Inspirational Woman: Deb Ashton | Founder & Senior Vice President, Strategic Customer Experience, FinancialForce

Meet Deb Ashton, Founder & Senior Vice President, Strategic Customer Experience, FinancialForce

Deb Ashton

Deb Ashton is Senior Vice President of Strategic Customer Experience and a Founder of FinancialForce. Deb has been instrumental in the growth and ongoing success of the FinancialForce business. In her current role, Deb’s mission is to work with our customers to understand their journey, ensure they maximise the value they derive from our solutions, and enhance the overall customer experience.

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

As a founder of FinancialForce, my role is to ensure FinancialForce’s customer experience is best in class. I am continuously innovating and working relentlessly to deliver moments that matter for FinancialForce’s customers, employees and investors. I engage with many customers directly to understand their journey with FinancialForce and acquire feedback and insight to ensure they are maximising the value they receive from our solutions. The position I hold is a global, cross functional role specifically designed to drive advocacy for FinancialForce solutions and ensure that FinancialForce customers are wildly successful.

In my position, I build trust with customers and employees alike, while through collaboration and communication skills, I am able to facilitate executive level meetings and can quickly switch context to help dig into the details of different customer conversations. My goal is to ensure FinancialForce delivers what we say we are going to deliver, as well as to ensure that FinancialForce customers are managed with integrity and care.

When I founded FinancialForce in 2009 alongside the original CEO and co-founder, I was running our Engineering, Success and Support teams. I created the Customer Success discipline ensuring a customer centric mindset was built into the company’s DNA. In the ensuing years, I have built and managed our Product Strategy, Product Management, Product Marketing and Software Engineering teams globally. Most recently, my responsibilities focus on Customer Experience and Operations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly! I’ve always been very driven and determined to be successful at everything I do. My mantra is to work hard and be the best version of myself that I can be. Because I’m so high energy, I’ve always sought out new roles that push me further in new learnings or career paths. I set ambitious goals for myself, both personally and professionally, which take me outside of my comfort zone. With my career I always wanted to learn new disciplines and try new roles to help build high performing teams – that’s what drove me to the leadership level early on in my career.

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

There are always career challenges. Starting FinancialForce and being the founder of a small business means you are wearing lots of different hats. I started off at the company running product management and engineering, support, success and HR and Finance. Over the years, as the company grew and we became more mature, I had to hand over certain roles to experts.

One of the biggest moves I made was from Chief Product Officer running product strategy, management and engineering to starting the new customer experience discipline for FinancialForce. This was a huge challenge but I saw it as an opportunity, which is essentially how I overcome the challenge. It is very rare in your career that you get the chance to build a new discipline and team from scratch, which was what I’ve done here at FinancialForce.

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Really, it’s starting FinancialForce and growing the business from 27 people when we started in 2009 to close to 1000 people today, with 1400+ customers globally.

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

Never giving up – I am competitive and want to be the best at everything I do. This makes me very determined to be successful personally as well as professionally due to the fact I operate well in teams and always want to drive success for the people and teams around me. I invest time in people whether that is team members or customers. I make sure I understand what motivates people, what challenges and difficulties they are facing, and how I can help them to be successful in whatever they are doing.

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

I would say always be curious, always be learning, whether that’s within your role or within the technology environment you are operating in. Make sure you understand how to work well in a team and what your strengths are, ensuring you’re playing to those strengths.

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

Yes, I think less women choose the technology direction at college / university, which means the pool of women available for recruiting into technology roles is smaller than that of men. To drive more women into tech we need to engage them at school when it comes to the decisions they are making about A level and university courses. We also need to mentor them and ensure they are included in important conversations and their voices are heard.

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

Companies need to have a diversity and inclusion policy in place that makes everyone, regardless of who they are, their background, gender or race, feel equally involved in and supported across the business. This can be initiated through education, in addition to the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion committee, like we have at FinancialForce, which ensures there is a recruitment and hiring process that supports diversity. At FinancialForce, we also celebrate the differences in the cultures, backgrounds, etc. which are a part of our organisation.

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?

Ultimately, we have to put more women on our Boards and into C-level positions, especially in enterprise technology companies. In the near term, we need to ensure an inclusive environment that attracts diverse talent, and a hiring process that includes a rich, diverse talent pipeline of talent.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Reading Forbes, Accenture, Deloitte and McKinsey articles regularly, and following technology leaders and entrepreneurs on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as reading the articles they are posting is a good place to start.


Katherine Kostereva

Inspirational Woman: Katherine Kostereva | Founder & CEO, Creatio

Meet Katherine Kostereva, Founder & CEO, Creatio

Katherine Kostereva

Katherine Kostereva is the Founder and CEO of Creatio – a global vendor of one platform to automate workflows and CRM with no-code and maximum degree of freedom. For the past 20 years, Katherine has been helping organizations accelerate their customer-facing and operational processes through automation.

Recognised throughout the technology sector as an inspirational leader, Katherine has received several industry awards and in 2021 she was ranked first in the ‘Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS’.

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

I started my career journey at the age of 14 when decided to provide tutoring services for younger kids. Throughout my early 20s, I tried different roles from engineering to sales and marketing in larger companies like IBM. When I was 25, I founded a software company with a small group of like-minded enthusiasts. We had a big vision and drive that helped us get our first clients within the first few weeks of establishing the venture.

Today, I’m fortunate to be the CEO of Creatio. Creatio is a global vendor of one platform to automate workflows and CRM with no-code and a maximum degree of freedom. Millions of workflows are launched on Creatio’s platform daily in 100 countries by thousands of clients. Our company employs 700 professionals in 7 global offices.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say so. I rather followed my passion with an open-minded approach and without compromises.

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

Challenges in entrepreneurial life? Never heard of it. Isn’t it just smooth sailing all the time?:).

Based on my experience, when facing challenges, the only way forward is to embrace reality and deal with it. There is no silver bullet; you have to build resilience and use your grit.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The no-code platform Creatio delivers, in particular, the level of freedom that our products bring to our customers and partners.

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

The team of Creatio leaders who share the same vision and passion for the future of the no-code industry.

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

Grow every day to create the best version of yourself.

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

I don’t believe so. I think that the current environment and the tech space, in general, offer a great opportunity to build career for those who wholeheartedly want it and execute on their vision.

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?

I would spend more time and energy on earlier education on career opportunities in tech. I think it’s very important to inspire a younger generation to learn more about the tech space and get practical skills. That’s the reason why we invest in Creatio No-Code University and create educational materials (the most recent one is a book on no-code methodology – “The No-Code Playbook”).

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I personally enjoy reading business books, the best one I’ve read in 2022 is “Amp It Up” by Frank Slootman.

