Lisa-Edwards

Inspirational Woman: Lisa Edwards | President & COO, Diligent Corporation

Meet Lisa Edwards, President & COO at Diligent Corporation.

Lisa-Edwards

Lisa Edwards is President and COO of Diligent Corporation, the leading governance, risk and compliance SaaS provider with more than $500 million in revenue and a $7 billion company valuation.

Lisa is responsible for commercial growth and performance. Prior to joining Diligent, she served as EVP of Strategic Business Operations at Salesforce, after serving as Chief Procurement Officer and running the company’s Global Corporate Services.

Lisa also held leadership positions at Visa, Inc. and KnowledgeX, and co-founded Valubond, prior to the company’s acquisition by Knight Capital.

Lisa received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She serves on the Board of Directors of Colgate-Palmolive Company, and is deeply involved in two non-profits where she previously served on the board: Playworks and the Presidio YMCA.

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

I grew up in Silicon Valley as a bit of a technology baby, as my dad was with IBM for 40 years. I went to school locally at Stanford, then spent three years in Mexico City working for a consulting firm. Following Mexico City, I headed to Harvard Business School. And, after a small stint in strategy consulting at Bain and Company, I had an entrepreneurial phase where I was CEO of a small software company that I sold to IBM. I was also co-founder of a fintech company that built an exchange for fixed income securities that was sold to Knight Capital. Following that, I moved back to California and continued in Fintech by working for Visa for eight years. I then left to work at Salesforce not for the role – which was sort of lateral to almost a slight backward step – but because I really liked the CFO and thought I could learn a lot from him. I ended up at Salesforce for eight and half years. I most recently moved to Diligent because I believe that Diligent can be the foundation of the next new category of enterprise software: governance, risk and compliance (GRC). Every company needs to digitise the entire back office, and allowing the components of governance, audit, Risk, SOX, third party, cyber and ESG to work together seamlessly and collaborate brings incredible strength to the function. It’s game changing.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never sat down to plan my career and, honestly, I think it would have been almost impossible to look forward and predict this rambling road I travelled to be an actual plan. But looking backward I can connect some of the dots. I’ve developed a passion for operations, but with a strategy lens, which turns out to be a real differentiator. I’ve toggled between operations strategy and top line functions in a way that brings extra value to my role. I’ve chosen to work for people who I think I can learn from and not always been concerned about the details.  I’ve worked for companies that I admire and that I think will do well. I like that old saying, “take a seat on the rocket ship, and don’t worry too much about what seat.”

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

I think everyone faces career challenges along the way, what matters is how you choose to address them. Do you use them to get smarter? Learn more to grow as a person and as a worker? I even tell people in many ways, having a bad boss once or twice in your career can be a really helpful (albeit painful!) learnings and a growth opportunity. Because you learn what not to do. And you also learn how to function with lots of different people.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I don’t know that there’s been a single biggest career achievement. I feel like my career has been a slow but steady build to increased scope and responsibility as I get older and wiser and have more life experiences under my belt. It turns out its super helpful to have seen the movie before and know how it ends. That said, one thing I’m incredibly proud of is the number of people, particularly in Silicon Valley, who I have worked with or have worked for me and who have gone on to bigger and better things. I love to see people who have worked for me go out and take leadership roles that are bigger. Like that old saying, “If you love them, set them free.” Except I don’t want them to come back to me! I want them to grow and thrive and continue to nurture the next generation so that they can have that same experience and satisfaction.

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

I would be naive if I didn’t say having a father in the technology industry gave me a leg up, particularly as a woman. My dad probably always wanted me to be a son and pretty much treated me that way. So I was knee deep in looking at green screen and code in the early 80s well before PCs were mainstream. I think that exposure took away the fear factor of the unknown that I think technology can represent. And there was never an assumption that because I was a girl, I wasn’t going to be interested in it. It was always assumed that I would want to check out the latest and greatest technology. That’s why I’m so passionate about giving women exposure. If you don’t ever see it then it’s just that much harder to be it. That’s why, as a female leader, I think it’s really important to be visible. To talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, to lead by example

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

Stay smart on the latest trends. Network, even if that is not comfortable.

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

I do, simply because women are still a small percent of the tech workforce and are not graduating from computer science programs fast enough to address that issue. Interestingly, the proportion of women graduating from college is around 60%, at least in the United States. In theory we should see a workforce that skews towards women and a leadership team that skews towards women. But we don’t in the tech industry. This could be because we don’t see women graduating at the same rate in the actual disciplines that rise to some of those leadership levels in technology. In response to this, I would like to see early intervention. To make sure girls are excited about math and science. And to nurture that interest at a young age.

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

I think companies can continue to shine light on the issue. By that I mean, each organization needs to look at their percentage of women – every quarter. Not just the absolute number, but the hiring statistics, the attrition statistics, the promotion statistics. Are you moving women along the funnel? At least the rate of how they are represented in the population. If you aren’t, maybe there’s a problem.

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?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a magic wand. But I think companies can be more mindful of attracting and retaining women. Things like having balanced interview panels where women aren’t interviewing with just men. Or making sure that if a woman chooses to have children it is not career limiting for her. We need to figure out ways to accommodate working moms in order to keep them in the workforce.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There’s so much good stuff out there as far as resources go. I don’t know that I would recommend anything specific, but there are a few resources that come to mind. For example, for a quick “cyber 101” lesson almost nothing beats Countdown to Zero Day. For podcasts, David Sachs’s is pretty good, albeit a bit niche sometimes. Are you in middleware, are in B2C, are you in fintech? Cyber? That’s where you should go, and that’s what you should get super smart on – build the domain expertise.


