Technology is a constantly evolving field. With social advancements, the tech industry must confront new realities within the current social context. As our society moves closer to gender equality, women are working to build a stronger presence in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry. Today, women spearhead some of the most important tech companies in the world. YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, Microsoft’s Amy Hood, IBM’s Ginni Rometty and Oracle’s Safra Catz are a few names who are leading the tech world. On the local front, Dana Farrugia, CEO of Tech.mt is at the driving seat to stimulate Malta’s momentum in the tech sector. Indeed, Dana has been entrusted with the ambitious task to promote Malta’s National Strategy on Technology and Innovation that includes areas such as; Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud software development, robotics and quantum. Smart, good looking, ambitious, stubborn, extremely focused and never taking a ‘no’ for an answer attitude, she has all the attributes to reach her goal in the sector. She also possesses the right skills to ensure a better female representation in the local Tech sector.
“It takes two to tango. This can only be achieved thanks to the unconditional support of their partners. This is the way things should be. Reciprocity is key.”
Whilst sipping her favourite Earl Grey tea, Dana provides us with a glimpse of what it takes to occupy a managerial position in the grueling and dynamic world of technology and innovation. Her experience in the industry is quite vast. Indeed, Dana has been working in this sector and the world of economics and technology, for the last 20 years. Her experience perfectly marries with her strong character, an attribute she has developed thanks two inspirational figures – her parents and her sister – two women that have constantly supported her all along the years of studies and through her career path. Dana admits that there are other inspirational figures beyond her family circle she looks up to such as Bill Gates’ wife, Melinda and Michelle Obama. “They are two inspirational figures I certainly look up to. I admire their ability to balance work and life. They teach us an important lesson to step back, rather than out, of our careers.” She adds; “It takes two to tango. This can only be achieved thanks to the unconditional support of their partners. This is the way things should be. Reciprocity is key.”
Dana admits that her major achievement in life was her son. She had her son, Garret at a relatively young age and notwithstanding all the challenges, provided her son with a good upbringing. Dana notes; “The best lesson I could teach my son is to show him how to be a strong and resourceful individual. Today, when I look at Garret, I feel I have achieved my goal.” She also feels successfully following a Master of Business Administration at the Henley Business School as another major achievement.
Dawn of a new era
We shift our conversation to the tech sector at large and society’s perception on the industry. Dana notes; “Once developed, the tech sector can offer cost-effective solutions. This can be achieved through robotics as well as intelligent and fast solutions and by means of AI technology, which subsequently help with risk management and compliance. It is for that specific purpose that the government has set up Tech.mt.” Indeed, Tech.mt is instrumental to take the technology industry on our islands to the next level. The entity was established by the government along with the Malta Chamber of Commerce and its main objectives are: promote, innovate and provide talent and support to all those in the sector. Apart from being responsible for this sectorial growth locally, Tech.mt, promotes Malta as a suitable set-up for foreign direct investment whilst promoting the local technological industries abroad as well.
Dana notes; “we have a lot of local talent and structural development. We are a small island competing with larger countries with very strong economies and yet, we perform better. Innovation requires a lot of research and study which comes at a hefty price. The results are not immediate and there is an element of risk yet there is a strong response from the local private sector.”
Dana adds; “The European Innovation Score Board placed our country 4th as regards to the environment. In addition to that, we scored high in the registration of trademarks. Although our competitors are powerful, Malta wants to make sure that this sector is safeguarded and has maximum growth. Malta excels in; high-speed internet, highly skilled bi-lingual workers, competitive cost per employee, high ranking of choice for foreign investments, the eco-system and a high-performance economy.”
The education factor
The inception of Tech.mt was an important boost in the technology and innovation sector. This was also a strategic move to identify areas that need to improve.
One of these areas is certainly education. Dana points out that, as a country, the demand is higher than the supply. “Unfortunately, our human resources are limited. Moreover, students still do not consider the Tech sector as their natural career path.” She believes that our country will benefit much more if technology is incorporated in the Primary Schools’ curriculum together with other core subjects. This is not an easy step as, locally, we still have children who don’t have access to such technology at home. One also has to keep in mind that this subject needs effort and it might be the case that it is the reason why we don’t have so many youngsters opting to graduate in technology and innovation.”
The Covid-19 pandemic was an alarm bell for us all to realize that the future is now!
Technology and innovation connect, educate and entertain all of its users. Given the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, technology is playing a crucial role to ensure a safe continuation to our “new normality”. she notes; ” The COVID-19 pandemic offered challenges yet also opportunities. We benefitted from online learning, we ensured job retention through remote working, and we also ensured the survival of businesses.”
Through European funds this entity is helping to raise awareness amongst children, empowering people, especially women to further their education and help the elderly to understand better our technological era.
Dana notes that the pandemic was definitely a driver for change when it comes to technology because it “instigated” the public to resort to technology. “More than anything, it was an enabler. On the other hand, it exposed certain local society weaknesses that need to be addressed.” She also refers to the older generation segment which may not be too savvy with smartphones or the internet. This is where Tech.mt enters the picture. Tech.mt provides various online courses such as familiarisation with mobile phones and the upgrading of skills for better job opportunities. Through European funds this entity is helping to raise awareness amongst children, empowering people, especially women to further their education and help the elderly to understand better our technological era.
Tech poses no gender barriers
Diversity is critical in tech, as it enables companies to create better and safer products that take everyone into consideration, not just one section of society. A report from McKinsey found that diverse companies perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion. Despite this, women remain widely underrepresented in IT roles.
“if one is really determined to succeed, then he or she succeeds.”
Dana believes that this is quite ironic when one takes into account the fact there are more female graduates than males. “This, in itself, shows that women have a big drive to succeed in their academic goals but for some reason, they are not choosing technology. This is another reason why Tech.mt wishes to raise awareness and educate about this industry from early childhood years. Girls in particular, if they have any cultural barriers, will overcome them thanks to the information given,” says Dana.
She feels that gender should not be a barrier. “if one is really determined to succeed, then he or she succeeds. In technology, the option is not giving up but to move to another field of the same sector. Women, as human nature entails, as mothers need to give more than men when it comes to family but if they are supported by their husbands, they can focus on other things including on their careers”.
It’s time to conclude yet without further ado, we ask Dana what’s next for Tech.mt? She notes; “We had to alter our strategy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, this has not deterred our mission. In the coming months, our goal is to continue propagating the concept of remote business-to-business networking. We will also focus on the “eBusiness Awards” so as to continue promoting talent in the sector.”
She also notes that Tech.mt scouts success stories of innovation No reference to particular apps/ solutions – put this in a generic context.
She concludes that Tech.mt is still not a household name yet thanks to their strong PR strategy brand awareness will be achieved over a short span of time. She adds that “in one year we did miracles. We worked on the branding, we focused on human resources, we invested in team building, and also focused on international outreach. “Hand on heart, I am happy with what we achieved so far. the best is yet to come for Tech.mt”