Inspirational Woman: Rebecca Bezzina | SVP, Managing Director, R/GA London

Rebecca Bezzina

As SVP, Managing Director, Rebecca is the driving force behind R/GA London’s long-term business vision and strategic direction.

Rebecca’s 17 plus year’s industry experience plays an invaluable part in ensuring that the right working practices and culture are in place to allow the agency to continue to act as a trusted partner to its clients and deliver game changing best-in-class work.

Before joining the London office, Rebecca spearheaded new business and relationships, and drove digital transformation for clients at R/GA Australia. Under her leadership the offices created award winning work that picked up at all major award shows. Prior to R/GA, Rebecca led a number of blue-chip accounts at M&C Saatchi/ Mark for over five years. As a trusted strategic partner, she delivered award-winning, transformational work for Google, News Ltd, Nestle and Qantas, Qantas Frequent Flyer, before leading Australia’s largest account the Commonwealth Bank to the agency and ushering in their highly successful re-positioning. Rebecca has enjoyed a rapid rise in the industry which also included being awarded Young Direct Marketer of the Year, Top 30 Under 30 Nomination leaders to watch in Australia and being named a ‘Woman to Watch’ by Campaign Asia in their annual list.

Tell us a bit about your current role and what you’re focused on? And what does your company do?

I am currently the SVP, Managing Director at R/GA in London. In this role along with my talented team we drive R/GA London’s long term business success, set the strategic direction and continue to on a day to day help our clients transform and create innovative products and experiences.

I’m not sure how much you know about R/GA, but for context we’re a digital innovation agency, who combines technology and creativity to design businesses & brands for a more human future. We’ve been finding new ways to humanize technology for our clients for over 44 years now, which is why we’re a lot of tech companies’ first outsider. Our approach to our work is to pair technologists with design thinkers to ensure that whatever technology we’re working with – from deep and integrated to experimental and innovative – it works equally well for businesses, and for people. We work with clients ranging from Samsung, Nike, Google and McDonald’s, to LVMH, Allianz and Moncler and are one of the most creatively awarded agencies in the world. Our London office is about 120 people in size and is our biggest office outside of our headquarters in New York.

In terms of day-to-day for me, things shift all the time but there are some strategic pieces that remain that are constant for me. Our capability building and how we stay ahead with the services we offer, the future of work, how we find and retain talent and our inclusion and diversity strategies are my biggest focus right now.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes. When I first got into the industry, I took a huge pay cut as I wanted to ensure my job brought me happiness and I didn’t have that at that point in my working life. I managed to secure a junior role and worked out how long it would take me to become a Managing Director. I did this based on advice I got from talking to peers and mentors about how long it would take within each level and then just went for it over a number of years, but I was always laser focused on the end goal. I also made strategic decisions to never say no to getting involved in things, always running at the most difficult projects within the business (and most of them were big tech implementations) and was always curious.

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

Yes, many! When I have faced them, I have learnt to give myself permission to take time to work through things (sometimes it’s the overnight test), speak to people (my team, my peers , clients or my mentors),  find the learning within it and then to back myself. It’s important to draw on your inner confidence, as self doubt is always a natural human reaction. The reality is not everything  will go right and things will go wrong, there will be obstacles, so it’s about how you equip yourself to deal with challenges that is most important. I’ve made sure to never underestimate just how important remembering your values is, as many times these have helped guide me and enabled me to think clearly.

Remember that the challenges keep coming, experience just helps teach you how to deal with them and I have a rule that honestly sets you free. So ensure you create environments to have open and honest chats with teams and clients without fear of retribution.

Last of all I remind myself and my teams when the going is hard that we are not saving lives most of the time and keeping that perspective is important. After all, we work in a creative environment and that should be fun.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I don’t have one achievement I focus on really, as for me it’s been a culmination of lots of little things that have got me to where I am now. So I tend not to look back too much, more forward to what the next goal is. However I must say that one thing that stands out for sure recently is being appointed SVP for R/GA London and immediately having to lead such an incredible team through a global pandemic. I also think the fact that we won Global Digital Innovation Agency of the Year from Campaign Magazine coming out the other side of the pandemic made the last 18 months something I’m sure I’ll always look back on with huge pride.

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

I believe there are two key factors, and that’s keeping my authenticity and always treating every role like it’s my own business.

I have always been myself and have been lucky enough to be encouraged to be myself in the places I have worked at and the roles I have had. This helped give me confidence to get involved in discussions and have a point of view. Also for me, being authentic and having empathy go hand in hand and in my role the people side of things is the most important.

The other major thing would be that no matter if I was an account executive or the Managing Director I always treat everything like I am running my own business and I have my life savings on the line. This means when advising clients I really ask myself would I do this, are we really looking at things right, would l like to be treated like that etc. This also meant that I always tried to surround myself with people who are different and way smarter than me. Diversity in people leads to different and interesting outcomes in my experience and that’s a critical piece.

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

Firstly, be curious. Being curious means you are interested in how things work, you ask why, you seek out ways to do things, take different points of view and a lot of what we do is take information and then make recommendations to solve problems.

Secondly, be yourself. Being yourself is everything! It all starts with being authentic and with that in my experience comes confidence.