Inspirational Woman: Cory Munchbach | President & COO, BlueConic

Meet Cory Munchbach, President & Chief Operating Officer at BlueConic

Cory Munchbach

Cory is President & COO at BlueConic. In this piece, we talk about her career, her biggest achievement and the challenges she has faced as a woman working in the technology industry.

Cory has spent her career on the cutting edge of marketing technology and brings years working with Fortune 500 clients from various industries to BlueConic.

Before joining the BlueCrew, she was an analyst at Forrester Research where she covered business and consumer technology trends and the fast-moving marketing tech landscape. A life-long Bostonian, Cory has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College and spends a considerable amount of her non-work hours on various volunteer and philanthropic initiatives in the greater Boston community.

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

I am the President and COO at customer data platform BlueConic, where I oversee the company’s business operations and establish policies that promote the company’s culture and vision. I also work directly with BlueConic’s customers on their own technology strategies and how to become more fluent in data, digital, and customer-first in their operations, which is a passion of mine. Analyst firms have been calling it ‘the age of the customer’ for almost a decade now, but the reality is that very few companies have figured out how to execute ‘customer centricity’ at scale. I have this amazing job where I get to support customers like HEINEKEN USA and VF Corporation with their digital transformation strategies so they can better meet customer expectations while improving operational efficiency at the same time. And I get to build a company that consists of the most ridiculously awesome humans on the planet. Every day I am the luckiest

Before joining BlueConic, I was an analyst at Forrester Research on the CMO and marketing leadership team. At the time, I had no formal business background, but I had the opportunity to interact with some of the senior most marketers at some of the most notable brands. I got so much concentrated exposure to the marketing strategy side of things, but it was the technology enablement piece that I kept coming back to, which is how I ended up covering marketing tech and ultimately writing the first-ever Forrester Wave on the marketing cloud category in 2013. That was really the most formative step for me in terms of how I ended up in marketing technology specifically.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Totally – and then nothing went remotely according to that plan! On the contrary: to be honest, I would never have imagined my career path looking like this. I was a political science major in college and had grand ambitions of returning to graduate school to get a PhD in public policy and perhaps teaching. What’s interesting is that, even though I clearly have not taken that path, the common thread of most of my career has been adjacent to teaching — I spend the majority of my time, whether externally with customers or internally with my colleagues, finding different ways to introduce new ideas and get them to stick. I love getting other people energized about something and working toward making it happen.

After learning so much as an analyst at Forrester, I knew I wanted to get my hands dirty building a company instead of just writing about and consulting for them. Getting this fledgling technology off the ground was a huge opportunity, which compelled me to seek employment with then early-stage start-up BlueConic. When I accepted a role with the company in 2015, I received a text message from CEO Bart Heilbron that said, “Hurry up and get here, we’ve got a dream to build.” And I’ve never looked back.

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

I’d love to meet anyone who can answer “no” to this question! So many – from blatant sexism to general misalignment with a leader or team – I’ve confronted any number of challenges big and small throughout. While each was a bit different, I could overcome them because I feel incredibly supported by some core people who make up my squad and give me the tools I need to work through things: the clarity, confidence, perspective, and esteem to make the right choice for me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

For a few reasons, it’s solidifying our partnership with Vista Equity Partners earlier this year. Securing the investment not only validates the grit and persistence from the whole team so far, but also ensures that BlueConic is able to continue to affect real change in the world of marketing, media, and advertising by helping companies unlock the power of consented first-party data. It’s also a recognition of the way the company has been built – the approach, the team, the commitment – which is incredibly gratifying after so many years of collective effort.

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

LUCK. And I reject anyone who says that I shouldn’t attribute my success to it because I would rather be lucky than good. Luck includes a lot of things, but mostly people and the opportunities to meet and learn from people who are different from me, whether due to diverse life experiences or who know more about a particular subject than I do. I’m an extremely curious person; I love to learn and I’ve been lucky to be exposed to new ideas and concepts through new people throughout my career – and then be able to use that knowledge to propel my own growth.

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

I think the most important thing is to trust your gut and use your voice – especially to ask questions. You’re going to be right so much more than you’re wrong and your willingness to be “wrong” actually creates space for other people to learn as well, which is invaluable for a whole group. And as you rise through the ranks, don’t pull the ladder up behind you. Your success and achievements will be so much more rewarding because you brought a lot of people along than they would be celebrated solo. The opinions of people who work for you matter so much more — generally and over the long-term — than those above.

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

There are oh so many. See next answer about overcoming them because the reality is that women have done all the “right” things to earn overcoming these barriers – going to college, starting companies, making it to the C Suite – but the barriers are deeply embedded at so many levels of society that to overcome them is much more than a tech industry challenge and more broadly a cultural challenge.

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

Vocally support women’s reproductive rights. Provide excellent benefits for all parents. Ensure that you have representation at all levels of the organization. To be clear: women know how to advance our careers; what we can’t always do is overcome the barriers in our way.

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?

