Inspirational Woman: Rashi Khurana | Vice President of Engineering, Shutterstock

Rashi Khurana 1Rashi Khurana is Vice President of Engineering at Shutterstock where she oversees the front end E-commerce, Platform and Mobile engineering teams.

Since joining Shutterstock in 2016, Rashi helped lead three teams through a technology transformation, all the while managing day-to-day operations of delivering a quality product to customers. Rashi is passionate about managing teams of engineers to deliver above expectations everyday and building resiliency into all initiatives.

Rashi earned a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Hailing from India, Rashi moved to the United States in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Rashi has also spoken on “Business as Usual While Revamping a Decade of Code” and recently took part on a tech women’s leadership panel.  Her speaking engagements include 2018 Wonder Women Tech, 2018 SXSW, and 2017 DeveloperWeek.

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

I am Vice President of Engineering at Shutterstock, where I oversee the front-end E-commerce, Platform and Mobile engineering teams. Since joining Shutterstock in 2016, I have helped lead three teams through a technology transformation, all the while managing day-to-day operations of delivering a quality product to customers. I am passionate about managing teams of engineers to deliver above expectations every day and building resiliency into all initiatives.

I moved to the United States from India in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, I worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career of choice when I was 12 years old was teaching. I thought about going into politics — I wanted to be an officer at the Indian Administrative Services at one point of my life, but nothing would have come close to the growing and learning that has come my way with the choices I have made.

The Indian education system is largely a rat race to get into the top colleges in India for undergrad, such as the Indian Institute of Technology. I decided that path wasn’t for me, which meant dropping out of my ongoing physics and mathematics preparation courses to get into those colleges. I knew I had to be comfortable with this decision so it would not lead to future regret. And as destiny has it, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, to go to undergrad in a part of the country that did not speak my language.

This was my first experience of being out of my comfort zone. Having schooled at an all-girls school, here was my first exposure to the tech field that was heavily male dominated. In my class of 60-plus students, there were only 6-8 women. I learned operating systems, database designs, algorithms, C, C++, Java and more.

My parents always pushed me to consider life outside of my comfort zone. I had already done three internships at tech companies in different parts of India during my summer breaks. That expanded my horizons into Perl, Tcl/Tk, XMLs and SOAP and Visual Basic. I even played with Amida handheld devices and worked with socket programming for them when tablets were not a big thing.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Because the industry’s so heavily male-dominated, I think the biggest challenge is that women have to put in that extra effort, and the extra onus in proving ourselves; that we deserve it and yes, that we are fit for it or can do it. We put great pressure on ourselves.

One big challenge is the superfluous attitude about women in tech and women in general. I’ve noticed that a woman’s body language is judged very quickly. ‘Does she have confidence, or does she show confidence at the time she’s in a meeting?’ Studies have also shown that women have to use a certain way of communication. For example, when you want to get something and you’re in a negotiation, you may not be able to say, ‘I want this.’ You need to use the word ‘we’ more than ‘I’ to negotiate some of those conversations. If the world was a little more balanced, that extra onus and the self-inflicted demand of always being on top of your game and carrying the burden to prove something would fade away.

Another challenge is we don’t raise our hands. We don’t ask. When I was an engineer fresh out of college, two years into my job and I was coding all day, I received a brief email from my manager at that moment. That email said, ‘Rashi will be going to London with the Head of Product and Head of SEO.’ I jumped out of my chair and I ran to his office. Because I thought it was a mistake, I said, ‘I got this email. I think it’s a mistake.’ My manager said ‘Well, you don’t want to go?’ I replied, ‘No it’s not that I don’t want to go. But you have tech leads on your team. You have senior engineers on the team. Shouldn’t they be going first, before I get that opportunity?’ And he said, ‘End of discussion. You’re going.’

This was a long time ago. But it was a turning point for me, for my career, for my life. I realised he had confidence in me that I didn’t have in myself. I didn’t know what confidence meant until that moment, because I’d never thought about it. And that was a turning point. So, I think the first, most important reason for women not being successful is that we are conditioned to put ourselves second. So, when an opportunity even comes to us to lead, we sometimes shy away.

To be successful in STEM, we need to understand that success is not built alone. You could put in your hard work. You could believe in yourself and have the confidence in yourself, but until you have the right advocates who believe in you, it’s still hard to be successful. As you grow further in your career and you really want to be successful, sponsorship comes into the picture more.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am most proud of the network of people I have built. One of my managers once told me, “No matter what code you write, it will be out of the window in less than five years. What stays with you is the network you build, the people you meet.” This has definitely struck a chord with me. When I think about my career and consider new opportunities, I think first about the people I am working with.

The products we build are heavily influenced by the people in charge and the camaraderie we create. People matter the most in any industry and if we can embrace the goodness of the people, we can deliver anything we wish for. I am very proud of and connected to the teams I manage, and that enables me to do a better job at work, too.

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

We need to embrace the fact that we’re women. Even to be at the table, we have to be ourselves. So, my biggest factor for achieving success is being myself. If you are trying to fake it, or if you’re trying to mimic somebody else, you can only do it for a short period of time. Don’t try to be the man. We bring different things to technology, our way of thinking, our problem solving is different. Instead of trying to be a man, we must discover our own way of being heard. When a man wants to get attention, he may pound his fist on the table and get attention. And we may not be cool with pounding our fist. That’s okay. We can use our voice to be assertive and still get attention. There may be one or two meetings where you do not get your eye contact, or your voice is not heard the way you would have wanted. But then, be yourself and be persistent about it and keep speaking up. Keep saying what you want to say, because if you don’t say it, how will anybody hear it? And once they hear it, they will know you have information to offer. You have something to say which nobody else thought about.

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

I have a very different take on mentoring. I don’t think you can have one mentor who can fill all the gaps – you have different people with expertise in different areas, so you need to have a network of mentors rather than just one. I always make myself available for anyone that wants a chat and I like to make them feel comfortable that they can pull me aside. At Shutterstock, we have a Women in Tech group where we can talk about our industry and work out how we can inspire each other, have each other’s backs and recognise our skills. We also bring in inspirational women to talk about their story and give advice e.g. Deirdre Bigley, Chief Marketing Officer at Bloomberg.

For me, I was very lucky that I had that support system at home – I didn’t have to look outside for mentors when I was growing up. My mother has a science background and my father has a mathematics background, which inspired me to follow in their footsteps. My parents did a lot of shaping of my mind when I was young and when I needed that support.

