Dr Thomas Bernard

HeForShe: Thomas Bernard | Director of Engineering, Typeform & Co-founder, QuestFriendz

Dr Thomas BernardDr Thomas Bernard is Co-Founder of QuestFriendz, a STEM educational children’s book publisher on a mission to create the next generation of future innovators.

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

I am originally from France but have lived abroad for the past 20 years, most of the time spent in The Netherlands. I have been working in tech for the past 15+ years in diverse high tech engineering roles. I am currently engineering lead in a global tech company where I strive to create diversity both in terms of gender and diverse nationalities, along with a mix of different backgrounds. My vision is that diversity in teams and workforce enables better ideas that fuel innovation and a more harmonious and engaged workplace.

In addition to my job in a global tech company, I also founded QuestFriendz several years ago together with my wife Lisa Moss, pursuing a lifelong dream to build and grow our own business linked to a mission we are very passionate about. QuestFriendz is a new children’s book publisher, with a mission to produce expertly designed inclusive books that will inspire and equip the next generation to pursue STEM education and careers. In turn, helping to reduce the STEM skills shortage and increasing female representation and ethnic diversity in STEM. I initially noticed the lack of female representation in STEM during my postgraduate (PhD) studies at the University of Amsterdam. As a lecturer for undergraduate engineering and computer science programs, I noticed that there was an exceptionally low female representation both in the classes and at conferences I was attending at the time.

The idea for QuestFriendz was initially sparked back in 2018 when our twin daughters were three and a half years old. My wife and I were looking for books and toys that would nurture and develop their curiosity and help to develop foundational STEM skills such as problem solving and critical thinking. We looked across toys, games and books but found minimal options for this younger age range. And most were limited, depicting stereotypical lead characters or role models such as young boys in white lab coats.

At the same time there was growing media coverage regarding the increasing STEM skills gap around the world including limited diversity in STEM which we also experienced first-hand in the workplace. We saw an opportunity in the market which we decided to pursue and created SuperQuesters: The Case of the Stolen Sun, which is the first instalment in a unique new series which inspires a love of STEM learning through interactive play and stories, expertly designed to develop children’s STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) publishing on 3 May 2022, written by myself and my wife Lisa Moss (illustrated by Amy Willcox).

The SuperQuesters books are also a great screen-free way to help young children develop basic coding skills. The QuestFriendz website (www.questfriendz.com) features a wealth of STEM activities and resources for use in the home or school setting.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never really worked on career planning in a formal sense. However, from a young age I’ve always been fascinated by all science disciplines with a desire to learn and experiment as much as possible in these areas.

My interest and passion in diverse science disciplines and topics has led me to where I am today in my career. For example, from the age of 11 I discovered programming using BASIC and LOGO educational programming languages. At the time I was focused on learning as much as possible about these languages and how to practically apply them by creating my own computer games. This initial love of programming is what steered me in the direction of computer engineering.

My initial plan was to become a professor of engineering as I’ve always had a love for education and teaching. This was inspired by my love of helping others to develop themselves and succeed. I changed track from academia to industry as I preferred the faster pace of innovation and more diverse innovation topics available to be involved in.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

When I initially moved from France to the Netherlands at the start of my postgraduate (PhD) program, I spoke and wrote very limited English and no Dutch at all. I self taught myself in the first few years, it was an additional challenge at the time both in terms of making sure I could express myself as needed to complete my degree and as an undergraduate lecturer at the university.

Regarding my entrepreneurial experience, there have also been challenges along the way including setting up a business from scratch, learning the ropes of a new industry and establishing a network in the traditional industry of children’s book publishing.

Perseverance and the ability to keep pushing through any hurdles are as essential, as learning from your own mistakes.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Setting up my own publishing business, together with my wife and business partner Lisa Moss, I would say is one of my biggest achievements to date. Coming from a corporate background where everything is well established and arranged, making the transition to setting up our own business has come with challenges but I am feeling extremely proud with what we’ve achieved to date and I’m excited to see the ne par of our journey unfold.

Group of children reading SuperQuesters book at home

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

Having a supportive partner has been a major factor in achieving my success to date both in terms of my PhD, career in tech and starting of QuestFriendz. It starts with someone to bounce around ideas/brainstorm with to catalysing these ideas together, to being supportive when faced with any challenges along the way.

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

A big part of my role as engineering head is to mentor people around me both in terms of my teams as well as other areas of the company. I help them to become aware of their potential and how to realize it to the fullest extent. It gives me a lot of energy helping others to succeed professionally and personally.

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

Businesses and governments should be aware that having a diverse and inclusive workforce helps to foster new ideas and this is key to driving innovation. If you have people with the same mindset and profile, you will only have converging ideas whereas when you have a diverse pool of talent in the same team or company, this results in divergent thinking which brings novel ideas and approaches to solve real world problems and resulting in making better decisions.

More specifically for businesses, there is a tendency to hire candidates of similar/same profiles of current employees as this feels comfortable and relatable. Companies and government need to train their employees to open up their perspectives in order to address these natural biases and hire candidates who are different from themselves.