Is “eradicate structural misogyny” an answer? Because tech’s issues for women are a byproduct of a much larger set of systemic issues and until we address a range of underlying problems, “tech” won’t be able to outrun them.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I end almost every conversation I have with book recommendations – it’s a bad habit so I’ll try to keep it relatively short! Unleashed by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss is a core guide of mine; I also am a fan of Just Work by Kim Scott. Everyone in startups should subscribe to First Round Review’s newsletter and podcast. Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work is a fantastic podcast; more generally, “The Best One Yet” (formerly Robinhood Snacks) and Pivot podcasts for business and tech news; also, Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale. My actual advice, though, is to read/listen/consume broadly and apply what you learn to your day-to-day. I subscribe to so many newsletters and podcasts outside any of my focus areas and I think that helps me draw new ideas and thinking to my work.


Ekaterina Khrustaleva

Inspirational Woman: Ekaterina Khrustaleva | COO, ImmuniWeb 

Ekaterina KhrustalevaI am a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at ImmuniWeb, a global application security company.

I lead our sales and partnership teams and also take care of large enterprise customers in Switzerland and Europe.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I grew up in Geneva and obviously had a dream to enter the world of global finance private banking. I studied accounting and finance, prior to joining a private bank and then a family office. By chance, I discovered the amazing world of cybersecurity and decided to try something completely new. Today, I think, it was probably one of the best decisions in my career.

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

I would rather say that working in cybersecurity is a continuous challenge that I truly enjoy. We have amazing customers and partners from over 50 countries, with unique needs and requirements that require business creativity and ingenuity. My daily job is to deliver value to all of them by tailoring our offering for their unique environments and dynamic threat landscape. Sport and fresh air are the best allies to cope with stress and get back to normal after busy days.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would not classify my achievements on a scale, I believe that all achievements are equally important. At ImmuniWeb, we are demonstrating amazing customer retention rate, steady growth of recurrent revenue, while staying cash positive and profitable. Of course, all these achievements belong not just to me but to our amazing team.

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

I think I owe my success to my colleagues and friends who have been providing me with relentless inspiration to move forward, to perceive failures as another step towards success, and to continuously learn new things.

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

Never give up, continuously discover yourself and make new friends.

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

I think that the most important barriers are internal ones in our minds. Overcome them, do what you want to do, and you will get well-deserved success and happiness.

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

Providing your teams with ongoing support when they need it is essential. Moreover, I strongly believe that support should be proactive, not reactive when a person is already demotivated by strangling alone with a complex dilemma. Continuous education is also a vital element for career advancement, so providing your team with internal or external education will pave their way to leadership and success.

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 don’t think we shall artificially push anyone towards cybersecurity or other industries. I’d rather make sure that since school, we all have an unbiased overview of existing career opportunities to motivate everyone to make decisions freely, thoughtfully and without negative or positive stereotypes.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

SC Media, Computer Weekly and CSO Online are probably among the best resources to stay up2date with the rapidly evolving cybersecurity, privacy and compliance landscape.


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.


Inspirational Woman: Gaele Lalahy | COO, Balance

Louise Newson and Gaele LalahyGaele Lalahy is the COO of www.balance-app.com which offers free support for perimenopausal and menopausal women.

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

In my former role, I was a member of the Board at Panasonic UK, leading the company’s marketing communications across the product portfolio of brands such as Panasonic, Lumix, Technics and led the global digital campaign for Panasonic during the London 2012 Games. I am passionate about tech innovation, and I had the chance to set up Panasonic’s digital marketing and ecommerce arsenal from the start and work with many start-ups and progressive minds to bring a number of media first innovations to Panasonic.

And then after an amazing 20 years’ career I decided to jump and join Dr Louise Newson in her almost solo fight to improve women’s health around the world and became the COO of the caring, empowering, essential, digital health menopause app, balance.

Coming from a big corporate the fact that 31% women thought about reducing their working hours and 32% had thought about leaving ( 1 )  because of the impact of sub-optimal menopause support and treatment, completely shocked me.

 At balance, our mission is empower women with unbiased, evidence-based information and knowledge so they can instigate a faster diagnosis and demand access to the appropriate treatment.  The app is free and allows women to have access to personalised expert information, track their symptoms, download their personal health report to take to their healthcare professional as evidence, and have access to a support community of like-minded women.

 Since the launch, the response has been phenomenal. We have just celebrated our first anniversary and have already supported hundreds of thousands of women in over 150 countries, women to whom we have given the courage and the knowledge to go and seek the right treatment for themselves, get back to work, and thrive in their lives and careers.

We are really excited that we are starting to work with corporates on specific solutions to  help support and retain their female talents.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never did actually – but when I looked for my first job I looked at nuggets of joy I wanted to have in my working life. A big brand, a multicultural environment, and a way to fulfil my passion for Japan and sports marketing. It had to have some of these in it to make sure I enjoyed every day . Luckily Panasonic offered me them all so it’s no wonder that I stayed for 20 years. Panasonic had given me the chance to develop a passion for tech innovation and always was so focused on purpose which was something I wanted to put at the heart of my job. After 20 years in a multinational, I also felt the need to prove myself again and see what I was capable of in a small structure, without safety nets. I am so glad that  balance came to find me. It was just right.

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

I guess coming from a consumer electronics giant to a digital health start-up was a challenge.

But at the same time the drastic change was what excited me. I know many people want to shift careers or sector and it’s not always easy to find people on the recruiting side who believe that bringing someone with different skills, from a different sector can actually transform, resolve, bring a unique perspective.

