Simona Turin: Technology is not just for geeks
Last updated 09:30, March 10 2017
Solving difficult problems is what gets Simona Turin out of bed and racing into the office in the morning.
Or, to be more precise, using technology to solve difficult problems, says the general manager of digital strategy and enablement for Air New Zealand.
“I do get excited, it’s like a puzzle for me.”
And as people celebrated International Women’s Day this week, it’s a passion she is keen to share.
Lithuanian born, and Israeli educated Turin joined Air NZ in 2016 and heads a team of 90 people. During her time in Israel she served in an Army combat unit training a team of 12 soldiers.
She studied finance and information systems, but throughout her career – which involved stints at Salomon Smith Barney and Coca Cola – she has turned to technology to solve problems.
“When I was delivering any business decision, making any business decision or trying to come up with a solution, it always involved the technology part.
“When I worked with traders, i saw that any decision you make you have to model, there’s always an algorithm behind it. So I said, well I can create that algorithm as I was trying to make a decision and that’s how I started teaching myself development”
“Of course I could have done it with spread sheets, lots of spread sheets, or I could code and come up with a creative solution.”
It’s the creative side of technology that Turin is keen to share with girls and young women to help them make choices about pursuing a tech education or career.
“We think of developers as these geeky people with headphones on and not approachable, however it’s really a creative process. You are creating a solution, how you approach and think about things and it’s creative.”
“Not only that, the satisfaction is when you see users using that solution.”
Turin believes the technology subjects need to be made more approachable right from an early school stage, to attract more girls into the classes.
Her teenage daughter recently told her that science felt more creative than the more rigid maths taught in schools.
Her experience is backed up by a global tech survey that found unequal pay, lack of mentors and persistent gender bias remain obstacles to women entering technology.
Global technology associations IASCA released findings this week that said more female role models were also important.
At Air New Zealand, Turin did her bit by spending time on International Women’s Day this week speaking to female colleagues about the creative side of technology.
Her job for the airline is to support the teams working on the company’s digital transformation strategy – things like making the app more user friendly and making it easier for customers to book journeys on mobile.
“Mobile is a way for us to be relevant, there when you need us. It helps when booking flights but we should also help you make better decisions for the outcome you want. We can help with that by providing data.”
“We’re looking at continuous delivery of experiences and features for staff and customers.”
In the wider education and business world, Turin said there needs to be a strong focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) for boys and girls – but as a creative and collaborative field, not one stuffed with rules and boundaries.
Air NZ partnered with Summer of Tech recently and had 15 school student interns in the business. Eight were girls,which Turin said was a step in the right direction.