To hear more from Katherine you can register to attend the launch of the ‘No-Code Playbook’ – a book she has co-authored which outlines a vendor agnostic framework for implementing no-code applications. The book will be launched on October 4, 2022, at an on-line event featuring a no-code case study from Virgin Media O2 Business and a futuristic discussion with Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak.


Inspirational Woman: Caroline Hudack | Chief Marketing Officer, Impala

Meet Caroline Hudack, Chief Marketing Officer, Impala

Caroline Hudack

Caroline Hudack is an alumni of the University of Oxford, and her career spans over 12 years within the male dominated tech and advertising sectors. She is currently CMO of one of the most exciting travel tech start-up’s to come out of London – Impala – shaping how the company engages with the global travel and tech industries.

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

My career began in marketing on a three-year WPP Fellowship. I was in New York around 2007 with WPP and we were going out to pitch for a lot of tech start-ups. During that time, we met a lot of interesting startups and larger companies like Facebook and Google etc and I became intrigued by the technology sector.

I spent around 12 years in the States, and I was the fifth person to join the Facebook marketing team. At Facebook, I helped to launch products such as video in Newsfeed and trending. In 2017, I moved to Airbnb as Director of Marketing (EMEA) to oversee the marketing strategy, brand management, creative insights, and the data science team.

My next step was a move to Impala, a series B startup, as Chief Marketing Officer. I now also run the People team. I was impressed by Impala’s potential to disrupt the travel industry, handing power back to the room sellers, and driving a wave of travel innovation.

I am a champion of women in tech and outside of my day job, I am an angel investor and part of the Atomico Angels program, helping to kick starting companies in the earliest stages of their development.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No but I knew I wanted to do something strategic and analytical but also creative.

There was never a master plan but after the WPP Fellowship, I also knew I wanted to work in marketing.

There have definitely been points in my career where I did stop and reflect on my direction and trajectory.

After my time in the States, I reflected on whether I wanted to continue working in “big tech” or be part of a more early-stage start-up.  At that stage, I decided on the latter.

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

Technology companies are naturally data led and run by engineers and product people and they don’t always have the greatest respect for the marketing teams. To be successful, you have to be able to understand how they work and adapt to different working styles but also be able to present your ideas confidently and have the data to back them up.

Working around the world, it is also important to understand the cultural context and how this impacts working life such as how to best communicate with team members and how to give and receive feedback.

I’ve also had two maternity leaves and given that the technology sector moves at a rapid pace, it can be challenging for new mums to reintegrate. American legislation towards parental leave is also very different to the UK so navigating this can be tricky.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One thing I was particularly proud of was a joint venture I launched between Airbnb and the Louvre. The campaign offered the chance to spend a night at the iconic gallery with a range of one-off experiences such as sipping champagne in front of the Mona Lisa.

At Impala, I recently headed up a full rebrand which included a new visual identity and a new strategic direction which capitalised on Impala’s position as the leading provider of Open Distribution. This has opened up new opportunities between room sellers and hotels and enabled a new wave of travel innovation. The visual identity, tone of voice and category positioning were designed to make Open Distribution – and the benefits it can offer everyone in travel – accessible and easy to understand.

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

There was never a “silver bullet” moment in my career, it has featured several highs and lows. One key lesson I’ve learned so far, is the importance of building and maintaining good relationships. It’s a small world and you frequently work with the same people at different companies so building that network is important.

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

Learning to code is obviously very useful. Likewise, really understanding product is key as it sits at the very core of most technology companies. It’s vital to empathise with the user and know what works and what doesn’t.

It’s a very hands-on sector which evolves at a rapid pace. It helps to invest time in reading and trying out new things. It’s also important to network and try to be around people who are having relevant conversations. Essentially making an effort to keep your finger on the pulse.

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

Absolutely, there is still a big gender divide in the technology industry. The engineering field is very male dominated.

It is important for women in the UK to consider careers in engineering and product management. However, it is equally as important for the sector to recognise and address the gender disparities.

Finding and keeping talent is also challenging, this has been exacerbated by “The Great Resignation” we experienced during the pandemic.

This is one of the things that attracted me to Impala. The CEO, Ben Stephenson, is a strong advocate for women in the sector. He recognises the value of having women working in senior roles and we have a very diverse and progressive team.

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

I would say it boils down to three main things. Firstly, companies should strive to have a diverse team from the outset and focus on inclusivity. This maximises opportunities to find talent. Secondly, family structures have changed significantly over the past few decades. Companies need to be better at accommodating different kinds of family structures whilst eliminating discrimination on issues such as parental leave. Thirdly, women tend to have to advocate for themselves more and critical feedback is often style or character-based, rather than being performance-based. Managers should be thoughtful when providing feedback and be sure to pick up on and challenge any unconscious bias.

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?

I would increase the rate at which female entrepreneurs get funded. There are many women out there with a voice or an idea who are not being given the chances they deserve. That is one of the main reasons I became an Angel investor.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are plenty of online materials and free online trainings. Also, there are some great podcasts! I love audio content and I would personally recommend “Sway” by Kara Swisher and the A16z podcast.


Nicki Farrell

Inspirational Woman: Nicki Farrell | Alliances Director, Culture/CSR Lead, Ascent

Meet Nicki Farrell, Alliances Director, Culture/CSR Lead at Ascent

Nicki Farrell

Nicki is a respected Partner Alliance Director, advocate of women both in and out of the workplace and passionate about helping other females reach their full potential through her charity work. Leveraging her competitive instinct as an athlete, Nicki helps build successful and purposeful partnerships which support growth and innovation, lending experience and empathy to females returning to work and/or going through life change.

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

I am the Alliances Director and Culture/CSR Lead for Ascent, a leading European digital services business, helping organisations connect data, software, cloud, and purpose to drive extraordinary outcomes.

After spending 12 years in the health and fitness industry, I found myself in the tech sector, starting out in a role where I managed a number of vendor alliances, which quite quickly became an exclusive focus on driving the Microsoft relationship. My role is very important  as we are quite ambitious about building our profile with Microsoft – everything I do is geared to put Ascent in the best position to win Microsoft Partner of the Year 2023/2024, which is a huge and exciting challenge.

I am also very proud to experience some fantastic opportunities in my career such as Diversity & Inclusion Chair for International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) UK and Diversity Manager for IAMCP EMEA. I was invited to participate in a House of Commons panel discussion on Challenge and Change – Women in Leadership, as a guest of Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East, and have also been a speaker at the IDC inaugural dinner for Partner Alliances.

Supported by Ascent, I graduated from the March 2022 cohort for the Women Rising Program, which provides career empowerment coaching and helps women show up with authenticity, confidence and leadership skills. I am now further progressing on their Managers & Allies programme in September to support and mentor other females in Ascent on their career path, as we embed this into a career development initiative for top female talent within the business.