How I did I overcome this challenge:

1 – I learned. the first thing I did was to train in the menopause like healthcare professionals do taking the accredited “Confidence in the Menopause” course. I had to be credible

2 – I then tried to unlearn - I was keen to avoid bringing anything from my old world with me, thinking, people, ways of doing things, and have the chance to take everything in, impregnate myself with my new environment, see how things were done elsewhere and build a totally new network in my new space.

3 – only then, I allowed myself to apply learnings and started to merge the best of both worlds together. Whether you work in a big or a small company in sector A B or C there are fundamentals that do not change and if you are a good marketer, have a good commercial and business sense, you can navigate everywhere, and I wish that more recruiters find the courage to recruit cross sector and cross industry.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In my first 6 months we multiplied by five the number of app downloads of the balance menopause app. Without a single penny spent on direct marketing.

This makes me enormously proud not only because I can see the impact we are having on so many lives and the more we grow the closer we are to achieving our mission to improve women’s health globally but also because never have i worked before on a product such as the balance app that is so strong that pure word of mouth has created the buzz around it.

Such a privileged place to be, team balance is that intangible team of advocates that I keep discovering every day because they come and tell us what they have done off their own back because they believe in our mission, we have posters  promoting balance in the Ministry of Defence Medical Services, NHS surgeries, pharmacies, hairdressers, celebrity endorsement and a myriad of men and women advocates who want to help their friends, sisters, mums, daughters, colleagues.

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

I guess it’s remaining focused on the big, long term vision and removing all complacency or temptations for quick wins.

Looking at where we’ve got to, understanding how we got there and getting back to work.

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

Top 3 tips :

1 – Pick up a product, sector or brand that you absolutely love & believe in – because not only by giving your heart and soul the journey will be enjoyable but also if you are driven by passion you are going to be able to take anyone with you on the journey and get the support you need at every hurdle.

2 – Be focused but don’t be scared to pivot and adapt.  Be comfortable with change!

Our product roadmap has changed many times in the first 6 months, but we always remained focused on the long goal that is what is the most important. Sometimes the HOW is not the right HOW, and it is ok to pivot or change as long as you keep in line with your WHY.

3 – Learn, open your eyes and always be one or two ideas ahead of the curve

 At Panasonic we are working on a 100-year plan, that’s probably a bit much but you see what I mean!

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

The number of women working in tech, 17% is staggering low and more worrying, that number has not moved in 10 years! luckily there are so many organisations such as yourselves doing so incredibly well to provoke change, but change is too slow unfortunately.

The crucial points for me are to get young girls and new grads to ride of self-limiting beliefs, surface female role models & encourage investment to back up female entrepreneurs.

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

First of all, be open enough to recruit outside of the industry to bring in more women within. And then, promoting women mid-level is a huge issue. We know women are less likely than men to apply for a role if they do not fulfil 100% of the requirements. Companies must address this if they want to inspire women to come forward and realise their potential. In my previous company we created the Women in leadership course backed up by coaches & mentors to make sure that was addressed. So, promote your talents and do not be scared to tell them how good they are!

And of course, look at supporting your employees in their perimenopause and menopause journey to make sure you do not lose your best talents at the height of their career!

There is 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 find a way to demystify the word TECH - I think there is a misconception of tech and many women feel that they are not techie / scientific/ enough to work in tech. I have been working for 20 years in tech, first in consumer electronics and now in a tech start up- never have I considered myself “in tech” really until you asked me this question!

I come from a brand and marketing background, and I run a FEM tech start-up. Yet, I do not code, I run a business.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Going back to my point about self-limiting beliefs one book has been pivotal for me in my career as a female in a male dominated environment and that is the fantastic Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg which gave me wings and confidence to dare more.

I find it crucial to be able to take risks and put yourself in a situation of potential failure and no one talks better about the Power of Vulnerability than the fantastic Brenee Brown. At balance we keep trying new things, based on what we hear women want. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but what is important is that we keep learning and moving forward.

And finally, I love getting inspiration from various industries and people, I have the chance to work with mentors in so many industries, cinema, sports, consumer electronics, tech start-ups and hearing their stories and perspectives always allow me to enrich my thinking. And to be enlightened by new thoughts and ideas and be inspired by creatives, outlines, misfits, rebels and crazy ones, there is a fantastic “extreme perspectives” podcast which I cannot recommend enough.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Inspirational Woman: Dora Ziambra | Chief Operating Officer, Azimo

Dora Ziambra

I started out as a derivatives trader in Chicago, built my own options trading business in Germany, worked in international banking in London and Frankfurt, and joined a start-up advisory in Africa. Along the way, I worked for the likes of ECB, Deutsche Börse and PayPal.

I have worked for Azimo for the past seven years and been part of its journey from an ambitious scale-up to a global cross-border payments company.

Azimo is now a  leading  digital money transfer service with offices in London and Krakow. The company’s mission is to make it cheaper and easier for people to share money around the world. Currently, customers can send money in over 60 currencies to more than 200 countries and territories using Azimo’s award-winning app and website.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I would be lying if I said yes. I have planned my career within organisations but I have also made lateral  and even outside the sector moves - change is good.

