Hyve Dynamics – Cecilia Harvey, CEO

We interviewed Cecilia Harvey, Chief Executive Officer at Hyve Dynamics on her thoughts and experience on women in tech. 

1. What does your job role involve?

As CEO, I am responsible for the vision, strategy and growth of Hyve Dynamics, a sensor technology company.  

2. What made you choose a career in technology?

As a child, l played chairman of the board with my Barbie dolls and I was practically attached to my Commodore 128 computer so I guess it was inevitable that I would one day be the CEO of a technology company! Although, if someone would’ve told me that back then, I would’ve said they were absolutely crazy!

I have been working in banking and technology for the last 20 years after graduating from Wellesley College.

3. Did you study an IT or technology related subject at GCSE, A-Level or University?

No, I studied Political Science at university.

4. Did you get any work experience in IT or technology before this role?

I’ve held various roles in large organisations that have helped to prepare me for entrepreneurship and understand how to run technology as a business.

After university, I worked in Fixed Income Derivatives origination at Lehman Brothers in New York.  Although I was on the trading floor, technology was the foundation of capital markets businesses. Trading systems, electronic trading, e-commerce and data were all critical to the growth of capital markets businesses.  So very early in my career, I was learning how to think strategically about technology in order to grow a business.

Eventually, I moved onto roles at companies where I was managing global banking technology programs.

Being the COO for markets and securities services technology at Citigroup which was a tech organisation of over 8,400 people globally, over 1,000 systems across over 50 sites is an example of that. It helped me to understand how to run technology as a business. You are working in a highly regulated environment and need to focus on governance, risk and controls, budget efficiency and people management.

In my previous roles I have found myself engaging with various vendors that were often tech companies, which gave me lots of experience.  Large banks partner with, and make strategic investments, in technology companies so I got to see the good, the bad and the ugly! I witnessed strategy, management and client service that worked well and I also saw some that didn’t which would result in no investment. I saw the growing pains and challenges of those tech companies.

Eventually, I worked directly with those tech start-ups and scale-ups and the combined with the experience in large corporates it prepared me to be the CEO of Hyve Dynamics.

My journey is very unique and the experience I have gained along the way has been invaluable.

5. Do you think there is a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?

I think there are several reasons why there is a low percentage of women in the tech sector.

  • Lack of information for tech as a career: Many women don’t consider a career in technology because during their education years, they’re not provided with sufficient information about the industry. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness causes a talent pipeline issue.
  • Lack of well-known tech female role models: The lack of female role models working in this sector reinforces the perception that a technology career is not for women.
  • Positive technology promotion: We often see negative coverage in the media about technology and tech leaders. Companies in this industry have a role to play in promoting how technology is an enabler that helps to improve people’s lives. People want to be part of an industry that is helping to make positive contributions to our society.
  • The perception of diversity in the tech sector: Since there is a perception that the industry lacks diversity, many individuals believe it also lacks inclusivity and people want to work in an industry where opportunities are equal for all.

6. Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?

Yes, and it needs to change.

We need more female “role models” working in technology to show young women the various careers they can pursue in this exciting industry.

7. What would entice women to study technology-related courses?

Better knowledge about the sector and the career opportunities that it offers would definitely encourage more females to study technology-related courses. However, I don’t think these courses are necessary to have a career in this industry.

8. Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?

I think the only barriers we have are the ones that we create for ourselves.

Individuals have the power to decide if they are going to let various “distractions” get in their way. Those distractions may include fear, doubt, injustice, naysayers, toxic environments and toxic people but these distractions are not the barriers. The barrier is whether or not one has the ability to tune them.

Once you learn THAT you will realise that you are unstoppable. Remember, it’s not the surrounding that sinks the ship. It’s the water that gets in that sinks the ship.

9. How could we encourage more women to start a career in tech?

Educate young women and expand the definition of what it means to be a “woman in technology.”

We need to do more to show the diverse range of career opportunities in technology and promote the industry better.

10. What advice would you give to young women at the start of their career?

Surround yourself with positive people. End Toxic relationships that can distract you and instead, surround yourself with like-minded people that have similar goals and values to you. Iron sharpens iron and if you’re going to take off you can’t have people that can keep you down.

Other advice I’d give, is:

  • Have your “Career Emergency Kit” ready: This will include the names of three head-hunters, an updated CV, an updated LinkedIn profile and alerts set up for open roles at various career sites.
  • Interview even if you don’t necessarily want the job: Interviewing keeps you sharp and allows you to connect with people. You understand what hiring managers are looking for and you keep pace with what is going on in the industry. Also, people may remember you for roles that may open in the future.
  • Understand the difference between sponsorship vs. mentorship: Find sponsors that are key decision makers that will refer you for career opportunities and mentors that will help you develop.