She is passionate about artificial intelligence and incredibly creative. Raised in the UK with family roots in Southern Africa, she moved to Vienna about 4 years ago. She is a strong advocate for women empowerment and mutual support. Meet Cyndi Moyo, my guest of the day…
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Growing up as a child one of my favourite TV programmes was Star Trek. The thing I loved about Star Trek was the adventure aspect, as well as the discovery of new things. And it was one of the things that fuelled my interest in maths and physics. Ultimately that led me to study electronic engineering at Bristol University. After that I became fully employed working as a system engineer within England. At one point I did consider a career as a business analyst in investment banking but I realized (after working for an investment bank) that my true passion was in engineering because I love to create new products that make people lives better.
Can you describe yourself in 3 words?
Crazy (laughter), creative and funny
You were raised in the UK what brought you to Vienna?
As I mentioned after working in the UK I really wanted to see what else was out there. I decided to apply for jobs in Germany. In a previous job, that I did before I started working as system engineering it was a market research job and my topic was industrial computers, which meant that I got to interview a lot of different big companies like Siemens, to understand where the trends were going in this field. It really opened up my eyes to the fact that it was a big world outside of the UK. The exposure to these big international companies, fuelled my desire to move I finally got the opportunity to move when I got a job with an American company, Eaton, that purchased an Austrian company.
Can you tell me about some of your previous roles?
When I was working for Eaton, I was responsible for product development. For me, i t was amazing to be responsible for the technical details of the research and development as well as getting all of the legal, supply chain and the manufacturing aspects all together. I absolutely liked it. At the Austrian Institute of Technology I was a project manager on a European project called ERI Grid (European Research Infrastructuresupporting Smart GridSystems Technology Development). It was quite different from working in a corporate environment because of all the European regulations. The interesting thing for me is that I realized that for me the ideal role is something more dynamic, somewhere with more risk,. The type of research that we were doing was trying to work out stuff that people are going to need in 5 to 10 years’ time whereas I really wanted to work on stuff that people need now and to be able to see a difference and the impact that I am having.
Can you tell us about your passion for artificial intelligence?
I love the field of artificial intelligence because it means we can take away some of those monotonous tasks that people do and give them something more interesting to do. I love that this is the cutting edge of technology. There is a lot of room to utilize it to make a difference in people’s lives.
There are many aspects on artificial intelligence that are based on the brain neural patterns. It is basically trying to recreate this in technology so that you can essentially teach your computer a particular task but the key thing to remember is that artificial intelligence is not a person so it does not have common sense. So you also have to teach it what is also wrong. I think it very important for women from all different backgrounds to be involved in working with artificial intelligence because I think one of the aspects that we have seen is how sometimes people operate with unconscious bias that they are not aware of and sometimes when you train an artificial intelligence,that unconscious bias can also be transferred. It is very important for women and people from diverse backgrounds to be involved in this technology.
What makes you truly proud of the woman you are today?
I am proud of the fact that I have managed to live my life how I want to live it. To make decisions that empower you and give you choices. I am really proud that I can choose how to live my live. Fortunately my family was very supportive. The key thing for me in terms of my career, for example, was to be able to decide what work I do, not just taking any job because that’s what’s on offer. So I think you have to know your worth and you’ve got to communicate it. For me changing jobs from Eaton to Austrian Institute of Technology is my choice. Even with my studies, deciding what I wanted to study. When I was younger it was not exactly cool among my friends to do engineering. I remember the bad statements that were made things such as: “You know Cindy you are a pretty girl, why do you need to study engineering? You can do something lighter!” (Laughter). I just felt like they did not know how cool engineering is, that was my take. But of course, throughout my life I have heard comments such as, “are you sure it is not a manly thing to do?”. So I would say that was my thing, that I always held in mind. Sometimes as a woman you may have particular traits that may actually be leadership traits but sometimes in woman it can be seen as a bit masculine when really it is just that trait of assertiveness or something else that you may have.
You are the founder of Head Lo, why did you embark on the entrepreneurial journey?
It was the opportunity for an adventure again. For me it was the freedom that you have to create something. I also enjoy the challenge of being validated by happy customers. You know if what you are doing is right because of the feedback of customers through their wallets. I don’t like things that are too safe. I think it is risky to be in a comfortable job because you don’t really grow and it is more exciting and fascinating to grow in a business context because there are so many skills and things that you have to get good at really fast. Of course you have the freedom to forge the day ahead.