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

Every job/career/day has its challenges and can motivate us as human beings. It has at times been a challenge to have people make assumptions about me based on my gender/appearance but I have managed to defy those assumptions. I was also challenged when I no longer liked the sector I was working in (trading/capital markets) and wanted a change.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Life and careers are long - highlighting an achievement would be short-sighted. Most achievements tend to be more important at the time they happen and in their given context.

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

Grit - learning to deal with setbacks, picking up and trying again.

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

Be flexible and always be learning. The tech sector is very fast-moving - whatever was the new thing a year ago is probably obsolete today!

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

There are barriers for women in most sectors but in my view, it stems from lack of critical mass. The more women that work in a sector and succeed, the more will be interested in joining and the more “acceptable”and common it will be.

There is 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?

More women need to choose STEM as their discipline early on during their education to then increase the pipeline of female candidates for tech jobs. Companies should be mindful of creating inclusive environments for women, including and not limited to career development, flexible working hours and open culture.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Inspirational Woman: Marilou van Doorn | COO, Leaseweb Global

Marilou van DoornMarilou van Doorn is an experienced operations leader with a passion for data, and a solid understanding of the technological landscape.

Having started her career in art, she pivoted into tech after falling in love with the tech scene in Amsterdam. She holds a master’s degree in New Media and Digital Culture and an MBA from INSEAD.

During her career she worked in operational roles as part of the management team in several global technology companies. By experiencing all different sizes of organizations from startups to global enterprises, and going through two acquisitions, she understands what is needed to build a solid operational foundation to safeguard the success of a company. Her focus is on operational excellence and customer centricity, bridging the gap between business and IT.

Since 2019 she has been working as the chief operations officer for Leaseweb Global, where, together with her team, she is successfully streamlining the cross-departmental processes, increasing the operational quality and efficiency, and working towards a data-driven operation.

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

My background started in art, but I fell in love with the startup scene and pivoted into tech. After going through two acquisitions as part of the MT of a data startup, I decided to do an MBA at Insead business school and continued into operational roles in the tech industry. Most recently I moved into the role of COO at Leaseweb, a global IaaS provider headquartered in the Netherlands, where I focus on the operational excellence of our data centres and the service we provide to our customers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Only at a later stage. If I did plan the start of my career, I must have been a pretty horrible career planner, since I actually wanted to become a fashion designer. I started at art school but switched to technology after falling in love with the passion, innovation and creativity of this industry. My first job in tech, bearing in mind I had no background at the time, was in technical support at Vodafone. Fortunately, I found that I had a knack for tech, and was quickly able to pick it up on the job. Only after finding out my sweet spot of operations within tech and doing an MBA, I started really thinking about my career path. But to be honest, I don’t think I would have changed anything about my route to tech. There are plenty of things that could have made my path easier, quicker, or ‘better’: for example, by studying computer science or starting my career at a consulting firm. But in the end, the route I took gave me an incredible set of experiences I still benefit from today.

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

Of course. I think it’s impossible to advance in your career without hitting a few walls. For example, I worked at one tech company where they installed a ‘pink quota’, resulting in the company just hiring women for the sake of their gender instead of their skills, which actually reduced the respect for women on the floor. This was early on in my career, and my response back then was just to double my effort and prove them wrong. Nowadays my response to most challenges is to initiate the conversation; I have come to realise that if you don’t speak up about these things, they will never change.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would say that I am very close to the career ambitions I have always had; to be a COO for a larger IT company. However, in terms of what I would like to achieve within this position, I’m definitely not there yet. For now, my ambition is to learn and accomplish as much as I can, and after that, most likely a new goal will come up.

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

I’m not sure I would necessarily describe where I am today as achieving success. However, I believe that a large part of why I ended up where I am today is because of my passion and positivity - the two are closely intertwined. I love what I do; for me work is more than just a way to pay the rent, and that same love also inspires me to always look for ways to improve things. I don’t believe in things just being a certain way because ‘that is how we always did it’, or accepting something just because we seem to be stuck. I will always look for ways to improve the status quo, because I actually honestly believe that things can be better. Of course, this does have its limits, and if I reach a point where I don’t feel this love and passion anymore, I know it is time for me to move on.

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

Have a goal in mind. It’s impossible to know exactly where you will end up, but having an objective will create opportunities. This doesn’t have to take the shape of the exact position or the exact company you want to end up with, but for example having a specific industry as a goal, will allow you to be open to opportunities. This is both psychological and practical; psychologically in a similar way to the ‘frequency illusion’ that if you hear something you will encounter it a lot more often, and practically because when you start targeting this goal more, you will get more exposure.

Also try to work out which aspect of the industry you’re passionate about. IT is an incredibly broad field, so finding the area you are truly enthusiastic about will not only ensure that your job will give you energy, but it will also make you more attractive to the job market. Passion and enthusiasm show in an interview.

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

Unfortunately, my answer has to be most definitely yes, and this actually goes beyond just tech, but for many other industries and women in management positions in general. To be honest my start in tech made me slightly naïve as to the extent of this issue. I worked at a startup that gave me all the possible opportunities and support I could have wished for, but it was only after switching companies and being exposed to a more diverse group of people that I started to realise the reality; women being referred to as ‘little girls’, managers stating male as a recruitment requirement since they ‘know what works for their team’, a woman in her 30’s being evaluated as a ‘risk’ for a c-level position since she might get pregnant. The only way in which we can overcome these barriers, is by bringing them out into the open. You might not succeed - I actually didn’t manage to convince the manager that he was discriminating in his recruitment requirements (and there were quite a few more discriminating demands in there) - but if you don’t speak up you can be certain things won’t change.