Outside of work, I have volunteered for Smart Works (Reading), a UK charity that aims to give women the confidence they need to reach their full potential, secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives. Smart Works have helped over 20,000 women across the UK in the last eight years, and I am excited to play a small part in their 3-year national plan to expand their reach and help 10,000+ women per year.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take a secondment to work on London 2012 as I firmly believe this changed the trajectory of my career and gave me the confidence to believe I wanted more and was capable of more.

When I stepped into the world of IT, I had no immediate plans as it was all new to me, but very quickly I found my feet within the Microsoft Partner ecosystem and I am happy to say I have thrived there!

In a male-dominated industry, I found incredible support through Women in Tech networks and never looked back. “Be Bold, Be Brave” is the mantra from the global WiT luncheon at Microsoft’s Inspire conference that has definitely stayed with me.

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

Being open in my professional network about perimenopause and menopause was probably one of the toughest but rewarding moments. The comments and private messages I received from other females experiencing the same thing and battling to get the right help and support was quite overwhelming.

Having battled with the side effects of perimenopause myself, gone through 3-4 GPs and been brushed off with antidepressants because I was under 45 but knowing that wasn’t the cause, I sought private hormone tests to prove the point and was finally prescribed HRT via the NHS. I therefore made a promise to myself to help others going through this with a safe space to talk. It leaves me totally unsurprised that females often sideline themselves in business at a certain age, and relationships are challenged.

You previously spent 12 years in the health and fitness industry, becoming a medallist for Great Britain and the 6th British woman in the London marathon – why did you decide to take the leap into the tech sector?

Apart from Ascent’s strong Microsoft alliance, it has to be their out-and-out ambition – it brought out the competitive streak in me!  My sporting self is naturally goal-driven, and from Day 1 I was attracted to Ascent’s mission and purpose – and their focus on helping customers ‘do something new, or do something better ‘, especially as we build back from the pandemic. That’s something that really resonates with me: as an athlete I am always looking at how I can perform better tomorrow than I am today.

As a business, Ascent truly lives and breathes its core values – empathy, energy and audacity – which has been so refreshing. We bring new concepts and ideas to life for our customers, which is a huge responsibility that we don’t take lightly, so we are continuously learning and improving. Ascent is never satisfied with ‘good enough’ – and that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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Do you have any advice for someone looking to pivot their career or thinking about a career change?

Do it! We only regret the chances we don’t take.

Relationships are one of the most important factors in our careers – find a mentor who will provide insights from their own experience and can help build confidence, a trusted person to use as a sounding board and objective guidance.

A note to remember is that external mentoring will never replace your own inner instinct – take time to reflect on guidance provided and be sure to move forward steered by both external insights and your own inner wisdom.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being recognised by my colleagues and peers has to be the ultimate achievement and I’m super proud to have been selected as a finalist for CRN Women in Channel Awards Role Model of the Year and Women in Business Champion of Change awards for my work within diversity and inclusion.

Secondly, learning to silence my own inner critic, stepping up and shaping my recent promotion is something I would never have done previously. Working through Women Rising has seen a step change in my confidence and took my career on the path I wish to follow, which is fulfilling in several aspects.

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

My mantra is #BetterNeverStops, and I firmly believe that transferring this from my athletic background into my journey in technology has accelerated my career development here at Ascent.

The dedication, determination and commitment I have to my training flows naturally into my work ethic. For me, without passion, there is no point, and I am hugely passionate about being a force for good within Women in Sport as well as using technology to help make the world a better place.

Pushing boundaries is what drives me, and right now in my sporting life I am working on becoming a leading female ultra-runner (running 100km on weekends is perfectly normal, right…?). And that aspiration to achieve more compliments my day job perfectly: both individually and with Ascent, I/we will continue to push for change because balancing people, profit and planet is – and should be – at the heart of every business. I’m really excited to be part of the Ascent team at this point in its evolution, helping to drive business with purpose for our customers in 2021 and beyond.

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

Invest time in yourself. As an ambassador of Women Rising I would suggest, if you’re looking for ways to elevate your career, feel more confident and unlock your potential both professionally and personally, to look no further than this programme – hand on heart, this changed me for the better, I went in as one person and came out as quite another!

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

Yes, but I believe we all have a role in leading change – focusing on adopting new leadership practices and creating more inclusive leaders and workplaces; considerations such as how we manage for gender differences, taking a strength-based approach to change, challenge gender norms and leadership models and design for change and much more. It is no longer enough for this to sit within HR and/or an DE&I community, it needs to be woven into the fabric of an entire business.

I would challenge everyone reading this to commit to being part of the solution and speak up when they see biased behaviour, not only in others but in themselves.

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

A common theme I hear is the lack of role models at CXO level, plus lack of a defined path to navigate career progression. At Ascent, via [email protected], working with our Head of People, we strive to embed the Women Rising Programme and Managers & Allies Programme into our Career Development framework to ensure we invest in our top female talent and empower Managers, both male and female, to be able to support female career progression.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

If I had a magic wand, I would remove the 100+ years we’re looking at for gender equality full stop!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Resources and communities that have helped me:

Women Rising – Women Rising | Home (womenrisingco.com)

WIT Network – Home – The WIT Network

Women in Data – Women in Data®

Henpicked menopause Podcast

THe Dr Louise Newson Podcast


Inspirational Woman: Idil Canal | General Manager of AdTech, AppLovin

Meet Idil Canal, General Manager of AdTech, AppLovin

Idil Canal

Idil Canal is General Manager of AdTech at AppLovin, a leading marketing software company providing developers a powerful set of solutions to grow their businesses. She is responsible for building and managing long-term relationships with AppLovin’s mobile developers, publishers, and demand partners to supercharge their growth. Throughout her career, she’s led the software development and delivery of business solutions and services at various tech startups focused on mobile. Idil holds a BA from Brown University and is originally from Istanbul, Turkey.

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

I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, later graduating from Brown University with a BA degree in Economics and Entrepreneurship. I am currently General Manager of AdTech at AppLovin, where I lead the product development and growth of AppLovin’s software solutions. I joined AppLovin in 2018 when the company acquired MAX, AppLovin’s in-app bidding-based monetization solution. At MAX, I was the Head of Product, and prior to that I led the software development and delivery of business solutions and services in various tech startups focused on mobile.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

While I never sat down and planned my career, mobile has always been at the forefront for me. Since my very first job, I’ve been working with different software products at the intersection of mobile and programmatic buying. Whether it was media buying for agencies on mobile, monetizing apps or just developing mobile SDKs.

