By WiFi HiFi

The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Torey Konecsni, Director, Digital Life, Telus Mobility

Name: Torey Konecsni

Job Title: Director, Digital Life, Telus Mobility

Years in the Industry: 3

The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Don’t stop until you’re proud.”

What drew you to a career in consumer electronics? 

I always joke that consumer electronics found me! Prior to working at Telus, the majority of my career had been spent in management consulting at Accenture, followed by a year and-a-half at Target Canada in retail. While I had some exposure to the telecommunications industry in my consulting days, it didn’t automatically jump out as a front runner industry as I was looking to make my next move. It just wasn’t on my radar! My journey into the field started when, out of the blue, a former colleague called and said, “Hey Torey, we’re starting a transformation at Telus that is very retail-focused. Can I grab a coffee with you and pick your brain on retail?” One convincing coffee chat and a series of interviews later, and I started at Telus to project manage the launch of the accessory transformation. It was a perfect blend of retail, an industry I love, and being tossed into the whole new and exciting world of consumer electronics and telecommunications.

Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender? 

I think everyone feels they have encountered roadblocks as they progress through their careers, and I’m no exception. If I reflect back to when I felt most derailed or confused, I don’t think my experiences were tied to my gender, fortunately, but rather the natural course of navigating my career path and the complexities that can come alongside that. I made a tough decision to leave consulting where I had started my career. I was surrounded by bright, smart, and ambitious people, and I loved the work I was doing. But the lifestyle could be challenging, and I was feeling the itch to jump into an industry and gain some operational experience. It was such a hard decision to leave, but with a leap of faith, I moved over to my next role in retail in operational strategy, and then buying. But I had the sinking feeling that it just wasn’t for me. I felt like I had taken a lateral move and stalled my progression. It wasn’t until many years later that I understood that the knowledge I gained from that role ultimately helped me so much when I moved over to Telus. And I’m not sure I’d be where I am now had I not made that move.

What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman? 

It’s a difficult question to answer, because I feel like I bring unique characteristics to my organization just as me, not necessarily based on my gender. My personal brand values are that I am optimistic, energetic, passionate, empathetic, and a change agent. I personally thrive on goal-setting, building strong relationships, and developing people. My aspiration is to be described as an inspirational leader.

I think exploring and understanding the difference in leadership traits between women and men is a really interesting topic, and there is a lot of research available on the subject. It’s tricky, though, because I do think both men and women can exhibit and excel at traits that stretch beyond the potential stereotypes for their genders. I think it’s important, regardless of gender, to really think about what your organization, peers, and team need from you and flex your characteristics in the direction you need to go. Whether you believe there are major differences in traits or not, taking the time to be aware of yours and those around you and to question whether they need to be tweaked is a valuable exercise. I also think it changes as you navigate through different stages of your career.

Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions? 

Across industries, we see a gap of women in leadership, in high-level positions: 6.4% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women. 6.4%! It’s an opportunity not just for the technology industry, but for all industries, and we need to be mindful and action-oriented in growing that percentage. I have the privilege of working with so many bright, capable women, and the ratio of women at manager level and below (based on my observations) is equitable. As you move into higher-level positions, a lot of women are also starting and balancing families, and it can be really difficult to keep pace across all aspects of your life. Companies need to provide maternity support first, by making maternity and parental leave affordable and second, by helping ease the transition from maternity/paternity leave back to working full time. Flexibility, in the form of work styles/work from home policies like with Telus helps with this transition. It demonstrates trust, and puts people in control of their personal lives. It allows both women and men to deliver results and be present at home when they’re needed. As it relates to attracting women into the industry, and into core functions of the industry, my advice would be to not be intimidated by the lingo and pace. I have watched MANY incredible women transfer from other industries and emerge as top performers in these teams.

If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say? 

I’m proud to be a woman in this industry, and I’m proud of my team of women in this industry. I believe I’ve got a group of incredibly capable, savvy, passionate business operators on my team (both women and men), and I love watching them in their element at vendor meetings, CES, conferences, field visits – you name it.

Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you? If so, why? If not, why do you feel that is? 

I’ve had the privilege of having incredible mentors throughout my career, a lot from my consulting career who span industries but continue to focus in areas like tech. They’ve progressed their career to the top levels of leadership and, from the outside in, make it look easy. But I know it’s not, and what I appreciate most is their honest candour on the trade-offs and choices they make along the way. I think the more women can be vocal and honest on the challenges they run into, the better the dialogue can be on how to make it better. I’m also fortunate to have a strong peer set of women at Telus that I look up to and admire.

What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel? 

I’m actually not aware of many! The one piece of advice I’d have – and I’d give this advice for any industry – is to not let the actual product or vernacular around the technology intimidate you. At the end of the day, the technology industry, like many others, is looking for bright, inquisitive, problem-solving generalists, and if you possess these skills, you will succeed. In consulting, you get used to jumping into unknown industries often, and in my career, I’ve literally worked on product strategies spanning from breaks and rotors to fertilizer to hosiery to connected home. You’re capable of applying your raw skills to elevate any of these product types, and technology is no exception.

What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why? 

The industry is so dynamic, and a lot of times we can be in reactive mode. Once one product is launched, we’re already moving on to the next gen and we’re constantly in go-go-go mode to make it happen. One thing I’m trying to do more of as a leader is to slow down, and truly carve out the time to focus on the strategy and longer term vision, and understand how these products weave together and make sense from a customer perspective. Slowing down, being thoughtful, and pushing back can be hard, but I think it’s really important.

Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry? 

Yes. I am optimistic by nature, but I see the work my team puts in every week, and I can’t imagine anything other than a bright future for the industry. At the end of the day, tech is fun – it’s engaging, it’s fast-paced, it’s constantly evolving. The world has changed so much since I joined this space three years ago, it’s incredible to think about what it’s going to look like over the next three years, and I’m excited about that.