Skip links
Home » Interviews » Diversity fuels innovation! Inclusion enhances collaboration and productivity!

Diversity fuels innovation! Inclusion enhances collaboration and productivity!

Italian distinguished leader in technology and telecommunications, Antonietta, shares her career journey, challenges as a woman in tech, strategies for overcoming biases, and her unconventional sources of inspiration. “Empathy Amplification” is the superpower she dreams of to enhance collaboration in the digital world.


Can you introduce yourself, your role in the Gaia-X community, and your current position in the tech sector?

I am a distinguished leader within the technology and telecommunications sector, renowned for my expertise in spearheading digital and business transformations. At present, I hold the esteemed position of Chief Digital and IT Officer at Proximus, Belgium’s premier telecommunications operator. In this capacity, I am instrumental in driving the company’s strategic, business, and financial planning, focusing on fostering growth through technological innovation and digital ecosystems.

My strategic efforts are concentrated on transforming Proximus into a digital-native enterprise, overseeing the planning, business, and operational aspects of IT and digital services. This includes managing TV, app and entertainment, data, genAI and cybersecurity. I aim to position Proximus as a frontrunner in adopting digital technologies across various domains, ensuring dynamic growth and innovation in an increasingly digital landscape.

My journey in the telecommunications industry extends over two decades, during which I have consistently demonstrated leadership in navigating companies through the complexities of digital and business transformations. My tenure encompasses pivotal roles, including Group CIO and Chief Digital IT Officer across leading telco operators in Europe. These roles have allowed me to lead large-scale IT organizations, manage portfolios exceeding thousands of systems, and drive strategic initiatives that have significantly enhanced operational efficiencies, customer experiences, and revenue growth.

Beyond my core responsibilities at Proximus, I am actively involved with the Gaia-X community, serving as a Member of the Board and Vice-Chair of Finance. Gaia-X represents a groundbreaking endeavour to establish a secure, federated data infrastructure that underscores data sovereignty and cloud interoperability throughout Europe. In this capacity, I am responsible for guiding financial strategies and overseeing budgeting processes, ensuring effective collaboration among the initiative’s extensive network of over 300 members and 2,500 contributors. My participation in Gaia-X is a testament to my dedication to advancing digital sovereignty and maintaining Europe’s leadership in technological innovation and data governance.

In addition to my involvement with Gaia-X, I hold board positions in other key technology and telecom initiatives. These roles allow me to leverage my extensive experience and insights to drive strategic discussions, influence policymaking, and contribute to the shaping of the global digital landscape.

Can you briefly walk us through your career journey in technology/science, highlighting key milestones and experiences? Were there specific moments that significantly influenced your career path?

My journey began over two decades ago, right at the confluence of technology’s burgeoning impact on both business and society. Starting in the early 2000s, I embarked on my career with GPLV partners in Omnitel today, Vodafone, where I was deeply involved in architectural design projects for IT and Billing systems. This foundational experience laid the groundwork for my understanding of the telecom sector’s intricacies and the pivotal role of technology in shaping customer experiences and operational efficiencies.

Moving forward, I joined Hutchison’s affiliate, Three, in Milan, Italy, where I spearheaded the startup of a greenfield IT organization. This role was crucial in honing my skills in end-to-end architecture for OSS, BSS, and Frontend solutions, overseeing global solutions from design to deployment. It was a period of rapid learning and significant achievement, setting up the IT backbone for new market entrants.

In 2004, I transitioned to Swisscom in Bern, Switzerland, as the Billing and Roaming Platform Manager. Here, I led a successful IT transformation program, focusing on new roaming and billing architecture, legacy platform replacement, and customer base consolidation. My time at Swisscom was instrumental in understanding the importance of legacy transformation and customer data management in a highly competitive landscape.

My role at Sunrise as Head of IT, Digital, and Business Partners marked a significant shift towards leadership in digital transformation. I was responsible for IT planning, building, and running, including business partner management and business development for OSS, BSS, and Frontend platforms. This period was critical for driving organizational change significantly enhancing customer satisfaction, delivering new business models and operational agility.

The culmination of these experiences led me to TDC in Denmark, where I served as Group CIO and as Chief Digital IT Officer. At TDC, I guided the company’s strategic planning, oversaw the technical separation of more than 4000 IT systems and digital applications, and initiated an HR transformation towards agile at-scale organizations. These efforts were pivotal in transforming TDC into two independent companies, laying the groundwork for future growth and innovation.

Currently, as the Chief Digital and IT Officer at Proximus, my role involves leading the company’s digital and IT strategy, driving business growth through technological innovation, and overseeing the transformation into a digital-native enterprise. My focus on digital ecosystems, cybersecurity, and AI underscores my commitment to leveraging technology for impactful business outcomes.

