To mark International Women’s Day, LEAD is running a special feature showcasing women who go above and beyond the call of duty – those who deserve a little recognition and thanks. We were delighted to be inundated with nominations and after much inspiring reading present your LEAD Unsung Heroines.
Director of Professional Services, Cognifide
Business process re-engineering, IT strategy, operating models, cost analysis and digital business transformation – professional services such as these are often the preserve of men.
Indeed, for many years, Inecke Snyder-Lourens would often find herself as the only woman on the management teams responsible for large transformational projects such as these.
As her colleague, Josie Klafkowska, highlights, “There are very few women in the technical industry, and fewer still working at the coalface on the delivery teams. Inecke is one of only a handful of women in technical delivery and the only female director in delivery at Cognifide.”
She was nominated as a LEAD Unsung Heroine for her brilliance on the job but also for “keeping diversity and equality in mind” when getting stuff done.
“She has always taken younger women under her wing, either in informal guidance roles or through more formalised mentoring roles, providing an exceptional example of someone who gets the job done, no matter what the challenge. And she always responds to adverse circumstances with toughness and determination, without any need or desire for special treatment on the basis of her gender”, says Josie.
This determination to succeed has been a recurring feature throughout Inecke’s career as she explains here…
“I graduated in computer science in South Africa, being one of only three girls on the degree programme. At the time, women in technology were very much in the minority. Working in Japan for a year was a turning point. I found it very hard to earn recognition in the Japanese business world, not only as a foreign woman, but also for lack of what was deemed to be appropriate qualifications. To address this, I enrolled for a four-year part-time MBA, with my final year thesis being in Management of Technology. I relocated to London, which was then becoming a global centre for technology.
Having a curious mind, I wanted to understand more about how technology was driving business, and so continued my education and skill development through numerous training courses including ITIL, Project Management, and more recently Scrum Master, all of which have led to where I am today, working on large digital transformation programmes.
At Cognifide, I am responsible for the ongoing global growth of Professional Services (PS). This means defining and enhancing commercial service offerings to meet market demands, and recruiting and developing people with the required skill-sets to efficiently deliver on programmes.
Communication is one of the largest challenges. We work in a number of different time zones, have a diverse set of employees for most of whom English is not their first language, and conduct most meetings virtually. Ensuring clarity and understanding of all communication is critical to delivery.
The number of women majoring in computer science has declined over the past two decades. It is each and every one of our responsibilities to change this.
Time is always in short supply! There is always a stack of things to do at work – and once you leave the office there are just as many things to tackle in my private life. I have a “3D” rule to deal with all new requests: Do, Delegate, or Delete. If it falls into the Do category and cannot be completed with a single action, I set things in motion and set a follow-up reminder for the time when I am able to conclude the task. Delegation is about empowering and trusting your team members to deliver.
About three years ago, I started the Digital Academy.
We identify young gradates with an interest in or aptitude for digital and provide them with a safe learning environment in which to be nurtured and enhance their skill-sets. Ensuring we have a diverse intake every year allows us to tap into these youngsters’ different backgrounds, views and brings fresh creative approaches to our problem-solving. This is critical to Cognifide remaining a high-delivery organisation and supporting our commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace.
I have also started a Mentoring Programme for junior team members, which provides mentors the ability to provide workplace and personal guidance, and help steer participants towards career success and personal fulfilment.
In addition, I participate in the WPP Wunderman ‘Pass It On” initiative. The aim is to empower women to claim leadership positions, be catalysts for change and lead others by setting a positive example. I have now started to focus on sharing the ‘Pass It On” methods and support to other talented women in Cognifide.
Diversity encompasses many aspects, although I have initially focused on race, gender, cultural background and age. Organisations need to understand what they are trying to achieve and then spend time planning and establishing initiatives to address diversity in line with their goals. They can start small addressing one diversity aspect at a time.
My personal motivation was turbo-charged by an ongoing battle with cancer, beginning with major surgery (double mastectomy) in 2001. This has only made me more determined to succeed and hopefully be an inspiration to others.
Inecke’s top tips for others looking to follow a similar career path:
The number of women majoring in computer science has declined over the past two decades. Girls aren’t really taught what computer science actually means, and are much less likely to be encouraged to study it. It is each and every one of our responsibilities to change this.
Society has set ideas about how we expect men and women to behave, and what they are capable of. Don’t accept these stereotypes! Challenge every stereotype that threatens your career. There are plenty of examples of inspirational women who have achieved great things — be one of them!
Anything is possible
There is nothing you can’t achieve if you are passionate about it and truly have the desire to achieve your goal. Many women lack confidence and are four times more likely than men to be self-deprecating, use humour or speak indirectly or apologetically to avoid conflict. The result is that even strong women sometimes come across as weak or lacking self-belief. It is important for women to know they are capable of achieving whatever they want in life. With a little confidence, planning, dedication and enthusiasm, you can achieve anything to which you set your mind: an exceptional career, a family, sporting success; whatever you are passionate about.