Five minutes with…Lynda Hart, Head of Digital, EMEA at Volvo Cars

Five minutes with…Lynda Hart, Head of Digital, EMEA at Volvo Cars
Published: 22 April 2022

In our latest ‘Five minutes with...’ interview, Berwick Partners Fran Grant talks to Lynda Hart, Head of Digital, EMEA at Volvo Cars. Lynda has had an incredible career to date, starting as a Consultant with PwC, and then working with E&J Gallo Winery and Notting Hill Housing Trust, before joining Volvo Cars in 2017 as Head of IT (UK&I).

What have been the biggest factors in you getting to where you are now?

I always try to show the business the value of technology. I never knew how much I would need to ‘sell’ technology within an organisation, I just assumed everyone would already know. One of the key factors in my success is being able to talk to the business about the benefits of tech, the value, how it will serve them, how it will help them grow and solve problems. I also have an eye for talent and have been able to build high performing teams.

Is there a role in your career that has been pivotal to your success?

I’d have to say my role at E&J Gallo. I’m going to refer to the book, ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook). She used a metaphor of a jungle gym to describe her career progression, describing how lateral movement can be just as important as moving upwards. I had to do this in this particular role. I took a step back (in terms of role and pay) so I could get a breadth of experience across the business, across a variety of functions – marketing, sales, HR, production – as all I’d known up until then was supply chain. This is how I ended up in an exchange programme to the UK. I was the only person not from a sales background who was sent to the UK. I was thrown in at the deep end, but I really got to learn so much, and here I am still!

What are your success habits?

I came to the UK not knowing anyone. I started to make an effort to connect with people here, network, have coffee with new people. I’m naturally curious, so I wanted to meet new people and learn about what part they played in an organisation, learn about their culture etc. This has been really valuable for me. Now, I pay it forward by connecting with or mentoring other people.

Are there any mistakes you’ve made, or do you have any advice for anyone wanting a career in tech?

My biggest mistake is the reason I now network a lot. In my earlier career a couple of roles fell into my lap. When I originally wanted to return to the U.S. I assumed there would be a role for me, but there was no re-entry plan. I ended up staying in the UK, but now I would always advise people to not assume others will know what they want, what their goals are, what they’re capable of. Always communicate with people what you’re doing (work wise), what your plans are, where you want to be, and what your goals are.

What are the main challenges in your industry?

Apart from the main and most obvious challenges with supply chain and semi-conductor shortages, our main challenge is sustainability and the electric journey we’re on. We need to educate people on electrification, take people on the journey with us, help people to adapt their infrastructure to embrace electric vehicles and actually plug cars in. It’s a huge challenge, as people see it as a lot of effort, but it’s no different to having to go to the fuel station and top up with fuel. You would plan a journey in the same way, just factor in that you’d need to stop to recharge. We need to help people understand it’s worth the effort.

Do you think there are any barriers for women in tech?

There’s a historic way of thinking when it comes to attracting people into the automotive industry. We used to require automotive experience, which would result in a majority male response. We’re changing the way adverts are written, and we’ve seen a slight shift in the last couple of years. We’re having a big push to attract people from other industries, and instead of calling it the automotive industry we’re calling it ‘next gen mobility’. We’re changing the message about what we’re doing, where we’re going. Yes, we still build cool cars but we’re also saving the planet!

My final words of wisdom, for women wanting to enter into or progress in the tech industry, don’t try and see yourself in a particular role or organisation, as that can be difficult to imagine. Instead, focus more on what you can take to that role. What can you bring?

Fran Grant is a Consultant in our IT & Digital Leadership Practice specialising in recruiting Senior Technology and Digital professionals in Retail, Retail FS, Leisure and Hospitality, with a UK wide remit.

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