Throughout my career, the constant has been a deep passion for technology and its potential to transform businesses, enrich customer experiences, and drive societal progress. My journey is a testament to the belief that with innovation, leadership, and a forward-looking vision, technology can be harnessed to create significant, lasting impact.

One of the most transformative decisions I made was to move abroad, stepping out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in new cultures and business environments. This move was not just about geographical change; it represented a commitment to personal and professional growth. It exposed me to diverse ways of thinking and operating, which enriched my understanding of the global technology landscape.

Taking on every challenge as an opportunity has been a guiding principle throughout my career. Whether it was spearheading the startup of a greenfield IT organization for Hutchison, leading a major IT transformation at Swisscom, or driving TDC’s strategic division into two independent companies, each challenge presented a unique opportunity to innovate, learn, and lead change. These experiences taught me the importance of agility, resilience, and strategic foresight in navigating the complexities of the tech sector.

The move to Proximus in Belgium marked another significant chapter in my career. It was an ambitious role, given the company’s stature as Belgium’s largest telecommunications operator and its strategic importance in the digital and IT landscape. This role offered me the chance to apply my accumulated experiences and insights on a new scale, driving digital transformation and positioning Proximus as a leader in the adoption of digital technologies.

Throughout my journey, the decision to take on ambitious roles abroad and view every challenge as an opportunity has led me to love the dynamic nature of the technology sector. It has instilled in me a passion for driving innovation, fostering collaboration, and leading organizations through transformational change. These moments have not only shaped my career path but have also underscored the importance of embracing change and leveraging it as a catalyst for growth and

What challenges have you encountered as a woman in the tech industry, and how did you overcome them?

In my journey, I’ve often encountered situations where my leadership abilities and capacity to enact significant transformations were underestimated, simply because of gender-based biases.

To overcome these challenges, I adopted a multifaceted approach. First, I focused on building a strong track record of success. By delivering tangible results—whether in driving digital transformations, leading complex IT organizations, or achieving significant business growth—I let my work speak for itself. This approach not only bolstered my credibility but also helped shift perceptions over time.

Second, I invested in building robust networks and finding allies within the industry. Networking with other professionals, particularly women in tech who have navigated similar challenges, provided me with valuable insights and support. Allies, both male and female, who valued diversity and inclusivity, were instrumental in championing my contributions and capabilities, helping to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes.

Moreover, I focused on honing my leadership style to be inclusive, collaborative, and resilient. Emphasizing transparency, empathy, and effective communication, I worked to foster environments where diverse ideas and perspectives were valued, and where everyone felt empowered to contribute to their fullest potential. This approach not only enhanced team performance but also demonstrated the effectiveness of diverse leadership in driving innovation and change.

Finally, I became an advocate for diversity and inclusion within the tech industry. By sharing my experiences, mentoring emerging women leaders, and participating in initiatives aimed at increasing gender diversity in STEM fields, I’ve worked to pave the way for future generations of women in tech. This advocacy is rooted in the belief that diverse teams lead to more innovative solutions and stronger organizations.

In summary, overcoming the challenges of being underestimated required a combination of proving my capabilities through results, building supportive networks, refining my leadership approach, and advocating for diversity and inclusion. These strategies have not only helped me navigate my career but have also contributed to driving positive change within the tech industry.

Who are some of your role models or sources of inspiration in the tech/science field? How important do you think it is for women to have strong female role models in the industry?

My sources of inspiration in the tech and science fields are somewhat unconventional, as they are not directly from this sector. Instead, my greatest inspirations come from my personal life—specifically, my mother and my grandmother. Their influence has been profound, instilling in me the belief that with determination and resilience, I can achieve anything I set my mind to. They have shown unparalleled strength and resilience throughout their lives, overcoming challenges and breaking barriers in their ways. Their stories and principles have been a guiding light in my career, encouraging me to pursue my ambitions relentlessly and to stand firm in the face of adversity.

Their advocacy for believing in oneself and pursuing one’s goals with determination has been particularly impactful. This lesson has been invaluable in the tech industry, where challenges and rapid changes are constant. Their examples have taught me the importance of resilience, hard work, and the belief that there are no limits to what can be achieved with dedication and passion. They have also instilled in me the importance of advocating for oneself and others, a principle that has been central to my efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within the tech sector.

While my mother and grandmother may not have been scientists or tech entrepreneurs, their lives have embodied the innovation, problem-solving, and perseverance that are central to success in these fields. They have proven that the foundation of any achievement lies not in specific domain knowledge but in the strength of character, the courage to face challenges, and the determination to persevere. Their legacy continues to inspire me to push boundaries, drive change, and pave the way for future generations in technology and beyond.

In the context of the 2024 theme, “Inspire Inclusion,” why do you think diversity and inclusion are crucial in the tech and science sectors?