I joined AppLovin through the acquisition of one of our software solutions, MAX, where I was the Head of Product back in 2018. Before AppLovin, I was Global Head of Technical Solutions at MoPub working closely with mobile publishers and programmatic buyers. Having worked with the top names in the mobile space, the potential of growth and how far innovation can take the market further was clear. Being able to deliver the best software solutions in mobile has been a fascinating experience – and still has massive growth potential.

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

Being a woman with no engineering background in one of the most complicated and competitive industries has not been the easiest. Over the years, I have come to learn/appreciate that there is no failure – there are lessons to be learned. I followed my own path with a curious mind and believed that hard work pays off. A growth mindset has been essential in my own career growth.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Building and growing MAX from the ground up, to now leading the monetization platform at AppLovin, which included the successful integration of AppLovin’s monetization solution, MAX, with MoPub’s mediation platform. This was following AppLovin’s acquisition of MoPub from Twitter at the start of 2022.

Following the acquisition, my team was focused on understanding the needs of MoPub publishers and buyers, and supporting them in making the transition to MAX as smooth as possible. Together, MoPub and MAX have created the most comprehensive, powerful, and efficient set of integrated features available for developers to increase revenue, improve efficiency, and exceed demand for greater competition and massive supply.

Prior to the integration, I played a key role in the launch success of MAX. As of Q4 of 2021, over 90% of the largest publishers had committed to migrating to our unified offering, and nearly 45,000 apps are now monetizing with MAX.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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

I really think it’s the people I’ve met in the industry who have inspired me to achieve success. Throughout my career, I have come to meet exceptional people through those I have worked with and the entrepreneurs I’ve had the privilege to partner with. They are talented, humble and always eager to do more. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing community – they get to focus on what they do best, and we can help them achieve growth and results for their business.

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

In tech, it’s essential to keep innovating to ensure you are staying ahead with new improvements and innovations – and it’s also exhilarating. It keeps us all young and motivated to do better. I love the pace of mobile innovation and the people working in the ad tech business. Technology evolves rapidly but mobile moves at lightning speed.

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

I believe we have come a long way in the last 10 years in identifying those barriers and finding ways to break them. There is still a long way to go but I do recognize that there will always be barriers — new or old, big or small. Having a supportive and open environment to identify our blind spots is the first step to addressing them. That falls on women, men – all of us.

What advice would you share with women looking to have a successful career working in technology?

It took me ten years to find a leader and a work environment that allowed me to bring my true self to work. I would advise women to do the work, show up, trust in yourself, and know that you deserve better. Reach higher and do not settle for less.

Personally, to pay it forward (since my very early days), I have made it a priority to hire for hunger and then teach the technical skills on the job after. I am a true believer in the “see one, do one, and teach one” methodology. It has helped me build great products with teams led by exceptional women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

It takes a village to maintain a healthy balance between my personal and professional life. Networking with leaders from other companies in our industry is quite important to me to have fresh perspectives and to stay connected in the ever-evolving world out there. I also have benefited from reading a lot of autobiographical novels and memoirs of leaders that I look up to and relate to including Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger, and The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.


Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Inspirational Woman: Erin "Mack" McKelvey | Founder & CEO, SalientMG

Meet Erin "Mack" McKelvey, Founder & CEO, SalientMG

Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Throughout her 20+ year career, Erin (Mack) McKelvey has led transformative teams that accelerate revenue and market position for publicly traded and privately held technology companies.

In 2013, Mack founded SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in go-to-market and executive visibility strategies and programs that create market and category differentiation for B2B technology companies. SalientMG’s clients have included Rovio, Etsy, Verizon, Starwood Hotels, ExecOnline, UberMedia, Caesars Entertainment and SquadLocker.

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

In my 20+ years of experience, I’ve led market differentiation and transformation for public and private tech companies including SIRIUS XM, VeriSign, CGI, British Telecom, and Lucent Technologies/AT&T. Most recently, I was the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Millennial Media; where I greatly contributed to the company’s growth from start-up stage through its successful 2012 IPO. In 2013, I founded SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in go-to-market and executive visibility strategies and programs that create market and category differentiation for B2B technology companies and the executives who run them. SalientMG’s clients have included Rovio, Etsy, Verizon, Starwood Hotels, ExecOnline, UberMedia, Caesars Entertainment, Sparkfly and SquadLocker. As its CEO and Founder, I oversee our team’s high-impact marketing initiatives for growth-stage tech startups, including executive visibility efforts promoting underrepresented leaders.

I’m also a startup tech advisor and investor, speaker, and business/industry awards’ judge. I serve on the Advisory Boards of technology startups, including Real Atom, a female-founded commercial real estate fintech startup based in DC; I am also on the Board of Trustees for Creative Spirit, a non-profit which seeks to create jobs for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. I am an active mentor in ACP’s US Military Veteran Women’s Program and Women in Marketing (UK). In addition, I am an investor in several companies, including a martech company which enables digital transformation in the QSR and Retail sectors. As the wife of a former active-duty US Marine, I also support my husband’s military foundation and charitable work.

I am a public advocate for diversity, inclusion, and representation in business, technology, and advertising. I have been a contributor to Fast Company, Fortune, Entrepreneur, MediaPost, Luxury Daily, CMO.com, and other business and trade publications on leadership, diversity, visibility, management, and marketing innovation for the past 10+ years..

I worked with Business Insider to create the 2016, 2015 and 2014 lists of “The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising”. In 2013 and 2012, I was named one of “The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising” by Business Insider. In 2012, I received the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Silver Medal Award for outstanding industry contribution. In 2010, I was listed on the inaugural “Mobile Women to Watch” by Mobile Marketer and I was a contributing author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Twenty five years ago my biggest goal was to land my first job in tech. But as my career progressed through a series of positions at prestigious high-growth companies, I became more intrigued by mentoring, investing, ownership, and inclusion. It’s best to have a plan for your career but not necessarily one set in stone—embrace change because it may be for the better.

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

One of my most infamous career challenges is one we can all relate to: the first six months post-graduation. In that tense and confusing waypoint between the educational and corporate worlds, I applied to countless companies, only to receive zero responses. After speaking with a friend who ran into a similar silence before changing her name on her resume from “Alexandra” to “Alex”; I changed my first name on my resume from “Erin” to “Mack”, a made-up nickname. The risk paid off and soon after I received a massive response rate to the same resume, with a name other than my given one. While grateful that my social experiment proved fruitful, it was, I believe, my first glimpse into the struggles women face in the tech industry. (And possibly the first spark that led me to eventually found a company that could help impact representation, SalientMG.)

