Interview with Claire Fitzpatrick, Global Director of Strategy and Operations at ConsenSys, ahead of International Women’s Day
What is your own background briefly?
I started my career as a chartered accountant training in PWC. I was attracted to the tech sector after my first role out of practice in a scaling software business. I also spent a decade at O2 in various financial and operational leadership roles before co-founding Red Planet an innovation consultancy (sold to Deloitte 2017). So my route to becoming Global Director of Strategy and Operations at ConsenSys has taken a few twists and turns along the way!
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Yes, my varied background and exposure in emerging technologies has been of great advantage in the work I do. Blockchain is a new technology. We still are very much understanding the applications and opportunities it presents. This means we are continuously pivoting and realigning our strategy and focus. I liken it to the early days in the mobile industry, a time in which we were building what we knew to be era-defining infrastructure, but the market had not yet completely understood all of the possibilities that it would soon present.
Secondly, it always comes back to the numbers, so my finance background aids me in understanding the metrics, what they mean for the business now and what they mean for the future.
How was the last 12 months?
The last 12 months have been a time for building and consolidating our core product stack (PegaSys, Codefi, Infura and MetaMask), building and consolidating a team and delivering for our enterprise clients. In Ireland, we have been building awareness of our brand and a big highlight of the year was our involvement in the inaugural Blockchain Ireland week last May, in which fifty events were held promoting knowledge and awareness of blockchain.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
I am the Global Director of Strategy and Operations at ConsenSys. As part of this role I work with our global leadership team to scale and deliver enterprise grade software solutions which are built on the Ethereum blockchain. I guide an international team developing applications for new economic systems that are more open, efficient, and secure. I am mandated with driving the scaling and operations of our business effectively and efficiently.
Why do you feel women have a faltering status in technology?
I have seen first hand the incredible impact that women have in the technology industry. And while this impact cannot be understated, there are many disappointing facts that we must confront : Girls Who Code estimates there will be an estimated 1.4 million computing-related jobs in the U.S. alone, and women will likely only fill 3% of those.
It’s clear that companies must commit to adopt recruitment and retention practices to create a more diverse tech workforce, setting clear goals and being transparent about results. Until there is a systematic and all-of-industry approach to tackling inequality, I think it will be difficult for women to rid ourselves of this faltering status. However, the disappointing statistics encourage me to highlight the incredible things women are doing in the Irish tech space in the hope that we can bolster the career development of women in this industry.
We recently reviewed this book https://irishtechnews.ie/invisible-women-data-bias-in-a-world-designed-for-men-reviewed/ – have you read it / what are your thoughts on this topic?
I have; I think Perez does a fantastic job at highlighting the gender imbalance when it comes to not only the technology industry, but to technology in general. The myriad of examples that this book offers bears food for thought – most offices are five degrees too cold for women; most smartphones are too large for the average female hand and pockets designed for women are too small to comfortably fit these phones, women are frequently misdiagnosed because the symptoms of their heart attacks don’t confirm to those of men.
Car crash safety tests too often solely rely on male approximated dummies meaning that when a female is involved in a car crash she is 17% more likely to die and 47% more likely to be seriously injured than a man. The statistics offered in Perez’ book underscore a world in which data bias which guides so many of the decisions which affect our lives daily, can be unconsciously rigged to favour men.
This brings challenges for women in every industry, and such statistics implore us all to make a more active effort to make a difference. We are fighting an uphill battle, and though it may be daunting, I feel empowered to aid that change in whatever way I can.
What are your opinions around how we can advance equality in STEM?
There are ample opportunities to reduce inequality in STEM. Companies must commit to adopt recruitment and retention practices that support a more diverse workforce, setting clear goals and being transparent about results. Gender inequity doesn’t merely equate to women feeling overlooked – it’s a missed opportunity for business and wider society. And to affect material change, we all need to step up to the plate – male allies have an equally essential part to play in reducing gender imbalances and inequalities.
As an industry, we need to actively foster and develop the skills and careers of women and ensure our workplaces offer an inclusive environment where all staff feel they can thrive.
Why did you get involved with Consensys?
I got involved with ConsenSys because we are developing the products that will enable society and enterprises to advance blockchain adoption to the next level. I am very excited about the bigger picture. In the future, you won’t even know you’re interacting with blockchain. It will be just like the Internet where nobody really thinks about or considers the infrastructure or protocols – they just see the applications.
I believe blockchain will be as transformational as mobile telecommunications was 25 years ago. We are part of a new industry, a new technology, with new products, and a market which we have to create and educate. That’s a big challenge, but a very exciting one.
In what ways is blockchain being used in an innovative way, especially in the fintech sector?
Blockchain is transforming the fintech sector in a wide variety of ways. Our technology, Codefi, for instance, is a platform to create, issue, and manage the lifecycle of tokenised assets and digital financial instruments on a blockchain network.
Built on Ethereum, Codefi provides the ability to digitise business processes, payments, and assets such as equities, loans, and real estate. This solves many of the current problems that institutions in the capital markets industry face on a daily basis. I strongly believe that innovative blockchain solutions like Codefi will transform the way our financial systems operate for the better.
Why do you think it is such a powerful idea?
I think blockchain is an incredibly powerful idea due to the sheer magnitude of the benefit it brings. It allows for trusted data coordination, shared IT infrastructure, tokenization, attack resistance and built-in incentivization. Aside from these aspects, it has the capability to enhance every industry and change the way we live for the better; from aircraft leasing to purchasing goods in a supermarket, blockchain offers a benefit.
How can people find out more about you personally & your work?
I would strongly encourage following ConsenSys on social media. We regularly post really useful content that highlights the groundbreaking work being done in the blockchain space and how it is disrupting a range of different industries. Also Blockchain Ireland week will take place in Ireland 24th May to 31st May where lots of events will take place across the country to bring together and grow the blockchain ecosystem in Ireland – you’ll catch me dropping into as many of these as I can manage!
Who and where do you get inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from the privileged life I was lucky enough to be born into and am lucky enough to get to live everyday. I love walking whether it be to work in the city centre or a long beach walk. I find I get great thoughts and inspiration when I do this. Cheezy answer but it’s the truth!
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