Women Leading the Blockchain Revolution: “I don’t like to make gender distinctions, because I believe it’s all about talent” With Marika Lulay and Tyler Gallagher
I don’t like to make gender distinctions here, because I believe it’s all about talent. The reason why we don’t see many women in the tech space starts early (even before university) — and is a whole story in itself. But to succeed in such an environment, especially as a female, you should consider: 1. Whatever you do, do it with passion 2. Flexibility and an open mind about mistakes, but also the ability to learn from them. The blockchain environment is a fast-moving one and you have to be dynamic in order to succeed. 3. Be courageous, think outside the box, leave your comfort zone to face new tasks and challenges. It’s the only way to get to something truly inspiring.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marika Lulay, CEO of international IT consultancy GFT. Marika Lulay brings over 25 years of IT experience to her current role, where she leads a global team of experts helping financial institutions solve complex business challenges with innovative technology advancements to transform both internal and customer-facing IT infrastructure. GFT believes blockchain and distributed ledger technology will transform the way data is stored, managed and exchanged. Distributed ledgers have the potential to drive fundamental change across industries and to transform the way we work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
From a very early age I’ve always been interested in reading adventure novels and stories of people who applied a unique way of thinking or problem solving to address an issue. I was inspired by trailblazers! When I entered college in the 1980s my love of technology and personal drive to forge a unique path for myself came together and I decided to study computer science. It’s probably no surprise that few women were studying computer science at that time. I was fortunate in my passion for my studies; despite the discrimination that did and still does exist in the field for women, it did not stop me from accomplishing my goals.
Perhaps it was reading all those stories of trailblazers and the challenges they faced that prepared me for my own journey. I think an important lesson here is to do what you’re passionate about, even if it means choosing an unconventional path. Also, to rise to the challenge of proving yourself and your vision, versus succumbing to the criticism, especially when you’re faced with challenges!
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
The global teams at GFT are working on many interesting and innovative projects, everything from augmented reality to artificial intelligence solutions for financial services.
Within the world of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT), I’m proud to share some really ground-breaking work we’ve been doing with our DLT partners. GFT recently demoed at Google Next in London and presented a Flexible Personalized Insurance (FPI) process that shows how to tap into the enormous potential of advanced driving data generated by internet of things (IoT) trip data. By using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), or blockchain, and combining this data securely and privately with information from various internal and external stakeholders of insurance business processes, FPI can help to redefine claims management, customer engagement and risk management capabilities across the entire motor insurance industry and address many of the other data management challenges that beset this particular sector. That’s just one example of what we’re working on!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, my husband! My gratitude for him only grows with each year. He has demonstrated consistency in his support and encouragement of me, my passions, and professional pursuits for nearly 25 years! I consider myself very lucky to have found someone from my generation who, educated and trained as a mechanical engineer, quite naturally adopted the role of stay-at-home dad. The stability that provided allowed me to be more daring professionally, giving me courage to take more risks and not to fear challenges. He helped create an environment for me to feel supported at home, which in turn made me bolder professionally. All while being a wonderful father to our son, now 22 years old. What a great role model for my son!
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
I truly believe that blockchain is one of the biggest disruptive topics of all time. We will be able to cut costs on a huge amount of processes, by a factor of one to three (which many studies have shown).
We’ll be able to automate processes across departments, corporations and beyond borders, completely eliminating the middle parties. The speed and efficiency that blockchain will enable will be truly monumental. Today the “trust element” — which is crucial in any transaction — is either handled via a trustful relationship between people or via processes and regulations between institutions. Blockchain opens a new third way: via technology.
What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
Well, for one, the terms Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) are used synonymously, although they have different meanings. It’s necessary to distinguish the two from one another, to set realistic expectations of what they can do. I think cryptocurrencies, the most famous being Bitcoin, still need to further establish their credibility. As with all technologies there is a dark side as well. For example, one area of concern is protection of copyrights in such decentralized systems, where copyrighted materials can be pirated through embedding in blockchains without permission from copyright holders and then distributed. Another concern is the inclusion of illegal material or private data without consent. As all operators of blockchain nodes are forced to keep a copy of the embedded material, this creates potential liability for those blockchain users just from possession of that illegal material, even if they’re unaware.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I try to use my success and visibility to serve as a role model to others. I currently offer myself as a mentor, especially to other women to help them when they’re at a crossroads in their careers. One of my mentees, for example, struggled with the issue of how to deal with her career and her desire to have a baby; another one came to me discussing how she could rise in the ranks at her company. But the more we spoke the clearer it became that pursuing a career in a large organization wasn’t the best fit for her in consideration of her skills and professional interests. So, she resigned and ultimately started her own small business accounting consultancy — and her happiness factor tripled! My other mentee decided to do both, continue her career AND have a baby. It is my hope that I can help other women successfully navigate these important decisions as it involves their careers and personal happiness.
As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?
I don’t like to make gender distinctions here, because I believe it’s all about talent. The reason why we don’t see many women in the tech space starts early (even before university) — and is a whole story in itself. But to succeed in such an environment, especially as a female, you should consider:
1. Whatever you do, do it with passion
2. Flexibility and an open mind about mistakes, but also the ability to learn from them. The blockchain environment is a fast-moving one and you have to be dynamic in order to succeed.
3. Be courageous, think outside the box, leave your comfort zone to face new tasks and challenges. It’s the only way to get to something truly inspiring.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?
To be clear, whatever may come, Blockchain currently is a technology being applied to a number of different industries. I think there needs to be continued efforts and initiatives all over the world to encourage women to take up studies and careers in technology. We should be continuing to demystify technologies (Blockchain as just one example) and facilitating more hands-on experiences for girls, so by the time young women reach university there is already familiarity and comfort with the subject. On a practical level, having “Tech Talk” sessions in schools or at work, and using those opportunities to discuss new technologies, is a great way to engage women (and men).
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
My “Life Lesson Quote” is also my personal motto, “Fail fast, adapt and change.” I embrace failure as a necessary step on the path to success. If you turn down the wrong road in trying to get to your destination you wouldn’t abort mission and walk back home. No way, right? You’d course correct -figure out where you made the wrong turn and get yourself back on the right path. But the longer you’re in denial about the fact that you’re going the wrong way, the longer it will take for you to make the corrections to get back on the right path. And whatever I do, I do with passion and focus. I clearly choose my battles.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to balance grand vision with a strong dose of reality. My belief is to use your own life as a vehicle for the change you want to see. I consider being a leader and being visible to lots of people a chance to model the positive behaviors I hope to engender in others. That is to say, being open to new ideas, being able to accept and learn from failure, being driven to reach new heights, not becoming complacent. It is my hope that when people see others who embody these qualities — especially in the face of challenges — they are inspired in their own lives.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I can be found on a few channels:
LinkedIn: Marika Lulay’s profile
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!