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Founding SalientMG. Starting any company is a huge risk. It involves market differentiation, product-market-fit, an amazing team, money, a great deal of luck, and incredible clients. Even with all those factors, the success of a company is not guaranteed. In the early years of launching SMG, each day was similar to navigating a minefield. But, I’m proud to say we fought through some of our early growing pains and I see not only the company and staff grow, but myself as well.

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

I learned to use my fear as a catalyst, not a deterrent. There have been many times in my career when I was afraid to take risks such as changing my name, starting a company, or investing in start-ups. Many would have listened to that small voice in the back of their mind telling them to play it safe but I realized that fear is not always a bad thing. It’s a reminder that the best chances aren’t the easiest decisions to make.

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

Stay relevant. In the past few decades technology has expanded at an exponential rate so much so that some categories are beginning to bleed into one another. Keep your skill set sharp but don’t be afraid to venture into other fields in technology and gain outside insight. It’ll increase your networking opportunities, expand your skill set, and expose you to different approaches you may not have considered otherwise.

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

Of course. While I hate to say it, quite a few barriers I faced when first entering tech still exist today. However, the one thing that has changed is the power of technology. Platforms such as LinkedIn allow us to maintain or create connections with like-minded individuals and using that we are able to showcase our talents to larger audiences. The rise of social media allows us the opportunity for visibility and helps us to bypass the barrier of falling under the radar simply because of our position in the field.

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

Just listen. There are a multitude of women whose talents are underutilized because of their gender, experience, age, or title. Everyone’s ideas, no matter how small or large, have the potential to create or transform industries. The only thing preventing us from ushering in a new wave of tech is personal biases. We need to stop underestimating those without advanced degrees, new grads, those countlessly passed over for promotion, or those entering this field later than what’s deemed normal. Treat every co-worker with the respect you would treat your employer, take the time to have a conversation and share ideas, it may just change your perspective.

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?

According to the World Economic Forum, just 24% of experts quoted in the media are women. See the correlation? One of the fastest ways to impact the tech industry is to flood it with women’s voices, ideas and expertise. Women must take control of their visibility. Digital is the great equalizer. Creating and placing meaningful content and amplifying that content via social is the best way for women to start. Utilize social to create conversation; lead it. Normalize seeing women on stage at tech conferences talking about technology, not being a woman in tech. Normalize reading about women’s innovation, not how they strive for the ever elusive work/life balance. Normalize creating room for women to share ideas and create diverse teams to implement them. Raise your hand to be one of those expert sources for reporters and champion other women to do the same.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

All of the above. Make yourself known wherever you can whenever you can. Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, and websites are all opportunities to be exposed to a unique audience. Never pass up an opportunity no matter how significant or insignificant it may appear. You never know what exposure it may bring and where it could lead your career.


Camellia Chan

Inspirational Woman: Camellia Chan | CEO & Founder, X-PHY

Meet Camellia Chan, CEO & Founder, X-PHY

Camellia Chan

Camellia Chan is CEO and founder of X-PHY, a Flexxon brand. In 2021, Camellia won top 10 Women in Cybersecurity award in Singapore for her work with AI.

In this piece, Camellia talks to us about her journey into tech entrepreneurship, what excites her about the cybersecurity industry and her biggest achievement to date.

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

I’m Camellia Chan, the Founder and CEO of next-generation cybersecurity solutions and hardware storage solutions provider, Flexxon.

From an early age, I was always interested in business and entrepreneurship, searching for opportunities to connect people with what they needed. Even as a young girl back home in Malaysia, I looked for ways to make a little extra pocket money! It was years later when I was at university where I combined this passion for entrepreneurship with technology.

Lots of people think that if you’re a deep tech company founder, like myself, you must have years of formal education under your belt and a formal degree. I can safely say that isn’t always the case – it certainly wasn’t for me. In university, I studied business management and picked up a specialisation in IT. In my second year, I assembled my very first PC, and as they say, the rest was history – I was hooked.

Armed with this love for building tech, I started working in an electronics manufacturing company and picked up logic circuits. My colleagues in the engineering department taught me the ins and outs. I then spent a lot of my time studying a variety of technical topics that I am interested in.

In 2007, I combined my love for business and technology and founded Flexxon, which is now a leading cybersecurity and industrial memory and storage solutions provider. In 2021, we unveiled the X-PHY cybersecure SSD (solid-state drive) – the world’s first AI embedded data security SSD designed to deliver real-time protection against cyber threats. To date, X-PHY has collaborated with Lenovo to integrate the cybersecurity SSDs in Lenovo’s world-class laptop solutions. These laptops are benefiting from X-PHY’s zero-trust security framework and 24/7 real-time protection to data stored within the drive.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Sure, I made plans, but I also learned to respond and adapt. There are so many circumstances in life and work that come about unexpectedly, from the good people that share your vision to challenges completely beyond your control.

What I’ve realised is that on a near-term basis (daily, weekly and even monthly), the majority of circumstances will necessitate adaptation and are likely to alter your plans. Instead, it’s more important to have a larger goal or vision that speaks to you, such as wanting to create something that can truly help all society, and using that to guide your career.

This is how we responded to industry needs and evolved over the years at Flexxon. We diversified in response to mounting cybersecurity vulnerabilities from our core focus on industrial, medical and automotive NAND storage devices, to incorporate cybersecurity solutions. I noticed a recurring trend when speaking to our customers – that both blue-chip companies and smaller enterprises were victims of a cyberattack or very concerned about becoming a victim – it made sense to evolve the business to include a cybersecurity solution that could address this pressing problem.

What excites you about the cybersecurity industry?

It all boils down to three key drivers:

  • Firstly, the race against cybercriminals. Hackers’ methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated and when the pandemic accelerated digitalisation, it opened up an even larger cyber landscape. Traditional cybersecurity tools, like antivirus, alone are not fit for purpose and rely on humans to maintain good cyber hygiene. My goal is to always keep at least one step ahead of cyber attackers.
  • Next, technology is evolving all the time. The possibilities with technology are limitless and the same can be said for cybersecurity. It’s an incredible and fast paced industry to be a part of.
  • Finally, this is tech for good. Conquering cyber threats then opens up even more possibilities for citizens of the digital age.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am extremely proud of the commercial success we have achieved at Flexxon, but I’m even more inspired by the team that we have. Our people are our first customers and strongest advocates, and we need to create an environment that they can grow and excel in.

One of my biggest motivations for setting up the company was to create a workplace that would allow the team to thrive. I have always emphasised an environment with zero politics, high mobility and plentiful opportunities to learn.

We have made so much progress and delivered great impact over the last 15 years, and I can see how the team has grown to own our shared vision, put their hearts to making a difference through their work, and wearing a bright smile through it all.

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

Being a business owner and a woman in tech are two areas that are known to be extremely tough. Put that together, and you can surely expect that I have faced many challenges along the way to get here.

