Women in Tech Thursdays: Talking with Nassia Skoulikariti about her journey as IoT & Telco Digital Transformation Specialist
Nassia is the IoT & Telco Digital Transformation Specialist and CEO and Founder of Apiro Data. She helps companies commercialise their digital transformation to drive operational efficiencies, find new business opportunities, create new connected products and solve problems to increase revenue using IoT, AI and Cloud Communication Services.
Tell me about your journey in the world of tech. How did you start and what was your motivation, what attracted you to the tech career you are in?
I’ve always been fascinated by technology and thought it could help people live better lives. When used ethically, technology can also improve our environment and enhance our quality of life in many aspects. I like creating things. When I discovered the Internet of Things (ioT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), I knew it was a match made in heaven.
I have more than 25 years of experience developing cutting-edge solutions and managing teams globally in tech, telecoms, cloud communications and IoT. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked for several global companies with diverse cultures helping them develop and grow, living and working in various locations from the US, UK, The Netherlands, Greece, India and Hong Kong. I managed teams of diverse individuals across the world and oversaw global teams to achieve goals.
I have a “people first” attitude, and I’m on a personal quest to find ways to humanise technology. I’m someone who has had to use technology extensively for personal and professional use. I get obsessed with finding and testing new tools to aid automation, so I know how it can be made easy and manageable.
At Apiro Data, we connect people, places and things through our modular solutions-based IoT platform, services and partner ecosystem, enabling deployment, data collection, processing, and visualisation to manage and monitor connected devices.
Apiro Data’s Vision is to enable IoT engagement on any channel at any time by any vendor.
We work with businesses to accelerate their connected device plans, choose what fits their needs, KPIs and budget and grow at their own pace while minimising their investment risk.
You’re a founder and a CEO now, but prior to that you held different positions and worked with different companies, cultures and countries. Did you experience that the approach to diversity and inclusion varied depending on the country, culture and the company size?
In my experience, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, one size doesn’t fit all. The experience of someone from another race, gender, or socioeconomic background varies because the experience is individual.
In some cases, our beliefs can override our connection to a given cultural identity.
It’s a complex situation that requires cooperation across the board in the workplace. Diversity stems from the top, as senior leaders must be open to ideas and diverse opinions, even if they don’t personally agree with them.
Personally, I feel that in many ways, “inclusivity” and “diversity” have become buzzwords that some groups are using to wiggle out of responsibility. We need to stop using these terms because all people are equal; in my opinion, we should focus on actual inclusivity rather than segregating into various categories of gender, colour, religion or creed, and concentrate on mutual respect.
My personal choices were made around my own beliefs and firm guidance to have my voice heard throughout my career. From choosing to start my career in the US as opposed to my home country of Greece, to the various roles, I have held. There is a big divide between East and West, haves and have nots.
Things are changing but very very slowly.
What, in your opinion, might make other women hesitant about pursuing a tech career? There are so many Women in Tech initiatives right now (and here we are, adding yet another one) – and yet we are still working to close the diversity gap. What do you think is holding women back?
The world is changing, and women are playing more and more a role in technology today, driving innovation and helping shape the new digital future with various skills.
Despite the changing world, the current stats are not incredibly optimistic. Only one-in-six tech specialists in the UK are women. Only one-in-ten are IT leaders.
Many factors hold women back from joining a technical role, lack of skills, discrimination and biases, pay gap, and cultural and personal beliefs.
There are plenty of opportunities; however, the future for women in tech depends on the industry’s ability to inspire young women to study and take technology subject during their school years, enabling them to proceed with apprenticeships and degrees in these subjects. The work does not end here. There is a need for companies to provide more encouragement and mentorship for women and their careers in tech.
What tips would you give to the other women who are the aspiring start-up founders?
Since starting Apiro Data I feel more empowered. I went through a deep introspection to understand where I am, what I know and how I can apply all my previous experience to my start-up. The company is bootstrapped, so I am doing many different roles.
I’ve learned so much. I took many classes to upskill and educate myself on areas I felt I needed to enhance my knowledge and understanding.
Managing a business is a learning process, even if you’re an expert in it already.
The world needs more entrepreneurs, especially those who have an entrepreneurial spirit within them. If you feel it in your core, you ought to take the risk and try it out, irrespective if it will be successful or not. The whole process is about the journey, not the destination.
It takes much courage to take the risk and take action while staying true to your beliefs and values. I enjoy building and creating things, so founding a company that produces products utilising IoT and AI is like planting a seed and watching it grow to a blossom.
In the process, I feel that I’m living a better version of my life.
So if you can start and always trust your abilities and your determination to get things done!
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
Having the courage to reinvent myself, after years spent climbing the corporate ladder, I identified with the title, the paycheck and all the perks which came with that lifestyle.
I had to re-discover who Nassia is without all that, realign my values and beliefs and get to work on my dream. In many ways, it was like starting over, but with all the previous experience in my reference guide.
Many of the other challenges I am facing today differ in name only and tie in with the more significant diversity, inclusivity and discrimination discussion.
While before I was fighting to be heard around the table in a predominantly male industry. As an entrepreneur and a female, I am fighting to be heard across the investment industry, which is very biased towards female entrepreneurs (only 2% of investment funds go to female entrepreneurs).
As a female leader in the technology industry, I can’t let any of that defeat me. I have learned to stop take a breath, assess, empathise when appropriate and move on without getting emotionally involved or defensive. As my male colleagues would say “nothing personal, it’s just business”.
To cope with everything I can’t emphasise enough, the importance of a solid self-care routine.