What It Takes to Be a Winner in Tech
What it means to become a winner in technology
GfK’s Claire Blythe was recently named Role Model of the Year at Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence Awards. Here, she talks about her success in tech leadership, how women can advance their careers in the industry, and what excites her about the future.
Claire Blythe, vice president of global technology and operations at GfK (an AI-based intelligence platform transforming access to critical knowledge in real-time), has won the role of model of the year in Computing’s new Women in Tech Excellence awards. We asked her secret to success in tech leadership and how women can quickly advance their careers in the industry.
What is your paper made of? As Vice President of Global Technology and Operations in GfK’s Marketing and Consumer Intelligence division, I oversee a team of about 60 engineers and six project managers in global operations. My role is to set the strategy around our tools, systems, and processes and ensure all relevant internal stakeholders are involved. Stakeholders include script writers who create our surveys, data processors who create data analytics and visualizations and project managers who manage deliverables. I need to ensure that we all understand each other’s needs and that we deliver a compelling service that will drive future growth.
what is your background It’s not a typical technical background, but the different roles I’ve had have helped me get to where I am today. After graduating in drama, I got a job at the research company NOP as a telephone interviewer. NOP was later bought by GfK. I held various roles in operations management before eventually moving to the global team. I was asked to lead the global technology team. I am proud of my background. Sometimes people talk about their early careers, but my phone conversation was essential to understanding the key processes and people we support today. My current role is based on the skills to solve critical business problems and to work with different experts in a team.
What achievements do you think led you to the role of Model of the Year and what does this award mean to you?
The award means a lot to me. It adds legitimacy to my background and the importance of having different skills. I’m sure it’s helped me stand out and I’ve also led several change projects. I was heavily involved in GfK’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&) initiatives and built a D& group called Fast Forward which has grown tremendously. We also launched a Chief Product Officer (CPO) and Chief Tech Officer (CTO) group, led by three amazing women, which includes various initiatives to bring people from different backgrounds together at GfK.
What do you think are some of the keys to women’s success in technology and especially in leadership roles? For women leaders, as for all leaders, it is important to step back and gain the trust of your team; guide and support them as they use their own skills. I have found that developing strong listening skills, empathy, developing people’s strengths and abilities, and openness are essential. It’s also important not to underestimate your own skills: for women who want to work and lead in technology, our own self-confidence is often the biggest obstacle. It is important to recognize and be confident in what we bring to the table.
What advantages does a technical team with a similar background bring to companies? There is great value in hiring people from diverse backgrounds. It helps develop different ideas and leads to the growth of new paths. A true appreciation of what is important to individuals is essential to building teams with diverse backgrounds. It is important to understand people’s specific skills along with the values and priorities they have. Major employers appreciate that home life and work-life balance are important to everyone, not just women – especially as the pandemic has drastically changed our lives and ways of working. What excites you about the future of your role?
We are on a good growth path. From a technical and operational perspective, it is an exciting time to support and watch GfK’s AI-driven multi-layered intelligence services. It’s exciting to be in the middle as we add technology and work closely with consumer panels to ensure they have an even more relevant and engaging experience. As a company, we are strategically very well positioned. I look forward to playing my part and leading my team on this journey.