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

Currently the unfortunate reality is that it is still very much a male driven workforce in STEM/Tech especially in the areas of computing and engineering. There is clearly a need to attract people from both genders first of all to fill this basic gap around the world. In the UK alone, the nation’s growing STEM skills gap is estimated to be costing the economy £1.5bn per year. There is a big transformation taking place as companies across industries and around the world are digitalizing their companies, processes, operations, etc. It is already very challenging to fill critical positions in tech, which is expecting to become even more difficult in the years to come as the number of STEM/Tech roles to be filled will continue to increase.

Also very importantly, as tech starts to play a greater role in everyday life it becomes essential to ensure that all people across gender, ethnicities, abilities and backgrounds are represented in the tech world and that their needs are taken into account including in the innovation funnel.  This links to our mission at QuestFriendz where we are addressing the beginning of the education funnel with our STEM interactive stories, activities and resources in order to inspire the next generation of super problem-solvers and curious creators. Our aim is to bring STEM learning to the masses from a young age, helping children to develop both an interest and confidence in this area in order to become technology creators rather than simply consuming technology.

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

Dare to follow your own path regardless of what others may say or think.

Everyone will always have an opinion but only you truly know what is the right direction for you, that brings you both purpose and fulfilment.

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

The next challenge is to further establish and scale up QuestFriendz as an impactful children’s publisher. Our core values are to inspire STEM learning in children from a young, and we want to bring our business to the next level so that we achieve our mission of Bringing STEM learning to the mass.

Paul Harrison, Huawei UK

HeForShe: Paul Harrison | Director of Communications, Huawei UK

Meet Paul Harrison, Director of Communications at Huawei UK

Paul Harrison, Huawei UK

Paul is Director of Communications at Huawei UK. Paul joined Huawei in 2020, after spending most of his working life in broadcast journalism at Sky News. In this piece, we talk about his career, his advice to his younger self and why he believes men should be part of the gender equality conversation.

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

I’ve spent most of my working life in broadcast journalism at Sky News, so working in the tech space is relatively new for me. As Director of Communication, the biggest challenge I’ve faced in the past 3 years since joining Huawei, has been to get up to speed on the tech whilst being asked highly technical questions by super informed journalists. But as a former journalist, you can see the techniques journalists use to trip you up, coming long before they hit you.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not much planning for me. I imagined I would always be involved in the media somehow. Whether you are on the journalism side of the fence or the PR – or ‘dark side’ as it is known in the media – the media has always played a role in my career. Having a journalist as a father meant that from an early age, I was exposed to news, if only to catch sight of my Dad in a war zone or in a far flung part of the world on his latest assignment. So I fell into working in local media after university.

The rest is history.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Watching others, I learned not to sit still for too long and changed things up regularly. Part of this is due to having good mentors in the media who had my back. While remaining at one company for 22 years, I had 6 different roles during that time, spotting new opportunities every 3-4 years. The hardest moment came when changing industry from journalism to PR. Taking the plunge into a new world was scary but people told me to back myself.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I don’t look at my career in terms of my achievements, rather in the form of other people’s achievements.

I get more of a kick out of helping others exceed expectations and achieve.

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

For people who are successful, they have had good networks of people around them to help them realise their full potential. Align with good people who believe in you and push you to be the best you can.

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

I have officially been a mentor in my past as a journalist and having an experienced person to help you negotiate difficult moments in your career or simply offer a guiding hand, can be enormously powerful. I have also benefitted from a mentor. The point is those who have a degree is seniority should factor an element of mentor behaviour into their daily work life.

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

Opportunity is everything.

A level playing field is vital in this regard.

So industry, business and Government must not shy away from making tough decisions to force the issue. Words are cheap, actions are invaluable.

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

In an ideal world, equality in the workplace should not even be a discussion. The fact it is means it incumbent upon all of us to realise there is a problem that needs solving, and fast.

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

Back yourself early on. If you feel something is within your grasp, back yourself to achieve it. But in doing so, remain modest and humble. No-one likes a smart-arse.

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

A good night’s sleep.

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

Robert Wessman

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

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

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

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

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

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joey Tait

HeForShe: Joey Tait | Managing Director, develop

Joey Tait

develop is an award-winning software engineering recruitment business based in London, and working across the UK, German, and Miami markets.

develop partners with the world’s most innovative businesses, offering product-based solutions for both permanent and contract recruitment objectives. The business is a leading contributor to the software engineering community and focuses its effort across seven brands: develop .NET, develop Java, develop Python, develop PHP, develop JavaScript, develop Technology and develop Change.

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

I’ve been in technology recruitment for around 15 years, and with that experience I set up develop in August 2020. We are a leading contributor to the software engineering community and a disruptive recruiter that takes special care to train our staff and technically test our candidates. I am the Managing Director, overseeing operations, marketing, finance and internal growth.

Working with my business partner, Kevin (Kevin Hammond – CEO) who I met in school, we’ve built the team to 50, growing through the pandemic, and I am passionate about developing staff, and creating a high-performance culture that everyone enjoys being a part of.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  

Honestly, no. I started out working to my strengths, and added to my skillset as needed, as time went on. Being open to the idea of continually learning throughout my career has set me up for success and allowed me to adapt to different outcomes. That’s still the case, even more so now that my career is so intertwined with develop’s progression. The business drives my learning and vice versa; the two go hand in hand.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, too many to mention, but that’s the nature of business – success doesn’t come without failure.

