The role of the CEO was the subject for this week’s episode of Tech’s Leading Women. The vodcast, which was hosted this week by Rosie Ifould, Global Head of Bids and Customer Engagement at Tenth Revolution Group, features a range of experience and advice from some of, as you may have guessed by the title, tech’s leading women.
Rosie was joined this week by Tia Dubuisson, who is President and Co-founder of Belle Flour Technologies. She has over 10 years’ experience leading customer-centric projects and she’s extremely passionate about equipping the next generation with tech skills. Also taking part were Katarina MV Galic, a pioneer in the women in tech space who specialises in transforming partnerships and driving change, and Vicky Critchley, CEO of cloud software solutions company Bam Bam Cloud.
They spent the episode sharing some of their experiences as leaders of their own organizations, the changes they were able to implement, and how the pandemic has changed their companies for the better.
Here, we break down three key points that were made during this week’s episode.
Driving the change you want
Vicky began the conversation by talking about the differences she has been able to make since becoming CEO. In particular, she discussed the feeling of having an even greater personal responsibility for the company and the people within it. She said: “The way that I felt about the business and the way that I felt about everyone who worked for me completely changed, I suddenly had something of my own to care about. I thought I could re-imagine what a CEO meant—I’d never had a female CEO before, and I didn’t particularly work for diverse organizations before running my own business. So I had a long think about what that actually was, and what did that mean? I thought that, as well as doing the normal things of having an amazing brand, selling, lots of clients, making a profit, all of those things that are really important to running a business. I just thought that there could be a different element to what I could bring to the table by creating a more inclusive environment, creating an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes, where it’s okay to push the bar, where people feel comfortable working in our environment. I wanted it to be something different to what I had experienced in the past and create an environment that felt different for people to work for me, it was really important to create that.
Tia talked about the pressures on a female CEO from male counterparts and how that can become restrictive to making those changes, and how she pushed beyond that. “I saw opportunities when we decided to make our own company, that there were ways that we could do it differently and really being intentional about what those differences were, based on my experience as an employee. There was one CEO that I worked for, she could be extremely empathetic and right on par. But I think she was under certain pressures from the board. There are other challenges that maybe she was not able to overcome that I was very, very intentional about, when we started our company. We made sure that we defined our company in a way that would set us apart. That we would actually look at everyone in the organization and make sure that everyone was taken care of and feel your support from the top. I think she was maybe under some pressure at times to not actually be that empathetic leader, even if she wanted to be deep down. Making sure that our employees are internal customers is how we look at it. And making sure we’re leading from their desks, seeing their pain points and their experience and making sure that it’s a part of our experience.”
Creating that family at work
In terms of actionable changes and examples that they’ve seen implemented within their own companies, Katarina offered one example of transparency from leadership helping those across the entire business. She said: “I was part of an organization where the senior team would prepare the budget for the whole year. And then once it’s done, not finalized, but we were closer to the numbers that we can show to the organization, we would have a meeting with everybody in the company and then show them the budget, go through their department, and ask them for feedback. So regardless of what you do in the company, you would be able to see the budget then provide feedback to your leader and tell them what you think, if there’s something that needs to change or not, based on your job and your perspective.”
“Starting from the assistant on main reception desk, up to the senior directors. It really impacted the organizational culture in a way that we had a couple of people who asked, do I have any responsibility with the budget? Why do I need to provide feedback? Then there were those who realized ‘okay, so now I have a say in this. People are looking into the work that I do and they want to hear my feedback.’ So we had people who were happy when this was happening. And when the next year came, they asked, ‘are we going to look at the budget again? If I’m working here, I have a say in it because I do the work, I know how that feels.’”
She added that it was this sort of collaborative approach to work that can really help drive employee engagement so that they know their work matters. “That was a big, big support for everybody to really understand how companies appreciate what they do, understand what their challenges are at work, and try to work with them closely to find out. Let us know what you need to do your job even better and be happy at work.”
The working from home gamechanger
Vicky also talked about the enforced remote work experiment of the last two years and how it’s been a massive success not just in the way we interact with each other on a professional level, but also with those outside of the business. She said: “We’re suddenly seeing into people’s lives—pets, kids, everyone. The kind of facade, the different face that you have to put on to climb the ladder to be what other people think that you should be, even the way that you speak when you’re at home versus when you’re at work, that all came crashing into one thing. There were kids learning from home on the kitchen table while you were doing Teams calls and the whole thing got very blurred together. The whole facade of climbing the tree and pretending to be something at work slipped away. It slipped away for me personally, I just thought, right, this is my business now, I can just be me and everyone else can be them—and we can see each other for who we are. So, nobody needs to put their game face on any more because everyone is talented in their own right. I think it really, really helped drop that corporate nonsense.”
She also talked about the impact this has had on the way her company interacts with customers, too. “We really don’t want that corporate nonsense back and our customers don’t want that either,” she added. “We’re talking to our customers and they’re at the kitchen table having conversations about what they’re having for food that you’d never have with a customer before, you’d never do that in a million years. But that’s real people, real conversations, so why change it back to corporate nonsense? Just be real and then everyone feels more comfortable doing what they’re doing and excelling at what they can do, because they feel like they can tell you what’s wrong, and what they’re enjoying.”
The full episode is online now. You can watch it here.