As part of our Women in Legal Tech event on the 2nd & 3rd November, we are releasing a series of interviews with inspiring women. Their stories offer advice and guidance for anyone thinking of entering the world of legal tech. Following the event, we will be collating all of the interviews in a free e-book. Keep an eye on our social media to get your copy.
More details of the Women in Legal Tech event can be found here.
Myriam works for Microsoft as Director of Western Europe small & medium sized businesses (SMBs). In this role she has the opportunity to work with a huge range of companies and solutions. She has a unique insight into the different challenges any business will face and the ways they can combat these problems.
We spoke to Myriam about the key trends forecasted for SMBs at Microsoft. Myriam also offered advice for anyone looking to move to the SMB sector, and tips for success in a highly competitive market.
What was your route to becoming Director of Western Europe SMBs at Microsoft?
Before I joined Microsoft, I worked for IBM for 29 years. I worked more in the enterprise sector which offers a top client space, but I realised that I really love the close relationships you form when working with partners and SMBs (Small & Medium Businesses). The Netherlands, for me, is SMB country. We work fast and to the point, and our system processes are quick and entrepreneurial. I am always looking for innovation and that’s what I love about the work I do now. It’s an inspiring environment to be in. At Microsoft I see a broad range of companies and solutions. No one day is the same and that’s what I love about it.
SMBs face tough competition from both sides. Large corporates at one end, and agile startups at the other. How do you see them managing in this difficult environment?
Inevitably, some are successful and some struggle. But what you see in the Netherlands especially are a lot of different types of networks for entrepreneurs to connect to. Networks for best practices, ideas sharing, cross selling. SMBs that are the most successful are the ones that take advantage of these networks. That really innovate and identify their own strengths and weaknesses. It is important to never become complacent in that respect.
Another important factor are your employees. It is difficult to find good talent, the right staff that can make you successful.
Do you see better diversity in the SMB sector than their larger counterparts?
I do see that SMBs are typically a sector where women do feel comfortable. Certainly, more comfortable than in big corporates. It led to a trend ten years ago where corporate environments caused women to start their own companies. Women are great at networking, and working with other companies and clients. In starting their own SMBs, women found a solution for the diversity glass ceiling issue. I think it’s great to see. The increased flexibility SMBs offer has opened up a new world of diversity.
What do you see as the biggest growth sector within technology for SMBs working with Microsoft?
For us at Microsoft, moving to the cloud is our biggest trend. We see many companies moving away from on-premise solutions to cloud based ones. This shift opens up a lot of options for SMBs because the cloud makes very complex tech stuff, suddenly much simpler. SMBs can buy solutions nowadays that were out of reach couple of years ago. The time when institutions were afraid of cloud based software because they thought it was less secure is slowly departing. The cloud is more robust now and it has taken time to build up that security.
Do you have any tips or advice for people currently working in an SMB, or looking to move to that sector?
The best advice I can offer is to keep things simple and to the point. Don’t over complicate issues. You must be able to explain in clear language the benefits, relevance, problems and the solutions you are offering. SMBs don’t have the resources or size to waste time.
What piece of technology/software has made the biggest impact on your working life in the last five years?
Probably the ability to combine my family life with work through software which allows me to work anywhere and everywhere. Skype allows you to connect with anyone in the world. To work together on a document without being in the same room. It means you no longer have to choose between one or the other, but can find a balance.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for legal tech in the next five years?
Security. Both for cloud and on-premise solutions. People’s privacy is well protected law and it should be. Data is all over the place. One of the most important things is that we ensure that data is used in favor of people and not against them. We must identify and respect the personal boundaries of individuals. The GDPR from Europe will go a long way to achieving this goal. However, this will be a learning process. We should grant ourselves a grace period to learn and educate ourselves about the values we want to protect.
If you were to start your own technology or legal tech business what would it be?
That will be a Consultancy Company with my sisters. We have been discussing this since we graduated from University. My twin sister has a Economic degree, my younger sister a HR degree and I have a Law degree. With our broad work experience in IT, HR and Finance gained in the last decennia we would be an excellent team with a lot of expertise. Startup and scale up companies would be our focus group. We can contribute to many different asks with a holistic view and by being results driven. The dream we had as young women will hopefully be a reality in the coming years.
Do you have a good work/life balance? And does technology help you with that?
On one hand, it’s great that technology gives you an option to work anywhere. The downside is that you are on all the time. It is important to identify how demanding your company is. For example, they don’t expect you to work in the weekends at Microsoft. You can, but it’s not expected. Often, the culture of the company will dictate whether you can have a private life. It is your own responsibility to decide how you want to deal with that, and to identify if you can live with that balance before you start working for a company. I always felt that I have a great work/life balance. When the kids were smaller, I took the liberty to attend school events and work in the evening. I still do that when it makes sense.
What advice would you like to have had during your career (that you had to find out for yourself)?
I was lucky. I don’t think I missed out on getting advice when I needed it because I was always looking for people and mentors that could be trusted. Seek out good advisers and be greedy about the different questions you have. I have always asked for advice. After all, you are never too old to learn and never too old to ask questions. I am still learning, both from younger and older generations. My kids are excellent advisers to that end. They don’t sugarcoat anything!