Julie Scherpenseel was voted Young ICT Lady of the Year 2020 at She Goes ICT. This DataNews event rewards women who have distinguished themselves in the field of ICT. Although the event is already in its 13th edition, there is still an urgent need for positive role models, as the percentage of women IT leaders around the world remains discouragingly low. Time to have an inspirational talk with this brilliant young talent about her ambitions, the challenges she is facing and, of course, the AMS Master Class Digital Transformation - Strategy & Leadership she is currently following.
“Young ICT Lady of the Year” is not the first award Julie has won, nor will it be the last. Upon graduating as a Master in Business Engineering at Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management, she won the Prix Eugène de Barsy for the most innovative and creative master thesis. She then went on to work as a consultant in data science for Accenture, completed a Postgraduate in Big Data & Analytics Management at KU Leuven along the way, and is currently Chief Growth Officer at ML6.
How does it feel to be Young ICT Lady of the Year?
The selection process and the presentation in front of a jury of impressive female leaders were quite intense, so I feel absolutely honored to have won this title. It hasn’t changed what I do and what I believe in – I still want to create more visibility for STEM initiatives and help young women boost their careers in the IT industry. But, as Young ICT Lady of the Year, my voice is definitely heard more, which greatly enhances the reach and impact of my efforts.
Have you come across many challenges as a woman in the IT industry?
Back in high school, I was influenced by stereotypes such as “civil engineering is not for girls”. But now that I am building a career in IT – a world still dominated by men – I don’t feel particularly disadvantaged. I absolutely love the world of technology. It unlocks new opportunities at such a fast pace, and you get to work with passionate people all the time. I have come across some challenges, though, such as trying to find a good work-life balance, but these challenges have more to do with combining different roles than with the IT industry as such. It is important to make that distinction. It is why I am so motivated to challenge outdated stereotypes and to encourage young men and women to choose a field that they are passionate about.
What do you hope to achieve as Young ICT Lady of the Year?
The IT industry is still struggling with a bad reputation. People tend to think of IT as a boring industry, with nerds coding all night long, while IT is a dynamic, innovative field with passionate people who are shaping our future world. As Young ICT Lady, I hope to show this positive side of IT. The future is technological, and women should be part of it. That’s why I support STEM initiatives such as “aiopschool.be” that help children build digital skills. On top of that, I have launched the second edition of the Young Potential Boostcamp, that matches high-potential women with business leaders to boost their career.
Any advice for women who want to build a career in IT?
If you are passionate about technology, just go for it. It’s about “making a career”, so challenge yourself, work hard and seize all the opportunities you get. Connect with other people in the field and look for a mentor who is willing to share experiences and give you advice and who pushes you to bring out the best in yourself. It is amazing how many people are willing to help and support others in their career. I never would have made it to where I am now without the support of my mentors.
How important is digital transformation according to you?
I think that in today’s rapidly changing markets, complacency is fatal. If organizations want to stay relevant, digital transformation is key. In the past, business strategy was simple. You went about identifying a profitable industry, you built a competitive advantage and defended that advantage at all costs. In today’s complex and turbulent world, organizations need to be flexible and agile – ready to move swiftly from one advantage to the next. Digital transformation is crucial to stay ahead, which has been painfully confirmed by the COVID-19 crisis. So many companies definitely feel the sense of urgency. The problem is that they don’t always know how or where to start.
And that is where the Master Class Digital Transformation: Strategy and Leadership at Antwerp Management School comes in. You got to follow this Master Class as part of the award of Young ICT Lady of the Year. How is it going?
The first class was great, and I am already looking forward to the rest of the program. I love the way AMS integrates different ways of teaching and learning. There are the more traditional classes, with expert professors who drive interesting and interactive discussions. But students are also asked to teach certain topics themselves. Thanks to this combination of methodologies, you get a deeper understanding of the theoretical frameworks and their application.
It is the second time that I am combining a full-time job with an academic program. The amount of time and effort you need to put in is not to be underestimated. Yet, I strongly believe in the importance of continuous learning and I can always find the energy to learn something new.
With this particular Master Class, I’m hoping to get more tools to help companies frame and communicate their vision on digital transformation. When working on strategy and change, communication is key. It helps to align different units and departments, ensuring a swift execution of the company’s vision.
So you would recommend this Master Class?
Absolutely. I strongly believe that this Master Class can help decision makers solidify their digital transformation strategy. It teaches them to see things from another perspective. And it provides them with advice and tools to align business strategy and IT strategy, thus accelerating the actual digital transformation process.
Want to learn more about this Master Class?