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Looking back at 2019: Our top Inspirational Women in Tech interviews

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.

Discover our editor's pick of inspirational tech interviews for 2019 below:

Anisah Osman Britton featuredInspirational Woman: Anisah Osman Britton | Founder & CEO, 23 Code Street

Anisah Osman Britton runs 23 Code Street.

In 2012 Anisah won the Young Entrepreneur Festival in London, which brought together 150 of the best young minds in the country.

Since leaving school, Anisah has pursued internships around the world, learnt to code, worked as ops director for a corporate accelerator and started 23 Code Street.

Anisah believes there are multiple routes to success, and that students need to be shown all possibilities.

Read Anisah's full interview here.


Jacqueline de Rojas featuredInspirational Woman: Jacqueline de Rojas CBE | President, techUK

Jacqueline is the President of techUK and the President of the Digital Leaders board.

She sits as a Non-Executive Director on the board of UK technology business Rightmove plc; on the board of Costain plc, which is committed to solving the nation’s Infrastructure problems; and is also on the board of the online retailer AO World plc. An advisor to fast moving tech businesses and a business mentor at Merryck offering board and executive level coaching. She is the co-chair at the Institute of Coding, advises the board of Accelerate-Her and is especially delighted to lend her support to the Girlguiding Association for technology transformation. Passionate about diversity and inclusion which informs where she places her support.

In 2016 she entered the @Computerweekly Hall of Fame after being voted Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in IT 2015; she was listed on Debretts 2016 500 People of Influence – Digital & Social and named in Europe’s Inspiring Fifty most inspiring female role models for 2017. She was presented with the 2017 Catherine Variety award for Science and Technology and the 2018 Women in Tech Award for Advocate of the Year acknowledging her contribution to diversity. 2018 brought a nugget of acknowledgements including @womenoffuture Fifty #KindLeaders; 2018 @Inclusiveboards 100 BAME Leaders; 2018 Faces of Vibrant Digital Economy; 2018 @Computerweekly Most Influential People in UK IT.

Jacqueline was awarded CBE for Services to International Trade in Technology in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2018.

Happily married to Roger Andrews, they have three children and a new baby grandson.

Read Jacqueline's full interview here.


Inspirational Woman: Olivia Sweeney | Aroma Chemicals Creative, Lush

Olivia, from Reading, has always been interested in sustainability and wanted to work for a company passionate about the environment.

Working for Lush and sourcing and creating their chemicals in a sustainable way has given Olivia the power to make a difference. Olivia is now an Aroma Chemicals Creative Buyer, sourcing and creating the natural and synthetic chemicals for fragrances of Lush’s soaps, bath bombs, shampoo bars… and everything else! She still gets to travel abroad, across Europe, Brazil and the USA to find the best materials and ingredients.

One of Olivia’s projects is figuring out the best way to process waste banana skins, not only getting the perfect banana smell, but in a sustainable and responsible way. She has helped to created a banana facial cleanser that will now be on shelves worldwide! She looks for ways to save energy and water in the making process while also making sure that the ingredients she works with are ethically sourced and cruelty free. For Olivia, chemical engineering means you can end up creating anything based on your own curiosity. Engineers are part of the modern world and help make dreams become reality with their problem-solving skills.

Read Olivia's full interview here.


Didem Un AtesInspirational Woman: Didem Un Ates | Senior Director, AI Customer & Partner Engagement, Microsoft

Following her Electrical Engineering and Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Didem started her career with management consulting at CapGemini and Motorola.

After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, Didem continued her career at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

Her passion for technology led her to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where she and her team signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. She held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In her current role, Didem is focusing on scaling Microsoft’s SaaS AI solutions such as Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

Didem has 20+ years of multinational leadership experience in business development, management consulting, and product management in executing international roll outs, implementing new market entries, and building new revenue streams from disruptive technologies in EMEA, APAC, and LatAm.

Read Didem's full interview here.


Professor Sue Black featueredInspirational Woman: Professor Sue Black OBE | Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist, UK Government Strategic Advisor, Women's Equality Party candidate for London Mayor 2020, Professional Speaker & Author

Sue Black is a leading academic, campaigner, and advisor to the UK Government.

Black is a Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University with more than 40 publications behind her as well as a PhD in software engineering.