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

Aim for objectivity; in recruitment, in evaluations, in promotions, in pay rises. Try to make it measurable, equal, and as transparent as possible. This is the only way in which you can try to battle both conscious and unconscious bias. Also, take a moment to think about whether the decisions you are making are truly based on skills and competence, or influenced by other factors. Try to reflect by replacing the gender in the decision. If you perceive a woman in her early 30’s to be a risk because she might get pregnant, ask yourself whether you would make the same decision if it was a man who would announce that they were expecting a child.

There is currently only 17% 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?

Change the unconscious bias. This is the one thing that sometimes discourages me, and that is coming from a person that always sees the opportunity in things. Women are unconsciously judged unequally in many aspects. In one study for example, mothers were asked to rate how high their child could climb on the playground; boys were always overrated, while girls were underrated. Other studies have shown that for certain positions (for example higher management) the same resumé reflecting a male name instead of a female name is perceived as more competent, even by women! This makes me realise that I am biased in similar ways in my decision making. So yes please, I would definitely go for that magic wand, and until that time, I’ll just stick to my approach of trying to get as much subjectivity out of decision making.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are tons of good tech books out there, but it largely depends on what you’re interested in. That said, there are a few general resources that I enjoy on a daily or weekly basis. Some examples include Software Lead Weekly, a newsletter offering curated weekly content on people, culture and management in tech, and the CBInsights daily newsletter, which shares great information on startups, new tech, venture capital and fascinating data insights, all with a good dose of humour. And finally, a Podcast that is not really tech related but with topics that would benefit anyone: Freakonomics radio. This is the podcast behind the book Freakonomics, discussing socio-economic issues, or as they describe it ‘discovering the hidden side of everything’.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Seema-Khinda-Johnson-featured

Inspirational Woman: Seema Khinda-Johnson | Co-Founder & COO, Nuggets

 

Seema Khinda Johnson

Seema Khinda Johnson is the Co-Founder and COO of Nuggets

Nuggets is an e-commerce payments and ID platform. It stores your personal and payment data securely in the blockchain, so you never have to share it with anyone – not even Nuggets.

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

I’ve worked for a variety of companies including Skype and Microsoft, and gathered a lot of strategic experience leading teams and delivering large-scale commercialization, products, and projects.  In 2016 I co-founded Nuggets, where I’m now the COO.

Nuggets is an ecommerce payments and ID platform that stores personal and payment data securely in the blockchain. That means you can pay, log in or verify your identity without having to share your data with anyone - including Nuggets itself.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly – my career has grown fairly organically. I began as a production coordinator at a digital agency, managing technical and creative teams, and progressed into leading and managing delivery and operations. After that, I found myself building larger teams, and leading product and go-to-market for global businesses and start-ups.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

There have certainly been a few! The speed of the blockchain industry and how quickly the technology moves is something I haven't experienced before. Additionally an ongoing challenge is hiring the best people and finding the right talent for the company to grow and scale to meet demand.

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

I think it’s a great thing. Role models are essential to just about everything in life, and business is no exception. A good mentor does so many things. As well as sharing skills and expertise, they demonstrate the power of a positive attitude, showing as much as telling you how to progress. They have to be people who take a real personal interest in the mentoring relationship, giving guidance and constructive feedback all along the way. And they need to be goal-oriented, I think: setting and meeting goals for themselves and their mentee, personally and professionally.

Sponsors are just as important. Carla Harris gave a fantastic Ted talk on this topic – tearing apart the idea of a ‘lone wolf’ meritocracy, where individuals can get ahead by working hard. Instead, relationships should be forged with a sponsor, who will make your voice heard in meetings and have your back!

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

There’s definite momentum, but it’s going to take some time to see a more balanced playing field in tech. It’s a traditionally male-dominated industry, but given its immense role in the digital age, it’s critical that we reverse that trend. As a blockchain proponent, I’m of the strong opinion that the technology can be used for greater inclusion around the world.

I’d love to see more VC money made accessible to women leading great projects, so more female-driven startups can succeed. We need more female leaders and role models, not only in blockchain, but also in the wider tech industry. We need to raise their profile, to inspire girls and young women to pursue STEM subjects as a springboard into these industries. We need as many women interested in this industry as possible.

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

I think there are three aspects to this. First, learning. These days anyone with a web connection can access years’ worth of educational materials – from webinars and books to technical papers – catering to every part of the learning curve. And this is such a nascent space – now is the time to dive in.

Then there’s support. We need to support each other by sharing learnings. Things move incredibly fast in this space, and we’re all experiencing different facets of blockchain technology.

And lastly, getting involved. Hackathons, meetups and social media are great ways to interact with other people involved in every area of blockchain. I’d strongly recommend attending meetups to connect with like-minded people. There are innumerable fields in each of the STEM disciplines, so it’s important for all women to explore them and discover their passions.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think my work with Nuggets has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional life. Given how new the technology is, it’s largely unchartered territory, and there are few precedents for tackling problems that arise. That said, the sense of satisfaction you get from finding a solution is unparalleled! We’ve come incredibly far already, receiving a number of awards and forging some hugely significant partnerships.

