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Without strategy and intention, technology is just a tool, agree Cristina Ferrari and Violeta Luca

What are the challenges for a manager moving from a large company to a smaller one and vice versa? And does a manager need to know all the technical details of the matter she is managing? This was also the topic of the next part of the podcast series Women Leaders Beyond Borders. Cristina Ferrari, Chief Underwriting Officer at VIG Re and Violeta Luca, CEO of Vodafone in the Czech Republic were guests of the second episode hosted by Jaroslav Kramer. 

You can watch the episode on YOUTUBE or listen to the episode on SPOTIFY and APPLE PODCAST.

Women Leaders Beyond Borders: Violeta Luca, CEO of Vodafone in the Czech Republic and Cristina Ferrari, Chief Underwriting Officer at VIG Re

Any role in top management comes with executive authority and responsibility, and it doesn't really matter if it's the management of a giant corporation or a small business. In addition, large multinational companies have local divisions that may have specific roles, and the entire company may have fewer people than a mid-sized regional firm. A somewhat similar experience was undergone by the Romanian top manager Violeta Luca, who moved to the head of the Czech Vodafone from Czech Microsoft's office. Are there any specifics associated with such a transition? „Microsoft is much bigger than Vodafone but Vodafone in Czechia is double size now than Microsoft, 2,400 versus 1,200 people. My direct team is much bigger. Usually, the operating model of Microsoft is like you have a kind of local role, but you are part of international or more regional type of mission. I would say they are not comparable. I wanted to have to exercise actually the general management role from a broader perspective. In Microsoft was a narrower scope because of the central model of Microsoft. It has less functions and it has less scope in a way, while Vodafone has more decentralization and more autonomy and bigger footprint in countries,“ she explains. 

Cristina Ferrari took the opposite direction. Although she greatly enjoyed her years at Swiss Re, and her experience at such a company offered her a wide range of career opportunities, she eventually traded a market leader with 14,000 employees for a much smaller office of 150 people. „At a certain point I felt I want to have a different impact; I want to have an environment where decisions are taken in a more rapid and agile way. The change was big, but very conscious,“ she says, adding that she already knew some people from VIG Re from her previous career at the time and was appreciating their business standing and  their work ethic.

Coming from the retail and e-commerce sector, Violeta Luca was also attracted to the opportunities at Vodafone by the possibility of working in the telecommunications industry. This is because she considers this area to be misperceived and undervalued. „I felt I can contribute to the telco industry from the perspective of perception and valuation in the market, because in my view, you can't drive digitization and transformation without telcos. Technology is not enough. And actually, what's happening in the world is that the telcos are undervalued and somehow taken for granted, where technology companies are on a hype, but basically one without the other can't really prosper,“ she reveals an unexpected motivation and adds that her intention is to bring a new perspective on what the telecommunications sector and Vodafone in particular contribute to the world and the Czech Republic as well.

Such thinking would suggest that Violeta Luca is a geek, a technology enthusiast who needs to know every integrated circuit or cable in the company. But this is not the case. „My scope is rather picking what I want to get deeper and then spending some time to understand the technology piece, but not the technology for the sake of technology, rather technology for the sake of solving a business challenge, society challenge, human beings challenge, really contributing to something. „A technological innovation that challenges business, society and individuals is artificial intelligence. Its recent vigorous entry into many areas of human activity has been just such an occasion when Violeta Luca is starting to look for details. „When Gen AI started to pick up, I really invested time speaking with different people, from technical people to data people, ethical and compliance people, lawyers, to understand deeper the aspects and the implications. And this was my choice because I felt it is important and it will play a very big role in our lives. While some other components of technology I want to understand let's say the big picture and the connection with the business. But then obviously I rely on the experts.“

Christina Ferrari takes a similar approach to technology matters, but with the difference that as an exemplary representative of the reinsurance industry, she focuses primarily on risk. „My background is in risk assessment, so I try to pick the elements of the technology that can bring either the bigger value for the business or for the organization specifically, or the highest risk. And then at that point, clearly I'm interested, and I get deeper. For the rest, there are experts that are way more equipped than me in doing that.“

Technological development is extremely fast. But from Cristina Ferrari's point of view, technology remains just a tool, an enabler. In the future, however, only a company that knows where it is going will be able to take full advantage of its help. „If an organization hasn't crystallized beforehand the values, the capabilities that they want to get out of this technology transformation, the benefits will be minimal. What we are doing currently in the company is really thinking strategically, how do we want to operate in the future? What kind of capabilities do we want to get , and how do we want to serve our clients? What are the benefits that our clients need to see out of our transformation? And then the technology element will kick in,“ concluded VIG Re manager.

More information about the podcast can be found on the website HERE or on the podcast's LinkedIn profile HERE.

Women Leaders Beyond Borders


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