Similar to mentoring, I was sponsored by my previous boss. That’s where I first understood what it meant. He would not shy away being in a room with people of different levels saying that, ‘Hey, I believe in her. And I’m going to let her lead it her way.’ Just being able hear that said aloud vocally, it does wonders to you as somebody is putting their trust in you and you don’t want to violate that.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I once attended a session where my former CTO was speaking to 400 women in tech. The title of that forum was “Women in Tech: The male perspective.” He described this scenario where he asked a woman he managed to lead a part of his organisation and she politely refused, saying she didn’t think she was ready. He told her that if she wasn’t ready, he wouldn’t risk his organisation under her leadership. We need to learn to have confidence that we’re ready and trust that when someone calls upon us to lead, we’re capable of doing it.

We are moving forward, but we hit some setbacks and obstacles along the way. I believe people want to be fair, but to favour individualism and moralism over tribalism will require a shift in mindset. The good news is that people are talking about it. The difficulties arise when the discussion sometimes is not rooted in the right ideals.

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

I’d make sure I don’t hold myself hostage to my thoughts of not being able to do something. If you have a good support, there are many touchpoints that you have with people, especially the one-on-ones you have with your manager or your skip-levels and colleagues. First, I’d make sure the direction I want my career to go in is clear. Know that ‘This is my career and I’m driving it. Nobody else is going to drive my career for me.’

I’d then ask myself, ‘What do I want out of my career?’ If I want something out of it, I must make sure that other people are aware of it. And then we work together towards it.

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

I want to make sure that we are creating more diversity but prevent D&I initiatives turning into box-ticking exercises. Being a woman engineer in NYC looking for a job isn’t too difficult, because many employers are actively looking for you. But does that mean a better candidate loses out? My thought is – it’s the end goal that’s important. We need more women and diversity (I’m just taking women as an example here) so that the products we build are catered to everyone and there is equal room for expression and entitlement. As a society we have stereotypes that have existed for so long, it’s dis-balanced. We are in a hard place where we are desperately trying to fix it, so the future generation does not have to deal with this gap.

One way of fixing this is to correct our education system as I think it is too influenced by the norms of our society. When we hand a barbie doll to a two-year-old girl and a superhero to a two-year-old boy, we are setting the tone for what to expect – there are different places for them in society. That continues in school with the courses that are offered and who studies what. We need to talk to girls about science, the universe, technology, and let them build things with Legos at an early age to pique their interest in science. No more doll houses for them, they need to be playing with transformers!


Latha Nair

Inspirational Woman: Latha Nair | Vice President & Head of Service Delivery, IBS Software

Latha NairI’ve been at IBS Software since 1997, where I started out as a Software Engineer. I had just graduated with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and now almost 25 years on, I’m still working for the same company!

For the past 12 years I have led the Delivery Unit of the Consulting and Digital Transformation division of IBS Software. I am leading a team of more than 700 colleagues who are responsible for building, customizing and enhancing transformational solutions for travel industry customers. We routinely use collaborative practices like Agile, DevOps, and automation with emerging technologies and toolkits to improve productivity, quality and capability.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

The only plan I had was to perform at my best.  I certainly wasn’t anticipating spending 25 years working for one company, but that is testament to how much I enjoy working at IBS Software and with the people around me.

When I joined in 1997 the company was just a start-up with a strong vision and values, and I was one of the first 55 employees. Back then, I was inspired by the business’ focus on the travel domain and that we could work with the latest technologies.

I never actually planned to be in the Information technology sector. I wanted to pursue Electrical Engineering but the job opportunities in this field were limited at the time that I graduated. The software industry, however, was booming so it made sense to take that path – and I’ve never looked back.

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

This question comes up a lot and every time I think about it, two key challenges always come to mind.

The first is that I’ve always struggled to acknowledge my own accomplishments and often doubt myself. But along the way, I have learned that shying away from speaking about your achievements prevents your voice from being heard or taken as seriously. To this day, I continue to work on facing up to self-doubt with some self-talk routines that help me focus on the task at hand.

Challenge two has been carving my own approach to leadership behaviour, especially trying to steer clear from a stereotypical ‘aggressive’ style. I believe that leadership should not seem forced: over time I’ve learned to keep practicing, and get used to my own unique style so I can give effective advice and leadership to my team.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

I view my career as a series of smaller achievements rather than big ones, but I am proud to be part of a large and talented team of over 700 people. One of my core strengths is being able to accept and learn from failures, and I see this as a key part of my leadership profile.

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

There are several factors I consider as contributing to career growth and success but if I had to single one out it would be my mother’s influence. She has been the source of many important life lessons that have guided me through my professional life, and instilled in me a positive spirit and a gritty resolve to face up to every challenge.

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What top tips would you give to other women who are trying to excel in their career in technology?  

Earn everything on your own merit and resist concessions given to you simply because you are a woman, and do not take a step back or shy away from challenges. Remind yourself every day that you matter, and that is why you are here. Finally, always strive to be a stronger version of yourself as opposed to a weaker version of somebody else – but always look for opportunities to learn from others regardless of their role or seniority.

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

Organisations are focusing on elevating and retaining women at all levels, which is fantastic. If women can show performance, persistence and perseverance, then I am confident that we will thrive in the tech sector as it strives to adopt a more gender-inclusive culture.

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

While recognising the gender gap and building more inclusive cultures is certainly positive, it’s important to not be seen as trying too hard. Women should be encouraged to pursue and grab opportunities based on their own merit, not because a company has a gender equality quota to fulfil.

This can be a difficult balancing act. However, my advice would be to hire women because they are the best candidate for the job and let them be themselves once they are in a role. As my journey shows, we shouldn’t apply a pre-cast mould to what leadership should look like.

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

I would love for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts to come true. She said: “In future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I often return to the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Although it was written several centuries ago, there are so many messages and philosophies that emerge through the characters that can be applied to a corporate business scenario today, such as how teamwork can lead you to winning impossible battles, and how finding the right mentor can help carve out a path to success.


Inspirational Woman: Danielle Merfeld | Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, GE Renewable Energy

Danielle MerfeldHere we speak with Danielle Merfeld, Vice President, Chief Technology Officer at GE Renewable Energy.

Danielle tells us about her career in engineering, shares her top tips for success and addresses the importance of encouraging women into the industry.

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

I am the Vice President, Chief Technology Officer of GE Renewable Energy. In this role, I lead technical efforts to develop differentiated products and services across the broadest renewable energy portfolio in the industry, covering onshore wind, offshore wind, grid solutions, solar PV, batteries and hydro. Some of the cool innovations we are working on are how to manufacture wind turbine blades and towers in a completely different way that makes them more efficient and lower cost, and how to connect more renewable energy to the grid while keeping it stable and resilient.

I champion sustainability efforts across the business, leading a team focused on achieving carbon neutrality, which is very fulfilling.  I have also spent several years as the co-leader of the GE Women’s Network, a global organisation focused on the recruitment, retention, development, and promotion of talented women across GE.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t really spend time thinking or planning my future career steps except for deciding early in my career to stay engaged in technology.  Otherwise, I was intensely focused on whatever role I was in, until I was approached about the next exciting opportunity and asked to consider a new role.  Each step was an adventure and part of a journey that I could never have planned out in advance.  With each successful step forward, I grew more confident in allowing my skills and interests to develop together as a core strategy in building my career.