However, I now see challenges as part of the journey. Accepting that you’re going to have them enables you to have more clarity on how to get through those tough situations.

Our industry moves quickly and dwelling on failures will set you back. Learning from failure quickly and decisively will put you in a strong position to move everything forward, despite any perceived setback.

What has been your biggest achievement to date? 

Every year since develop opened has been rewarding in its own way, but 2021 to 2022 was our best year yet. We achieved almost 500 placements throughout the year, grew the team to a strong 50 headcount, and opened an office in Miami.

We’ve got an incredible platform to build on and we’re continually striving to create something really special, for our team and the people we partner with.

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

I never stop learning. ​​Continuous education is important in any field, but especially in tech. It’s important to not get complacent. With so much changing all the time, you have to stay on top of your skills and knowledge.

That’s something we’ve ingrained into our business model at develop too. We pay for all our staff to learn how to code and give them the time to do it in work hours. Every new client and partnership that comes through our doors is an opportunity for the team to learn something new, and I think we’ve built an open and safe environment for them to do so.

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

I’m a huge supporter of mentoring at every level. At every stage of my career, I’ve either been mentored, or mentored others. At develop, I make sure I take the time to sit down and work with our team, whether it’s their first week or they’re a seasoned consultant. Everyone can benefit from some one-on-one time with a mentor.

Early on in my career, I had some amazing people who helped guide me through my journey, helping shape me into the person I am today, both personally and professionally. I’d like to do the same for our team.

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

There are a few priorities that I think are key to supporting diversity and inclusion within a business. Understanding unconscious bias and its impact is one of the first steps. Practising what you preach sounds simple, but it’s often not the case. Implementing pay equity, having diverse teams and representation at all levels, and facilitating open conversations are just some of the ways businesses can help to reduce and eliminate biases.

We need to change our approach towards getting diverse talent involved by providing opportunities at all levels, starting early. One initiative I’m working on at the moment, in line with this, is donating STEM toys to local schools. By providing the tools for schools to educate their students at a young age, we can help level the playing field and hopefully even out the unfair split in male-dominated industries like tech. Young people need to be given the opportunity to explore all industries and find out what they are interested in without barriers.

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

Whether we recognise it or not, we are part of the problem. It’s our responsibility to do our part, be allies and support and push for change.

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

Find what makes you tick and pursue it passionately.

Failure is just a stepping stone to success, don’t let it keep you down for long.

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

The growth that Kevin and I have planned for the business over the next few years is really exciting and will in turn push me to achieve more personally. We’ve recently opened our first offices in America as we look to help drive the success of the tech market in Miami and are planning to open an office in Germany in the near future. We’ve made a great start in Miami, and we’re hoping to change the perception of recruiters/headhunters in that market. This growth should also see our team reach a headcount of 150 by 2025.

I hope that we can also change the way the industry works. We hold a powerful position in the creation of more diverse, equitable teams, so I hope we are able to make a difference there. By making sure that opportunities are offered equally and without bias or barriers, we can hopefully impact the wider industry.

Gary Devenay

HeForShe: Gary Devenay | Chief Technology Officer, Safe & the City

Gary DevenayGary is a software engineer with over 12 years of commercial full stack experience.

His love of programming started at the age of 12, which landed him his first developer role by age 16. Despite his youth, Gary has successfully led development teams through the entire lifecycle of agile projects for some of the world’s largest clients, including PwC, KPMG, EY, Missguided.com, and Royal Bank of Scotland. Gary met Jillian at their shared co-working space while building his own digital agency; We are Decade. Gary also had built a similar product to Safe & the City in a 48-hour hackathon many years earlier, which never left his mind about the importance of this type of technology and improving safety in areas where he grew up in Scotland. Gary joined Safe & the City as CTO in February 2019.

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

I was born and raised on the west coast of Scotland. At the age of 12, I started teaching myself how to code and fell in love with computers. At the age of 16, I landed my first job as a professional Software Engineer. Over the next 12 years, I went on to lead teams and write software for some of the world’s biggest brands before pursuing my start-up dream and joining Safe & the City as the Chief Technology Officer in 2019. My role at Safe & the City is to oversee and implement our technology roadmap for both our Safe & the City app and our i3 Intelligence business platform with the goal of reducing the risk of unsafe experiences to people travelling through public spaces.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t plan my career too far into the future, but I was always consciously aware of how I wanted to progress. I tried hard to get involved in meaningful projects that would present valuable learning experiences that I could evidence for future roles when I felt it was time to progress in my career.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Starting a professional career at age 16 was a challenge. There is a steep learning curve to go from a high school environment to a professional workplace and gain the professional respect of peers. I would say my age remained a professional challenge until my mid-twenties, but I was determined to keep my focus on my abilities and outputs knowing that I would ultimately be judged based on them.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am most proud of my continuous investment in my own knowledge. I was never a particularly standout student at school and didn’t take well to those methods of learning. To discover my true passion for learning and ability to dive into a diverse range of topics from software engineering to rocket science and macroeconomics, I really believe I have become a student of life.

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

Without a doubt, the defining factor of my success so far has been my appetite for learning. In a profession that moves as fast as software engineering, I never let a day go by without learning something new. If you’re not learning something meaningful and new each day, you’re missing a great opportunity.

