Lena De Geer, the Regional Head of IT for the Middle East and India at Fugro, says she always wanted to be a leader, someone who leads and makes changes to improve and strengthen a process
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
I am Fugro’s Regional Head of IT for the Middle East and India. My job is to lead the digital transformation in the region and support Fugro’s strategy: “Differentiate by integrated digital solutions”. This means that I work closely with the regional business stakeholders, as true digital transformation requires collaboration between IT and the business.
A typical day for me will include meetings with various stakeholders in the region, such as Country Directors, Business Development, Sales, and Marketing colleagues, to discuss digital solutions and how they can help our business. Any changes that we need to make, require a business case, which will then be evaluated by the Regional Management Team to determine whether we should proceed or not. I spend a lot of time working on securing our digital data, so cyber security and similar measures are very important to me.
Did you always know that working in the industry you represent was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
Growing up, I actually wanted to be the Prime Minister of Sweden. I have always wanted to be a leader, someone who leads and makes changes to improve and strengthen a process. I aim to find something interesting in every industry or company that I come across. There is always a way to improve a process or learn something new. So the industry in itself is less important than the way the industry embraces change. One thing I can say is that the tech industry does embrace change.
What first got you interested in the industry you work in?
I studied business administration within international business and started working for LG Electronics in supply chain and demand planning. LG had a lot of improvement projects with Lean Six Sigma and I led one of the projects focusing on sales forecasting. I created a new process for Scandinavia, for which we designed and built a system. I was probably one of the worst customers that a poor development company had ever had. I knew nothing about IT, software development testing, or product development, but I realised I enjoyed it.
I love change, challenges, ideas, and brainstorming I knew that if you work in IT, you work with constant change. So it got me thinking, how do I get into IT? I started applying to Tech companies and landed a job as a Business Consultant / IT Project Manager at IFS Applications in Stockholm, Sweden. IFS Applications is one of the biggest ERP systems in Scandinavia, so it was a great place to start my IT career. I have never regretted that decision since.
Do you have a role model?
I have several, but there are three that stand out. Firstly, my mother – she shaped me into a strong, independent woman. She loved life and always saw the positive in all situations, even the toughest ones. The second one is Julia Brundin, one of my first managers, who inspired me, cheered me on, and encouraged me to embrace my ambitions and strengths.
“How would Julia handle this situation?”- I always ask myself. She believed in building strong and connected teams, which I strive for in all of my teams. Finally, former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. He stood up for his beliefs and stood strong even when the winds were blowing another way. I admire people who remain true to themselves.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
As my background is in business administration I needed to learn all the IT terminology, as well as the technology, infrastructure, cyber security, and software implementation methodologies. I learned by asking lots of questions, not being afraid of asking “dumb” questions, and doing research as much as possible.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry required me to learn how to navigate the environment. Often, I would be the only woman in a room or team. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. You stand out as a woman but you feel you need to prove your worth. As a result, I am determined to deliver good results, perhaps even better results than expected or required at times.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the industry you represent? What do you wish you had known?
Being a woman in tech is fantastic! You have a great career in front of you. Simply believe in yourself, be vocal of where you want to go and believe you can do it. Take the chances when they are given to you, and make sure you are recognised for the results you have achieved. I’ve seen it more than once where credit isn’t given to the team’s female members. Don’t expect to be credited for your work if you’re not vocal about it. So, don’t be afraid to claim public ownership of the results.
What do you do to unwind after work?
I spend time with my husband and 2 children. We love the outdoors so on the weekend you can usually find us on the beach or camping in the desert or mountains. We also travel frequently, even with small children. This year we are planning a two-week camping trip to Mongolia, and we have already camped above the Arctic Circle with the two kids.