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

My biggest career challenge was stepping into a role that was significantly broader in scope than anything I had experienced before.  This was challenging mostly due to my own insecurities about whether I was going to be successful. Luckily, I got great coaching from a senior leader who stated in a matter-of-fact way that no one in the company had experience across this breadth, so the job requirements included a good deal of learning.  If I could learn then I could do the job.  That made me see the role in a new light and I got better at asking questions to deepen my understanding without worrying about how that might be perceived by others.  This also taught me one of the magic ingredients to being a successful leader.  Ask questions!  It makes experts on the team feel valued, helps expand personal knowledge, and promotes a culture of continuous learning and teamwork.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date has been to seed and foster truly disruptive approaches that have made it into our products.  I was only a part of the team that delivered these successes, but my support and advocacy made a difference.  I feel honoured to be in a position to elevate and support the work of smart people who deliver outcomes that truly make the world better for all.

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

I believe that being an effective team player has been a major contributor to my success.  Knowing the elements that I bring to the team – such as curiosity, technical insight, and inspiration – and being able to highlight others for what they bring, has enabled us to do more as a collective than we could do on our own.  From my first team to my current team, this has been the common thread.

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

Especially for young engineers, I think it is important to stay curious and remain open to where the best opportunities to contribute may be for you.  The job opportunities will be plentiful and span across many engineering disciplines. I have noticed working with many engineering teams across multiple disciplines that systems engineering is becoming more critical. Because the systems that we’re designing and using are becoming more complex and interconnected, it’s important to understand how vital teamwork is in designing the solutions of tomorrow. Therefore, I think it’s important for young engineers to develop expertise in an area they’re passionate about while also learning how to be effective in collaborating and delivering across a highly diverse team.

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

There are always challenges for those in the minority, due to the way human nature causes people to favour others most like themselves.  This is why organisations need to continue to focus on fostering diversity in order to enable all employees – including women – to succeed.  This isn’t just because it’s “the right thing to do”, but because studies show that more diverse companies are also more successful.  Barriers for women in technology will be fully overcome when they are properly represented in the technical ranks and found in the same proportion as in their communities.  In the meantime, we as leaders need to actively cultivate an environment where women are engaged in setting the culture to attract and retain more women. Fostering affinity groups that support women in tech, provide an outlet to challenge the status quo and find ways to improve is a great example of how to do that.

On an individual level, I would encourage young female engineers to continue to challenge themselves. Too often I’ve seen young women pass on promising opportunities because they are assessing them against some potential future scenario in their life. I encourage them to take the next step that truly excites them and feels right at the time – with the reminder that they can always make changes to their trajectory when their life changes. Putting yourself in a position to do something exciting and challenging is the best way to grow your career, and more importantly, enjoy yourself at work.

Do you think there are better ways to talk about pioneering women who have played a key role in tech?

I think there is an opportunity to be more nuanced. Often profiles of women in tech – especially famous women in tech who are often presented as sources of inspiration – fall into some clichéd categories.  First are those that highlight women who sacrificed to push scientific understanding forward, such as Marie Curie, whose work in radioactivity led to her untimely death. Also noted are the women who toiled in obscurity, such as Dr. Rosalind Franklin, due to historical and cultural bias regarding women in STEM. (Dr. Franklin played a key role in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA but was famously not credited or recognized with her male colleagues.)  Lastly, there are those that highlight glamorous women who have shocked the world by driving significant progress in technology – the ‘beauty + brains’ formula.  My favourite one here is Hedy Lamarr, the bombshell movie star of the silver screen, who developed a new communication system that was used in World War II to defeat the Nazis, and led to today’s Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth,

As we drive for equality and see more women in STEM fields in visible roles across industries and around the world, I think that we can become more nuanced about who we highlight and why. We can identify with the biggest challenges facing the world today and look for those who have given us tools and resources to rise to the challenge of facing them together. One of the best examples of an inspirational STEM figure is Rachel Carson, who is often credited with starting the grassroots environmental movement.  Her work in marine biology – and later agro-industrial chemicals – led her to writing books that spoke to the hearts and minds of a population. She awakened a new perspective in many by making complex scientific analysis approachable and understandable.

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?

To accelerate the pace of change for women in tech, I would create a massive internship programme to foster a strong pipeline of women who could experience relevant and engaging work in their field while they are getting their technical degrees.  Then I would follow it up with hiring practices that bring women onto diverse teams so they can experience a more balanced and fairer environment as their initial baseline.  A positive experience at the onset of a career can set the stage for more individual confidence, a supportive network of colleagues, and higher expectations for the team or company culture.  This should lead to a positive flywheel effect where expectations drive behaviours to support more diversity.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Resources are great, but I recommend that whenever possible women in tech should be on a podcast, write a book or article, or speak at a conference where they can showcase what makes them great technologists.  More visibility is great for one’s personal brand and it also provides valuable examples of different types of women doing different types of (great) technical work.

What is the thing you wished others understood about women in tech?

I mentioned that studies show that more diverse companies are more successful. Some of this has been traced to having a balance of risk management styles in leadership, or more collaborative and supportive teams fostered by societal norms for how women engage in communities.  I believe that it is also way more than that. 

For example, a balanced approach requires some characteristics that might be considered masculine and others considered feminine.  Compassion and empathy are two characteristics that many would associate with the feminine, but NOT necessarily associate with business success or technical innovation.  As business and technology evolve it is becoming clear that these traits are more important than many realise.  Approaching the complex and inter-related challenges that the world faces through the lens of compassion enables teams to develop more thorough solutions that work on a more fundamental level. Empathy for the user (or beneficiary) of a future technical solution enables the developing team to better ‘see things through their eyes’ and create a more satisfying experience that addresses the challenge at a more holistic level.  In short, women are a necessary part of our technology community because they are different from men, not in spite of it.


Inspirational Woman: Sara Dalmasso | General Manager & Vice President, Omnicell International

Sara DalmassoI have over 20 years of digital and healthcare experience and previously worked in senior leadership roles for companies such as GE Healthcare.

I hold an MsC in Management, International Business from ESSCA in France and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I am also certified as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Since 2020 I have been running Omnicell International. We are a leading provider of drug distribution management solutions around the world. Today, more than 7,000 institutions use our automation and data analytics solutions to increase operational efficiency, reduce medication errors, deliver actionable intelligence and improve patient safety.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I never sat down and planned it. The only thing I knew is that I didn’t want to do the same thing my whole career. I was fortunate to meet some great leaders, men and women, who pushed me to achieve more, develop myself and give me fantastic opportunities.

