“This is our wake-up call to digitally transform our society”: Interview with President Hilary Mine
On 17 June, DIGITALEUROPE’s General Assembly elected Hilary Mine from Nokia as its first female President. One month into her election, we sat down with Hilary to discuss her views on the role of the digital sector in the world after COVID, her impressive career in the technology industry – including leading Nokia’s Global Network Transformation practice in the Silicon Valley and now Customer Operations in eleven European countries – and the importance of diversity for the future of the digital sector.
DIGITALEUROPE: Congratulations on your election as President! How do you see your role for the next two years?
“It is a privilege and honor to serve our European digital community. I am committed towards the organization and the entire membership, and will strive to maximize participation and transparency. I see my main duties in ensuring the organization is successful in its political advocacy, and at the same time drives a pro-EU, and pro-sustainability agenda, and delivers its part to ensure Europe has a prosperous and secure future through digitalizing our societies and our economy.”
DE: What are the key issues in digital right now? How should they be addressed?
“Data economy and AI, enhanced connectivity and digitalization, cybersecurity and data protection, green ICT. Digital skills and overcoming the digital divide are more critical than ever as well in a next normal world. The EU budget and COVID Recovery Plan offer a unique opportunity to not just rebuild but renew and this is a top agenda item for us as well.”
DE: In your opinion, what are the top three areas the digital industry can contribute to, in a post-COVID world?
“The digital sector has an incredibly important enabling role in sustainable production and consumption, in the security of supplies and supply chains, as well as getting prepared and becoming more resilient in the event of a future crisis.”
DE: You’ve had a long career in the ICT sector. What major disruptions have you seen happening? What direction do you see digital taking in the future?
‘I have received my education in a world of black and white TV, typewriters, vinyl records, and where it was a luxury to have an analog radio in the car – if one had a car at all.
The defining disruption in the past thirty years has been the massive buildout of digital connectivity combined with compute advances which have enabled acceleration of knowledge sharing, disruption of value chains and more – the rise of the internet, intranets, mobile networking, smart phones etc.
This is an ecosystem based on groundbreaking technologies and innovations built on top that has enabled people on all corners of the planet to communicate and share in real time, that has disrupted whole industries and created new ones, spurred new business models and value creation, and is still work in progress.
Can you imagine the impact of COVID-19 without the ability to communicate as we have, not just with customers and co-workers, but with families and friends, and with governments, medical professionals, etc.?
But what I have seen in my career is nothing compared to the coming disruptions as AI and machine learning, robotics, nanotech and genetics converge and mature at dizzying paces.”
DE: You were previously based in the Silicon Valley and now in Europe. How do these two worlds compare?
“Hmmm – this is a difficult comparison. Silicon Valley benefits from, and continuously fosters, knowledge and talent development partly via the universities and colleges that are concentrated in a very small geography. Europe has equally amazing universities and talent of course, but more spread and diverse.
Secondly, Silicon Valley concentrates a financial community that has long been focused on early stage ventures, and this attracts entrepreneurs from around the world who bring ideas and talent together in this very concentrated space – this has also created a pool of expertise in the incubation and growth of start-ups. But the biggest advantage that Silicon Valley and other US based start up communities have is access to a huge single market – the US.
European start ups on the other hand have to navigate not only many different regulatory regimes, but also basics like many languages. As a simple example, If you want to address a market of close to 450 million consumers in Europe, you need to invest in translation into many languages, related marketing approaches, and everything that goes with it, as a starting point.”
DE: You’re the first female President of DIGITALEUROPE. What issues do you see in gender representation in the digital sector? What advice do you have for women in digital?
“The main issue I see in the digital sector is that there is a lack of diversity especially in roles of influence and power – be it gender diversity, cultural diversity, racial diversity, diversity of thinking and so on.
We short ourselves as a society and we cheat ourselves as businesses when we lose out on talent and on the best thinking and execution. And we know from study after study that a more diverse talent pool – whether on a project or in the boardroom – consistently produces higher quality results and better financial outcomes.
So my advice to everyone – not only women, but everyone else as well – is to seek out a better understanding of your own unconscious bias if you haven’t already, and to focus on great results for yourselves and your stakeholders. Stop ignoring facts and logic. Set targets for yourselves and your teams if you have that option – the reality is that change requires measuring and holding ourselves accountable for the change. And as you see success – celebrate it!”
DE: What is your message to European leaders?
“More than ever, digital transformation is both urgent and possible. Let’s really take advantage of the wake-up call we are all getting now to reinvent our economies and societies.
Europe needs to do this in our own truly European way – not as an edict from a centralized government, nor in a purely capitalistic way that leaves people behind, but in a way that respects and supports both the individual and the community. This will take consideration but it will also take courage, action and investment. And it means putting Europe ahead of nation states if we really want to impact our world and our member States. Stay focused on the big prize and be quick to concede on small points – i.e., don’t sweat the small stuff – so that we can act meaningfully.”