Women in Tech: Katz Kiely, CEO of Kiely&Co

Trust your gut, be brave and don’t let people put you on the back foot’

Katz Kiely is the CEO and founder of Kiely&Co. She has worked for the United Nations, founded a number of companies, is a TEDx speaker and has been recognised for her fresh ways of thinking.

Having advised governments, companies and international bodies, Katz is still surprised when she witnesses organisations adopting a top-down approach to managing change. She makes the case for a radically different way of doing change, and doing it right.

Her latest breakthrough is BEEP (Behavioural Enterprise Engagement Platform). BEEP uses tried and tested neuroscience to embed people-powered change into organisations, enabling them to be more effective and successful. Importantly, people become empowered, their ideas are unlocked and they feel valued.

Katz shared some of her experiences as a pioneer and woman in the technology industry.

1. How did Katz get to where she is today?

Katz has always been obsessed by the challenge of how to create experiences that enable and encourage collaboration. She fell in love with the web in the late noughties, realising it let people to do things together they could never do on their own.

She designed the first open innovation competition for Hewlett Packard in 2003, helping them to revitalise their brand and connect with startups. She continued to push the boundaries of multidisciplinary design and systems thinking, to help large, complex companies move into the digital age.

In 2010, she was hired to design and drive a digital transformation project for a UN agency. A transparent, collaborative, multi-channel strategy culminated in a global event that connected 6,500 world leaders in Geneva with 10,000 school children across the world, together with over 10 million people on social media.

Katz has spent the last 17 years helping large organisations, through the process of digital transformation. Most recently, she has concentrated on the cognitive science behind the resistance to technology adoption. She has learnt how to build technology that works the same way as the human brain, to overcome that resistance.

2. What has been Katz’s biggest challenge to date?

Katz has been frustrated by some aspects of the investor journey, when starting her own businesses. Attitudes towards women in the technology industry can be aggravating. The cognitive bias toward men means female CEOs can find it harder to close deals with investors. Technology is, and has always been, a man’s world and boardroom demographics reflect this, with nine out of ten boardrooms being 90 per cent men.

But the future for women in technology looks bright.

3. What has been Katz’s biggest achievement?

Katz says that before BEEP, she was most proud of a pioneering project she designed for BECTA (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency). As she shares in her TedxTransmedia2011 talk, the project engaged industry and educators in a social media campaign that culminated in a co-created technology-enabled event.

Katz invited school children into the debate, and even when experts advised her against it, Katz trusted her gut. The event was a resounding success. The children behaved impeccably and responded brilliantly to the trust.

Crucially, it helped BECTA gain insight into and reconnect with education and technology leaders and ultimately the school children, through focussed conversation. It changed the perception of BECTA as an organization.

4. What advice would Katz give to women starting out in the technology industry?

Katz is clear: “Don’t be put off. Trust your gut and don’t feel like you’re on the back foot. Technology can change the world for the better. BE BRAVE!”

“Trust your gut and don’t feel like you’re on the back foot. BE BRAVE!”

Katz knows that the future for women in tech is bright. She believes that there are heaps of intelligent, creative female entrepreneurs who are doing really innovative things. But with the growing number of millennials in the workforce today, companies will have to transform from what Katz calls ‘dinosaurs to talent magnets’ to attract and retain top talent.

Katz’s website: www.kielyand.co

Follow her on Twitter: @katzy

For an introduction to LACE’s ‘Women in Tech’ series, compiled by Kathryn Evans, please visit our first ‘Women in Tech Series: Be brave!’ article.