Dana Farrugia entered the technology sector in Malta at a time when SMS messaging didn’t yet exist. In the near two decades since, she has watched the tech world grow to previously unimaginable heights, while her own career in the sector has evolved alongside it; a fitting journey towards becoming the CEO of Malta’s technology-oriented public-private partnership, Tech.mt.
“I joined the technology sector when tech was still very new in Malta,” Dana recalls. “When the island’s first telecoms company was established, I applied for a junior role and worked upwards from there. I was instantly fascinated by the continuous evolution of the technology world. When I joined the sector, even SMS technology hadn’t started yet! While, today, we are looking at the possibility of robots replacing human relationships. The sector is so dynamic that I could never be bored, especially as learning will always be an ongoing part of the process. That is the key to success in the technology world: by appreciating its speed as well as embracing the learning curve needed to keep abreast with the latest products and systems.”
Following the completion of her MBA in 2017 – a real feat considering Dana was simultaneously working with the Ministry for the Economy – Dana became the ideal candidate to head up a new promotional arm for the technology sector. “When I was appointed CEO of Tech.mt in 2019, it was just me with a logo on a piece of paper,” she shares. “But taking on the role of CEO and building the brand from the ground up has become my most career-defining moment. The milestone of forging Tech.mt has taught me that if you work hard and never lose focus of your target, then you will make it happen. Nothing is impossible.”
Just a year later, Dana now leads a team of eight people who live and breathe the Tech.mt brand. Together, they meet the daily challenges of the ever-evolving technology sector in Malta, which includes Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud software development, business analytics, robotics and quantum.
“In 2020, we needed to quickly establish the processes, relationships and company culture within the team, while also outlining the company vision and keeping up with the expectations of the Board,” Dana explains. “But the global tech sector moves and grows fast, thus so must we. We have no choice but to maximise every second of the day. It’s remarkable what can be delivered in an eight-hour working day with that mindset.”
To motivate her team to achieve the focus required to reach these daily goals, Dana believes in a leadership style that is inclusive, direct and facilitates open communication.
“My daily target, as CEO, is to improve and be better than the day before – and that goes for the team too. Every team member is given a chance to play to their strengths, creating a team effort that delivers results that are greater than the sum of its parts. As a leader, part of my role is to capitalise on the strengths and differences of our teams to facilitate innovation, collaboration and commitment; to cultivate an inclusive culture that empowers a person to say, ‘I fit in here, I feel valued and I can contribute to this organisation’. Fostering trust will create confidence, inspiration and a sense of belonging that will bring out the best in any team.”
Alongside teamwork and mutual trust, equality and diversity are the cornerstones of the Tech.mt ethos. “Diversity of all kinds is around us, and it is up to us as leaders to determine how to make the most of it,” shares Dana. “The technology industry has a reputation for being a man’s world. Although there have been great strides toward progress in this male-dominated industry, gender bias remains an issue for many. As a woman in the tech industry, I have been fortunate not to have personally experienced these barriers – I believe a successful career should be genderless – but Tech.mt is also addressing this through facilitating the introduction of young women to the digital workplace as part of the Woman4IT project.”
The many strengths of the diverse team have formed the foundation of Tech.mt as it supports sector growth and assists businesses in expanding their potential and reaching niche markets.
“The local technology sector is thriving but very niche, and the demand for workers with the specific skill set it requires is not being met. Equal to our other goals of driving forward the sector through international promotion, research innovation and facilitating information sharing, we believe that education and community engagement are vital to sustain Malta’s technology sector. We aim to be instrumental in taking the technology industry to the next level, positioning Malta as a quality, creative, tech-savvy country.”
And in the short time since its inception, Tech.mt has already excelled in doing exactly that.
The agency was confirmed as the main highlight for ‘Tech in 2019’ in the DESI Malta Study 2020; it represented Malta during the ‘World Summit AI’ in 2019; it participated in multiple international events; it partnered with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry – and by extension the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) – and it was recognised in the eBusiness Awards, which celebrates the work of locally developed eBusiness solutions.
“The eBusiness Awards established an important international affiliation with the World Summit Awards in 2016, offering a global platform for those who think beyond the box,” Dana elaborates. “This is a unique opportunity for our entrepreneurs to showcase their efforts in an international contest.”
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malta in early 2020, the demands of the technology sector radically shifted again and the work of Tech.mt adapted accordingly. “We pledged our commitment to helping local businesses, the elderly and lower income families cope with the digital transformation COVID-19 created,” the CEO continues.
“As many services have been rapidly pushed online, we have been ensuring that the elderly – who were particularly asked to isolate as a precaution – have the digital skills to complete tasks like shopping or connecting online. We have also increased the number of free WiFi hotspots across the islands and supported businesses as they explore e-commerce solutions for consumers.”
In 2021, Dana continues to embrace the ‘new normal’ – and advises other business leaders to do the same.
“One of our biggest accomplishments in the last year has been transforming the team, changing mindsets regarding the technology sector, and embracing and adapting to change. The key to business survival and long-term prosperity has again proven to be resilience and efficiency in order to absorb a shock and to come out of it better than the competition, while finding the silver linings and opportunities, as hard as that may be considering the human and economic toll wrought by the pandemic. But more than that, a culture of collaboration in 2021 will re-establish the momentum of positioning Malta offshore as the tech hub of choice.”
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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