A background in process excellence and project management served as a springboard into the world of robotic process automation (RPA) for Anna Lagerhed of SSAB AB, a global steel manufacturer focusing on sustainable manufacturing and building. Today, Anna is SSAB’s Head of Intelligent Automation in Stockholm, Sweden. In her role, Anna is passionate about leading her organization’s initiatives in digitalization, automation, process management, and change management. Her advice to other companies: “Automate because you should - not because you can.”
Through her career in RPA, Anna has found a new way to be a leader that transcends “classic management roles.” In her view, RPA presents significant opportunities for women to advance--but first, more women must be able to rise to the senior level and be part of the recruitment process. Anna recently shared her thoughts with Kryon on the possibilities of a career in automation and advice for other women who want to enter the field.
What led you to a career in RPA/Intelligent Automation? How did your background prepare you for this field?
I was working as a manager in a Shared Service Center, and we needed to optimize our operational efficiency. RPA sounded like the perfect solution to get more work done without adding more resources. My background includes process improvement and project management, a good fit for leading an RPA initiative. Having prior experience working in the interface between the business and IT was also helpful.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities in RPA/Intelligent Automation? What’s in the future for your RPA career?
The system landscape in any company is not perfect. If it were, we wouldn't have people manually transferring information from spreadsheets, word documents, emails, and PDFs into digital systems. RPA will relieve people from these mundane tasks so they can spend time on analysis, customer interaction, and professional development. With intelligent automation and RPA, you can automate processes in ways that weren't possible before.
I’m now working on ways to keep automating smaller tasks with "traditional" RPA and using a toolkit of new technologies to automate larger, more complex processes end-to-end. I expect this to have a significant positive impact on our business.
What has RPA/Intelligent Automation helped you accomplish personally or professionally?
Working with RPA/IA has allowed me to leave classic management roles and focus entirely on being a leader. Our virtual team consists of people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. Our collaboration is excellent, we have fun together, and we deliver results above expectations. I am not their manager; they follow my lead because they choose to, not because they have to. That makes me very proud. And diving into a whole new field has provided me with so much new knowledge and allowed me to interact with many different inspiring people. It feels like a new start.
Why should women consider a career in RPA? What advice can you offer to women who are interested in pursuing RPA jobs?
Because it's fun, energizing, and inspiring! More diversity in the RPA field would be a benefit for everyone. My advice is:
- Don’t let technical skills stop you. You don't need a technical background to work in most RPA roles. RPA is and should be business-driven, so don't hesitate because of lacking IT skills.
- Believe in yourself. A job ad is a wish list, not iron-clad requirements.
- Network. LinkedIn has excellent communities with people who are more than happy to share their experiences and support you.
Only 5% of tech leadership jobs are held by women. How will the industry benefit from increasing this number and placing more women in top positions?
You tend to recruit people who are similar to you. In other words, men tend to recruit other men. If more women don't get into these roles, the problem will persist.
There can be too much focus on technical skills when recruiting to senior tech positions. There are so many other skills that will decide if you are a good manager: communication skills, creating an emotionally safe space, inspiring others, and active listening, to name a few. Women tend to be more proficient in those skills. Managers with those skills will have a better chance of creating high-performing, motivated, and satisfied teams.
You can also join the international Women in RPA initiative. We’re showcasing women leaders in all aspects of RPA. Please get in touch so we can share your story. Know a woman in the RPA industry who you‘d like to nominate? Drop us a line.
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