Today marks International Women’s Day and our Marketing Manager, Bylgja Pálsdóttir, had the privilege of sitting down with one of atNorth’s leading ladies. Eva Sóley Guðbjörnsdóttir is our Chief Financial Officer & Deputy CEO and all-round Renaissance woman. She has helped build a strong and diverse team at atNorth and has been hugely inspirational to her team members, which she attributes to the experiences she’s had throughout her career.
BP: Eva, tell me a bit more about your background – I know you didn’t take the well-trodden path to get to where you are now.
ESG: No, that’s probably true! I actually moved to New York City to do my studies, where I trained as a Financial Engineer and gained my B.Sc. and M.Sc. from Columbia University. I was very fortunate – I played soccer for the University and received a scholarship .
When I hit the ‘real world’, I started my first job in banking as an analyst and worked my way up the ranks. I loved every challenge and learned a lot from every project. This opened doors and paved the way for me to move to Advania as the CFO of the Nordic information technology company. This was my entry point into the IT world.
BP: You worked in two industries that have traditionally been seen as male dominant – both banking and tech. How did you find it, what challenges did you face?
ESG: Of course, I faced challenges – these are bound to happen most, if not all, weeks of the year. Regardless of the gender breakdown in your industry, the truth is that life is about navigating complexities and learning the best way to arm yourself to do this. The driving factors for me have always been to maintain an open mind and dialogue, listen, stay positive and strive to be as transparent and honest as possible.
BP: Honesty is so important, isn’t it? We put so much emphasis on that at atNorth.
ESG: Honestly speaking (!), honesty and being open minded have been major factors in the successes I’ve achieved throughout my career. Honesty takes you a long way. Focusing on leading teams by example and being part of the team all the way through projects will bring success. Hard work cannot be underestimated — it is true that nothing comes easily in life, especially not when faced with complex situations within your career. Having this hard work under your belt helps you deal with (and foresee) challenges as they arise.
I have been so fortunate to work for companies who share similar values. At atNorth, our company values are fundamental to our business success. Honesty and trust are at the core of everything we do, as is making sure that we all support and care for our people, communities, and environment.
BP: What do you see as challenges for women today – do you think that there are barriers holding women back from succeeding in IT today?
ESG: From where I stand now, I don’t think so. I think it is more to do with the fact that it can sometimes be challenging to find women in certain roles within the IT sector – we need more women into IT that are interested in excelling in this space and we need to find ways to make the sector interesting enough for them to join the sector, stay in it and progress throughout their careers.
I know there is still room for improvement, but I think the IT industry is one sector that is streets ahead in its capacity to be open, accepting, and positive towards diversity.
BP: How can we encourage women to work in the IT sector – what can businesses do to support and progress our careers?
ESG: There is certainly more that can be done to encourage women to work within the IT sector. We must do more to mentor our younger generations, to fuel their fire when it comes to an interest in joining the IT industry. Equally, we need senior management across businesses today to continue to lend better support to females, enabling flexible work environments where young talent can maintain a work life balance, as we know this is a make-or-break factor for our younger generations.
BP: So, what’s the one piece of advice you would give these younger female generations – what would you have told your younger self?
ESG: In addition to being honest and open — always strive to surround yourself with smarter team members! We are all different, we all bring unique skills and qualities to the table. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses – building a strong and successful team often comes down to the ability to lean into and be truly open and impartial to these differences.