Women in leadership: Fiona Beck

Board Member, Bermuda Business Development Authority
Fiona is a telecommunication and technology leader who has served as a director for several global enterprises and is currently on the Board of the Bermuda Business Development Agency. Fiona is also the current Chairman of SAEx.

You have successfully served as the President & CEO of Southern Cross and have previously held senior management roles at Telecom New Zealand. Can you share the challenges and your pillars of strength?

There are always challenges in any senior management role.  A good rule of thumb is that the more senior you are in any organization, the more likely you are to confront issues that others have not been able to resolve.  I found it best to address each challenge by asking what our stakeholders were looking for in each situation – be they customers, our team, our suppliers, or our shareholders.  And then to assemble the right group of people to take on the challenge.

Over the years I have been fortunate to work with some amazing teams.  As a CEO it’s a blessing to be able to draw from a pool of talented people who know how to get the job done and maintain good networks across the industry.

As a CEO my objective was to deliver what I had committed to and to find great people to help the company achieve its goals.  Giving people trust, accountability, reward, and latitude to do the right thing is very empowering.

As a Board member of the Bermuda Business Development Agency [BDA], can you talk about your role at BDA, and what motivated you to take that role? What is your view on public-private partnership?

The role of the BDA is to connect prospective businesses to industry professionals, regulatory officials, and government contacts to make setting up a business in Bermuda easier.  My role focuses on the technology/infrastructure/fintech space, as supporting a community that has helped me develop my career.

We are now at a tipping point in technology/infrastructure/fintech and BDA is very well positioned to help build this as a new pillar for Bermuda’s next phase of growth.

Bermuda has overcome its relative isolation and small size by consistently looking to innovate and embrace new ideas.  Being world’s largest captive domicile, Bermuda is amongst the top three reinsurance centers, and leading market for property catastrophe insurance and insurance-linked securities.  More recently, the government has worked closely in partnership with the private sector on the highly successful 2017 America’s Cup and on the redevelopment of the L.F. Wade International Airport.

Public-private partnerships are an excellent way to manage risk, share rewards and capitalize on expertise.  In the case of Bermuda, public-private partnerships recognize that we can get further, quicker, if we all pull together.

Do you see an opportunity for Bermuda to land a new subsea fiber cable?

Bermuda is currently well served by submarine systems and has sufficient capacity to serve the local market. However, this is not where the opportunity lies. Bermuda’s geographic location and its approach to business gives it an opportunity to serve the new big data world in a unique way.  Bermuda can help create economic substance for companies with a current presence on the island and can create data hand off points for systems crossing the Atlantic from Latin America, North America, Europe or Africa.   Bermuda can help technology companies build diversified and efficient networks which offer greater redundancy protection.

How do you envision gender diversity to change in the coming years?

During my time in the workforce I have noticed a significant increase in the number of women coming through the ranks.  But it’s happening too slowly, especially if we are talking about woman in senior governance roles.  Why is it happening so slowly?  The   primary reason is that bringing about this type of change requires persistence and time.  It needs senior level (Board/CEO) commitment that cascades to all management levels, with specific initiatives to ingrain gender diversity at all levels in an organization.

By having the right role models and change agents in place, I am very hopeful we will see more women entering the submarine cable industry.  We need to engage the next generation to get them excited to want to be in this industry, identify talent and encourage people to take the step forward. Too many women feel they have to be 110% ready for a role before taking on a new challenge, when in practice you can never be that prepared. You learn an awful lot in your career by ‘doing’.

Can you give a message that would inspire young women to join this industry?

Submarine cables have been around for a long time – they are very much central to the digital economy we now live and work in. About 99% of all international data is carried by submarine cables, not satellites. So, in many respects submarine cables are the enabler of any new tech industry. There aren’t enough women in the submarine cable industry, so you will stand out and you can make a difference. You are needed. 

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