Interviewed by Hanna Muller
In this interview, we delve into the world of IT and female leadership with Malgorzata Gryz. Malgorzata shares her journey from a radio journalist to impactful management or leadership roles in global IT giants like Microsoft and HP. She brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to the table, including scaling Lingaro Group from 300 to 1.4K employees and being named the Global Data Power Woman.
To kick things off, could you give us a brief introduction to your background as the Founder of Inspire and Vice President for Strong Women in IT?
I am 54, which is important because I feel both young enough to have the energy to change the world and mature enough to know what I do not want in life and in business. I have been a proud mother to a 27-year-old and a partner and friend to my husband.
I have worked for over two decades in various industries. Initially, I started my career with my first education as a radio journalist, and then my educational journey extended to business and technology. For the last 22 years, I have been closely connected to the IT sector, working with international brands such as HP for almost 11 years and Microsoft for six years. I also led one of the Polish data and analytics companies, Lingaro, which is globally expanding. Since the beginning of this year, I have had the honour and privilege of co-leading Strong Women in IT, a global IC Women Network, along with Anita Kijanka, who initiated and founded it. Additionally, for the past 11 years, I have been involved with the European Network for Women in Leadership – that has been my career in a nutshell, so far.
I feel both young enough to have the energy to change the world and mature enough to know what I do not want in life and in business.
Your career has spanned multiple industries, including IT, FMCG, and education. How have your diverse experiences influenced your approach to leadership and mentorship, particularly in your role as the Founder of Inspire and Vice President for Strong Women in IT?
Many years ago, I held the belief that venturing into the IT sector was an unattainable goal for me, primarily due to my lack of a technical background. However, this belief was a fallacy. About 22 years ago, a headhunter encouraged me to participate in a recruitment process and underscored my knack for translating technical terminology into more comprehensible language, highlighting the substantial value of this skill. Initially, I harbored reservations because I lacked technical expertise. Nonetheless, I came to realize the pivotal importance of trusting your intuition. This industry is marked by high dynamism, and it is imperative to maintain an open mind towards learning, nurturing curiosity, and exhibiting emotional intelligence. Success in the IT sector is contingent not solely on technical knowledge but on a sincere thirst for knowledge, inquisitiveness, respect for others, and a genuine ardor for the business. These are the primary lessons I have assimilated over the course of the last 22 years.
As an advocate for women's empowerment in the IT industry, what do you see as the most pressing challenges facing women in technology today, and how can organisations and individuals address these challenges to foster greater inclusivity and diversity?
I would like to mention the organisation I currently co-lead, Strong Women in IT, where we have collected stories and insights from 250 women from around the world, representing Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. They have shared their challenges as leaders working in the IT and tech sectors, and these challenges are quite universal.
The first significant challenge they face is the rapid pace of technology change. While they love technology and are adept at using the latest tools, keeping up with the constant changes can be overwhelming. The second challenge is security risks, including data and network security, as well as ethical data usage. The skills gap also remains a persistent issue, particularly with the acceleration of digital transformation. There's a high demand for IT talents, and the skills gap is growing. Furthermore, market challenges are ever-present, adding to the complexity of the industry.
With a focus on the emotional intelligence that women in IT value, the challenge of managing remote teams and keeping them motivated is another concern. Only 3% of the organisations represented by our network plan to stay in the office, with most adopting hybrid or fully remote work models. This brings challenges in keeping teams inspired and connected. Lastly, the high expectations placed on women in leadership roles add another layer of pressure. Time management becomes a critical concern. These challenges are not confined to a specific geography; women around the world face similar issues.
While we love technology and are adept at using the latest tools,
keeping up with the constant changes can be overwhelming.
You are evidently dedicated to mentorship and leadership development for women, not least in your role as a Career Development Leader for our Talents in the Women's Talent Pool Programme. Could you provide some insights into your mentorship philosophy and some advice you frequently offer to women aspiring to leadership roles in IT and other industries?
My mentorship philosophy is built on three fundamental principles. First, trust your intuition and honour your needs. If you aspire to make a career change, don't suppress your passion for learning and personal growth. Seek mentors who inspire you, explore various learning methods, and draw inspiration from the experiences of both women and men in the IT industry. If you desire a transition, consider internships and take a proactive approach. Trust your intuition and make your needs a priority.
Second, remain a perpetual learner. Don't wait for miracles to happen; take control of your life and career. Cultivate your curiosity, ask questions, and build valuable networks. Embrace a proactive learning mindset, which is relevant to both younger women and those with more experience.
Lastly, never give up. Don't allow anyone to deter you from pursuing your goals. I'd like to share a story of a talented woman who was told it was too late for her to shift into the IT industry due to her age. She persisted and achieved success, demonstrating that age should never be a barrier. Look for individuals who are open-hearted and open-minded, willing to listen to your story and support your journey.
Don't wait for miracles to happen; take control of your life and career. Cultivate your curiosity, ask questions, and build valuable networks
To finish, we like to ask a question from the Proust questionnaire. Is there someone you would consider a real-life hero, someone who you greatly admire?
I have several role models whom I greatly admire, but I'll mention three in particular. The first is Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, who was a staunch advocate for women's rights and played a significant role in my home country, Poland's path to joining NATO. She holds the distinction of being the first woman, Secretary of State in United States history, earned worldwide respect, and I hold her legacy in high regard. Her quote, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women," deeply resonates with me.
Secondly, Michelle Obama's dedication to fostering hope and change, as well as her ability to inspire both women and men, is truly remarkable. Her book, "Becoming," has become a guiding light for independence and self-respect for many.
Lastly, I'd like to mention Vahe Torossian, former Global Vice President at Microsoft, who served as my leader during my tenure at Microsoft. He demonstrated an immense passion for both people and business. His inclusive approach and support for women in the IT sector, coupled with his ability to create a thriving work environment, were genuinely inspiring. His example as a global leader serves as a role model to many, including myself. Of course, over the past 15 years, numerous young women and individuals have also inspired me on my journey.
Video edited by Claudia Heard