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

Mentoring is great, I’ve never had an official mentor but the Technical Director at my first position instilled the lessons of learning and quality of work that set me on the path I’ve continued for the last 14 years. I’ve yet to take on an official mentee, but it’s something I’m looking forward to in the future.

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

So much of our societal structure is inherited from our employment and our ability to earn. I am a big believer in the “incentive theory of motivation”. If we want to reap the rewards of a diverse team of colleagues and peers, then we have to present truly equal opportunity and remuneration. In my opinion, this should be the first criteria of any push towards diversity and inclusion.

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

Increased gender equality is better for everyone and touches every part of our lives. In our workplace, we can see that increased gender equality increases the quality of decision making, the effectiveness of product and service design, better and more effective innovation— the list goes on. From a purely economic standpoint, increased gender equality alone would equate to a GDP increase of €1.2 trillion in Europe, further improving the quality of life and living for everyone.

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

Don’t compare yourself to other people, compare yourself today to yourself a month ago, or a year ago. Other colleagues and friends are on a different journey than you, with different goals and circumstances. As long as you are closer to your goals today than you were a year ago, you’re doing great!

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

At the moment my challenge is in delivering the roadmap for Safe & the City’s i3 Intelligence platform, the Safe & the City mobile app and scaling our team. We have some really exciting and cutting-edge technology which I believe will make a real difference to how we experience and improve safety in public spaces. Looking towards the future, I am working on advancements to how we can stabilise and incentivise our renewable energy grid as we move further into a sustainable energy future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

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

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

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

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

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

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Refocussing my perspective and giving back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it’s vital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

Looking back at 2021: Our top Inspirational Women & HeForShe interviews

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

In the final installments of looking back at 2021, we delve into our favourite and fascinating Inspirational Women & HeForShe interviews of the year.

Our Inspirational Women series of interviews aims to highlight amazing women across the globe, showcase their achievements and raise their profiles. Over the years, we have interviewed so many amazing women such as Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more.

Our HeForShe interviews celebrate men who promote and support women in the workplace, whether it is through campaigning, mentoring or giving opportunities to women.

Dame Kate Bingham DBE | Former Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force

Dame Kate Bingham DBE is the former chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.

In her role as chair of the task force, she helped steer the procurement of vaccines and the strategy for their deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was recently awarded a Damehood in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for her services to to the procurement, manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

Read Kate's interview

Nathalie Marchino | Former Olympic Rugby Player & Head of Partnerships, Figma

Nathalie Marchino has represented the Colombian women’s rugby team at Rio 2016, the US in the 2010 and 2014 15s world cup and in the 2013 7s World Cup, where they earned a Bronze medal.

She also worked her way up in the tech sector with the likes of Google, Twitter and LinkedIn, before progressing to the role of Head of Partnerships at Figma – the web-based design platform behind Uber, Deliveroo and Spotify.

Now based in London, Nathalie is a huge advocate for helping athletes enter the workforce, helping women reach the top of their game both professionally and in sport, and for helping minority groups have their voices heard.

Read Nathalie's interview

Russ Shaw CBE | Founder, Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates

Russ Shaw CBE is the founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates.

He originally founded Tech London Advocates in 2013 to ensure an independent voice of the technology community was heard, but with a focus on the private sector. Since then he has been championing London as a global tech hub and campaigning to address some of the biggest challenges facing tech companies in the UK. Global Tech Advocates, founded in 2015, is now present in 17 hubs around the globe, with over 12,000 members. In 2019 Russ launched the inaugural GTA Festival, taking place in China and bringing the international network together for the first time. Russ was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021 for services to technology and to business in London. He is a founding partner of London Tech Week, a London Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London and Advisory Board member for Founders4Schools and the Government’s Digital Skills Partnership. In 2019, Russ was recognised as a ‘Tech Titan’ in the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list of London’s most influential people.

Read Russ' interview

Rayna Stamboliyska | VP Governance and Public Affairs, YesWeHack

Rayna Stamboliyska is the VP Governance and Public Affairs at YesWeHack, a global bug bounty and coordinated disclosure leader.

She focuses on EU cyber diplomacy and resilience including issues related to cybersecurity, strategic autonomy and data protection. Rayna also manages the EU-funded SPARTA research and innovation project, which is a pilot for the EU Cyber Competences Network. An award-winning author for her most recent book “La face cachée d’Internet” (“The dark side of the Internet”, Larousse 2017), Rayna is also an IoT hacker and a staunch proponent of open source, data and science. Prior to joining YesWeHack, Rayna has served in various Directorship and security-related foreign policy positions: she has consulted for international organisations, private companies, governments and non-profits, interfacing with public sector actors and guiding them through innovative policy-making processes. Energetic and passionate, Rayna has grown to become a recognised information security speaker committed to educating those outside of the industry on security threats and best practices. She writes up the cybersecurity expert column “50 shades of Internet” at ZDNet.fr and tweets under @MaliciaRogue.

Read Rayna's interview

Anat Deracine | Author & Technologist

Anat Deracine (her pen name) is the author of the novel Driving by Starlight (Macmillan, 2018), about a girl growing up in Saudi Arabia, and many short stories, including The Divine Comedy of the Tech Sisterhood about inequalities in the tech industry. Outside of writing she is a senior figure in the tech industry.