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

I had a manager that didn’t want me to evolve despite me asking for job opportunities. I had to find opportunities so I started working and leading cross functional projects that went beyond my job description. This gave me some great exposure to leaders and broadened my experience enabling me to find opportunities outside my department.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I was promoted to a role leading very technical teams when I didn’t have a technical nor services delivery background. I didn’t feel competent for it because I felt I was an impostor. I was open and honest with my team about it. To address it I immersed myself with the teams to understand what they were doing. I went to customers with them and learned on-the-job while trying to help the team the best way I could with the experience I did have - decision making, communication, relationship building with customers. After a few months I felt accepted by the team and by the customers which was a great achievement.

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

The ability to step out of my comfort zone and learn on the job.

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

Believe in yourself:  if someone is offering you an opportunity, it means they believe you can achieve this (even if you don’t).  And be bold, you can learn tech and leadership on-the-go.

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

Yes, I believe there are still some barriers, likely due to a combination of historical and cultural factors. When tech development really took off in the 60s, women were still denied access to the business world. Furthermore, engineering schools are dominated by men worldwide, and the pop-culture representations that associate tech with an essentially masculine universe (think geek archetype or Zuckerbergian hero), do not inspire women to pursue a career in tech. We need to focus on the new female stars emerging and advancing the cause of women in tech. In addition, we need to recognise that digital is now everywhere, from commercial functions to marketing to finance, which presents an extraordinary opportunity for women because it is turning the tables. We need to keep the momentum going in terms of continuing to change attitudes, both from within the industry and wider society.

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

Every company and its leaders should lead by example as everybody will be watching them. If you don’t treat women the right way then there is no way you are going to foster the right gender diversity in the company and drive parity.

We are working on our own plan to support women in careers in tech which other companies could also adopt. At Omnicell, HR will now not conduct an interview without at least one female candidate in the running. We are also providing in-house training to provide the best opportunities for the women we recruit. Lastly, we are working as closely as we can with schools in terms of preparing female pupils for roles in the digital/technology industries in order to help encourage future generations of women into careers in tech, to show them that they truly do have a place in the digital sectors.

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?

Gender diversity. It’s not only my problem because I am a woman, it’s everybody’s problem. We all need to act to make the change – men and women alike.  We need to look at introducing quotas. We are so far behind in some countries that if we don’t introduce quotas, I’m not going to be here to see parity. Some will say that quotas might influence performance negatively, I strongly disagree. Quotas are the only way we are going to be forced to look for talented women (vs candidates coming to us), and believe me, there are as many talented women in tech as there are talented men.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recently joined the International Women’s Forum in France, which works tirelessly to promote parity in traditionally male-dominated sectors and I would encourage other women working in tech to do the same. Being a member engenders a real sense of community and it has made me even more determined to move things forward. The IWF recently put on the annual Assises de la Parité conference in Paris which I attended and it was a really positive experience. It brought together companies and start-ups, experts, journalists and politicians in a space where we could exchange and share our views and experiences and stimulate a new dynamic for parity. The power of the network is beyond what you could imagine.

Also, I follow a few podcasts: “Finding Mastery” by Michael Gervais is one of my favourites. He interviews people excelling in the most hostile environments to discover the mental skills used to push the boundaries. Another one is “Dare to lead” by Brene Brown. Brene is having conversations with some passionate transformers, change catalysts and troublemakers who are innovating and daring to lead.


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Louise Lunn

Inspirational Woman: Louise Lunn | Vice President, Global Analytics Delivery, FICO

Louise LunnLouise Lunn leads FICO’s newly created Global Analytics Delivery organization.

Based in the UK, Louise oversees teams of data scientists worldwide who develop custom analytics solutions and exploratory analytics projects for the world’s top banks, as well as retailers, telecommunications firms, insurance companies and other businesses. Louise is also shortlisted for this year’s Women in Credit Awards, in the Team Leader of the Year - Data, Risk & Analytics category. She is one of 20 women featured in FICO’s award-winning video on the importance of diversity in analytics.

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

I was born and raised in Yorkshire, which is where I attended university and took my first graduate role.  I now lead FICO’s Global Analytics Delivery organization. I oversee teams of data scientists worldwide who develop custom analytics solutions and exploratory analytics projects for the world’s top banks, as well as retailers, telecommunications firms, insurance companies and other businesses. I was also shortlisted for last year’s Women in Credit Awards, in the Team Leader of the Year - Data, Risk & Analytics category, and am one of 20 women featured in FICO’s award-winning video on the importance of diversity in analytics

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I never sat down and planned my career. I’ve always focussed on doing my job to the best of my ability, but I always keep in mind the following things when making a career decision:-

  1. I need to enjoy what I do and see the purpose. Working with clients to solve problems through technology, data and analytics is what I enjoy.
  2. I want to seize the opportunity to acquire a new skill and knowledge. We need to take ourselves out of our comfort zone.
  3. I want to continue to learn, improve and succeed. A company that creates that environment is so important.
  4. I need to be empowered, to have control over my role, schedule and responsibilities.

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

Returning to work after my first son was born (nearly 17 years ago), I took on a more senior leadership role than the one I had left. Like many mothers I experienced concerns and guilt around returning to work after maternity leave, plus I had the pressure of increased responsibility and wanting to perform like someone with no family commitments. How could I achieve the right work life balance? Looking back now, I was the one putting pressure on myself with unrealistic goals, no one else.  There is no perfect formula or answer, it is always going to be tough juggling work and home priorities. You have to focus on the things you can control and not worry about the things you couldn’t, make time for yourself to problem solve through exercise and give yourself a break, because you are only human!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being in a position to attract and retain the stars of the future in analytics and software. Giving people the opportunity to grow and develop and see them go on to achieve great things themselves.

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

The right attitude.  A positive attitude enables optimism, builds confidence and facilitates genuine relationships both personally and professionally to be built.  Your attitude determines your altitude.

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

Do not be intimidated by people who have experience. Speak your mind, offer your ideas and solutions because that’s what organisations need and want from you – be yourself and drive change!

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

I feel very lucky that I experience no barriers in FICO — gender does not play a role here in defining people and what they are capable of.  I do appreciate this is not the case for everyone, and we need to stop looking at roles in tech through a gender lens.  Being the only women in a meeting can create self-doubt. Ignore the voice in your head that tells you that your idea is not good enough – speak up and be proud of your ideas or solutions. We need to break down the barriers we create for ourselves (men and women) and have confidence in our own abilities.

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

Within FICO we have an excellent support network through groups such as [email protected] - a community available to women at all levels, designed to enable structured information/experience sharing, education, and professional networks.  Led by a steering committee of women leaders representing our various business units and geographies, it gives us many opportunities to get involved and further our network globally.

