Stronger Together: We can only solve the greatest challenges together
Together with techface.ch, AXA, Novartis und Siemens, we work to promote and raise awareness for women in tech- industry. We walk the talk with measurable initiatives: Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs, Bias Trainings and our Role Model Campaign.
Our Role Models
I had great role models
Nicolette du Toit
Cloud - Amazon Business Group Market Lead, Central Europe
"Cognizant takes my needs seriously, which enables me to manage the balancing act between being a mother and being a leader."
At Cognizant, we are technology solutions providers. As such, we have a deep understanding of a wide variety of industries, products and services. We have a lot of customers who use cloud applications and we work with different cloud hyperscalers, like Microsoft, Google and AWS. I used to work for two of those hyperscalers myself. In my current role as Market Lead for AWS in Central Europe, I'm leveraging my experiences about the possibilities of what cloud can do and how it can add value. All deals, offers and opportunities in Central Europe that are cloud relevant also belong to my responsibilities. Working closely with AWS and our Cognizant Account Teams and Solution Architects, we develop the best strategies and roadmaps for our customers. It's a multi-faceted job, a combination of alignment, sales and resource management, and I always pursue the goal of ensuring that the business solutions are clearly defined and recognized by our partners and our teams.
It's a wonderful challenge that still allows me to spend a lot of time with my daughter. That's also the reason I came back to Cognizant. When I first started working for Cognizant in 2018, I came from a Global Lead Role that required a lot of travel, which has been difficult for me having a very young daughter. Cognizant really supported me at that time and took my needs seriously, so the balancing act between motherhood and being in a leadership role was achievable again. You don't forget something like that.
My career originally started at a bank in Pittsburgh, USA, where I grew up. At the time, the bank wanted to get on the Internet, launch a website. They were looking for volunteers to do it and no one wanted to do it. But I was curious. I signed up and was amazed, even though I had worked on different platforms at that time, used computers as a tool, the website and everything that came with it was a whole new world, a world that opened up new areas of business. I was totally fascinated by that. I then started working for a technology provider that was acquired by IBM, and IBM gave me the chance to work in Switzerland. My dream came true: living in Europe. I had studied Italian and French and came to German-speaking Switzerland. So there war another challenge: learning the next language. That was pure adventure, an exciting time. I later moved to Microsoft and worked for 14 years in various roles up to a Global Lead Role before joining Cognizant.
It was surprisingly easy for me to take this path in an industry dominated by men. Looking back, I'm a bit surprised myself. What made this path possible for me? I had great role models. My grandmother was a confident woman who even back then took the right to go to work because she wanted to. My grandfather just accepted it. My mother studied chemistry while raising four small children. My father supported her and looked after us children. These two strong women and their husbands, who supported them and accepted their desire for economic independence, modeled for me women's self-empowerment and our right to earn your own money. We came from a working class background and from my generation on, we all went to college.
Another important point for a successful, self-empowered career, in my opinion, is mentoring. This means having people I trust who can look at situations from the outside and share their perspectives with me.
I've met great women who perform fantastically. Bit by bit, these women are making it easier to take women in leadership positions for granted. However, there is still work to be done, including for us women. We could appreciate the performance of other women more, really name them, especially in front of others, in meetings, negotiations and conversations. We do that far too rarely. That's where we should develop a culture of supporting each other. I have the impression that women are changing. Especially the younger ones can learn that we can be friendly and advance at the same time. We can stand up for ourselves and value our own achievements without feeling like an unpleasant person. Many women want to please everyone as harmony is important to them, even if it is at their expense. I've done this myself far too often out of misconceived politeness. I think that's what young people need to realize: You have to have backbone. Stand up for yourself. You can do it exactly the way it's right for you. That's part of your responsibility to make sure you're doing well.
Difficulties let you grow
Associate Director Strategic Partnerships Development, Central Europe
"Build relationships before you need them."
What is your daily work about?
I am driving Central Europe business development through the technological partnerships’ lens with a wonderful team. That means keeping up with partners development, industry, & technologies trends, anthropology, a bit of geopolitics, key company news, working closely with marketing and a broad team of tech experts and other members of the commercial team. The schedule is variable, depending on the time zone of collaboration needed, which has happily made us have a hybrid way of working before COVID made it a thing.
In short: your career path and what made you work in the tech industry?
I always wanted to work in a global business environment since I was 16. Creation on multi factors ecosystems in a global context attracted me. However, frankly, I used to hate programming. I studied sciences in college and at university economics and international relationships combined with a master diploma in corporate finance.
During my studies, I learned business and a bit of coding and kept learning about technologies (more their applications to business than coding), also by internal training and reading books. Since I am really passionate about these topics i.e. trends applied to progress business, I also invest time outside work…. I learned about cultural differences and have been collaborating with global teams for 15 years. The best book I can recommend to anyone who want to get into a global work environment or learning about a new culture is “The culture Map” by Erin Meyer.
Why Tech? What truly drives me is to solve problems and to create something new. Tech allows exactly that, by providing the fundamental to a modern world -just like ingredient for a recipe, pigments for painting, etc.
Do you have role models? If yes – who are they and what makes them a role model?
Yes. Reflecting on them, they clearly have evolved through my life.
They used to be my grandfather, my dad… some (male) teachers, a COO, a CEO I worked with. Only men.
