The following content is from a recent interview Angela Mondou, President and CEO, TECHNATION, did with Wifi Hifi Magazine, featuring influential women in the technology business in Canada.
Name: Angela Mondou
Job Title: CEO & President, TECHNATION
Years in the Industry: 27 years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know failure is inevitable” – (Coco Chanel)
“Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will?” – (Jon Bon Jovi)
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
This is a fun story and comes down to what we always read about: know what you’re passionate about, what your talent is, and be relentless in your pursuit of that combination!
Back in 1994, after eight years in the military and two war-zones, I felt it was time to take a leap of faith and transition into the business world. I’d had eight exciting years of travelling the world, heading to Rome or Chamonix for weekends, working for NATO and the United Nations. Throw in Operation Desert Storm and I’d done a lot by the time I was 29.
Non-negotiables for my next career move: global travel, fast-paced, and adventure! Why would I give that up? I did some research and landed on exactly where I wanted to go next: the tech sector and Nortel Networks was a mega-global tech player in the ’90s (how things change) and offered the (truly) incredible career path I was looking for after the military.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
Right out of the gate! During my summers in university, I learned how to fly gliders and with a father in the Air Force, decided I wanted to join the Air Force as a pilot. At the time, the military was not accepting women in ‘combat operations’ roles like flying so I became an Air Transport Logistics Officer instead.
Another very clear memory: I was working for a logistics company and I was the only woman in a management position. I was dismissed from a planning meeting by our national managing director. Apparently, I wasn’t needed, even though I had developed the client strategy that was to be presented. I was the only woman around the conference table and the only logistics engineer on the team with that plan.
These barriers caused me to take action that led to new directions and even greater strides in my career path. Wherever you can, use roadblocks to your advantage. Something powerful often comes out of them.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
My unique perspective comes from both my very distinct background as well as being a woman. I was trained as a leader in the most male-dominated sector, the military. I learned to stand-up, speak up, and fight for what I believe in. I also learned the principles of leadership.
As a woman with some great ‘male-dominated’ training, I think I bring the very advantages research demonstrates with respect to creating diverse boards. I approach my organization with the belief that everyone brings unique skills to the table. We need diverse thinking and skills to thrive. I’m also very self-aware, and recognize that for all of my energy, vision, and capability to make things happen, I need to surround myself with leaders who will support and ‘bring home’ the strategic plans.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
I think the tech sector is well on its way to being one of the most attractive sectors for women. The work is stimulating and fast-paced, the opportunities seriously endless, the career path global. Even when I was back at Nortel in the late ’90s/early 2000s, I had the opportunity to move to Europe with my two young children and nanny as an ‘ex-pat’ as well as work in the Middle East and Africa. If you were willing to take on challenge, there is no limit to what you can pursue in the tech sector.
We still have work to do in terms of driving more of a female presence on corporate boards, and in C-level positions. In fact, our association, the largest tech sector association in Canada, has made a commitment and will strive to work with multi-national companies to SMEs in tech to increase the representation of women in senior level positions.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
You don’t have to be a man to rock the tech sector. Just do it!
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
There are so many women in tech who inspire me! I’m surrounded by inspirational women. From a tremendous friend who I mentored years ago while starting up her own technology company, to a FinTech CEO and now a Bitcoin-mining CEO. I have been working with incredible women colleagues and board members over the years.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
More and more, women are venturing into cyber security and data science/analytics/ AI. I think one myth is that women don’t necessarily like technical/computer science fields or don’t perform well in these areas of tech specialization. However, as the world and every sector in it becomes more and more digitized, and with women entering every job field and increasing in numbers, the myths will eventually disappear.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
If I had stayed at BlackBerry just a little longer, I might have a lot more funds to buy more bitcoin! As the cliché goes, you regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did. In 2007, I chose to pursue my next adventure, writing a book and launching my own start-up company. Sometimes, you just have to take the leap and never look back!
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Absolutely! I have been in tech since I left the Air Force in 1994. I can’t imagine a more exciting career with endless opportunities. Perhaps the most exciting thing for new grads is that with technology rapidly becoming an integral part of every business and industry, you can be interested in health, in saving the planet, in marine biology, in space. And have access to all of it through tech.
Tech is the fastest growing sector driving jobs and economies around the world – the pandemic has just proven that. Tech is our future!