Participating in mentoring and coaching programs which allow women the opportunity to focus on their behaviours, personal and professional challenges, share leadership experiences, exchange business stories in the tech world and receive honest feedback is a great support for women in any field.

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?

Start young and make it fun! Bring technology into schools and families and encourage STEM from a young age.  Tech is not just about coding or programming skills, we need to introduce AI-based technology. AI is everywhere, and the applications are limitless.  My husband and I both have technology backgrounds, we have two sons and one daughter, we have encouraged them all equally to get involved but our daughter is the most interested and excited by technology. We see her taking over as the lead techie of the family, informing us of the next best thing.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Women are underrepresented in the tech community, so by joining specific networking groups we can learn, listen, discuss and drive our businesses forward, promoting the opportunities for women in technology.  Some good resources and training session can be found on LinkedIn.  Ted Talks offer short powerful technology talks which I enjoy as I am limited for time.

I suggest following people on Twitter and Instagram One of my favourites is Janelle Shane. Inher blog http://aiweirdness.com and her book "You Look Like a Thing and I Love You" she writes about artificial intelligence and the hilarious and sometimes unsettling ways that algorithms get human things wrong.

The data scientists at FICO get huge benefits from Kaggle with its tutorials, free datasets, numerous competitions, and a supportive, energetic community of data scientists – all the resources you need to try something new and expand your knowledge!


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


Rossana Thomas featured

Inspirational Woman: Rossana Thomas | Vice President, Product Management, Enterprise Payments Platform, Fiserv

Rossana ThomasTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Payments and financial services have been an integral part of my career for over thirty years. While I am located and spend a significant amount of time in the United States, I have a global role and lead a very talented team across regions. I came to Fiserv two years ago to build and lead the product management function for our flagship product – Enterprise Payments Platform. Our focus is to consolidate all payments channels on a single platform, grow our offerings in North America and EMEA and expand to LATAM and APAC.

In the wake of the pandemic, across the industry we’ve seen an accelerated shift towards digital channels, and it’s our job to enable banks and their customers to do so as seamlessly as possible. It’s interesting to see the innovation happening in fintech and payments right now.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Once I graduated from the University of Connecticut (with a liberal arts degree in psychology), I secured an entry-level job with the New York Clearing House. In all honesty, I fell into the payments space completely by accident. However, I was quick to grab the opportunities and was willing to learn and adapt. At the Clearing House, I worked my way up. Starting with an administration role in the training department, conducting surveys and research, then moving to head up marketing and communications, and strategic marketing, until ultimately, I was running the Automated Clearing House (ACH) business and the whole of product management. Overall, I was at the Clearing House for almost twenty years. The organisation played a significant role in my career trajectory, paved the way for consultancy and in the end, led to my role here at Fiserv.

The only thing I would say I did plan was to never be afraid to take an opportunity.

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

Of course. There were times when I was given responsibilities and projects, and people didn’t always agree with my position or the way I did things. However, I just continued to do my job. It’s important to rise above any pettiness and, although hard, try not to take things personally. Things aren’t always going to go your way – learn from mistakes, continue to always do your very best and most especially learn to move on.  Don’t dwell on what you did wrong.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am proud of the work I achieved at The Clearing House, however my biggest achievement has to be my involvement and work in Bangladesh. My husband and I were part of a group of independent contractors working with the Central Bank to help with image exchange cheque clearance and to get their Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) system up and running for forty-eight banks – domestic and international. My role was to strategically evaluate the business, advise the Board on the benefits of moving to electronic payments, and provide payments training for the banks.

The country’s payments clearing platform at the time was completely manual. In two and a half years, they were up and running with cheque imaging and ACH. You could really see what a difference moving to electronic payments can make, and how quickly the transition from paper to digital can be made. I truly felt I was making a difference, helping the country move forward, and that makes me immensely proud.

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

The major overriding factor has been my work ethic. I will work hard and do what needs to be done. There is never going to be a 100% right fit, it’s about taking the chance and delivering your best and learning as you go. Now it’s easier because of the resources available online, but back in the 80s we didn’t have access to the internet, so it was a lot harder. The main way to learn back then was to cultivate relationships. You needed a network of people across disciplines to support and guide you and help you succeed. I think this holds true even in this digital world. You need people, relationships and a good network to succeed.

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

Don’t be afraid of not being the smartest person in the room! In my opinion, you’re the smartest person in the room when you have smart people on your team. Some people just don’t accept that it’s okay not to know everything. But it is. Don’t be afraid to have someone on your team who knows more than you do - they’re the experts, that is why you hired them.

As I’ve mentioned before, have a solid network of people and good mentors you can trust. Throughout my time at The Clearing House, I met several dynamic women bankers and payments experts who were inspirational and became mentors to me. In addition, some male leaders saw potential in me and helped coach me on my way up.

Finally, make sure you are positive in the workplace, even under adversity.  For example, never vocalise any discontent about work to colleagues. It can be counterproductive to your career. You don’t always have to be friends to work well together, but you need to respect one another and value different perspectives.

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

I think so. You still don’t see as many women in senior management and board positions across most sectors, especially in technology. However, this is changing and more is being done to help young women understand the opportunities in tech. STEM programmes are more prominent and bring more awareness of the opportunities.

When I was graduating high school, you didn’t see as many women exposed to this path in life. I didn’t have a tech background, but I used the background I did have to grow and learn and find a role I’m passionate about. I think an important thing for young women to remember is that you don’t have to be a developer to be involved in technology. You don’t have to pick one passion over the other, but instead look where you can apply your passions into different areas of technology.

One of the things I’m proud of in our department at Fiserv is the number of internships and rotational entry level positions (not specifically for women) we offer across departments. This gives the young people who join us a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to what our company does, see what roles might interest them and help unlock their passion.

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

Organizations worldwide are incorporating several inclusive policies and programs to ensure women get the opportunities they deserve. At Fiserv we have a history and passion for creating a future powered by a diverse and engaged workforce. We are committed to creating opportunities for women to grow and elevate their careers in payments and fintech. We were recently recognized for our commitment to women and gender equality, as part of the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI).  All our women associates are encouraged to be part of our Women In Leadership and Women’s Impact Network group and I am #FISVProud of our CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion Pledge, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace.  Such programmes encourage collaboration, leadership, bring together people and expose them to different aspects of the business.

Normally organisations operate in siloes, but if that continues people don’t expand, they don’t grow. Being able to bring women together is great for not only them but also the overall organisation. Inclusion programmes help others participate too. For example, men in these programmes can understand some of the challenges that women face and how they can become better champions for everyone.

I’ve mentioned it a couple of times before, but internships and mentoring are a huge part of this. Having internships lets people learn on the job, and mentorship programmes – formal or informal – if recognised by management, can  further inclusion in a multitude of ways including helping women to become aware of external programmes, understand financial support and networking events.