Born in India, and raised in Saudi Arabia, Anat is fascinated by cultural narratives around equality and the portrayal of women. Her parents allowed Anat to dress as a boy so that she could do sports and take part in other activities that girls were not permitted to.

She has two degrees which she studied concurrently – one in philosophy and one in computer science. This dual talent for creativity and technology has continued through her life: Anat joined one of Silicon Valley’s major tech companies after university and worked her way into a senior role. As such, she is active in driving diversity in the tech sector – both for those who work in it, and for the masses who use it. It is for this reason she chooses to write under a pen name.

Read Anat's interview

Yewande Akinola MBE | Chartered Engineer, Innovator & Speaker

Yewande is a chartered engineer, innovator and speaker. Her engineering experience includes the design and construction, innovation and manufacture of buildings and systems in the built environment.

She has worked on projects in the UK, Africa, the Middle East and East Asia and has been named the UK Young Woman Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineering & Technology. She has also been awarded the Exceptional Achiever Award from the Association for BAME Engineers and the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, U.K. (ACE). She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. She is passionate about STEM communication and has presented Engineering programmes for Television. In the 2020 New Year Honours list, Yewande was awarded an MBE for services to engineering innovation and diversity in STEM.

She has recently been appointed the UK’s Innovation agency (Innovate UK) Ambassador for Clean Growth and Infrastructure.

Read Yewande's interview

Sophia Matveeva | Founder, Tech For Non-Techies

Sophia Matveeva is the founder of Tech For Non-Techies, a learning community and media company. Sophia has contributed to the Financial Times, The Guardian and Forbes on entrepreneurship and technology, and hosts the top rated Tech for Non-Techies podcast.

She has also guest lectured at Chicago Booth and London Business School, and led the Blackstone x Techstars accelerator at the University of Texas at El Paso.

As a non-technical founder, she has co-created apps and algorithms that have been used by thousands, won App of the Day by Mashable, and were featured by Inc, the BBC and more.

Sophia loves helping entrepreneurs and has advised Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge and Microsoft x London College of Fashion incubator.

She holds an MBA from Chicago Booth, and a BSc (Hons) in Politics from Bristol. She speaks English, Russian and French.

Read Sophia's interview

Usha Raghavachari | Lab Director, D-Ford London, Ford Motor Company

Usha Raghavachari is Lab Director for D-Ford, the Global Innovation ‘start-up lab’ focused on developing human centred design inside Ford Motor Company. Usha has responsibility for Labs based in London (UK), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Melbourne (Australia).

Previously, based in China, Usha led the Marketing and Product strategy for Ford APAC’s Battery Electric Vehicle portfolio for three years. Prior to that she held the role of Marketing Communications Director for Ford of Europe with responsibility for the Consumer Communications, Social Media, Events and Experiential, Media and Analytic teams.

Usha joined Ford Motor Company on the Marketing graduate programme and progressed her career with an impressive range of Marketing, Strategy, Product Launch and Communications roles in Europe and Dearborn, Michigan.

In her current D-Ford role, Usha is passionate about developing deep human insights to drive the creative process. She loves solving problems and creating new possibilities (new products, services, experiences and new ventures) that delight Ford customers and transform the future of Ford.

Read Usha's interview

Mary Kaye Fraser | Head of Studio, Clipwire Games

Mary Kaye Fraser is the Head of Studio at Clipwire Games and 20 + year games industry veteran. MK started off in games as a game designer, having designed the touch controls for Tetris on mobile.

From there, MK went on to produce many games for some fairly large IPs. Now as Head of studio at Clipwire, MK oversees the company’s  strategic growth including production processes, product design, hiring and team structure, training and mentoring as well as business development. Her biggest joy at Clipwire is seeing the team thrive and grow; they are doing some incredible things together. In the last 18 months, the team has taken Bingo Story, which was Clipwire’s flagship title, and built it into one of the top grossing social casino games on mobile. As a result, App Annie named Clipwire as the #2 Top Publisher Headquartered in Canada.

Read MK's interview

Felicia Williams | Director of Design & Research for Emerging Businesses, Twitter

Felicia recently joined Twitter as Director of Design & Research for Emerging Businesses, as well as the regional Design & Research leader for the UK.

The team and leadership at Twitter are incredible, smart and passionate about how they can grow their platform, and bring even better services and experiences to users. Her remit is to develop and scale products for small businesses and individuals looking to start their business.

Felicia is part of This is Engineering Day, a day created by the Royal Academy of Engineering to celebrate the world-shaping engineering that exists all around us but often go unnoticed, as well as the engineers who make this possible. As part of This is Engineering Day, the Royal Academy of Engineering has announced plans to create a new virtual museum named The Museum of Engineering Innovation, which can be accessed through QR Codes dotted around the country as well as by visiting Google Arts and Culture.

Read Felicia's interview

Flavilla Fongang | Founder, 3 Colours Rule & TLA Black Women In Tech

Flavilla Fongang is a serial entrepreneur, author and the founder of 3 Colours Rule, an award-winning branding and neuromarketing agency.