In recent years, many women influenced (and still do) me. A CIO, a COO, a President, my aunts, a client partner, women who are in the public eye and women who fought for years with private matters.
That’s maybe what makes it more insightful and beautiful. There are more women whose strengths I am aware of and from whom we can learn.
I recently heard that someone who succeed surpassing specific life struggle is precisely the best to coach others. We often tend to forget that success is mostly the result of persevering in difficult situations.
What kind of impact do you think has networking?
I don't like the superficial networking where you hardly know the person and have just a goal in mind. I enjoy networking when the initial contacts in a relationship deepen, and familiarity sets in, and you can share similar interests, goals and challenges.
Networking allows you to get to know yourself better, grow, open yourself up to new interests and access knowledge (for me it's recently been gardening, kombucha, fermented foods, swimming).
It like the saying who says: “Build relationships before you need them”.
Where from do you take all the strength and power to perform all day long?
Honestly, I take breaks: physical and mental ones. This can be a walk, a conversation with someone, reading an article, watching funny videos on social networks, exercise like running and cycling, but also cooking and gardening. I like to follow my inner rhythm and be physically active outside of meetings before I get creative at my desk.
Do you think women support each other?
In personal life -a lot. On relationships, kids, home stuff, body topics. In business environment -probably not enough but already more than before.
Interestingly, successful women in the Western world used to be guided by male role models.... and our generation is the first in which successful women are now guiding the next generation of successful women. So, we are finally passing on what we have learned from one woman to another, not only in our personal lives, but also in our business lives. I believe this will be a big shift in moving towards more women in leadership positions and that will improve businesses because we have complementary views that will be reflected in more sustainable businesses.
The presence of women also has a positive impact on the way men work in companies. For example, I used to work in Hong Kong and Singapore, where there are much more women in leadership positions. (thanks to the supporting childcare system). At first, I was surprised to notice men leaving to take care of family duties.
What would you like to tell your younger self, after all the experiences you made? Would you do anything different?
I would not consider every "difficulty" as a personal failure. They are life experiences. A life with difficulties is the life that makes you grow and teaches you valuable lessons that you can then share with others.
Curiosity is what drives me
Artificial Intelligence & Analytics Consulting Lead, Central Europe
"'Being human' is an essential leadership quality for me."
I have been with Cognizant since September 2021 now and work as the Artificial Intelligence & Analytics Lead in the Consulting division. My team and I help customers across all industries to help customers innovate their business.
We work with various stakeholders to solve their challenges through data management and data strategy design.
We also specifically determine parameters such as data quality, data governance and review the data-relevant executions as well as the entire infrastructure. We are a European team with around 100 colleagues.
I moved to Zurich eight years ago. Living in Zurich is a new phase in my life - it's safer and quieter here, and since I'm now a mother of two, Zurich currently suits my circumstances better than Paris, where I’ve lived before.
Before I decided to work in the IT industry, I worked for insurance companies. Although there were many women working in all fields, the management level was mainly male. Basically, it doesn't matter which industry you look at: moving up the career ladder to senior management, you’ll find fewer and fewer women. Compared to the time when I started my working life, things have already changed - we are on the right track.
What drives me is my curiosity, I always want to learn and understand new things.
I wanted to get into tech industry because I always wanted to know what the future looks like. I always wanted to be one step ahead, at the top of innovation, and I am fascinated by how technology can make our lives and businesses better.
Cognizant is a good employer for me as a woman. It is a place that embraces flexibility and respect for gender equality. My superiors have trust in what I need to deliver with a high acceptance of my mother’s role. They are empathetic - a quality that is particularly important to me. Empathy is a quality I also look for in others. “Being human" is an essential leadership quality for me.
Combining work and motherhood can work. But it requires you to be well organized! My experience with Cognizant is exactly what I need as a working mum in leadership. I can organize my schedule considering my family needs to make everything going. It is just a question of prioritization and balance and within Cognizant this is clearly possible.
I would like to convey to other female colleagues that being a woman, being a mother and having a career are compatible. Follow what you want to do, be bold, consider your priorities, focus on the positive, use your energy to stand up for the things you really want and be assertive. For me this also includes bringing more balance into the working world and supporting each other, regardless of our gender.
Mental strength is essential
"I follow my intuition when making decisions and I am almost always right."
Connecting people and ideas
Senior Project Manager
"We need more diverse inputs to create even greater solutions."
Driven by data
"Dream. Believe. Achieve."
Associate Director Finance, European Payroll
"If you don’t know what to do next, just ask!"
Head of Sales D-A-CH
"Success does not come for free."
Takes bad days as learning opportunity
Engagement Delivery Lead
"Take guidance from your mentors but make your own choices."
Ask mentors for support
Client Relationship Manager
"There is a support system in place, but you must reach out."
Have a good sense for people
Christiane Di Filippo
Director - HR
"Embrace change and thrive in work and life."
Breaking polar boundaries
Preet has been setting polar records since January 2022, when she became the first woman of colour to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole – reaching her goal after a gruelling 700-mile trek in temperatures as low as -45°C. Find out more about Preet and her record-breaking achievments.
Breaking the bias
On International Women’s Day, and every day, we celebrate the achievements of women across the globe. Our efforts to cultivate an inclusive work environment contributes to, and enhances, our collective success.