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Carlotta Zorzi: from Musician to International Partnerships Expert, Public Speaker & Coach

Social media handle(s): @CarlottaConnects (Instagram), LinkedIn, www.Carlotta

A few words about me:

I'm an International Partnerships Expert, Public Speaker, and Coach. I started my career in Silicon Valley before joining the London corporate tech scene, working for companies like Oracle and Shopify.

Originally from Schio (Vicenza), over the years I've lived in 5 different countries and worked with partners and clients across 40+ markets, whilst managing internal teams across 4 continents.

Outside of Shopify, I'm a Board Member and a Mentor for women-focused networks like Bloom UK. I'm also a Visiting Professor at Sussex University, a Public Speaker, and a Winner of multiple awards including:

- 2021 WATC TechWomen100 Award

- Lead5050’s Woman in Tech Award

- Mentor of the Year Award by Women of the Future Programme

- Emerging Leader Award by ForwardLadies

- and being listed on the INvolve HERoes 100 Future Leaders List sponsored by Yahoo Finance.

I own two beautiful ragdolls called @tibbles_and_pebbles and when I was younger, I studied to become a Musician (flutist and voice).

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

Outside of my full time job at Shopify, and my roles listed above, I also work as a Tech Career Coach for School16, a NYC-based startup that helps individuals from all over the globe get into tech no matter their background.

I love the coaching side of things because I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to make our industry more diverse and fair - and that starts with sharing and creating more awareness around what it takes to get into it in the first place. I also really enjoy using my network to create new mutually beneficially connections!

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

My background is more commercial, non-STEM related. I studied Communications, Advertising & PR and got a MSc in Business & Economics with focus on International Marketing & Brand Management.

Where did your professional journey start?

My professional journey started as a student in Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) where I started working for a few tech startups to help them with marketing and advertising.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

As a student, I moved to Silicon Valley - the heart of tech and entrepreneurship. That first contact with the tech industry made me very curious to explore more. However, even if I wish I could say it was all planned - my actual breakthrough into the corporate tech scene only happened when I realised that for every traditional business vertical there was an equivalent in the tech world. So going from media planning on to ad tech was for me the best way to leverage my background and knowledge in the industry and translate it into the tech side.

My manager at the time played a very important role with stirring me in the right direction, mainly through making me realise that with my knowledge I could have considerably increased my income if I transitioned on to the tech side of things. At the time my self confidence was very low and I didn’t think that would actually be possible. However, an opportunity came up and after 5 months and 6 interviews I transitioned on to my very first corporate tech role and my life changed overnight (from a financial, personal and professional point of view).

This is the reason I feel so strongly about the role that tech can play in social mobility - and why I invest so much of my own time to help educate others on how to access this incredibly exciting industry even without an Engineering degree!

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

I don’t think this would have been tech related, but in general some of the stereotypes I’ve experienced have been associated to the fact that as an Italian I’m going to be loud and emotional. And whilst I do consider myself an emotional being, I’ve never seen that as a weakness, but rather as something that I can use to get closer to people I work with. As for the loud part… it’ll definitely come out if we find ourselves in a karaoke room!

"... my actual breakthrough into the corporate tech scene only happened when I realised that for every traditional business vertical there was an equivalent in the tech world."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

I wish I knew my value earlier on. That would have helped me with salary negotiations earlier on in my career. So if you can, get a Mentor who can help you sense check if you’re underselling yourself!

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

To me the biggest wow moment has been working for a startup which was focused on creating a solution that would allow you to smell what you see on the screen. This was over 10 years ago and sadly the business didn’t take off in the end, however, that was my very first experience in tech and it made me incredibly curious to see how far boundaries could be pushed. I’m also very curious to see if this same concept is going to pick up again now that we’re in the Metaverse era!

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I love most things about working in tech. I love the international nature of the teams, navigating ever-changing digital landscapes, the opportunity to develop partnerships that can truly shape the future of how we do things. I also really value the flexibility that comes with most tech organisations, not only from a remote working aspect - but also for the progressive view on work life balance (although this can change considerably from country to country, so whilst the industry average is better than others - cultural norms probably play a bigger part here).

Aspects that I think could be improved within the industry are the diversity at entry level - but especially at a leadership level; the still unbalanced policies for men and women when it comes to parental leave (a shared pain beyond tech) and the volatility that sometimes tech is subject to i.e. mass layoffs.

"There are tons of roles in tech that don’t require an Engineering background. In fact, 41% of roles in tech are business roles!"

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

Oh, so many favourite moments!

One of them must be when I was selected as an Emerging Leader by Oracle Women Leadership and I was flown into Amsterdam for a 3 day leadership conference. I met another 300 incredible women from all over EMEA/MENA and I learnt so much in just such short period of time. Connection and mentoring were at the heart of those 3 days.

Another one was when I flew to Washington DC with my team to partake in the company hackathon where I pitched a product idea alongside one of my team mates. We had 24h to put together a whole pitch and present it to the executive team. We worked through the early hours and whilst we didn’t win, it was an incredible experience!

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

There are tons of roles in tech that don’t require an Engineering background. In fact, 41% of roles in tech are business roles! So my advice would be to:

  • Start by understanding your strengths (and find a Mentor who can help you uncover new ones!).

  • Surround yourself with people who uplift you.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help - and don’t forget to help when you can (help has many shapes and forms!). Another way to say it is ‘Pay It Forward’ aka if you see you can help someone somehow, don’t wait to be asked - just help if you can.

  • Ask for feedback - What can you do better? What are you good at? And when you understand, do more of that.

  • Volunteer to learn more about what you’re good at!

  • Fail forward - try new things, explore new places and listen to other people’s stories with a humble and active ear.

  • Be intentional with your decisions - having an ultimate vision can help you determine next steps HOWEVER, don’t be afraid to fail.

It’s only a failure if you didn’t learn anything from it, so enjoy the ride and don’t forget to take some time to reflect on what you learnt on the way.


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