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

There are so many answers to both of those! Nuggets is evolving into a movement for good: we really want to change the way companies hold and manage data. Across the world, we’re all forced to share a host of sensitive, valuable information just to make purchases or use services. That means sacrificing privacy and security. It’s something we’ve been conditioned to do over recent years, but it can’t go on. This model is fundamentally broken.

I’m so proud to be part of a project that gives people control back over their personal data. But I want to do much more. That’s why, at Nuggets,, we will always give a portion of transaction fees  to charity. Of course we want to grow – but we want good causes to grow with us too.


Inspirational Woman: Donne Burrows | COO, Engine B

Donne BurrowsMy career started in industry working my way up through a number of junior procurement roles to category manager for a FTSE100 until I took the plunge into management consultancy and joined KPMG within their Operational Transformation team.

I had a fantastic time at KPMG working in a huge variety of client roles, travelling the world and helping my clients to transform their businesses. After returning from maternity leave in 2011 it was clear that my previous life of working all hours and working in any location was not the ideal mix with juggling nursery drops and mum life so I started a different, but just as rewarding KPMG career internally – helping the firm to transform itself. My passion has always been innovation and technology and it was clear to me that there was a huge digital juggernaut heading straight for the professional services industry and it had to transform or risk being flattened. Working with a number of colleagues in the UK, US and Germany we identified that data access and transparency was the key issue affecting clients and if we could unlock this, we could not only help the incumbents but also open up the industry to new entrants and really start to level the playing field.

It became clear that transformation on this scale had to be independent of any one firm and so I made the decision to leave KPMG after 14 years, with their blessing and to co-found Engine B in August 2019. I am Chief Operating Office of Engine B and our vision is to disrupt and open up the professional services marketplace through increased data access to enable current, and new providers to deliver their services. My role as a COO in a start up is wide and varied, everything from investor meetings, to recruitment, to financial management right through to making sure we have masks and sanitisers available for our recent all team meetings! Over the past 12 months I have led the growth of our team from the two co-founders to a team of 16 today which I am immensely proud of and having responsibility for the livelihood of so many people has suddenly made me feel like a grown up! 😊

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I really didn’t and even today and I don’t have a short, medium or long term career plan. My career has been a result of gut decisions I’ve made and working really hard to earn the opportunities that were made available to me.

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

I know it’s very cliched but I think the biggest challenge was going on maternity leave at a senior manager level, on the cusp of entering the director promotion process. I returned to an internal role after a year and felt my promotion had been pushed to the back of the queue. The reality of any large firm is that fee earning colleagues will always have the stronger business case for promotion. Instead of getting frustrated by this, I continued to work just as hard and to demonstrate my value to the firm and the opportunities I created with, what is now Engine B, have delivered a far better result for me personally in the long run.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It has definitely been my current role, in building a business from scratch, securing a significant government grant and investor funding, and building the team up to the 16 people we are today with another 8-10 roles to fill over the next 6 months. It’s been hairy and very scary at times but without doubt the most rewarding time of my career so far.

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

I think it has been not being fixed on the grade or what a role is called but rather, focusing on what I am doing and what I want to do, and how to get there. Too often we are told that our worth is measured on a job title or how much we earn but I believe our worth is measured in how satisfied we are, if we are continually learning and feel like we are making a difference.

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

You don’t need to be a techy to work in technology! I have no formal technology training but a bright mind, eager to learn will pick up what they need to know and there is so much more to building a career in technology than the tech itself.

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

I believe there are barriers for women working everywhere but what I have seen in tech specifically is that there are still not enough senior women in tech roles. Not for the want of trying or putting pressure on my recruiters but I definitely see far fewer CV’s from women for our senior tech roles and I think this is simply that there are not enough women yet, with the right levels of experience who have moved up the career ladder. It’s reassuring that at the more junior levels, there are lots of female candidates which gives me hope that we will start to see this change over the next few years with far more women moving into senior tech roles.

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

Push your recruiters to present 50% male/ 50% female CV’s for any roles you are recruiting for. As I said before this is more of a challenge at the senior roles but the more we do it, the more we will shift the balance. I think we also need to take some risks in the candidates – we may have a female candidate who has the potential to move into a role so could we give her a push up into it, support her to develop into it rather than taking the safe option with the more experienced male candidate? I am proud to say that my co-founder and I have diversity at the heart of our company values and a board that is more female than male which we hope gives a strong message to the rest of the company.

There is currently only 17% 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 don’t think there is a magic wand, but per my answers above its about taking risks with candidates and supporting them to step up into roles.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

 


Alex Cappy featured

Inspirational Woman: Alex Cappy | Chief Operations Officer, Hubs

Alex Cappy

Prior to joining Hubs, Alex Cappy was most recently a Digital Expert Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company where she applied her expertise in operations to help companies launch and scale up their digital ventures.

Cappy started her career as a Supply Chain Analyst and Program Manager in the US, before completing her MBA at Wharton. She then joined McKinsey & Company in 2011, where she worked in the New York and London offices. After 3 years in this role, she joined Uber’s London office to become Head of Operations for the UK, leading the team through a period of exponential growth. During her time in England, Cappy also worked for Deliveroo where she was appointed as Head of Supply Operations.

As she sought to further develop her career elsewhere, Cappy found herself in Amsterdam where she first worked for the bike-sharing company ofo as a General Manager, Digital McKinsey, and now 3D Hubs.

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

In total, my tech career has spanned three countries and four industries.