Finally, I’d say it’s hugely important when working in technology to never lose sight of the human aspect. We are surrounded by incredible technology & innovation that is constantly evolving at pace. But brands and companies often forget the importance of humanizing technology.

At R/GA, our model is to design businesses and brands for a more human future. I see a more human future in this context as one where we harness the power of technology to enable people to thrive. We think the most value comes from businesses and brands that are high technology and high humanity.

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

If we look at the data, yes. There are simply not enough women working in the tech and digital industries, and in particular at the senior levels. I also think we have more work to do around how we keep talent in the industry and returning to senior leadership following extended breaks (i.e mat leave)  and then getting more talent through the door and supporting them to rise to the top. The other thing is thinking about how technology and the sector has a greater role within early years of education.

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

There are a lot of areas that companies need to focus on, but a few things come to mind immediately.

One of the first things is ensuring that you have a proper strategy around diversity and inclusion. This needs to be understood through the entire organisation, with tangible metrics and programs rigorously installed to help drive change. For example, at R/GA we have coupled talent with mentors within the organisation and we have offered specific leadership training for all women across the business. But you need the business to be accountable, which means masuarable. Having clarity, and buy-in from your leadership team, around metrics is something I firmly believe in. So collecting and looking at the data on a regular basis is a huge help.

I also think that building and investing in careers is one of the other core responsibilities of employers. This is everything from creating clear career plans and committing to regular reviews but also, where possible, providing a stage for women and giving them a platform to champion and showcase their ideas. This could be within internal meetings, client presentations or external conferences and thought leadership in industry press etc.

Last of all I would say that listening and adapting continually is critical. In the last 12 months we have had many mothers returning from maternity leave and we have got some things really right and other things we have needed to refine. So continue to listen to your women, as the world is changing and the way we work is changing quicker than ever.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would instantly put more women in many more leadership roles around the world and let the current 17% be seen more than they currently are. Whether it be in business, politics or technology, I believe having women represented in key leadership roles helps provide different perspectives. They also can become role models for younger women wanting to enter any kind of industry.


Inspirational Woman: Debbie Ashton | Founder & SVP, Strategic Customer Experience, FinancialForce

Debbie AshtonAs a founder of FinancialForce my role is to ensure FinancialForce’s customer experience is best in class.

I look to continuously innovate to deliver moments that matter for the FinancialForce customers, employees and investors. I engage with many customers directly to understand their journey with FinancialForce, and gain feedback and insight to ensure they are maximising the value they receive from the FinancialForce solutions. My position is a global, cross functional role specifically directed to make the FinancialForce customers wildly successful and drive advocacy.  When I started FinancialForce in 2009 with the original CEO & co-founder, I ran the Engineering, Success and Support teams.  I created the Customer Success discipline at FinancialForce, ensuring a customer centric mindset was built into the company's DNA. Over time I built & ran the Product Strategy, Product Management, Product Marketing and Software Engineering teams globally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly. I was driven by setting goals and targets with things I wanted to accomplish by certain ages. Such as I wanted to have a role which enabled me to travel the world, which meant I needed to go into either consulting or sales type roles. Both of which I’ve had experience with.

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

Yes, one of my earliest career challenges was when I was on maternity leave and our company had just gone through an acquisition.  I realised how important it was to have a support network in place. I was able to go back to work quickly because my dad was retired and he helped with my baby’s childcare when I returned to work. I then moved my home back to the same street I grew up on, five doors down from my mum and dad so it was easier for them to help look after the children, take them to school etc. This gave me the flexibility to travel globally for my role. Moving close to my mum and dad was one of the best decisions I ever made.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has to be starting the FinancialForce business and growing it to nearly 1,000 employees, nine offices and 1,400 customers worldwide.

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

I think my ability to see the strength in the people around me, to create relationships and build teams leveraging people’s unique strengths. Coupled with my desire to continually improve myself and the areas I’m working on an ongoing basis.

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

Do not give up, set targets and goals and then strive to achieve them. Do not allow people to settle for anything less than your dreams. Also I think it helps to find a mentor, someone who can guide you and help you make the right decisions within your role or career.

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

I do think there are barriers for women working in tech. There are not enough female CEOs in technology, or female board members. I do think the board room lacks diversity, whether that is gender diversity or race diversity. I think these barriers can be overcome through continual discussion and raising awareness about the problem so that more and more executives who are decision makers can drive the change that is needed.

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, what backgrounds they have, gender, race, feel equally involved in and supported across the business. This can be initiated through education, starting a Diversity & Inclusion committee like we have at FinancialForce, and ensuring that there is a recruitment and hiring process that supports diversity. Then celebrating the differences in the cultures, backgrounds, etc. as an organisation.  I work very closely with our Chief Legal Officer who heads up our Diversity & Inclusion programme and we aim to support the progress of women working in technology.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

I think encouraging more women to choose computer science courses at school, and then continuing to encourage that path for University or College degrees. That is how we will drive more women into the industry, it all starts with the education early on in their journeys

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Understanding about the new technology trends and innovations that are being released all the time through news articles from research companies is a great place to start.


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