Her academic career has seen her hold leadership posts at London South Bank University, University of Westminster and University College London.

A champion for women in computing, Black founded BCSWomen, the UK’s first online network for women in tech, and #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology. The activist is also widely known for her successful campaign to save Bletchley Park, the wartime campus where more than 5,000 women served as codebreakers.

A figurehead on numerous boards, Black is a Comic Relief Trustee and a mentor at Google Campus for Mums. She has previously been a L’Oréal UNESCO prize judge, an expert evaluator for the European Commission and a Nesta Crucible fellow.

Black was awarded an OBE for “services to technology” in 2016.

She today sits as a Women’s Equality Party candidate for London Mayor 2020.

Black is a self-confessed social media-holic. She is a mum of four and a grandmother of four.

Read Sue's full interview here.


Lea von Bidder featuredInspirational Woman: Lea von Bidder | Co-Founder & CEO, Ava

Lea von Bidder is Co-Founder; VP Marketing and President of Ava Science Inc.

The idea for the Ava bracelet came from Pascal Koenig, Philipp Tholen, Peter Stein and I (Lea) around five years ago when we were confronted with our own reproductive choices in the modern world. We almost immediately started consulting with several gynaecologists from around the world, mainly in Europe and the US, asking what is important for women’s reproductive health needs. When Pascal, Philipp, Peter and I founded Ava in 2014, it was with the mission to advance women’s reproductive health by bringing together artificial intelligence and clinical research. And I’m proud to share that we’ve just achieved a major milestone: Our clinical research has just been made public in a scientific paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research. The paper demonstrates that five physiological signals change throughout the menstrual cycle, and that by tracking these signals, we can identify the fertile window of a woman’s cycle in real time. Our flagship product, the Ava fertility tracker, is the only fertility-tracking method available that measures all five of these signs.

We have around 120 employees worldwide distributed among Zurich, San Francisco, Belgrade, Makati and Hong Kong. Around 80 of these sit in our Headquarters in Zurich and work in various departments such as Clinical Team, Data Science Team, Product Team, Marketing as well as Customer Success.

We are proud to count over 20,000 pregnancies worldwide and 50 new pregnancies a day among our users

The tracking of a woman’s cycle, fertility, and pregnancy is just the start of many exciting possibilities. Ava continues to conduct clinical studies to improve its accuracy and increase its capabilities. Ava and the University Hospital of Zurich are conducting a new large cohort study with several sub-studies that will address topics such as irregular cycles and pregnancy complications. We are also working with several thought leaders to conduct studies in assisted reproduction and gestational hypertensive populations.

Our vision of wanting to be a long-term companion for women, providing data-driven and scientifically proven insights along all stages of their reproductive lives, as well as our mission, wanting to advance women’s reproductive health by bringing together artificial intelligence and clinical research, are our biggest drivers.

Read Lea's full interview here.


Kerrine Bryan featuredInspirational Woman: Kerrine Bryan | Award-winning engineer & founder of Butterfly Books

Kerrine Bryan – an award winning black female engineer and founder of Butterfly Books.

Kerrine has gone on to smash many glass ceilings to become respected in her field.

She was shortlisted in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 for notable women in business and, in 2015, she won the Precious Award for outstanding woman in STEM. Kerrine is a volunteer mentor for the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) and is an avid STEM Ambassador. It was while she was undertaking talks at various schools across the country for children about engineering and what her job entails that she became inspired to set up her independent publishing house, Butterfly Books.

In response to this, Kerrine published a series of books (My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer and My Mummy Is A Plumber) as a means of communicating to children a positive message about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers, that are suffering skill gaps and diversity issues. The fourth book in the series, My Mummy Is A Farmer, launched last month – August 2018.

Read Kerrine's full interview here.


June Felix featured

Inspirational Woman: June Felix | President of Verifone Europe

 

June Felix has had an illustrious career in banking, fintech and payments technology.

Inspirational Woman- June Felix
June Felix, President of Verifone Europe

As President of Verifone Europe, she has day-to-day responsibility for more than 2,000 employees across 28 territories.