Working in operations in a tech company turned out to be my perfect fit, and that’s what I do as COO at Hubs, an on-demand global manufacturing marketplace. I love using technology to solve problems, whether it’s giving the customer a better solution or building efficient operations. The problem-solving aspect of it gives me a ton of energy.

The industry has changed a lot and I feel lucky to be part of this period of history. I was part of the first generation to have internet at home, starting with AOL when I lived in the US and MSN Messenger when I lived in Italy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I came into my career in tech over time. For my undergrad, I studied Economics and Psychology. The only overlap between those two were a lot of statistics classes, which I loved. That has always stuck with me. Data helps me make sense of the world.

Later, I was working as a consultant at McKinsey & Company and did a lot of work in supply chain and digital sales channels - back when not every industry was selling online. In 2014, I made the jump to Uber in London, where I was leading the operations team.

I always wanted to do something tangible - with a real-world product. Working in Operations was the perfect mix of being data-driven, solving optimisation problems, and immediately seeing the impact of my work. Operations teams in digital companies move even faster than in more traditional companies, which makes me love it that much more.

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

In my career, change was the only constant. Some may find it unsettling or even challenging, but I’ve consciously embraced it, ‘surfing’ the wave and making the best out of every opportunity.

I feel like I’ve seen the evolution from digital businesses mainly being e-commerce or sales channels, to entire products and new industries in their own right. In non-digital businesses, IT teams are becoming Product teams and are more central to the strategy than ever. I still remember when my first employer decided to use Salesforce and the idea of being in the “cloud” was so novel that you always used quotation marks (and a careful inflection) around “cloud”.

It’s an exciting time to witness, and even better - to be a part of the change!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am extremely proud of the way we grew Uber in the UK, and of setting up the first centralised country operations team there. We brought a great service to customers, and flexible income to people who didn’t have it. More than that, I’m proud of the team I built there. I look at what all of my direct reports and hires are doing now, and I’m absolutely inspired. I’m excited to see the impact they’ll have on the world.

I also think Hubs is at a similar inflection point. In the next few years, we’ll see just how much impact we can have, by bringing such a great service to an industry in need of change. We’re just starting to see the potential of distributed and automated manufacturing.

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

I’m lucky in that I’ve found a career path that I truly love. I don’t work hard because someone is forcing me to, I wake up wanting to solve the interesting problems I get to address every day.

I’ve also had a couple of really stand-out mentors throughout my career. My first female manager taught me to draft a list of my accomplishments and give it to her before my performance review. She always told me: “Blow your own trumpet, because no one else will do it for you.” I think it’s a great practice, and as a manager, I’ve come to appreciate it for different reasons. I need help remembering everything my team members have worked on!

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

It’s helpful in all industries, but in tech especially, it’s very valuable to know what other teams in your company do and how they like to work. I’ve seen too many cases of teams being misaligned just due to a lack of understanding.

For example, if you’re on the “business” side of the organisation, take a basic coding class! (I suggest starting with python :)) Attend a sprint planning meeting and demos. It helps if you know how your Engineering team does their planning, and you can even ask how they prefer to work with you. (spoiler: most developers do not appreciate you dropping by their desk unannounced, so don’t do it!)

If you’re on the “tech” side of the business, you’ll be that much more powerful if you’re plugged in with your company’s strategy and operations. You can shape your roadmap to deliver maximum impact, make infrastructure/design decisions that are more likely to be future-proof, and have the satisfaction of knowing what you’re solving and why versus just cranking on tickets.

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

One is our own self-perception. Several studies have shown that women perform worse on mathematics tests when they are reminded of negative stereotypes about their abilities. So for starters, let’s stop talking about these things like we’re worse at them. We are not. That starts in early education.

Another is that there are still slight biases in the workplace. People can be more comfortable hiring and working with people who are like them, and when you come from a starting point of having more men, that can be a challenge. Honestly, it hasn’t been a huge factor in places I’ve worked, but you certainly hear a lot of cases. And I can say that I’m probably more inclined to hire women than a man in my role would!

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

Women need a space to be themselves and learn without being afraid to ask “stupid questions”. That can be hard to do in a room full of men who always seem super confident. We can create those forums for each other to build confidence and teach women that they are just as capable as the men in their field.

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’d start at the beginning, honestly. In schools, we can tackle biases around how we educate women in the sciences. No more saying men are better at them, no more giving disproportionate attention to students who happen to be louder. Feature female scientists prominently, even though there are fewer to discuss due to the historical context.

Starting at the university level, we can address the “bro” culture that can make tech inhospitable to women. Stereotypically, women are known to be more social creatures, but our teaching methods can celebrate the “lone wolf” stereotypes in these fields, rather than encouraging and celebrating group problem solving - which is a huge part of my job!!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are a couple of books I’ve read that take the guesswork out of networking, something I would naturally avoid. There’s the classic “Never Eat Alone,” and a very practical short one called “The 20-minute networking meeting”.

I also highly recommend Ben Horowitz’s books “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” and “What You Do Is Who You Are.” Besides being full of valuable lessons, they also give some insights into the real-life experience of working in a start-up.

Finally, if your company organises events for women, go to them! It’s great to build that network and spend time with other women informally. I have an amazing group of female friends that I met when we started at McKinsey together. 10 years later, we always have each others’ backs, personally and professionally, and it’s amazing to have women in my life who I can turn to with tricky career questions.