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

There is no magic wand. However, what we can do is empower women. Get them in, get them trained, get them exposed. We need targeted programmes earlier on in education, such as at college, or even earlier at the high school level, to accelerate the growth. In technology, it’s all about trying to make it more balanced, and give more women open opportunities. It is also our responsibility as women leaders to be actively involved in promoting, being accessible as well as being the role models these young women need.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Today, we are very lucky that there are a number of different networking groups for women to investigate, and for those earlier in their career, a number of University/College networks in which to takepart. Additionally, there are a lot of training opportunities. Women who are part of these groups have a multitude of different coaching and mentoring sessions available.


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


Hilary Mine featured

Inspirational Woman: Hilary Mine | Vice President & Market Unit Leader, Nokia

Hilary MineI am Vice-President & Market Unit Leader for 11 countries across the Nordics, Baltics & Benelux at Nokia.

In this role I lead sales, delivery and operations across the region ensuring our customers, stakeholders and employees are as successful as possible. I am also deeply honoured to have been elected the first female President of Digital Europe earlier this year, a role I hope will inspire women exploring a career in tech.

It was while completing my bachelor’s degree in Economics that I developed an appetite for technology. I was the editor of my college newspaper and I drove the transition to a digital format.  It was 1981, so this was on punch cards and a DEC mini. It was the beginning of my love affair with technology and the impact it could have on our everyday lives.

My first management job was as an Administrator at UC Berkeley in an engineering research institute.  My parents were starving musicians and I did not even know the word “engineering” before that. During the day I managed a pool of technical typists, edited technical papers, ran the budgeting, helped raise money and so on, but in the evenings I worked on completing my MBA. It was around that time also that someone explained the concept of fibre optics to me, and my eyes lit up.  This was going to change the world.

From there I carried on building my expertise in techno commercial modelling, traffic engineering and market forecasting and ran my own analyst and consulting company for several years. I was subsequently recruited by Alcatel to run marketing and strategy for North America, and over the course of the next seven years was given more and more responsibility. That included running the business in Australia, New Zealand and eventually North Asia as well. I left Alcatel to become CMO at Thompson which I helped rebrand as Technicolor, took a short break to care for my family, and then came back to Alcatel-Lucent in 2010 to develop its cloud strategy. Following that I ran the consulting business worldwide which is now part of Bell Labs.  After Nokia acquired ALU, I moved to Amsterdam to run sales and delivery in Nordics, Baltics and Benelux.

Now, at such a crucial time for telecommunications I am focused on growing the business as well as harnessing the power of 5G to create new and exciting opportunities. The current pandemic has demonstrated the critical need for high speed connectivity in safeguarding business continuity. The shift, almost overnight, requiring us to all work from home saw a dramatic spike in the capacity needed on the networks. Our industry managed well but this has underlined the need for next generation fibre optic and 5G networks to provide better video quality and higher levels of security.

Fully integrated, end-to-end networks are essential for building a safe and futureproof system guaranteeing better connectivity.  The ongoing development of new technologies such as AI, robotics and machine learning will enable complete, seamless connectivity that is so important to our customers such as Telia and Elisa in Finland and Proximus in Belgium with whom we have collaborated on numerous Industry 4.0 trials and early implementations, including automated factories, port operations digitisation, and consumer applications including e-gaming.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My only plan was knowing my career would be my life’s work, I wanted to be sure I chose something enjoyable and engaging. I didn’t ever sit down and plan my career, but I have always been aware of the opportunities available to me. I am a big believer in having the courage to take risks and to avoid closing doors. At one point in my career I left a senior, well paid job to start my own consultancy. It was terrifying at first, but I doubled my income within a year and learned an enormous amount. I have also demoted myself three times to achieve a better quality of life or to learn new things and have never lost sight of the bigger picture. For example, when my mother became ill I knew I wanted to be there for her and my daughter. I took a 40% pay cut and left the company to do what I needed to do for my family. I have never been afraid to take risks or take career breaks and it has always paid off. If anything, I should have done it more. My favourite quote comes from the American actress Ruth Gordon who said: “Courage is like a muscle; we strengthen it with use.”

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

I like to be liked but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so the first challenge was to learn to be successful as a manager – to not micromanage, but to also drive for great results.   Another key challenge was learning to give clear, concrete and fact based feedback and to have difficult conversations.  Not my strength as a young woman for sure.  But it helped to go into  sales where you have to lose your ego to be successful and learn to listen really effectively, and then it helped to manage large projects and have to face customers with every hiccup,  You learn quickly that it’s always best to give bad news fast, and always with a plan.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I used to talk about big project wins and delivery, but at this stage in my career, for sure my greatest achievement is having supported many amazing people into broader roles. Seeing so many people whom I have managed, mentored and encouraged to blossom, has been extremely satisfying.

I am also really proud of the work we have undertaken at Nokia and Digital Europe in promoting diversity. At Digital Europe, 40% of the board are now women and at Nokia we have pioneered programmes to accelerate the number of women in our leadership team. Our outgoing CEO, Rajeev Suri has been instrumental in this and set up a programme called Panorama to personally support the careers of promising leaders in the organisation. He pushed for 30% to be women which for our industry, where just 7% of top leaders were women, was unprecedented. The programme has been a huge success and has personally inspired me to improve diversity within my own team.

We also invest in encouraging women and girls into STEM education by fostering programmes that develop and nurture talent – hopefully driving the interest of 11–15 year-old girls. We collaborate with Greenlight for Girls, a non-profit organisation focusing on driving girls’ interest for STEM through interactive and fun workshops, including coding. The girls get to participate for a whole day in workshops designed for them, and importantly talk with women who have been in their shoes.

In addition, we pursue pay equity by closing the ‘unexplained pay gap’ in 2019 and achieved a perfect 100% in the ‘equal pay / gender pay parity’ category of the  Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) for 2020 – well ahead of the average, which was 50.12%.

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

I’d put my success down to three key areas:

  • Courage - having the mettle to push boundaries and challenge myself has helped me get to where I am today. It doesn’t come naturally to me but is something I’ve worked at and has paid dividends in the long run.
  • Listening to people and learning from others - this has really helped to develop my judgement and is also a great way of building a network.
  • Working hard – put simply, you cannot excel unless you put in the time and effort needed to do a great job.

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

I think my top tips would fall into three main camps:

  • Breadth is important. If you are only ever looking down a narrow path you will always follow that track. Seek out new opportunities where you can add value.
  • Curiosity is king. Never be afraid to learn more about the way things work, especially in tech!
  • Define what success means for you and don’t be afraid to make changes in your career to achieve it.