Her achievements include the 2013 Top Innovator Award by American Banker for Money2 for Health; recipient of the Edison Award for Innovation; Elected into the Innovators Hall of Fame for Banking Technology News; ranked 12th nationally (in the US) in Innovation by Banking Technology News; listed inventor on several e-commerce patents and on patent pending application for Money2 for Health.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, once I decided what I really wanted to do. I started out as studying chemical engineering and medicine but I was lucky enough to work for Proctor & Gamble over the summer and saw and worked in many different parts of that company. During that process I learned how the orchestration of all these aspects was key to running a successful business. So I got into brand management, which is the business management function that brings all the elements of business together around filling market and client needs from research, manufacturing, branding, marketing etc. This experience encouraged me to seek out roles with driving P&L.

Have you faced any significant challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

One of the most significant challenges has been being taken seriously as a woman – especially a young woman. The industries I have worked in – fintech, pharma, finance etc – have all been very heavily male dominated. One of the most important things I discovered was to find a sponsor, somebody who would mentor and guide you in your career.

So work on building relationships – friends, partners, colleagues – who can help you get things done. Only a part of the job is how capable you are – the rest is all about how you get things done.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

A leadership position could be on a project or in a new role and it really helps to have a couple of points of expertise in that position that you can rely on. Then you need to find partners or sponsors who are willing to help you in your role to develop those skills you have never done before.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you decide which one is best suited for the role?

It would come down to drive and ambition; are they going to do what it takes to get the job done? It also comes down to an assessment of their values; who are they really as individuals? You want somebody with the right integrity, somebody who will make the right call at all costs.

How do you manage you own boss?

Communications is key. Part of any relationship is building trust. That means being clear on expectations, objectives and a shared understanding of what the challenges and trade-offs are. I think that, especially when starting out, what bosses are looking for is somebody who is going to come with ideas and solutions, as much as the problems. It sounds like common sense but sometimes you learn that common sense after doing it wrong.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I always try to exercise first thing in the morning. If you look at really successful people, they are actually quite fit because the job is really challenging. You need something that gives you the energy, that gives you the health to do the job.

The early starts also give me ‘me time’, giving me the space to think.

In terms of work, I live by my lists, both personal and private objectives for the days and weeks ahead. My A1 priorities are my ‘must-do’ list and this is non-negotiable. Even with disruptions throughout my day, I know that I’ll get through my A1 list, whatever happens.

What advice can you give to members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Do outstanding work. At the end of the day, that has to be at the foundation. When I was at IBM, you were only as good as your last quarter ̶ it was what made the company stand out. Also, you have to find something that defines you. It depends on what your personal objective or brand is. If you want to become known as a leader in innovation, for getting things done, or for being highly effective with clients or analysis etc, then you have to focus on that skill. Ask yourself, what is it that I do exceptionally well?

How have you benefitted from coaching or mentoring?

I think coaching is so important – it’s a really valuable activity. It gives you a sounding board. The more senior you get, the less people you can talk to that really understand the challenges you face and that you are able to share anything with. If you trust that person’s judgment and their strengths and weaknesses, they can remind you that you have done it before and can achieve your objectives.

I believe that people should try as well to be mentors and coaches. It is a useful way for you to pass on what you have learned, but also can provide a useful mechanism for self-reflection.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what tips would you give to a newbie networker?

Find a way to be valuable to the other person. When you are networking you are trying to build a relationship with another person, so it’s not about having a one-way relationship. You are trying to create something that is mutually beneficial. You also need to try and create multiple connections, so you have a number of reasons to stay in touch.

There are also different levels of networking; I’ve helped people to get their kids into their choice of college or get work experience. That’s quite a personal connection – otherwise networking can be so transactional in nature. Whilst that is OK, it means your calls won’t be answered quite so quickly as if you have connected on a more personal level.

What does the future hold for you?

I love what I do. I am a president of Europe for a NYSE-listed company in the center of the digitalisation of money; I am a non-executive director of a global FTSE 130 company and I enjoy immensely the fact that I am working across Europe. I have a management team that I have a lot of respect for. I’m on a fantastic journey, so I hope to be doing more of the same.

If I am in the same position in five to 10 years’ time, I’d hope to do more in terms of giving back. I’ve always tried to do some kind of charity work or something I’m passionate about. It could focus on women in fintech or education – I’m working through my portfolio now. For me it’s an important piece of feeling well-rounded that you can contribute something not only in your business life, but your personal life too.

Read more Inspirational Woman profiles here.