This week the spotlight is on Rosalyn Charlton, a tech co-founder and CTO for HERO financial services.
Rosalyn is making the world a better place by using technology to explore ways to make great ideas come to life.
Hola Rosalyn, Tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in South Africa, lived in London for a short time and recently lived in Australia for 6 years. My husband and I moved to Barcelona in February 2018 and we have been loving every minute of it.
Having been raised in tropical cities, this is my first real winter. Wish me luck!
What do you fancy doing in your free time?
I love to Run, cuddle my dogs (or any dogs really), reading, wine tasting, yoga, and rock climbing when possible.
I also love to travel and new cultures fascinate me, so being able to live in different places is such a privilege. These days I don’t really regard a single place as my only home anymore, but I have a collection of different places where I have parts of my life, friends, family and memories. I like it this way. I like when life feels wide and global.
Take us on a mental path of your career journey?
After completing an electronic engineering degree I headed into software engineering and was soon drawn to the management of processes, team strategies, project structures and system architecture. I gravitated towards this part of engineering over the technical part and I realized very early that classic project management approaches did not complement software projects.
In 2000 I discovered Agile software development methodologies and Agile management practices. I've never looked back, and in my experience of 20 years or so, I am convinced that it's the only effective way to run software development projects and achieve high-performance teams.
Tell us more about your work with Agile software development?
Agile not only provides an environment for projects to succeed but also for people to achieve mastery and be the best they can be. It's a great philosophy for leadership.
I have since studied, trained and coached agile methodologies and I've introduced the concept to all the teams I manage and work with. The Agile philosophies in themselves are worth following, even if a full-scale process implementation is not possible.
If you are ever curious about the topic or want to bounce some ideas around, feel free to give me a shout. I could talk about Agile for hours! anyway, long story short, over time I have ended up managing increasingly complex projects, teams and tech divisions and have been in coaching and technical senior management for a number of years now. I love a startup culture, which is what drew me to Barcelona. This is where it's all happening, I'm sure you all agree.
Biggest challenge you have faced as a CTO in a startup?
In any startup, one faces a number of challenges tailored to the specific industry, the complexity of the project etc. For a CTO specifically, I would say the biggest challenge is finding the right people. When building a team you need to find technologists with the right balance of personality and skills, the best people for the job are not always the best fit for your team. You need technologist with the right blend of personality and skills.
Every team has its own personality and culture he wrong attitude in a team is way worse than the wrong aptitude. As a leader, it is imperative to create the optimal environment that will enable your team to perform at its best and enjoy what they do. It is important to figure out what this environment will be for each team because they are all unique.
A startup presents an added layer of difficulty since it does have its risks. The trick is to find those who are excited about the startup culture, or happy to accept those risks involved.
CTO or Head of technology for a startup?
My first piece of advice is don't ever look at yourself as a woman first. You are a professional with career goals who happens to be a woman. Get this right and you will be halfway there already.
Then, typically the positions that this career path follows include roles such as technical project management, Scrum Master, Product Owner in a technical team, head of technology divisions of sorts, all increasing in the scope of responsibility. However, the most important thing for success in any of these positions is the clear understanding of the difference between leadership and management. To be effective in these roles you need to LEAD teams, not manage them.
Understanding team members and culture, empowering team members to solve problems and creating an environment where they are allowed to fail without judgement in order to get innovative solutions and above all trust them. Micromanagement is the enemy of a successful team.
Let's get personal:
Who inspires you?
Salvador Dali - he personifies the concept that your mind is a marvellous place when you don’t restrict it. The man was a crazy genius and his creativity knew no boundaries. I could look at any of his works for hours and continue to be intrigued. After being a huge fan for as long as I can remember, imagine how excited I was to move to Barcelona where a short drive away in Figueres I can visit his gallery and port Lligat where he lived. I will definitely be going a second time!
Book recommendation: Anything by Neil Gaiman.
Words to live by:
These three things sculpt my thinking really
Top of my list is “The Desiderata”. I read it regularly.
Also, I often recall one particular excerpt from the piece titled “If” by Rudyard Kipling: …” keep your head while all those about you are losing theirs…”
And this picture has always been a comical reminder to me to never give up
How can we get in touch?
I have only been here a week, so I have yet to try out all the spots. Any suggestions? Mostly you will find me in the Hero office, room 20.