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

Overall, I think the sector is progressing, but some barriers still exist. As I see it, the first is confidence and self-belief. Regardless of ethnicity, research finds that women are more likely to be unsure of their own abilities in computer science than their male counterparts, with their confidence level at roughly 70% of that of men. This tech confidence gap of 30% is much higher than in other fields – 11% in business, 7% in humanities, and 5% in the social sciences. This lack of confidence is the primary reason more women are not participating in the tech industry.

The second is personal networks. While young girls and boys have similar levels of formal access to computer science classes and programmes as those people who work in tech, a gap emerges in college and beyond. Between the ages of 18 and 25, young men’s social circles develop in such a way that they are 1.5 times more likely to know someone working in the field than young women. The social and professional circles of young women are more likely to be filled with people working in fields other than tech.

The third is a negative perception of the industry and the tech culture: Given the poor perception of their own computer science abilities, it’s not surprising that females are 2.5 times more likely than males to say that people who work in tech are “nerdy” or “not like me”. Women also drop out of pursuing computer science at every stage of the journey, at rates 1.2 to 1.7 times higher than their male counterparts.

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

Companies can offer initiatives for inspiring future engineers and computer scientists either in partnership with existing education-related programmes like CODE2040 or Black Girls Code, or by developing their own programmes. Initiatives to encourage computer science education in local schools is also worthwhile - perhaps you have staff who could volunteer to help tutor students or donate equipment to schools in need?

Then there is the topic of how to change the perception of technology. Children and students know that taking biology classes potentially puts them on a path toward becoming a doctor or medical researcher and at a very young age they can see that this impacts society and people directly. No such line of sight exists between taking algebra, calculus, computer science or engineering and how those subjects result in a career that clearly impacts society, friends and family.

It’s important to try to reshape the perception of computer science and engineering among young women and girls, so at Nokia we encourage our employees to be role models or mentors for tomorrow’s technologists. We have a programme at Nokia Software called IdTech, which combines leadership development of women leaders with mentoring of young women with an interest in STEM and with socio-economic challenges. This enables our Nokia female employees to gain an education on what good mentoring looks like, how to transfer their knowledge to others in a digestible manner and how to support young women. They then use this knowledge to support other young women.

In general, better education is necessary, not just for women but for men too. Unless we have male advocates championing the roles of women as well as men, we won’t achieve genuine parity.

Currently only 17% of women work 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 you look at STEM degrees, 51% of students are now female but if you look at engineering degrees in isolation only 10-15% are women. We need to start within schools as we lose girls at roughly age 10. They don’t see the power of engineering in changing lives in the same way they see biology as paving the way to a career in medicine with a clear and obvious impact on society. If I had a magic wand, I would encourage all girls everywhere to see engineering as a way to change the world for the better, and as an approachable and family friendly career path.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My one piece of advice would be to read everything you can about your industry. Knowledge is power!


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


Leena Koskelainen featured

Inspirational Woman: Leena Koskelainen | Vice President of Product Engineering, Tecnotree

Leena KoskelainenLeena Koskelainen is Vice President of Product Engineering at Tecnotree Corporation, a position she has held since 2018.

In this role she heads up global operations for Tecnotree’s Product Engineering division.

Before becoming Vice President of Product Engineering, Leena held a number of other roles having started with the company in 2006.

Leena is a technology specialist having started her career as a software developer in 1987. She has held several demanding positions, leading large multicultural teams from all over the world. Leena is highly respected and trusted throughout the telecoms industry and an inspiration to women and girls wanting a career in tech.

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

I have a background in mainframe software engineering from the 1980’s. After that, I moved into the telecoms domain essentially to help people communicate more easily across the world. I’m currently supporting communication service providers by offering high quality customer service and I’m involved with digital transformation programmes to bring legacy business support systems into the modern age with the latest technology, automation, analytics and machine learning capabilities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly, I have simply always been curious and hungry to try new things and keep on learning. This approach has opened up many opportunities; some I was able to handle well and others were a challenge, but this helped me to grow. I have worked for Tecnotree over many years and I have been very fortunate to experience different roles and activities.

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

I once made a career move from working in the back-office of a local Finnish company to a front-line role in an international company. It was a wise move as this came at the point when the internet was becoming commonly used and telecom and mobile services were starting to conquer the word. While it was the right decision, it was far from easy. I went through a series of challenges starting from using English as the standard working language and learning completely new technologies and concepts involved in telecoms. Suddenly I found myself explaining the signalling patterns and SMS protocols over the phone to a specialist in Kuala Lumpur and the next day to someone else in Sao Paulo. It was initially daunting with so many new things to learn.  Little by little I started to see the light in the end of the tunnel, and the day eventually came when I was completely in control. I knew what I was doing, customers appreciated my help and I felt valued. This was probably the most important lesson for me – never give up and the reward always awaits you in the end.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Personally I feel that my biggest achievement has been to learn to appreciate cultural diversity and all the victories and challenges it brings. Being able to think differently and learning to collaborate effectively across the world, brings a meaningful sense of community and togetherness.

Professionally the biggest achievement is related to crisis management. I was involved with a production roll-out which didn’t go so well. I had to stabilize the systems whilst reassuring the workforce. Telecommunication systems are known for their availability and reliability and having that stability compromised can be mission critical.  Managing the crisis became our team’s mission and our confidence grew as we resolved the issues.

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

I learned a very valuable lesson as a child: If you undertake a task, do it properly.  ‘Doing it properly’ is a very relative concept, but I maintain that mantra today in everything I do:

  • When I write an e-mail, I try to write it so that the recipient can understand it without needing to call me and ask what I meant.
  • When I make a plan, I try to cover all aspects, make it as practical and implementable as possible.
  • When I make a report, I collect enough data to have the facts right, make it complete and put it in the format which is clear and understandable for the audience.
  • When I prepare training, I always start from training objectives and make sure the training content is relevant so that employees will learn the key points of the subject.

The list goes on, but my principle is to spend a little bit more time doing things properly to ensure there is no confusion from the outset.

I become very motivated when faced with a challenge. If someone says it can’t be done, I’m ready to prove them wrong.  In business things change all the time so you need to be  relentlessly positive in the face of adversity.

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

The technology industry is full of extremely intelligent individuals who often face challenges in communication and collaboration. The industry needs leaders who can listen, understand, bring people together and utilize expertise. Enabling collaboration, creating excitement and a sense of togetherness are such important qualities to demonstrate through any career journey.

Another important point is to do your best to comprehensively understand issues your business faces. Technology is all about solving everyday problems and getting to the bottom of things is crucial. There is no stupid questions in our field, all questions must be asked as many times as needed to achieve 100% clarity.

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

Generally no, I really don’t see significant barriers. Women have unique capabilities which help them to be successful. I see equal respect towards men and women everywhere I work and I have not faced any glass ceilings hindering my success. Finland is known for its equality, but I think the same thing is also being seen elsewhere. In Asia, Africa, Middle-East, etc. – women are doing well in the field of tech. The only thing stopping women to reach their full potential is not believing in their own capabilities. Women have patience, diligence, accountability and endurance and we are great communicators. This helps us to provide real value in the communities we work in.