Computer Weekly named her among the top 5 most influential women in tech in the UK. Through her agency, she has helped her clients scale their brand nationally and internationally. She was awarded the “She’s Mercedes” businesswoman award by Mercedes Benz. Flavilla Fongang is a respected brand strategist with neuromarketing expertise and the creator of the D.A.C. system and The “Beyond marketing” strategy. Flavilla is the brand advisor for the BBC and provides regularly actionable brand strategy advice on live radio and TV. She is also the founder of Tech London Advocates for Black Women in Tech.  She hosts Tech Brains Talk podcast providing insights and advice to tech entrepreneurs and companies. She is also the author of “99 strategies to get customers”.

She has been a keynote speaker for the most prestigious international events, such as AdWeek, HubSpot, DMWF, MozCon, AdWorld, Upgrade100, CTA, MarTech and many more.

Read Flavilla's interview

Managing Director & Head of Tech for Global Investment & Corporate Banking, J.P. Morgan

A 22 year veteran of JPMorgan, Dan has worked in a number of roles across the Corporate & Investment Bank, bridging Operations, Strategic Projects, Business Management and, since 2010, Technology.

Dan leads technology for JPMorgan Global Investment Banking & Corporate Banking including our Digital Investment Banking strategy and core M&A, Capital Markets and Wholesale Payments Sales businesses.

In addition, Dan is broadly focused on the EMEA innovation agenda and connectivity with FinTech in the region. He spends time with clients sharing JPMorgan’s insights and activities across the fast-changing tech landscape. Dan is a passionate champion of diversity and philanthropy, bringing innovation to both areas at JPMorgan.

Dan’s most recent prior role was the EMEA lead for the Global Technology Strategy, Innovations & Partnerships team focused on developing IT strategy, innovation and emerging technology relationships aligned to the Corporate & Investment Bank and CRM strategy firmwide.

Read Dan's interview

Adam Philpott, McAfee featured

HeForShe: Adam Philpott | EMEA President, McAfee

Adam Philpott, McAfeeAs EMEA President of McAfee, Adam Philpott leads the EMEA region with a focus on building truly diverse teams to drive sales and success at every level of the business.

In this role, Adam is responsible for growing the business across EMEA as well as developing stronger partnerships with the channel and customers across McAfee’s consumer and enterprise security portfolio.

Before joining McAfee, Adam held the role of Senior Director, EMEAR, Cyber Security at Cisco. With more than 17 years of experience at the IT and networking conglomerate, Adam has a proven record of working in the security industry and boosting business growth.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

I’ve always been surrounded by strong female role models. I was brought up by a single mother, which I’d say is part of the reason why driving equality is a personal passion of mine. Together with the McAfee leadership team, I strive to achieve our diversity goals and we are committed to creating a diverse, inclusive culture across the company.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I’m an active member of McAfee’s WISE (Women in Security) Affinity Group, which is one of the company’s employee-run networks, focused on supporting the growth, empowerment, and success of women. With around 1,000 members globally, the group includes both women and men at all levels. Given my current role, I also focus on how we can continue encouraging wider diversity in EMEA and spearheading initiatives that empower women in the industry more broadly – both employees and those considering careers in STEM.

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

Without male support when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, the pace of change will not improve. As the incumbents, if men don’t sign up to challenge the status quo, the voice of change will ultimately be diminished.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

I think it’s incumbent upon men to get involved in the gender equality conversation. Personally, I like to think not just about what we say, but what we do, however big or small. Like many of the debates focused on minority rights and boosting diversity, those who are in the position of privilege are naturally nervous about what to say – they often don’t feel they have the right to contribute, or may even feel they shouldn’t speak out as they are part of the problem. In other cases, men may not be sure how to get involved. However, a noble intent and demonstrable desire to drive change, even without knowing how, is a good start.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

Personally, no I don’t, as these groups are necessary to create strength in numbers and a community platform. However, I do see the rise of the term “ally” as something powerful to engage and co-opt men into actively driving change alongside women.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

The vital step to encourage more men into actively involving themselves in the gender debate is to normalise it. It’s often an exception, rather than the rule. As a result, I believe regular, visible, values-based leadership can go a long way. However, this shouldn’t just be from the top. It’s key to encourage this and normalise men actively supporting equal rights for women in the workplace across all levels of an organisation.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

My experience of mentoring has always shown that each and every person – whether a woman or a man – has unique strengths and weaknesses. However, I do believe that we need to underpin confidence for every single individual through support, coaching, leadership flexibility and action. For example, every organisation should think through the language and individuals involved in attracting female talent, and ensure that flexible leaders are in place to act as coaches and help women develop and succeed with confidence. These leaders should also ensure scrutiny over hidden biases such as working practices to ensure women are able to contribute and in doing so, are equal in their promotion and career development prospects.

Russ Shaw CBE

HeForShe: Russ Shaw CBE | Founder, Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates

Russ Shaw CBE

Russ Shaw CBE is the founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates.

He originally founded Tech London Advocates in 2013 to ensure an independent voice of the technology community was heard, but with a focus on the private sector. Since then he has been championing London as a global tech hub and campaigning to address some of the biggest challenges facing tech companies in the UK. Global Tech Advocates, founded in 2015, is now present in 17 hubs around the globe, with over 12,000 members. In 2019 Russ launched the inaugural GTA Festival, taking place in China and bringing the international network together for the first time. Russ was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021 for services to technology and to business in London. He is a founding partner of London Tech Week, a London Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London and Advisory Board member for Founders4Schools and the Government’s Digital Skills Partnership. In 2019, Russ was recognised as a ‘Tech Titan’ in the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list of London’s most influential people.

