Adapting and Growing
Over the years, information technology has taken on an increasingly significant role in the furtherance of innovation and digital evolution. Antonia Michael, Manager of IBM Cyprus, reflects on the company’s six-decade presence on the island, the growing role of women in the IT sector and the need to respond quickly to changing consumer behaviour.
By Marianna Nicolaou
Photo by TASPHO
Tell us about IBM Cyprus.
IBM has a long and a very successful presence in Cyprus. Our branch was established in 1963 and since its official deployment, our office has kept on growing, rendering us one of the main technology forces in the country. Our global strategy today focuses on the areas of Hybrid Cloud and AI – IBM strategic pillars worldwide – and our investments locally not only concern the field of new and emerging technologies but the specialised jobs aimed at providing improved consulting services to Cyprus companies and public organisations so as to make the most of the benefits of those new emerging technologies. Our main goals here in Cyprus are to promote the digital transformation of the country by helping local businesses through the provision of our expertise and to make IBM a synonym for tech innovation, as we have already established it in so many markets worldwide.
The revolution in information technology has transformed modern life, reducing the costs of collecting, storing and sharing data. However, in the wrong hands, data can be used for surveillance/control (for political or financial gain). How can we prevent data misuse/abuse?
In this ever-developing digital era, data protection is crucial for every business and needs to be taken seriously. Data is an organisation’s most valuable asset. IBM offers a number of products and services for the protection of businesses’ local data, as well as a series of innovative cloud-related solutions in order to safeguard their uninterrupted and smooth operation. For example, our company recently announced the provision of confidential computing with IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Services, including the ‘Keep Your Own Key’ capability, which allows customers to have exclusive control of their encryption keys, avoiding any unnecessary breaches of their organisation’s sensitive data.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become essential to a vast and diverse array of industries, including healthcare, banking, retail and manufacturing. For some, though, AI is seen as a threat to unemployment. What’s your view?
At IBM, we believe that the advantages that AI provides to numerous fields of expertise can only be beneficial to the employees of businesses operating in those sectors. We have proven through our activities that the services we provide are intended for the facilitation of the businesses workforce and to make the lives of the tech sector’s professionals easier. We do not see AI as a threat to manned jobs but as an opportunity and a helpful tool to utilize in order to advance the nature of current jobs and augment the intelligence of the employees in an organisation.
Since 2020 when COVID-19 emerged, is it true to say that that the pandemic has been a game changer in the tech industry?
The ongoing need for hi-tech services and solutions promoted by the conditions that the pandemic enforced globally is a chance for companies like IBM to really show the full capabilities of our technological expertise. First and foremost, at IBM we are taking care of our employees to protect their health and safety and this enables us to take care of our clients around the world, sustaining the digital operations of the world’s most critical organisations. In addition, from the beginning of the health crisis, IBM has been working closely with governments worldwide to find all the available options to put our technology and expertise to work, to help organisations be resilient and adapt to the consequences of the pandemic and to accelerate the process of discovery and enable the scientific and medical community to develop treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
Why are women are still hugely outnumbered by men in executive positions in this sector and what can be done to change this? How do you assess your experience as a woman in an executive position in the tech sector so far?
It is a fact that, in the past, there were strong stereotypes imposed by society about the roles of the two sexes and such perceptions greatly contributed to the exclusion of women from specific roles or jobs. However, I believe that progress has been made in this area, since nowadays women play an active role at all levels and have the opportunity to be active in any field they wish. Women today are appointed to important positions in many fields worldwide. Where many companies proudly date their positive action plans to the 1970s, at IBM, women have been actively contributing to the advancement of technology since the 1930s. This direction should undoubtedly continue with the same intensity, as it is now demanded by today’s reality and society.
How can technology businesses build resilience against changing customer behaviour?
As a leading company in the technology field, we take pride in our ability to adapt and change according to our clients’ growing needs. We begin by making sure that we are aware of growing trends and the needs expected to arise from them and to thoroughly plan a way to cover those needs. The next step is to begin to formulate the response needed to meet those needs, even before clients begin to ask for it. With this procedure, we ensure that we are always one step ahead of our customers and able to provide them with the best service possible.
Do you believe that Cyprus can become a sophisticated international tech hub? What are the dominant global trends that Cyprus needs to keep up with?
We are confident about the Cypriot market’s tech capabilities and the level of expertise of local executives. We have every tool at our disposal in order to position Cyprus as a technological example in the broader region. The global trends that can help us become a sophisticated international tech hub concern the adoption of Cloud, Blockchain and AI technologies.
What can we expect from IBM Cyprus as the company approaches its 60th anniversary?
You can expect us to continue to innovate, to shape the modern technology field with our services and to keep leading the way for other companies in the sector by setting the example. Using our global experience and expertise, we will help our clients prepare for their next step in their digital transformation journey to become the cognitive enterprises of the future.