Your questions answered

SESSION: Jumping the Big Tech Hurdles

Kurt John, Chief Cyber Security Officer

Q: The number of cybersecurity attacks has gone up recently. How do you advise to deal with that given?


A: The number of Cyber-attacks has gone up and will continue to rise. They will also continue to increase in complexity. And as we continue to digitize and digitalize our society, the impact of these Cyber-attacks will be more significant. This sounds daunting but it isn’t. What we need are commitment from companies and individuals to prioritize Cybersecurity and do their part to protect themselves online both personally and professionally. We have systems in place to help us with this but the biggest challenge continues to be the human factor. And so, what it comes down to is education and training. If we can continue to focus in this area – which, collectively, we have, it puts all in the right mindsight to think about risks, leverage tools and collaborate to solve these increasingly complex issues. I’m optimistic about our future.

Q: If diversity & inclusion breeds innovation – why do you think the tech industry (the most innovative industry) can be so resistant to fostering that culture?

A: I don’t think of it as the tech industry being resistant as I don’t think Tech industry is actually pushing against D&I. But you’re right in that there hasn’t been enough of a pull towards a diverse and inclusive workforce in the tech industry. It is fairly well-known that many companies tend to recruit, recommend, refer people who typically look like the workforce already in existence. And we know that the tech industry has historically been non-diverse in nature, so as a result it has been attracting ‘more of the same’ types of profiles. Many giant tech names have publicly placed D&I on their agenda, however despite this, they’ve only been able to move the needle very slowly, ie only improved their diversity by a few % points over the last 5 years. 

So, if the tech industry wants to seriously move the dial on D&I , it needs to take extra big leaps, rather than just small steps in the right direction.

There are a few things the Tech industry could be leading on:There are a few things the Tech industry could be leading on:

1. Senior leadership: Make a few senior hires that represent diversity. They can influence both across the leadership team and also provide top down leadership on leading by example.

2. Recruitment: set expectations with recruiters to find a diverse slate of candidates that is made up of under-represented groups. Recruitment processes can be automated to ensure unconscious bis is reduced and job descriptions should be updated to  ensure they appeal to a diverse workforce and do not alienate.

3. Benefits: actively promote flexible working patterns and encourage those who have been out of the industry and want to return to work

4. STEM sponsorship: Actively sponsoring events related to STEM subjects and initiatives in schools- this may be a longer term objective to drive diversity in Tech but we really need to make changes now for the future

Catherine Sherwin, Head of Digital EMEA & Paris Market Leader, Alix Partners

Nasheen Liu, Partner and SVP of CIO Program Strategy
The IT Media Group

Q: What industry do you see transforming with tech the most in the coming months? How can the tech industry support these other industries?


A: It’s fair to say that COVID-19 and the massive shift to remote working has disrupted all industries to varying degrees and significantly advanced digital adoption. Many industries have undergone tremendous transformation in the past year and the trend will continue. I don’t have a crystal ball to pick one particular industry to hedge the bet. That said, I think that industries such as retail and education have experienced a sea change in their business models in ways that are beyond incremental. I think whoever is considered as a front runner of transformation in the coming months, will be the most creative in leveraging technology to deliver the best kind of user/customer experience.

How can the technology industry support other industries? The pandemic has proven the vital role of technology for all industries and virtually in every organization. There’s a myriad of ways the tech industry can help other industries. For example, finding efficiency through automation, identifying new business opportunities with insights, addressing security and compliance concerns and the list goes on. What the tech industry can do better is to dial up the efforts on funding more purpose-driven non-profit initiatives to help those less fortunate businesses and industries navigate challenges and/or fair better in the recovery. Organizations like Salesforce, for example, is a great case study of using business as the greatest platform for change.

Q: So important indeed – diversity in the hiring decision takers. How can we speed up or grow this diversity?

A: It has never been more important then now, to be more human then ever. If we are to close the gap and empower more women to choose for tech, we need to look closely at the people we have in our team. If you are a leader, get to know people’s passions, talents and values. You need people who are opposites and put real energy into the team. Nothing will be done or solved individually, you need the team. Diverse representation in both the candidate pool as well as in the hiring committee is vital. Hiring managers need to check for bias in the job descriptions and interview questions, and technology can help solve for the issue to avoid people being de-selected based on gender. Be a role model! Every individual needs an ally, both male & female, to support each other and model the right behaviours. To further accelerate the inclusion of diversity, support flex work policies and make the work more accessible when it comes to hours of operation and mode of distribution. Balance your team with attributes of the feminine archetype, including compassion, caring, empathy and collaboration, for this will have far reaching benefits for your team and society. Together, I am convinced we can move the bar towards the inclusion of greater and more diverse representation in tech.

Dr Cara Antoine, Chapter Ambassador for the Dutch Chapter – The Netherlands, Women in Tech