I believe a major factor in achieving success for me is never ever giving up on my goals. I’ve faced challenging situations in dealing with difficult customers for instance, and each time I learnt to create better processes to protect ourselves against potentially tricky situations – all while holding on to my principles.

As a woman in tech, you may be faced with my doubters and detractors. I know that if these challenges are allowed to get to me, I would then lose the opportunity to fight for our right to contribute equally, or more, to the industry.

Just keep fighting, and you can overcome any challenge.

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

A combination of confidence and surrounding yourself with the right people will stand you in good stead. Here are my four top tips:

  • Go outside of your comfort zone – You might be changing career paths or perhaps applying for a job that isn’t backed by your degree, but if you pursue your passion with hard work and determination you can achieve what you set out to do. Put yourself in positions that scare you and you’ll learn a lot.
  • Build strong networks – A support system is vital in life, and in business. I am a strong believer in building genuine connections and friendships with the people around me. This is where you can lend a hand and rely on the support of your networks in both good and bad times.
  • Build dependable teams – When you’re at the point in your career when you become a leader, remember that no one is an island. Seek out and develop a well-rounded, efficient and effective team that plays to different people’s strengths. Not everyone should be good at the same thing, and you need diverse skills to continue innovating.
  • Learn to accept that things will go wrong – This idea is very much mirrored in the work that we do at X-PHY, as we try to keep ahead of the ingenuity of cybercriminals. If we are overly daunted by each setback, we would never achieve our goals. This applies to leaders and their teams.

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

Progress has definitely been made in the past few years as more women in the industry come forward to represent women in STEM and challenge the status quo. However, statistics still show that women are underrepresented. This will take many years to change as it is a gradual process, but small steps create big change.

To further support this positive trajectory, women can be more involved as mentors for others, sharing in their experience, and educational institutes can offer more inclusive opportunities for female students to get exposure to STEM industries.

Challenges of working in a ‘male-dominated industry’ can often be overcome by hard work and ambition – you just need to confidence to go after what you want. This is, of course, easier said than done but it’s important to remember we live in a wonderful time with tremendous opportunities for everyone, not just for half of us.

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

Hiring and recruitment practices are incredibly important and with visible, female role models in the industry, we encourage women to imagine a future in tech. Talented, driven women – as well as employees of different ages, nationalities and domains – create an impactful environment by challenging norms, building competencies and championing excellence. Fundamentally, it’s crucial businesses recognise this from the get-go and try to address unconscious bias early on when recruiting.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

One major myth in the tech and cybersecurity industry is thinking that you need a lot of technical knowledge and expertise to enter the industry. Education and learning don’t end once we leave school, in fact it is enriched when we enter the working world, get hands on experience and interact with experts in each field. If I had a magic wand, I’d make it so everyone can access and has the confidence to embrace lifelong learning and constant upskilling.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

YouTube is an incredible resource right under our noses – and I can’t recommend it enough! I follow topics and personalities on innovation and leadership. I love learning about their backstories, unique personalities, and trials and tribulations. Some of my favorite personalities include Alan Turing, Steve Jobs, George Soros and Warren Buffet.

Of course, within your own industry and community, find mentors and build networks that will support you as you co-create a better future for the next generation of female technopreneurs. Professor Annie Koh, Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice) at Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University (SMU), is one of my amazing mentors and I’m very grateful for her guidance over the years!


Fran Chadha Day

Inspirational Woman: Dr Francesca Chadha-Day | Theoretical Particle Physicist, The Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology, Durham University

Meet Dr Francesca Chadha-Day, Theoretical Particle Physicist, the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology, Durham University

Fran Chadha Day

Dr Francesca Chadha-Day is a theoretical particle physicist at the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology at Durham University, and a recipient of the Hawking Fellowship. Her research focuses on discovering new fundamental physics through astrophysical observations.

Fran is also a science comedian. Her stand-up takes an irreverent and occasionally surreal look at what theoretical physicists do all day.

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

I am an assistant professor in physics at the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP) at Durham University. The IPPP was founded in 1999 as the UK’s national centre for particle phenomenology, researching the properties and behaviour of the most fundamental building blocks of nature. Since then, we have grown to become one of the largest particle phenomenology groups in the world.

My research focuses on discovering new fundamental physics through astrophysical observations. I’m working on the problem of Dark Matter – the 85% of matter in the universe whose identity is, so far, unknown. We know that Dark Matter exists because we can see its gravitational pull on stars and galaxies, but we don’t know anything else about it! My research explores these unknowns, and strives to bring greater understanding to how the universe works. I’m working towards learning more about Dark Matter and more about the laws of physics. I’m lucky to have a Stephen Hawking Fellowship at the moment, which means I have plenty of time to focus on both research and science communication.

A key part of the IPPP’s mission is to promote and improve the public’s understanding of fundamental physics, which we do through outreach to schools and teachers as well as the wider community. Introducing topics like particle physics at a younger age can be a crucial step in introducing more women into the field, as well as breaking down the barriers that often exist between academia and society.

To that end I am also a stand-up comedian, and have been performing science themed comedy for eight years. Most recently I performed my new solo show – “Are Dreams Made of Atoms?” at the Durham Fringe Festival. My comedy showcases the absurd side of life as a theoretical physicist!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really! Academia is quite competitive so it can be hard to make firm plans. I think my work in comedy has been very helpful to my career as a scientist and I was lucky that my PhD research was on a topic that has become quite popular.

I did have a broad plan for my career in that I wanted to be a physicist from a very young age. In fact, I don’t really remember a time during my childhood when I didn’t want to be a physicist. I always found the idea of studying the smallest building blocks of the universe very appealing.

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

I used to be quite anxious around public speaking and speaking up in meetings. At the start of my PhD in 2013, I decided to make a real effort to get better at this. Being a confident speaker is useful for careers in science as well as many other career paths. I decided to take up any and all public speaking opportunities that came my way so that I would get better through practice. This was actually how I started stand-up comedy! Doing stand-up comedy and science communication has helped me become much better at giving research seminars too.

I can’t say for sure, but I think having this extra confidence in public speaking and giving presentations helped me in the interview process for both the Stephen Hawking fellowship and my position at the IPPP. Dealing with nerves before a comedy show has been great preparation for coping with pre-interview nerves too!

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am very pleased with the research I’ve done since coming to the IPPP. I work on developing the theory behind hypothetical particles called axions, which could possibly make up the Dark Matter we currently know so little about. Axions are also predicted by string theory, one of the most popular theories that unifies quantum mechanics and gravity. Axions are becoming quite popular within the particle physics community, but so much is still unknown. Since joining the IPPP, I’ve sought to shed a little light into this area and have published some papers which look at different ways of detecting axions and consider how axions would behave in space. I’ve also published a paper on axions which introduces the topic to a more general scientific audience, which I hope will become a key tool in enabling more scientists to understand and take interest in such a fascinating subject.