Russ is part of the visionary line-up speaking at Globalization Partners’ PANGEO Conference which is taking place October 20-22 and is designed to equip companies with new ideas, skills, and best practices to thrive in the new world of global remote work. Learn more about the event here.

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

I’m the founder of Tech London Advocates (TLA) and Global Tech Advocates (GTA). TLA was founded in 2013 and is now a network of 50+ working groups, with the goal of championing London as a global tech hub and campaigning to address some of the biggest challenges facing tech in the UK and GTA was established two years later and has grown to now comprise 22 hubs made up of more than 20,000 members and spanning five continents. The tech sector and London has been good to me – my previous roles include VP & General Manager at Skype and Global Innovation Director at Telefonica – and so I want to give something back.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In the early stages, I absolutely planned my career. I thought carefully about what I wanted to study and where I wanted to get certain experiences. I always had the goal of running a business as CEO or Managing Director. That was in my 20s and 30s. Then in my 40s, I focused less on gaining experience with brands and companies and instead thought more about the people I wanted to work with. I had the experience – what I needed then was to be surrounded by people who I could learn from and who inspired me.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I faced challenges on a daily basis in my professional career – particularly early on. I was asked to do certain things, or sometimes treated in ways that I didn’t agree with, or that made me feel comfortable. Later on, the main challenge became balancing work experience with family life. My wife was diagnosed with leukemia, and caring for her along with my other commitments certainly took its toll. But life isn’t about staying in your comfort zone – if I had never been challenged, I certainly wouldn’t have built the resilience needed to be successful.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

The achievement I’m most proud of is founding TLA and GTA. I’ve had to amalgamate all the various skills I’ve used throughout my career – campaigning, using my marketing background to position London as a global hub, expanding an organisation (which I experienced while working for Skype in its early days). Most importantly, I’m proud of the ethos behind the networks – people helping each other for the greater good. TLA in particular has fostered a real spirit of collaboration, ensuring that London’s tech ecosystem remains open for business.

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

I wouldn’t say there has been one single factor, but I think the combination of determination, self-belief and collaboration are essential characteristics to achieve a vision. I’ve always been determined to make a difference and had conviction in whatever I was doing. Those convictions have certainly been tested along the way – but I couldn’t have overcome the obstacles I’ve faced without collaborating with others to achieve something bigger.

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

I think it’s crucial that everyone has access to a mentor and that people should be encouraged to take on mentoring roles. I have mentored many people over the years and although I’m no longer anyone’s mentee, I still work with several advisors who are always there to help and support me in my decisions.

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

Both businesses and governments need to have diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything they do. CEOs, leaders and boards need to walk the talk and make this a top priority – ultimately it starts at the top with a belief that these issues are fundamentally important to the collective success. Crucially, those at the top need to be willing to acknowledge when they get things wrong – all of us are constantly learning how we can best help.

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

Men have a vital role to play in enabling women to achieve their goals and ambitions – alas, we are still primarily a male-dominated society. For this reason, men are key to enabling change to happen. Many positions of authority – CEOs, government leaders, investors – are held by men and it is therefore up to men to own this issue. If we don’t play our part, then we cannot say to women around the world that we are serious about gender equality in the workplace.

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

Have more confidence in your own beliefs! Don’t be afraid to get things wrong or take risks. I’m very proud of my three sons, who work in three very different industries in careers they are passionate about. When I was younger, I went straight into the corporate world after studying, but I now know that to be successful you have to really love what you’re doing. If my younger self had been aware of that, some of the decisions I made might have been a little different.

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

Worldwide growth and domination with Global Tech Advocates (said with a smile)! I want to expand the global network and help the broader population understand that the digital and tech sectors can be their friend. Tech is an important place for anyone’s career and has the potential to be a real force for good – but it is in desperate need of brilliant talent to support the growth and expansion.

Broadly, I want to make tech more accessible to all however I can. I want to continue to lead this amazing Advocates community in driving the message around the world that tech can help with some of the world’s biggest challenges and that we must keep striving to innovate.

Discover more about the PANGEO Conference

PANGEO is Globalization Partners’ annual conference designed to equip companies with the ideas, skills, and best practices to thrive in the new world of global remote work.

PANGEO derives its name from the 300-million-year-old supercontinent, Pangea, when the earth’s landmasses were united as one. Today, the world has transformed itself — reunited once again in what we call PANGEO — a new world of opportunities without boundaries, as post-pandemic workforces move to remote and hybrid models putting the world’s workforce on one platform.

The conference will bring together visionaries from around the world, who will discuss key trends, strategies, and personal experiences — designed to help you build fast and agile remote teams. During this free, three-day virtual event, attendees will get a chance to hear from experts on how to build efficient, high-performing global remote teams, how to create integrated employee experiences, and why both compliance and speed are critical for long-term success in 2021 and beyond.


HeForShe: Stefano Maifreni | Founder, Eggcelerate

Stefano MaifreniAn engineer by education, product manager by role and expert at achieving growth by career, Stefano has an outstanding track record in business strategy, operations, product and marketing, with extensive P&L management and international expansion experience.

