay the CEO, create better conditions for all, inform and influence those in state power if I can, and pull other women up alongside me. If you have power then you can and should change the problem things – like pay disparity, macho ad hoc salary negotiations, anti-flexible working, the woman expected to do the team admin, the assumption tech women don’t know what they’re talking about or must work in marketing, the assumption that my very good product that definitely exists and has paying customers is wildly inferior to the imagined product some wanna-be entrepreneur has in his head. The basics….

Being in charge and fixing and absolutely not tolerating the basic stuff is a very good way to overcome at least some of those issues. And personally, I wouldn’t invest in, work alongside, or be on the board with any CEO who wasn’t committed to that.

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

Grow up, get a grip and stop being scared of half the population? Or in more filtered terms, grow up, get a grip and start facing meaningful financial and legal consequences of their mis-management, toxic culture and poor leadership.

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?

Stop trying to fix the women, and instead tackle the problem of over promoted, over paid and under qualified men. Especially in leadership positions. And make governments listen, legislate and enforce – because asking predators to set their own standards and guidelines has a track record as long as the whole history of time for not actually working.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I tend to read and listen to “other stuff” when I’m not working. My absolute favourite is Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast, which is a deep dive into some of the most important revolutions in history – the English Civil War, the French Revolution. I’m currently on episode 65 of the Russian Revolution. Making space in your brain for history and philosophy is a wonderful thing – I still regularly reread Sophie’s World, a novel about the history of philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. My absolute favourite business book is “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, which turns the management theory of constraints (my daily world) into an enjoyable and enlightening novel.


Stacy-Ann-Sinclair

Inspirational Woman: Stacy-Ann Sinclair | Co-Founder & CTO, CodeREG

Stacy-Ann Sinclair

Stacy-Ann Sinclair is the Co-Founder and CTO of CodeREG, a regtech startup codifying financial regulation into machine executable rules.

Stacy-Ann is a Computer Scientist who has spent the last 10 years building trading systems and globally scalable data platforms for UBS, Barclays Investment Bank and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She is interested in building complex systems and intelligently extracting meaning and insights from data.

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

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to the UK when I was 16. I studied Computer Science at City University London and spent the next 10 years working in investment banking. I always knew computer science is what I wanted to do from a very early age; so the technical challenges posed by the investment banks were exciting. I found my passion in algorithmic and high frequency trading, soon transitioned into building large scale data pipelines, deriving and enabling data driven strategic decisions and predictions.

I join Entrepreneur First in March 2018, to start my own company.  I was accepted onto the Entrepreneur First(EF) programme, EF is a founders first company builder, investing in exceptional founders with deep technical ideas.   I found my cofounder at EF and together we created CodeREG.

At CodeREG I drive both commercial and technical decisions, This involves customers, product, fundraising and technical solution designs. As a founder you need a wide range of skills and be willing to take on a lot of responsibility to get an idea and business off the ground.  Luckily,  I enjoy a varied role and straddling multiple roles is where I am most happy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never really sat down and planned it, however I am aware of what makes me happy and I always seek out interesting challenges. The moment the challenge curve wore off or if I am no longer excited by my role, I know it is time for a change.

I love problem solving and technology, and usually that was enough to keep me happy.  It’s very important that I love whatever it is that I am doing.  The moment that is no longer true, I know it time to reassess the situation.  This is the compass I live by.

I need to be solving an interesting problem, it needs to be technically challenging and I need to be happy doing it, if these aren’t aligned then that’s my trigger.  Money was never really a motivator for me, it was more of a nice to have 🙂

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Interestingly a lot of the challenges I faced were only realised retrospectively.  Working in a male dominated industry has its own challenges.  I fought with fair pay for women compared to our male counterparts and bonus transparency – these were both outrageously disproportionate in the investment banking industry, I believe this is changing now, but you had to fight harder to be heard and taken seriously.

Unfortunately the default was that you had to prove why you were good, instead of it being a given, whilst my male colleagues wouldn’t go through the same thing. Their default starting position was the opposite.  I could back up the things I say and could demonstrate why I was good at my job, so I never really noticed what was happening at the time.  I also quite enjoy proving people wrong, so I didn’t notice the negativity behind it all, it shouldn’t be that way.  It discourages women from really growing in that industry.  The barrier to entry shouldn’t be harder just because of your sex.

Most male engineers I come across are actually very cool, helpful and thoughtful in a progressive way – the biases most of them showed were unconscious and wasn’t intended to deliberately cause harm.  Majority of the negativity would stem from non-technical people interacting with the tech community funnily enough and wasn’t just limited to men.

