Asia, Interviews

Izabella Naessa – Intrapreneur and Head of Commercial Strategy at GetBEE

We have had fantastic women throughout history developing, creating, enabling extraordinary things in STEM but they didn’t have the spotlight.

Izabella Naessa is a Digital Transformation Expert with over 10 years of experience and a Master in e-Business. Intrapreneur and Head of Commercial Strategy at GetBEE, a fast-growing tech startup that facilitates the management and delivery of professional online services, she is responsible for launching a successful SaaS product in different industries such as Healthcare, Education, Retail, and Consulting all across MENA, LATAM and Europe. For her, Digital Transformation is all about people. She values adaptability and love working with teams that are constantly challenging the status quo. Carrying an extensive Change Management experience, she has learnt the most successful initiatives are the ones where technology is rightfully paired with human skills. Currently a Blockchain enthusiast and looking forward to seeing what’s next!

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I’m an intrapreneur and head of commercial strategy at GetBEE, and a first-time mom of a 5-month-old baby.

At GetBEE, I lead the commercial strategy and sales activities, marketing and communication as well as the management of key accounts. All across MENA region, Latin America, and Europe.

At home, I’m a wife and a new mom. You might ask ‘what does it have to do with technology?’ Well, everything. It is because of technologies like GetBEE I’m able to be at home maximizing my time with my son while keeping my professional career going on with no harm.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I was born and raised in Brazil in the late 80s. I used to be a teenager who never did well in any vocational aptitude test simply because the results would vary from a Doctor to a Lawyer with the same likelihood. However, coming from a traditional family that had lots of expectations on seeing me succeeding professionally, anything else rather than becoming a Doctor was not going to be endorsed.

After had started the first steps towards the Medical School, a long conversation with my parents made me realize that I wanted a completely different career.

After had started the first steps towards the Medical School, a long conversation with my parents made me realize that I wanted a completely different career. Without a clear path yet but absolutely sure I wanted to be in a creative space, I started my bachelor’s in marketing and social communication. Technology was never even an option.

(Just a parenthesis: The first computer we had at home was a huge Compaq machine around 2001 and I didn’t know what to do with it excepting the occasional school research and essays. Maybe because of the weird noise and constant overheating of the machine, computers were definitely not interesting for me. In fact, in my mind, the idea of “people in tech” could be basically illustrated with an image of a super boring nerd guy with a pair of lenses set in a very bold frame and a checked shirt.) 

Years passed by and I was working on a prestigious marketing agency when my mentor introduced me to Change Management, a new competency that instantaneously captured my interest. I needed some reskilling and very soon I started working on many technology-based projects (that today we would call digital transformation) in all kinds of industries. It was through Change Management that I learnt that technology:

  • Can be fun
  • Is a place for creativity (how could I ever think otherwise?)
  • Is actually about people

I left Brazil in 2014 and first moved to US, then Kenya, and Italy which helped me greatly to learn more about people and improve some important soft skills. Later, I moved to Denmark where I concluded a Master in e-Business and a thesis about Blockchain and social entrepreneurship. Currently, I’m based in Dubai where I started an intrapreneurship career at GetBEE and where I’m able to put all my previous experience and constantly learning at the service of innovation.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

We are all witnessing it right now.

The Covid-19 crises forced every CEO, industry thought leaders, market specialist to race against the clock to understand how businesses should immediately respond to such disruption. Suddenly, the future of work started yesterday and because no organization can afford to put a pause on its operations for an unpredicted period of time, creativity and technology were team up like never before. Accordingly, the companies that had digital transformation strategies in place before the outbreak are the ones in the more fortunate position right now.

We are seeing on a daily basis technology getting more and more accessible and being extremely important to help people cope better with the crises. In a professional sphere, we are watching an enormous shift in technology-related business models. Video and audio communication platforms are today the backbone of several organizations specially the ones related to education and professional services. Artificial Intelligence is facilitating the creation of remote smart solutions for healthcare. Blockchain might play a huge role in rebuilding the global trade network bringing more data connectivity and transparency to businesses and their entire supply chain. Retail is looking for technologies that enable better and more contactless customer experience. We are talking about unprecedented change across all verticals. Words such as virtual learning, telehealth, and e-consulting have never been so sought after.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women focused groups in the tech community?

Representativeness is the short answer. A big part why I couldn’t imagine myself in tech for a long time was lack of examples of other women in tech. Let me rephrase that. The examples exist. We have had fantastic women throughout history developing, creating, enabling extraordinary things in STEM but they didn’t have the spotlight. It’s incredible to see how everyone can name at least 10 big names of men in the technology space but we have a hard time to think the same when it comes to women. Which is a shame considering that the very first person to publish an algorithm was Ada Lovelace.

More women in the tech community is fundamental. It is forecasted we will spend over $40T in products and services by 2020 and we are the biggest consumers of social media. These are just some important numbers to have in mind. We need products and services designed by and for us. We are extremely capable and having more women in tech on both public and private sectors is, above all, strategic.

We need products and services designed by and for us. We are extremely capable and having more women in tech on both public and private sectors is, above all, strategic.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?

Definitely, you don’t need to know JAVA to have a career in tech. If you do know, that’s great but if you are intimidated by coding, there are so many different angles you can explore. From envisioning and developing to strategizing, marketing, communicating, selling, implementing, and supporting, you can find an array of possibilities where different skills are very much needed.

A good example is the fact that the world was hearing about bitcoin for the first time in 2009 and although a lot has been speculated and evolved since then, fintech and blockchain are still far from mainstream. There is an urgent need for professionals able to better communicate these technologies to the average people, transforming complicated terminology into accessible use cases. These are extremely important skills because no technology can be great without users.

Which was the best decision in your career?

For sure it was investing on trying. I could never portrait myself in the technology space a while ago, but I was not afraid to try. And guess what? I love it.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Don’t wait for the right opportunity to start doing something awesome just because you don’t believe it is for you. Create the opportunity or be the opportunity yourself.

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

Diversity always aggregates. Because we are the frontliners in many different areas, we carry along with us unique perspectives that can contribute greatly to industries’ development. So many products and services that are supposed to be made for us would be much more advanced once made by us. It’s strategic to have more women in STEM. Besides, having more female leaders in tech would positively reflect on social values, gender equality, and empowerment.

Izabella Naessa is a Digital Transformation Expert with over 10 years of experience and a Master in e-Business. Intrapreneur and Head of Commercial Strategy at GetBEE, a fast-growing tech startup that facilitates the management and delivery of professional online services, she is responsible for launching a successful SaaS product in different industries such as Healthcare, Education, Retail, and Consulting all across MENA, LATAM and Europe. For her, Digital Transformation is all about people. She values adaptability and love working with teams that are constantly challenging the status quo. Carrying an extensive Change Management experience, she has learnt the most successful initiatives are the ones where technology is rightfully paired with human skills. Currently a Blockchain enthusiast and looking forward to seeing what’s next!

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