When I asked Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia what her three priorities will be as the new CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, she paused and answered: attracting talent, bringing women into ITC, and technical education.
Then she added advocacy for digital industries.
She looked down the list I’d jotted down, laughed and said, “I guess that’s four, isn’t it?”
That one episode from our interview Thursday gives some idea of the energy and ambition of the first full-time CEO of the association for IT industries in Nova Scotia. It also should shed some light on the magnitude of the task before her.
Digital Nova Scotia announced last month that it had hired Bahr-Gedalia as its President and CEO, landing a dynamo who speaks six languages, has worked in large corporations and startups in several countries, with depth of experience in marketing. She’s even worked in Israel, a country so proficient in tech culture that it’s known as “Startup Nation”. Her resume includes time at the Nova Scotia government and Innovacorp. And she’s female.
The IT industries in the region are on a roll with a rising number of startups and galloping growth of a few stars. But the industry is undergoing growing pains, with a series of inter-related challenges that focus on the need to find key people for specific roles in startups, huge corporations and every company in between.
“The talent shortage applies to everyone and we have to look at it closely,” she said over her morning coffee.
The need for talent – in programing, marketing, international sales, and operations to name a few areas – impacts on all the priorities that Bahr-Gedalia listed above. To attract talent, Bahr-Gedalia (who was born in Germany and moved to Nova Scotia a few years ago with her husband and young family) wants to work with the Immigration Department to encourage qualified people to move to Nova Scotia. And she wants to attract more women into the IT industries, as well as to her own board, which now features two women.
“I want to double the number of women on the board but I don’t just want numbers of women,” she said. “I want women with an IT background in leadership roles.”
The final piece in the talent search is to produce more skilled people in local institutions, and she wants Digital Nova Scotia to work with the proper authorities to improve the IT-related education, starting in grade school. And again, she is working with Canadian Women in Technology, the Girls’ Tech League and others to encourage more girls to pursue tech and computer studies.
Bahr-Gedalia’s mission in collaboration includes working with the New Brunswick Information Technology Council on joint initiatives, and dealing more closely with startups. In less than two months, she has already met with more than 50 stakeholders and brought in a few new Digital Nova Scotia members, bringing the membership to 70. She said plans to focus more on projects than events.
“I’m not doing golf tournaments,” she said. “I want to move away from event-based and move to projects.”
One event she will be involved in is the Digital Nova Scotia Annual Dinner on Wednesday at the Delta Halifax Hotel, which will feature a keynote speech by internet entrepreneur Lane Becker, co-author of Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business.
Bahr-Gedalia will also deliver a speech at the dinner, in which she will outline further her plans for Digital Nova Scotia.