Not having enough female leaders in tech was always a struggle, and it probably affects how you learnt and improve. I had great male colleagues and friends who have helped me along the way, but there are some unconscious biases for sure, I don’t think it was something they did knowingly, it just exists from being a history long male dominated industry. Encouraging more women into tech will undoubtedly change the subtleties.

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

I like the idea of mentoring, I’ve had mentors help me along my career and in return I ensured I passed it on, as I’ve seen firsthand its benefits.  I am also a mentor myself, it’s important to give back.

I’ve had some great mentors in the past, both men and women – at different points of my career I had different requirements, so I’ve had mentors who were successful women working in technology at senior levels, I’ve had mentors whose managerial style I really like and I wanted to embody more of their values.  I had mentors from particular industries or areas I was keen to find out about.  I had mentors who were technically brilliant.  I had mentors as an intern, learning from the experience of other recent interns.  The requirement for a mentor may change many times throughout your life/career, this is very normal.

I believe a mentor mentee relationship should be two sided and beneficial for all involved.  Learning from someone else’s experience is super valuable when there is direct and deliberate insight. Being open to new ideas, interesting perspectives, and discussing issues/problems from different angles can add another dimension you were not privy to before.  Always try to give as much as you receive, a mentor/mentee relation that’s one sided may not return the results you might expect.

What you bring to the table could be a variety of things, experience, your views, your approach, your background, your ambition(s), your skills.  Mentors and mentees at different stages of their careers can be massively valuable to each other.

These relationships also need to be fun for both, a mentor/mentee should be someone you get along with well, someone you can talk to in a very relaxed, stress free manner.  Its shouldn’t be rigid, with a well structured official mentor/mentee assignment.  Some of the best mentor/mentee relationships are the ones that are achieved organically.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

I want to see diversity and diverse skills celebrated and not seen as a tick boxing exercise, I want to see more girls being encouraged to write code at an early age, there is no real reason why there is this divide, it was just something that was always seen as something boys did.

If we teach them how to code and create from an early age with no bias, they may actually just love it.  My little sister at the age of 9 was designing and making games, just from a non biased exposure, it was just something she enjoyed doing.  This stigma of what is a ‘girl’ activity and what is a ‘boy’ activity which is so present in our society usually have lasting effects on the skills we tend to develop.

How would you encourage more women and young girls into a career in STEM?

I am a firm believer in getting them started early.  The pool is very small to begin with and we need to increase that pool of talent from the very early stages – as an example I was the only female to graduate computer science at my university, one from a graduating year isn’t a lot at all; but it just goes to show that the amount of women studying computer science is very small. So seeing technical women in the industry is even harder, at executive level it gets worse, because the pool is so tiny to start with.  The root of the problem needs to be addressed.

I am very involved in initiatives that encourages women into tech, especially younger girls.  Whilst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch I co-founded the Women Developer Group,  the aim was to encourage women interested in learning how to write code, learning from experienced female developers, and delivering solutions together – instead of the traditional male dominated environment.  This is not a setup that you would find easily within tech and we felt it brought a lot of advantages, that weren’t initially obvious.

I love and support the Code First Girls initiative, run by the amazing CEO Amali de Alwis – they aim to increase the number of women in tech, especially women who fancy a career in technology, but don’t yet have the required skills. I have been a keynote speaker at their last two annual conferences and just being able to talk to so many young female entrepreneurs and tech enthusiast is extremely rewarding, I have mentored quite a few of them looking to make a start or grow in the industry.  I try to play an active role in this community whenever possible, it’s really dear to my heart.

I have studied computer science and have always pursued a career in technology, however if you don’t fit that profile, don’t let that stop you entering the industry – writing code is a skill and it can be learnt.  Initiatives like Code First Girl tackle this problem, they teach women with no prior technical skills on how to get started.  ‘Technology’ is a big field and getting started somewhere is a great start.  No matter how long you’ve been doing it, there is always more to learn and more to do, so the best thing you can do is get started and keep going.

Stemettes is another great initiative I’ve had the pleasure of working with and they do target the age group I have the most passion for – they encourage girls from the age of five to pursue a career in STEM – this is a fabulous thing.  Tackling the problem at the root will yield amazing results.

Being a programmer is a creative job, it’s analytical, but it is very creative.  Building something from nothing is a very rewarding experience and I would love to share that feeling with more people.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is probably CodeREG, being able to create a company that is now venture backed is just amazing. Being able to solve hard technical problems that underpin our intelligent regulation solution is highly rewarding.

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

My next challenge is to take CodeREG to global significance, changing the way finance operates and changing the face of compliance, making codeREG the defacto for systematic compliance.

Growing a team and driving a culture within the company that is fresh and spearheaded by how I believe the workplace should be is something I want to make a reality.