What are the services provided by HeadLo?
My vision with Headlo was to change the perspective of what beauty is. Because I think beauty is a very diverse topic. I want people when they think about what is beautiful. They have to think about themselves and not about some other image you see in the media or wherever. So really my approach with Headlo was to bring out the beauty in each individual .So our focus with Headlo is that we are helping people to find the best hairstyles that work for them. It’s a new concept and I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I want people to go on and try it and see what they think about our newer and more intelligent way to get your hair done so that you always look your best.
You are very committed to the cause of women empowerment. You are the founder of the Lean in Vienna Network, what would you like to share about it?
As I mentioned before with my experience of working in engineering,I always had the feeling that people thought that I was somehow manly. And a friend of mine encouraged me to read the book Lean in of Sheryl Sandberg. And when I read it I could see myself in those pages. There is a fascinating example in the book where they have two profiles of man and a woman with the same qualities and behavioural traits on both. It was interesting that when people looked at the profile of with male name they said he is assertive and for the female name they said it was bossy or bitchy. I get that because as a woman there is an expectation that you should be nice. On the one hand you try to play up to that, at the same you need to be assertive to do your job. For me it was interesting to learn that you are not the only one; so I went to the website (Lean In international platform) organized the first meeting and it was really great to meet all the women. What is fascinating to me is that all the different stories that you hear and one of the things I am really passionate about is networking. When people hear networking they think “oh my Gosh … No… “. One of the things I think we do differently in Lean In Vienna is our networking approach. Our approach is to build real relationships so it is not like a forced type of networking but we create an environment for people to talk to people because it is authenticity that makes it easier and I just love to see how in this way women can grow at work and really get to help each other to go forward.
We are a network where women can come, share their experiences, grow their own networks as well and at the same time being encouraged and inspired, meet their ambitions in life. Because that is as key thing that we focus on, in terms of personal development training and I think the sharing of ideas is so valuable. Sometimes you don’t realize that a little piece of information from someone else is just what you need to help you to make it to that next step. I think that is very precious.
One of your big upcoming events will be next year International Women’s Day, which steps do you think women should take in order to get ahead?
I think a very fundamental thing is that women need to grow in confidence to get really comfortable in their skin. We live in one of the best ages so far in terms of planet earth. I think that there is a lot freedom out there now to really make good choices for yourself. I really start with you first before you can change the world. It is important to grow in terms of confidence, it is important to inspire yourself so you can see what else you can do. We need to be exposed to big ideas, to help you to be comfortable in having your own big ideas and following them. And I think it is also very important to work and invest in yourself. That is one of the most important thing I have learnt in Lean In that women are the worst at self-care and self-empathy. Women are very hard on themselves and they really don’t take enough care of themselves as much as they care for everyone else. I think it is important for women to step back and to be empathetic with themselves.
What is your advice to women of the African diaspora who want to have their voice heard?
First of all, it is important to have courage. I think you need to work on your character, to be a person of integrity, someone of conviction that who stands for what they believe in. But I think the other aspect you should remember when it comes tonetworking, is that women have natural networking ability. But women need to lean in into this as well and build on their relationships and support each other utilizing that empathy that women are so great at. There also needs to be a lot of self-reflection. You should be open to change and be willing to pursue that change.
There is nothing wrong with questioning how we do things and whether we should do them differently.
You are a young and very active woman, what does true leadership means to you?
True leadership is not about you it is about the people that you serve. For a leader the focus has to be on what the people you are serving require, it is really not about you at all.
What is your favourite quote and why?
“There never was a real catastrophe, without the quest for greatness!”. This was from a movie I can’t remember the movie title (Laughter). But what happened is that basically everything went wrong. But things would have not gone that badly wrong if that guy did not really try to reach and expand himself. I found great comfort in that quote because I am very ambitious, for example you aim at something very high and sometimes you miss it. I think to myself at least I have this quest for greatness going on. And another supporting quote is “the person who never made a mistake never did anything” I think we need that courage to go out there and just do it.
Pictures: Ho&Co Design