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

Firstly, I’ve had help and support from many fantastic colleagues. Most of my research has been done in collaboration with other scientists, so it’s really a team effort. More broadly, having a supportive academic community has been incredibly valuable, especially during times when my research wasn’t going so well. As a women in a very male-dominated area, I also found it helpful to speak with other women in theoretical physics – and I have met some amazing friends and collaborators this way.

I have also tried to focus on quality rather than quantity throughout my career in terms of publications and other projects.

You’re also a stand-up comedian – tell us more about this

I started performing stand-up in 2014, and I absolutely love it. My comedy focuses on my research and on the typical absurdities of day-to-day life as a theoretical physicist and the questions people in my field have to consider for our work. For example, I spend most of my time studying things we can’t see and working on the behaviour of particles that might not even exist! (On a more serious note – working through different ideas is actually central to progress in scientific research, even when some of the ideas turn out to be wrong.) I hope my comedy gives people an opportunity to learn about physics in a way that is also entertaining.

Since then, I have performed across the UK (and once in Grenoble, in French, although I’m not sure how well this went!). I find the process of writing comedy hard work, but very rewarding. Whilst many would not immediately recognise the similarities between Physics and comedy, I think both are, in essence, very creative processes, and I think they go well together.

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

One important tip is to really value your own time and attention. You do not need to say yes to every project, or to spend all your time working. I think we all produce better work when we have time to think and time to rest.

I now make an effort to be selective in what I do and try to find the right balance between being a team player and setting aside time for my own research. Of course, ensuring a fair division of workload is the responsibility of the whole community, and I do think this is something that many in academia are actively addressing.

So my advice would be to try to focus on quality over quantity!

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

During my PhD in particular, I found it difficult being one of such a small number of women, so this was a barrier for me. But there was support to be found – I joined a Women In Physics mentoring scheme, both as a mentor and as a mentee, and found this incredibly helpful. It can be very powerful to have the opportunity to talk in depth with another woman in a similar position.

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

There are lots of strategies that can be helpful for women and for the company as a whole. For example, I found the mentoring scheme really useful. I also think it’s important for companies to foster an environment where no-one is expected to regularly work more than their contracted hours, and to have generous parental leave policies.

What resources do you recommend for women working in STEM?

I have found “The Academic Imperfectionist” podcast by Rebecca Roache very useful. I would recommend this to anyone working in academia. It looks at how we can overcome perfectionism and our inner critics, which I think is something many of us face in our careers.


Kathy Schneider

Inspirational Woman: Kathy Schneider | Chief Marketing Officer, KX

Meet Kathy Schneider, Chief Marketing Officer at KX

Kathy Schneider

Kathy was appointed as CMO of KX in March 2020. Kathy brings extensive marketing leadership experience in the global technology sector, including senior marketing roles at privately-held as well as publicly-traded companies. Prior to joining FD, Kathy was Global CMO at Sungard Availability Services.

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

I have lived over half my life outside the US. My early childhood was spent in Italy, where my father attended medical school. I also lived in Mexico City for four years after getting my undergraduate degree in International Politics and Economics from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Having studied Spanish and minored in Latin America there, I wanted to get work experience in the region. Most recently, I lived in London for over 16 years. While I started my career in consumer goods marketing as a brand manager at Kraft Foods Mexico, I switched to the tech sector in 1999 when I joined Dell. From then, I grew my experience and responsibilities in various marketing leadership roles in tech companies across the AdTech, Telecoms, Disaster Recovery and Hosting sectors.

I am currently the CMO at KX which specializes in ultra-high-performance data analytics. There, I have been building out the global marketing function in terms of both the organisation and its martech systems and processes. I have also been leading our branding refresh, which has been an exciting project. KX and our kdb+ time series database has a strong heritage in the financial services sector, which has been at the cutting edge of using real-time data analytics for critical areas such as trading, quant research and anomaly detection and reporting. This sector contends with enormous volumes of streaming real-time data, extensive stores of historic data, volatility, and incredible time-sensitivity for making decisions – think buying or selling the right stock at the right price in microseconds.  As other industry sectors see their real-time data exploding, they too are looking to modernise their data analytics architecture to pace and are embracing KX. We have key programs to drive awareness in these other sectors and expand our footprint.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Funnily enough, I did when I was applying to Georgetown since my initial career goal was to work in the US Foreign Service and become an ambassador. I decided I didn’t want to work in politics and took international businesses classes. As I learned more about Marketing from friends who worked in these roles, I decided it looked interesting and tried it. I found I loved the blend of creative and analytic thinking I had to do. The next decision was whether to stay in FMCG (I started at Kraft Foods Mexico) or to try the tech sector. In the late 90s, the tech sector was booming and hiring people with traditional brand experience to help balance the strong engineering and technical talent they had. This was particularly important as selling to business buyers requires clarity about the business benefits that technology products and solutions will deliver – not just the technical features. I learned a lot in each role which also helped me gain larger scopes to advance my career.

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

I was once required to take a role during a re-organization that was outside of marketing and not the fit for me at the company. I was clear with my manager what I could achieve in the role and that I would do my best; but also, was clear that I wanted their help to move back into a marketing role at that company. The role required building an operational team and I hired strong people and a manager with expertise I didn’t have. This helped get the function set up and we made progress despite me being quite out of my comfort zone. Demonstrating I could deliver results in a new challenge and have a positive attitude helped and I eventually was moved into a great marketing role which I loved there.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

Leading all the marketing in support of Criteo’s IPO was exciting and I learned so much. We had no assets and on the date of the IPO we had refreshed messaging and a video running on the Nasdaq building that the team loved – in record time. I’m also proud of where we are today with KX after refreshing the brand in March a year and a half ago and building out our marketing functions. While we still have work to do, we consistently have top three Share of Voice amongst our competitive set and are driving pipeline growth quarter after quarter.

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

A positive, hard-working attitude. People underestimate how much that matters in addition to experience or expertise.

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

Be open to lateral roles where you learn something new and challenge your comfort zone.  Showing you can solve new problems or help the business address new challenges shows breadth in applying your skills and expertise. Also demonstrate an understanding of the big picture of your company’s strategy and the competitive landscape. If you work hard buried in your own area but don’t show you understand how your work connects with the big picture, you may not be considered for bigger, more strategic roles. For example, read your company’s and competitor’s financial results and press announcements. Also, keep focused on the business problem the market is dealing with, not just the technology itself. Finally, building your network in your company and outside is important as well. Taking advantage of online and offline communities, conferences and social media platforms can help you do this.