His professional journey includes Senior Manager roles in global Blue-chip companies, Growing Businesses and Start-ups in technology-intensive and innovative industries (IT, Telecom, Technology Manufacturing, Drones, IoT and FinTech).

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

I am an engineer by education, a product manager by role, and a growth expert by career.

I have a background in B2B Tech, where I pioneered the SaaS model and, after the excitement of the early 2000s, I learned to achieve growth with scarce resources.

Being very action- and delivery-focused, and a data-driven "efficiency geek" with an entrepreneurial spirit, I decided a few years ago to follow my passion of helping small B2B tech businesses succeed with their challenges in productive and profitable ways

I founded Eggcelerate in 2014 to help the CEO and Founders interconnect thoughts and actions while adopting a down-to-earth approach that leaves bandwidth for learning and adaptation. We activate the strategy of Tech B2B Small Businesses.

It allowed me to work closely with growing companies and start-ups in technology-intensive and innovative industries, such as IT, technology manufacturing, drones, IoT and Insure/FinTech, immersive theatre and diversity marketing.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I have always been career conscious, but I started doing this in a structured and regular way during my MBA, and I still do it. Finding time for reflections and check the alignment between what you do and what you like is very important.

Is what you do just a shuttle from one weekend to the next? Is it just something that gives you a salary and allows to pay you the bills? Or it's something you love and enjoy every minute of? Do you feel energised at the idea of starting your working day? Are you learning something new every day? What are the development prospects?

The questions are easy to write, a bit scary to ask yourself, but quite probing and helpful.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Of course! Many people depict the process to plan and achieve the career you want as a straight arrow, which entails the following steps: know who you are, decide what you want to do, get it, climb the ladder. I bet you might get stuck on step one for a long time!

The point is that you change, your preferences evolve, and the world moves faster. A career is a climbing frame, and you might go up, move laterally, even down at times, on your way to the top. Therefore, you need to check in often with yourself, experiment with new things, maybe try a few before focusing on what you want and like. There are no straight arrows and ladders – these are oversimplifications that cause frustrations.

Those stopped for me the moment I turn my career plan into a serendipity plan!

Regarding my entrepreneurial experience, you can imagine all the challenges: establishing a business from scratch, gaining credibility, keeping momentum, but also, some sleepless nights about cash flow, a Client deferring payments. But these were business-related challenges that I somehow expected.

I didn't expect that feeling of loneliness that entrepreneurs have: you're out there with your business, and you need to look after yourself & your business.

What has been your most significant achievement to date?

The growth of my Clients' businesses, and ours as a result.

Seeing the results coming through, making your Client happy and as a result, seeing your business grow is thrilling. It's a testimony to the impact you had on businesses and the lives of the people involved.

My best achievement is my young daughter, though! It makes my life very interesting, with no risk of getting bored. However, I can see a pattern regarding the "girl" and "boy" divide and gender-biased toys and games. It might be the signs of something more deeply ingrained in the culture. I find it extraordinarily conservative and outdated.

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

I would point to two main things. Firstly, I do what I love – it gives me energy and a drive I rarely had during my career. Secondly, probably the fact that I don't feel I have achieved in full what I could. It's a hunger for new opportunities to impact and learn at the same time.

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

Mentoring is one of the most important things if you want to develop professionally and as a person. I have been a mentee for a long time – and still am. I have a personal 'board of directors' of people with different backgrounds, ranging from top executives in the UK and abroad to professional coaches to … a priest. They can give me advice, help, and ask a wealth of challenging questions.

I have mentored people of all sorts of backgrounds, mainly in start-ups and SMEs and MBA students. I haven't noticed any difference concerning the courage of leaving their comfort zone. It was all about personal experiences, not gender.

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

Normalise it – neutralise it. Instil a company culture whereby colleagues are colleagues: their sensitive traits and preferences don't count. It's all about objectives and performance.

There's a long way to go, I'm afraid.

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

I have always been a supporter of diversity. My revealing moment was when I had my first management role. My team was very diverse concerning gender, age, and background. That allowed us to see any problems from different angles and develop collective lateral thinking.

Diversity is essential for everyone, not just for men. We should extend this to sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or faith. I think we should aim for workplaces and a society where these things are merely irrelevant. Not to say that the identity of any person is not relevant, but this sort of "clustering" should not find any space. It is fertile soil for stereotyping and ultimately for intolerance and discrimination.

Instead, I think discrimination brought to the extreme can become positive. Imagine you can "discriminate" one person to the next one; it means you accept each one for what they are. Discrimination has two meanings in English: "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex" and "recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another." – we should move from the former to the latter.

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

"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes", said Oscar Wilde.

If I had to change something with the benefit of hindsight, I would have probably started a structured approach to my career earlier. I'd have also launched my business earlier.

I spent too much time in my comfort zone.

On the entrepreneurial experience, I would be fairer to myself and take more "me time".

One piece of advice I would give my young self would be to define what success means without being influenced by how the majority defines it.

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

The immediate challenge is, of course, to grow my business. However, the real point is to see how it will look like if I project it in the future and ask myself those uncomfortable questions.

But the long-term achievement would be to feel self-actualised (as in the Maslow pyramid), which for me is the synonym of success.

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