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

Women are great assets to the companies they work for but even greater assets to their families. Especially during the years when careers are often built, women often have children and extended families depending on their care and support.

Finland’s model is to understand the family-related requirements and consciously make it possible for women to work. Some examples of this are the equalization of maternity and paternity leaves, right to stay home to take care of sick child and providing affordable day care for all families even if they work in odd hours or in shift work. Companies can also follow some of these principles and provide support for women who work committedly in the middle of family challenges.

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

Announce a full ‘Women in Tech’ year campaign and build interesting programmes around it to help executives to understand unique talents and capabilities of women, and make the recruitment of women a strategic priority. Companies must also totally erase prejudice towards women and remove barriers to women being successful.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

In general, networking is very important and exposing yourself to new concepts regularly. It is important to make time for this even when your capacity is limited. Technology changes so fast that if one settles with routines and things already known, they are very quickly left behind in progress.


Claire Darley featured

Inspirational Woman: Claire Darley | Vice President, Digital Media Go to Market & Sales, Adobe EMEA

Claire DarleyClaire Darley has over 25 years’ experience in the technology industry and has held leadership positions in both Sales & Marketing.

In that time, she has experienced first-hand the rapid changes that have taken place across the sector.

Claire joined Adobe in 2015 to lead Digital Media Sales for Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop and Stock. This is one of Adobe’s biggest business units in EMEA, part of a $2B+ business that continues to grow at over 30% per annum.

Claire has worked for some of the world’s largest tech companies, including Telefonica, Vodafone and IBM. She is passionate about the evolving technology landscape across Europe, including the increasing importance of data and how organisations use AI to create personalised experiences for customers.

Originally hailing from Scunthorpe, Claire made the move south to study Business Studies, Business Management and Marketing at the London Metropolitan University. During her third year, Claire interned at IBM (where she later returned); it was during this time that she first became aware of how important customer relationships are in a business environment.

She is the Adobe EMEA team’s Women's Network Lead, a role she thrives on as it gives her the opportunity to both support the women she works with in reaching their fullest potential and to inspire the next generation of women to consider careers in the technology sector.

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

I have worked in the technology and telco space for the last 25 years, looking after sales, marketing and in general management. For the last 10 years, multi-channel, digital in particular has been a key focus.

Transformation has always been at the heart of what I’ve done in my job roles, driving change across people, process and technology to enable greater customer centricity.  At Adobe, I feel I have the best role in the company; I’m focused on delivering an exceptional multi-channel customer experiences to individuals and businesses, allowing them to try, buy, use and love Adobe services so they can create exceptional creative content.

I’m at the forefront of the wave of Customer Experience - re-orienting our already highly digital business around key customer journeys and segments, ensuring that we test and optimise everything that we can to make our messages resonate, as well as lobbying for investment into brand new markets.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I’ve often been in roles where I’ve felt I could do more so the evergreen desire to keep learning and achieving has forged my path. Early on in my career, I learnt the value of two things which helped me find and be ready for opportunities rather than purposefully planning my career. The first is Personal Development. IBM really invested in individuals – one example being the IBM Sales School. This investment in individuals is something I’ve worked hard to carry through across all my subsequent roles. For example, at Adobe I’m a champion of the Learning Fund, which reimburses employees for individual educational and professional pursuits outside of work. The second is Networks.  The importance of knowing your impact on others - being able to influence without dominating, and equally, recognising what others can bring to the party – is crucial.

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

Absolutely; career challenges teach you more about yourself. I once took on a new role to join a former colleague for a big job with a big title. I knew within weeks that it was wrong for me; the culture was a complete mismatch to my own values. So, I took on the virtues of a great quote: ‘Accept what you can’t change and change what you can’t accept’. In this case I made an agreement with the person who’d brought me on to ensure I could deliver the changes I had aspired to during the interview process, be a success and then make a dignified exit after a year.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The one constant in my career has been building world-class teams that deliver outstanding results. This comes down to creating a culture through leadership – caring, collaborating, driving, understanding, and inspiring. And I would also say that I think if you’re completely open to learning, you’re always achieving something.

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

A heady combination of good gut instinct and emotional intelligence. While both are quite difficult to learn, they can nonetheless be honed. Reading the atmosphere in a room, reacting to the subtleties in a moment, listening to your intuition and understanding your impact will take you everywhere – it will help you build your professional relationships, ask the difficult but necessary questions and have a positive impact on people along the way.

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

  • Know and serve your customer – relationships are everything
  • You can’t ever have enough data – make sure you know what to do with it!
  • Never stop moving – complacency is not an option
  • Test, test and test again – you should always be learning and trying new things
  • Automate and operationalise the basics so you can focus on things that will have the biggest impact

On an emotional level, I would say be confident, look for a mentor who will help you grow… and network!

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

According to a recent survey, 86% of female millennials consider companies’ policies on diversity and inclusion before taking a job, so industry needs to hold itself accountable. I work with some amazing women at Adobe, in fact four out of five of my leadership team are women.

I also think it’s the role of every successful woman to bring other women up through the pipeline and give them opportunities to shine, especially as women themselves are still less likely to put their hand up for a challenge if they feel they don’t have it nailed.

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

Women’s Networks are great spaces to develop and connect. Most focus on gender neutral topics, but ones that are specifically relevant to women also look at things like how to deal with difficult conversations, the best way to deal with conflict, how to create a personal brand… all to encourage development and progression. I find it incredibly fulfilling being part of an initiative such as the Women’s Network at Adobe, where I have the opportunity to help women reach their fullest potential.

Companies should encourage mentorship. I have huge respect for female role models who are refreshingly honest about their journeys; It makes them accessible and gives others confidence.

Supporting working mothers is also key – not just for maternity leave, but for their return to work when they may need flexibility.

15% of women currently work 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 could wave a wand, I’d find a way of encouraging all young people in schools, colleges, universities to see what a career in technology could offer them, not just those on tech courses. Working in tech is not just about coding or engineering – while they are important roles to fill, there are so many other opportunities like sales, marketing, digital, legal.  It’s fascinating: companies need to have diversity if they are to represent their customers, and young people need to have an idea of all the opportunities available to them for companies to be diverse.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Some books I love: Lean In, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Why Nice Girls don’t get the Corner Office and The Chimp Paradox. If you don’t have enough time to read, get Audible and listen whilst travelling to work!

Rising Strong by Brené Brown is a pivotal book that helped me realise how important it is to be curious about the emotions we are rumbling with, and not just deal with them superficially.

Work Fuel by my friend Colette Heneghan, and her podcast by the same name are also worth considering. An authoritative look at how to take care of ourselves in the real world of work.