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Cognizant Blog

Women's Day

Last Tuesday, March 5th, Swiss Insurtech Hub and Cognizant Technology Solutions hosted a Women’s Day in Zurich. What the Roche Towers are to Basel (178 and 205 meters), the Prime Tower is Zurich’s tallest building at 126 meters. The five women invited to the event climbed just as high up the career ladder. On today’s International Women’s Day, thebroker is focusing exclusively on the female gender.

According to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2023, it will take another 131 years to achieve parity between the sexes. The invited guests, who all came from a different country and had to learn the language and customs in addition to building their careers, managed to do so. In the following, we try to find out whether this was one of the key factors in their careers.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is „Embrace Equity“. On the 18th floor of the Prime Tower, five women who have made it told the audience about their experiences. Indumathi Chitharanjan, Sales Leader with Cognizant and D&I Committee Chair, driving new business growth for Central Europe, comes with deep experience on tranformation, consulting, insurance, customer management, introduced the panel and moderate the session.

women together

Women's Day at Cognizant: from back left Silvia Signoretti, Nicole M. Heimann, Aliye Fiebig to front right Raya Volinsky, Indumathi Chitharanjan and Liza Engel.


Silvia Signoretti is Co-Founder and President of Swiss InsurTech Hub and Transformation Leader at Zurich Insurance. The Italian studied mathematics and physics, against her mother’s wishes. She combines leadership with Italian passion.

Raya Volinsky is originally from Ukraine before studying mathematics and computer science in Israel. Equipped with enormous power and extensive experience, her day also only has 24 hours. As EMEA Director, Strategic Partners Sales at Microsoft for 16+ years, she worked at IBM for 22 years. She is also a mentor to MBA students.

Nicole M. Heimann, CEO & Board executive coach of Heimann Cevtkovic & Partners comes from Belgium. She coaches both female and male executives and therefore knows very well where the differences between the sexes lie. When she came to Switzerland 36 years ago and couldn’t find a job, she decided to set up her own consultancy firm.

Aliye Fiebig, Head of IT Life Products AXA Switzerland, is one of the few women to hold a leading role in IT. She previously held various management positions at Zurich Insurance Company Ltd. for 14 years. She does not take detours, but always speaks plainly and includes women.

Liza Engel from Alberta, Canada, is Chief Sustainability Officer, Managing Partner and Speaker Managing Partner of Deloitte Switzerland. One constant in her varied career is constantly learning new things. Like all the other panelists, she manages child(ren) and career at the same time.

No linear careers

According to Aliye Fiebig, the biggest risk in building a career lies in choosing the right partner. He should be there when things aren’t going so well and he should be happy for his partner’s successes. Born in Central Asia, she lived in Ukraine and studied in the UK before coming to Switzerland. One of the biggest challenges, after nine years of speaking only English at the Corporate Center, was the switch to a purely German-speaking department.

Coming from the finance side, she ended up as a career changer in IT. She does not believe that this requires 30 years of programming experience and recommends the IT sector to women for their careers.

Liza Engel says that women need to set clear goals in their career planning, but should not stick to them too rigidly. Life is also about change, which is why you have to be open to new things. It is important to Liza Engel to make a difference and take decisions. „Today I decided to be here and not attend the dinner with my three children because I hope that talking to the women present will help them to pursue a successful career“.

She says that with three children she is even more focused on her tasks than before. „Don’t underestimate a woman coming back from maternity leave because she is highly focused.“

Raya Volinsky emphasizes the courage it takes. At the age of 22 and after completing her studies, she knew a lot from theory, but had no idea about practical things, such as how to apply for a job. After a 5-day course at IBM, she received a call from the owners of a large construction company. They were impressed by the questions Raya Volinsky asked and so she was given the job of setting up an IT department.

A few years later, when she was pregnant, she was offered a job in Brussels to work at IBM’s International Education Center. She got the job even though she had never taught before. Although she wondered whether she was naive or stupid to take the job, looking back she knows that she simply wasn’t afraid of new things. Unlike her male colleagues, who knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and when, it was the other way around for her. Four years later, the path led her and her husband to Zurich.

Her advice to all female listeners: „Make yourself visible and seize the opportunity to speak in front of people, because every woman has an interesting story to tell. And be memorable, for example with unusual jewelry or the colors you wear.“

Silvia Signoretti’s career began at Zurich, where she still works today. Her success is based on the fact that she has also dedicated herself to topics she knows not very much about, but is convinced that she wants to learn. Her motto is „learning by doing“, also at the Swiss Insurtech Hub. She mentions that she unfortunately still too often sees women applying the matryoshka effect. Ultimately, it is up to women to change things. It is up to them to form alliances and show how strong they are and what skills they have.

Nicole M. Heimann learned as a child that the world must be viewed from different angles. While her mother always warned her about possible dangers, her father saw an opportunity in everything. His grandmother always told him that a Heimann could achieve anything. The reason she moved with a 3-month-old baby at the age of 27 was that her husband got a job in Switzerland. As she couldn’t find work and was labeled as a raven mother by potential employers, she decided to start her own company against all odds and without a network or plan B.

Her first client was Metro Cash & Carry, which entrusted her with a project to introduce a new checkout system in over 30 countries. Since then, the company has grown bigger and bigger. According to her advice, the willingness to keep learning new things is very important. Her mentor was the US professor, management consultant and author of management literature Marshall Goldsmith, who advised her to be more visible on LinkedIn.

Tips for women who want to succeed in IT and consulting

Liza Engel: Consulting is currently a difficult market. Here, too, it is important to pursue a clear goal and absorb everything new. It doesn’t matter whether you stay with a company for 20 years or just three. Whether gender issues or minorities, they will never be able to change the system on their own. That’s why we need the help of men to bring about change in the system.

Raya Volinsky has advised many start-ups for 20 years. Her advice is that you don’t have to advise everyone and everywhere, but that you should be clear about who you want to advise. You should know your customers very well and know who you are selling to. It is not important to be perfect. She tells a little anecdote about a coffee cup she recently bought, which reads: „I’m amazing, not perfect.“

Aliye Fiebig believes that you need to develop strategies in case you don’t get a chance to speak in a meeting and are interrupted. You have to be persistent and visible.

What is the best way for older women to „sell“ themselves?

Nicole M. Heimann says that women shouldn’t worry too much about what others think of them. It’s about who we want to be, because only then will we find our way.

Raya Volinsky adds that management sometimes needs to be reminded that you can’t be 20 years old and have 30 years of experience at the same time. It is always important to remain curious.

Although they didn’t speak German at the beginning, although they are still in the minority, five great women have made it in Switzerland. And this despite the fact that they had children and therefore had to do without some things.

Binci Heeb

Editor in chief, online magazin thebroker

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I have been working as a journalist for many years. I started out at Radio Basilisk, where I did research for the talk show format CH-Talk. For over two years now, I have been very happy to be editor-in-chief of thebroker.ch, an online magazine that focuses on brokerage and insurance topics. 

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