Today, women are successfully marking their prominence in any sector, especially in the ever-evolving industries like Tech; however, there remains an eminent gap between women in C-level positions in the same sector. Not being able to take up space for a very long time in such industries has led to a deficit in the availability of women with experience who provide not only diversity but also bring different perspectives to the table.
Accounting to this and marking a significant presence in the industry of Tech is Joanne Thurlow, Digital Transformation Senior Advisor/Partner at Strategy & Transformation Consulting GmbH. Joanne possesses years of extensive knowledge of today’s IT industry and innovations enabling digital transformation on a global level. Her primary focus is on digital business transformation through tech-enabled sustainable solutions.
To know more about her accomplishments and advocacies as a resilient woman in the industry of Tech, CIOLook had an interview with Joanne.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Briefly describe your professional journey up until now.
With 25+ years in the tech industry, I have witnessed the transformation from the Dot.Com of the 90s to today’s IoT and Industry 4.0. My professional journey has transformed in parallel, enabling me to break through many perceived ‘glass ceilings’ enroute.
Originating from Canada, I live and work internationally for/ organizations of all sizes and types on a global level. I have been in multiple roles, including sales, support, training, Head of IT, Consultant, Director of Product & Project management, and ultimately Global Head of IT within Siemens Energy Solutions – a 1B€ company with a footprint in 40+ countries.
I recently transitioned to a Partner & Senior Advisor role with Strategy & Transformation Consulting. This German-based company helps corporations to successfully exploit the business potential of digitization and to actively manage the necessary changes. I bring my expertise in digital and sustainability transformations to large multinational organizations. In parallel, I consult with SMEs facing similar challenges but limited resources.
I volunteer at local and global community levels as a Digital Isle of Man (DIOM) Non-Executive Board Director, LOVE TECH (IOM) charity promoting STEM to young people and as a global speaker on Women in Tech, STEM, or tech enablers for digital & sustainability transformations.
What challenges did you face along the way?
Being a woman in tech continues to be a challenge, although there has been progressing in reducing the various biases. I am often one of the few women at the table. This continues today mostly due to the low numbers of experienced women at senior and director levels. I often need to establish myself as more than a ‘tick in the diversity box’.
Working with global teams brings unique dynamics of differing cultural behaviors, nationalities as well as management approaches. Navigating this requires knowledge and sensitivity.
My biggest challenge came in 2006. I made a significant transformation in my life to realize my goal of working abroad by moving to the UK. At this time, I had no visa, job, or professional network. (If it did not work, it was a one-way ticket back to Canada.) This move required stepping back in my career to a mid-management level as I established my professional network and reputation from scratch to move ahead.
I have since reached the Cx level of management, secured my first Non-Executive Director role, been recognized as one of the top 200 Strong Women in IT (2021), and spoken globally on many relevant topics. I have lived in the UK, Norway, Germany, and now on the Isle of Man.
What significant impact have you brought to Transformations Management?
Transformation impact cuts across individuals, teams, organizations, industries, and technology used today. I focus on working holistically and consultatively across an organization to implement a “Collaboration & Integration” framework that provides a technical and functional foundation for more collaborative and integrative working across the business.
Transformation is challenging in many ways. An estimated 80% of strategic initiatives fail because of resistance to change from internal stakeholders. Organizations will only be successful if they can inspire their employees to take on the transformation journey with enthusiasm.
I advocate ultimate success in transformation management as empowering and enabling individual employees through an agile mindset with small teams, a relatively flat organizational structure, ownership, and decision-making driven by team leads. Whether an employee has 3 or 30 years of experience, they bring equal value.
This approach was realized in 2020. A pending IPO, a corporate carve-out, physical separation of all IT systems across 100+ countries, 5000+ applications, 80k employees within a 16-month time frame AND during COVID lockdown. My team (10 leads) had the responsibility to realize this within the Solutions business unit and in correlation with central IT teams driving the carve out across the entire organization.
Speed was of the essence. The scale of effort and challenge was epic—this agile way of working enabled success despite the unprecedented level of transformation in an unprecedented situation.
Tell us about Strategy & Transformation Consulting and its foundation pillar.
At Strategy & Transformation Consulting, our positioning statement is: “Mastering the Digital Age!” We are an integrated group of companies and offer – with a total of over 500 employees at worldwide locations – our customers the conception and implementation of holistic digitization solutions.
We provide strategic advice on digitization from real thought leaders with profound methodological knowledge, extensive transformation experience from successful IT system integrators with many years of industry experience, a high level of technological understanding, as well as deep expertise in generating value from data – the new gold of the 21st century.
Together with our IT systems house Peterson, our project and transformation expert Tiba, and our business analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) think to tank YaiGlobal; we currently have more than 500 employees. Our headquarters are in Munich. In addition, we are represented with the group at many other locations in ASG, Europe, and beyond.
How does Strategy & Transformation Consulting promote workforce flexibility, and what is your role in it?
Digital Transformation is crucial to the future of any organization. The new digital economy goes far beyond the pure consideration of technology issues and will trigger a new wave of transformations in the way leading companies do their business. Due to the large thematic scope and many starting points, a successful digital transformation is ultimately only possible with the cooperation of various experts.
We tackle digitization projects in an integrated manner with business and IT experts; thus, our consulting teams are also interdisciplinary. This ensures flexibility in the workplace.
What is your take on technology’s importance, and how are you leveraging it?
Technology today integrates into almost every part of our lives. The demand for digitalized services and enhanced content will continue to increase exponentially. Understanding the technology available today and in the future is critical for organizations and tech experts. However, the scope & speed of tech advancements demands a more holistic ecosystem of skills and partners.
Our Digital Transformation Alliance (DiTrAll) ensures we can advise companies holistically and comprehensively on digital transformation and provide flexibility in expertise to meet each client’s unique scenario. We can confidently leverage the combined knowledge of the latest technological developments along with their business impact.
What will be the next significant change in Transformations Management, and how are you preparing for it?
Global climate change is impacting the world at an alarming rate. The need for sustainable solutions has never been more urgent. Within the next 3-5 years, organizations will be required to provide reporting on their ESG targets (Environment, Social & Governance). At the very core of this is data. Reliable, accessible, trustworthy data. And that means the technology to capture, measure, analysis, and report on.
It is here that digital transformation meets climate change – with sustainable technology solutions at the center of an organization. I strongly advocate that today’s IT professionals have the responsibility to work in tandem with management teams to ensure the IT environment reflects both digital transformation AND sustainability technology solutions. Yet, many business leaders and fewer IT professionals understand the urgency of this.
With a background in technology as well as the energy industry, I am actively promoting sustainability through technology by consulting with clients, knowledge transfer, and educational speaking events.
What are your goals in the upcoming future?
I am very excited about what the upcoming future will hold. As a specialist consultant in the digital and sustainability transformation area, I anticipate this to be a high-growth topic in the next 5 years. Against this backdrop, I am striving to be a globally recognized expert and public speaker in digital and sustainability transformation by bringing my expertise to a wider audience.
The current goals are the ‘go live on my personal website JoThurlow.com in November. Near-term plans include publishing my first book early next year on Team Management and expanding my portfolio career with expanded director roles. The overall target is to be recognized as a global expert, speaker, and leader in transformation topics.
What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring business leaders?
Transformation and change are inevitable and will be constant in your lives. Develop flexibility and confidence to embrace change readily. Thus, becoming a lifelong learner. Recognize the impact you can have through sustainable actions to truly impact the world.