Women in IT Awards USA Winner: Jennifer Kyriakakis, MATRIXX Software

Jennifer founded MATRIXX Software in 2008 to help telecom companies adopt and monetise digital and mobile technologies. Prior to MATRIXX, she held roles in IT integration, product marketing and high-tech consulting.

She became an entrepreneur after she recognised how the launch of the iPhone and the app economy would change the economics of the mobile industry and that it held the key to the future competitiveness of telecom service providers.

Can you provide leadership advice for those looking to advance their careers?

The first step is to take the time to think about where the best opportunities are available for you to carve out a leadership role. Look for opportunities that have high visibility and are impactful to the whole company.

>See also: Women in IT Awards USA winner: Janice Withers, TD Bank

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. That’s the time when some of the best things can happen. It’s these experiences that both challenge you and help you grow in your career. Don’t be afraid to switch paths, especially if doing so will broaden your development and provide you with new or different perspectives on the business.

Who have you looked to for inspiration, within the industry or more broadly?

I’ve always found inspiration from the people I’m working directly with – at all levels – or within my immediate network. Leading a business in a highly competitive industry, I also spend time considering how my team can best be inspired. I think looking for and finding inspiration within your immediate surroundings makes it more tangible and relevant to your everyday working life.

What was the best piece of advice given to you?

The piece of advice that has stuck with me throughout my career is this: knowing what not to say is just as important as knowing what to say. In the same way people often say “choose your battles,” “choosing your conversations” is just as important. The words you use impact your ability to achieve success within a team. Using positive words or phrases such as “your role is important because…” and learning how to deliver a constructive “no” will have a valuable and motivating impact on your team.

Have you had to overcome any career challenges?

There have been several times in my career where I have been promoted into a role where those around me thought I was too young or did not have enough experience. It was challenging because I had to justify the worth and value I was bringing to the business.

This challenge motivated me and drove me to prove them wrong and to succeed. While I may have been outside my comfort zone, opportunities such as this shaped my career, so I am grateful for those challenges.

Did you seek a career in tech or is it something that you came to indirectly?

Yes, I’ve always known I wanted to work in technology. My degree was in information technology, and my original plan was to become a software developer. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I saw an opportunity in the telecommunications industry. The year I graduated was also the year the Telecoms Deregulation Act went into effect in the U.S., and it was the beginning of the internet bubble. There was a tremendous opportunity to work in an industry that was growing and changing rapidly.

>See also: Women in IT Awards USA winner: Monica Jain, LogicHub

Today I am a proud founder of MATRIXX Software. What led me to the start-up world was the experience of going through an acquisition. After working for a medium-sized company that got swallowed by a huge one, I suddenly found myself a part of a massive company that didn’t have the same culture or values regarding innovation. This motivated me to take a risk and do something disruptive. Two years later MATRIXX was launched.

What does your typical day look like?

Every day is different. We’re a fast-growing company in an evolving industry. We are a global company and my role within the company means I talk to a lot of different people across the world both internally and externally on a daily basis.

What convinced you that you had what it takes to start a company?

I think if you find “comfortable” jobs boring, and you prefer to be on the leading edge of change even if it’s uncomfortable, then you know you are a good fit for the start-up world. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have worked in a variety of roles and learned how a business operates from many perspectives. Wanting to constantly be a part of change and feeling like I had the right experience to help build something disruptive gave me the confidence to pursue MATRIXX.

What is the best thing about starting a business?

The fact that you get to build the team and culture from scratch. When you start a business you’re in a position to develop, foster and make a team that will substantially drive your company to the next level. You create a healthy working environment because you’re connected to a team of people that you love working with and people who continue to inspire you.

What is the biggest challenge you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge is sourcing the right investment partners. Raising capital is always hard. You need to make sure potential partners understand your company, its values and culture. It’s about ensuring you’re finding a right partner, not just a supplier of capital.

>See also: Women in IT Awards USA winner: Annie Eaton, Futurus

What has been your approach to attracting capital and customers?

When it comes to attracting capital, you need to be 150% dedicated to making sure your early customers are successful and happy with the service or product you’re providing. Working hand-in-hand helps drive momentum.

Earlier this year, MATRIXX Software announced its Series C funding round, which included strategic investment from four of our customers including one of the biggest telco conglomerates in the world. It’s investments like these that are a testament to our approach as well as to our growth of 130% last year.

What advice would you give to mid-career professionals, particularly those from corporate backgrounds, who are considering launching entrepreneurial ventures?

Believe in your vision. I mean genuinely believe in it. Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, it is likely you will get knocked back, maybe more than once. Make sure you understand – and have mapped out – your company’s differentiators and that you believe deeply in them. Have an unfailing understanding that what you have is fundamentally better for your customers and that your mission, no matter your business, is to provide maximum value to you customers.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.

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