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

In my experience, I have seen women advance their careers in the tech space in both technical and non-technical roles. Working in certain technical roles can require some level of technical experience or skills and if women don’t have that, they may not be considered for such roles. If that’s the case, one can invest time and energy in getting the necessary training. Also, in development conversations with their managers, women can be clear and specific about what roles they would like to advance to and determine what support they need to achieve this. For example, take advantage of online training and certifications. Mentoring programs can also help.

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

Offer support for training and development including courses, certifications, and secondments.  Also, ensure a diverse set of candidates is considered for internal promotions. When recruiting externally, push the recruiting team to have a broad candidate pool for roles. Also, when hiring for roles, include people with a solid track-record of delivering results and transferable skills in addition to the precise, narrow experience that might be obvious for the role. People with ancillary experience and transferable skills who can learn can be great for bringing fresh perspective to a team.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

Have more girls fall in love with science and technology and make it their educational focus. As more and more young women opt to study and pursue technical degrees, they would increase the candidate pool entering the tech sector. There’s a lot of focus on the number of women at the top of tech sector jobs. However, having more women pursue studies in tech will naturally help increase their representation in these roles at companies over time. We need to look at many levels of the career ladder.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Conferences are an excellent way to learn and build one’s network. There is a range of technical conferences and with many now offering virtual attendance as well as in person, this should be at the top of the list. Bizzabo has a nice blog listing a wide range of tech conferences for 2022 – this type of resource is a great way to find out what’s out there. Build your network by not only connecting with people but keeping in touch regularly.

Podcasts are another great resource for learning and keeping up with the fast pace of change in the tech industry. Rocket is an interesting tech podcast with three female hosts talking about tech on one of the first and most popular all-female tech podcasts. One of my favorite books is The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson. The book begins with an account of Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. It then covers with amazing detail a range of key people that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.


Inspirational Woman: Jessica McGoverne | Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs, Sedex

Meet Jessica McGoverne, Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs, Sedex

Jessica McGoverne

Jessica joined Sedex in January 2018 and is responsible for Sedex’s corporate communications, public relations and public policy.

Jessica has over 10 years’ experience working in public affairs, crisis communications and stakeholder engagement. She has led a number of development campaigns for multinational companies, and implemented stakeholder consultation strategies on behalf of the Australian Government around land rights and land use.

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

After starting my career in communications, I went on to gain a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Sydney. Over the past 15 years, I have worked in roles leading a number of campaigns and strategies for multinational companies, not-for-profit organisations and government, around social and environmental development and sustainability. Around 6 years ago, I relocated from Australia to the UK, which I now call home.

Currently, I work at Sedex, a technology company that provides tools and data to enable businesses to improve their sustainability practices, where I am the Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs. Here I am responsible for leading communications, public relations and policy in ethical trade, and am able to leverage my expertise working in the technology sector. I’m passionate about enabling businesses to use the power of technology and data to advance their sustainability goals. Sedex enables companies to do this every day, making sustainable change more accessible to businesses globally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always aimed for a purpose-driven career that supports positive change at a global scale. I believe education is a fundamental foundation for this, and once I completed my Master’s degree, I wanted to continue developing my skills and knowledge within the area of sustainability. So, I worked hard to make doors open and said yes to every opportunity.

 The pace of change in technology means that careers evolve at such a rapid speed – this offers the opportunity for new careers, and for roles to constantly be evolving. Success for me comes from identifying what your passions are and combining these with your strengths, rather than focusing on specific job roles. Staying flexible and open to change has enabled me to find a place of work which fits my values, and where I can continue to grow.

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

Like many women, there have been moments when I have struggled to be heard over louder voices in the workplace or lean into discussions.

My advice to anyone else struggling to do this is simple: believe that what you have to say, no matter your perspective, is a valid contribution. The most progressive businesses value a wide range of perspectives and people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills in the workplace. It’s essential to back yourself and believe that your opinion matters. I aim to lead my team in this way, encouraging everyone to share their thoughts on different topics.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The ability to establish a career in multiple countries and lead a number of teams has been incredibly rewarding. It’s difficult to boil my whole career into one big achievement, as I think that you learn and develop in every role. During my time at Sedex I have thrived through the opportunity to work in such a global and diverse business, one that has the ability to have impact at scale.  I’m really proud of myself and my team for the way that we have developed, and constantly taken learnings to evolve. I look forward to seeing what comes in the future.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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

For me, it’s all about the people who have support me during my career and surrounding myself with people and colleagues who want to see me succeed, and vice versa. This ethos is incredibly important when it comes to achieving what you want to and being able to support others in my team to grow in their career is incredibly rewarding.

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

Always bring an open-minded attitude to learning. Technology and knowledge are ever-evolving and making time to continually upskill yourself is key!

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

I think women have come such a long way in achieving equality in business but, given the gender pay gap continues, we still have a long way to come. Currently, men’s median hourly pay is 16% higher than that of women in the technology sector. This puts the tech industry above the national average of 11.6% and shows the gap we have. At this point, it’s no longer the elephant in the room, it’s being openly discussed, yet still continues to occur.

These barriers can be overcome by ensuring we are investing in opportunities for women to enter technology roles and be promoted within them. I wish I heard about more female CTOs and I look forward to seeing more in the future.

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

Businesses need to provide career pathways for all people in their business where possible and ensure they are consistently promoting equal opportunities for both men and women and supporting them to develop. This includes allowing both men and women to equally move into management positions.

It’s also important that young women have visible female role models in leadership roles, technology and more. Promoting successful women and female leaders in schools from a young age will help to inspire young women to take certain career paths. In the way that the recent UK women’s Euro win has changed the game for female football players, we need the same shift for women in technology by educating young women and making technology pathways more accessible.

There are currently only 21% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Provide and promote clear career pathways, development support and education to support more women to choose technology and make it more attractive.

Alongside this, we can highlight and support less traditional routes towards a technology role. Not everyone needs to know how to code or comes from a school where this is taught to a high standard – my own background is in communications and sustainability. We need to go out to women of all different backgrounds, find them where they are and show the many different pathways they can walk within the technology industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’, and highly recommend reading or listening to the audiobook. She was the COO of Facebook and is truly inspiring leader. Her Ted Talks are also a must-watch.

‘The Female Lead’ also serves as an inspiration to me, as they so openly advertise so many strong women. Allbright, which is a networking hub for women at work, is a great way to meet others and be part of some very open discussions about the struggles women may face at work.

In terms of podcasts, I really like Blinkist, as it gives quick 15-minute audio explainers that you can listen to on the go.  It’s great for building your knowledge amid a busy schedule!