First, diversity fuels innovation. The tech and science fields thrive on new ideas, perspectives, and problem-solving approaches. When we include diverse voices and backgrounds, we broaden our horizons, inviting a richer array of solutions and creative ideas. This diversity in thought and experience is pivotal in driving groundbreaking innovations and addressing complex challenges with more comprehensive and effective solutions.

Second, inclusion enhances collaboration and productivity. Inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute lead to higher job satisfaction, increased employee engagement, and better performance. Teams that are diverse and inclusive are more likely to remain resilient in the face of challenges, adapt to changes, and work collaboratively towards common goals.

Furthermore, as global industries, tech and science must reflect the diversity of the societies they serve. Inclusion in these sectors ensures that products, services, and research outcomes are accessible, relevant, and beneficial to a wide range of communities. This is particularly important as technology increasingly shapes every aspect of our lives, from healthcare and education to communication and entertainment. Without diverse perspectives, there’s a risk of perpetuating biases and overlooking significant portions of the population.

Moreover, promoting diversity and inclusion is critical for attracting and retaining top talent. The best minds come from all walks of life, and creating an environment where everyone can succeed is key to ensuring the tech and science sectors continue to lead and innovate. It sends a powerful message to potential employees about the values of the industry, making it more attractive to a broader pool of talent.

Lastly, there’s a moral imperative to foster diversity and inclusion. The tech and science sectors have the power to shape the future, and this future must be built on the principles of equity, justice, and inclusivity. By championing these values, we not only enhance the sectors’ impact and success but also contribute to a more equitable society.

What advice would you give to young women and girls aspiring to enter the STEM fields? How can women support and uplift each other in the male-dominated tech/science industry?

To young women and girls aspiring to enter the STEM fields, my advice is multifaceted, reflecting not just the challenges you might face but also the vast opportunities that lie ahead. The path to success in these traditionally male-dominated sectors can be challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and ripe with potential for innovation, discovery, and making a meaningful impact.

Firstly, believe in your abilities and never underestimate the value you bring to the table. The tech and science industries need your unique perspectives, creativity, and intelligence. Embrace your passion for STEM, and don’t let stereotypes or biases deter you from pursuing your goals. Remember, the challenges you face will not only make you stronger but also more adept at navigating the professional world.

Secondly, seek out mentors and role models. The importance of having someone who has navigated the path before you cannot be overstated. To support this, I have created a website and blog “High Tech in High Heels” that features interviews with 100 women in tech. This platform celebrates their achievements, shares their insights, and aims to inspire others. The stories of these women underscore the diversity of paths to success in STEM and provide valuable advice and encouragement. This initiative is also being translated into a book to reach a wider audience and further amplify the voices of women in tech.

Furthermore, networking is key. Connect with peers, join women-in-STEM organizations, and participate in forums and discussions. These connections can provide support, open opportunities, and offer a sense of community. In a field where women are underrepresented, finding, and fostering a supportive network can make all the difference.

Additionally, consider giving back and uplifting others once you’ve established yourself in your field. Whether through mentorship, advocacy, or simply by being a positive example, you can play a crucial role in changing the narrative around women in STEM. To this end, I am considering becoming a coach in the future myself, to support and empower women navigating their careers in tech and science more directly.

Lastly, never stop learning and stay curious. The fields of technology and science are ever-evolving, and continuous learning is essential to stay ahead. Embrace challenges as learning opportunities and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

By supporting and uplifting each other, women in tech and science can create a more inclusive, equitable, and dynamic environment. Remember, your presence and success in STEM not only pave the way for future generations of women but also enrich the fields with diverse perspectives essential for innovation and progress.

On a lighter note, if you could choose a superpower to make your work in tech even more incredible, what would it be, and how would it help you tackle the challenges of the digital world?

It would be the ability to amplify empathy and understanding within and between teams at a global scale. This “Empathy Amplification” superpower would enable me to instantly understand the perspectives, challenges, and motivations of colleagues, stakeholders, and users from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued.

This superpower would be instrumental in tackling one of the tech industry’s significant challenges: creating truly inclusive and user-centred technologies. By deeply understanding the needs and experiences of a wide range of users, I could guide teams to design and develop solutions that are not only innovative but also accessible and relevant to people from all walks of life.

Moreover, Empathy Amplification would foster a more collaborative and inclusive workplace culture. It would help in resolving conflicts by understanding differing viewpoints, enhancing team cohesion, and driving forward projects with a shared sense of purpose and understanding. This would be particularly beneficial in the context of cross-functional and multicultural teams, where differing backgrounds can both enrich outcomes and present communication challenges.

Additionally, this superpower would help in mentoring and leadership, allowing for more personalized guidance and support tailored to the unique strengths and needs of each team member. It would enable the creation of a nurturing environment that values growth, learning, and mutual respect, which are crucial for innovation and long-term success in the fast-paced tech industry.