Women in technology spotlight. Kerstin Rizzo, Head of Programmes at eCabs Technology Division

Technology has been a seed in the eCabs culture since the day it moved its first passenger from point to point. That seed today became a thriving branch: a fully-fledged transport technology division, composed of an exceptional team of technologists who are driving the engines for the internationalisation vision of eCabs. Kerstin Rizzo, who joined eCabs’ technology team as Head of Programmes a year and a half ago, explains how fundamental technology has been in the growth achieved by eCabs in the past years and her role as a professional in a tech company.

“I wanted to become a chemist and had focused most of my studies on research. However, I was always interested in tech and I recall myself patiently typing code from various games’ magazines onto our ZX Spectrum a few moons ago”, she smiles.

“Eventually I read Chemistry and Computer Studies at University only to realise there were many tech opportunities available. By then, my choice was an obvious one which I never regretted.”

After 15 years as a systems’ analyst and a software developer, Kerstin spent another 10 years in management, leading several high-profile projects.  She then joined eCabs to realise she had just walked into an immensely disruptive and innovative culture.

“I must admit that I had my reservations and wondered what my interactions would be like in a company which I thought would have a relatively heavier male presence, only to find out that the workplace is also highly populated by fellow ladies. I had joined a company whose priorities are focused on innovation and a relentless pursuit for excellence. The vision is an ambitious one and it’s what makes the environment so inspiring to work in.”

Technology remains fundamental in eCabs’ growth journey and as the organisation keeps investing heavily in this area, it bids to consistently improve its efficiencies in operations, ensuring a seamless service delivery to its clients, whilst bringing about the ability to quickly adapt to unpredictable scenarios such Covid-19.

“Our technology also takes into consideration our growing driver base. Coordination of all the trips, tracking and timely pick-ups all depend on a robust technology infrastructure, also enabling us to lay out our long-term vision for the organisation. eCabs’ primary strategic goal is to internationalise its product portfolio and is in the process of transforming its current technology to a cloud-based solution.

“One of the aspects that makes working at eCabs a unique proposition is the fact that we are a company intent on bringing a drastic shift in the country’s mobility patterns. Mobility remains a big challenge for Malta with a very particular and complex infrastructure, so I am thrilled to be working on such challenges at a company with a vision of bringing a positive change in this aspect.

Being the only mobility company in Malta adopting an all-inclusive multi-booking channel model through the app, phone, web, social media and email, eCabs has made its service accessible to all to ensure mobility for everyone.”  

In a world driven by data, new exciting challenges emerge to harness that power and make good use of it. “As our service grows, our models are increasingly helping us predict traffic patterns and trends. This allows us to keep offering a reliable service within the shortest time possible and at competitive prices. With aspirations of product development into the ‘Last Mile’ delivery segment my role becomes more fun and challenging as I help to translate these innovative business requirements into IT deliverables, which will essentially see customers and their parcels reaching their destinations in a quicker, smoother and more efficient manner.”

Agility in adapting is also an essential attribute as external factors can very quickly change the priorities. Covid-19 is a perfect case in point as Kerstin points out “The surreal scenario that hit us in March 2020 had instantly shifted the priorities. But we are an amazing team and we managed to pull this through together, matching the speed and change in direction”.

Turning back to the topic of women and IT, Kerstin is proud as a woman not only in an IT environment but also at a tech mobility company. But she also quickly admits that STEM subjects remain male dominated and augurs that the future will see more women choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

“The fact that I made it means that change is indeed possible.” she quipped enthusiastically. “But this change needs to start from the very bottom, tackled from as early as kindergarten. There are plenty of innovative educational programs and science challenges that school children should be introduced and exposed to. It would help encourage a larger cohort of young women to take up tech-related jobs by also promoting women in these fields to serve as role models”. 

Kerstin admits that being interested and fascinated by astronomy, her first inspiration as a young girl was Katherine Johnson, the famed mathematician who was instrumental in Nasa’s first manned space flights. Famed by the recent Hollywood movie Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson carved her place in the history books. Kerstin says that there is no reason not to dream big and go for the achievement. “We’re only scratching the surface of possibilities here and that is what I love about this subject and this company. The future is bright – even in the face of the battles we face today.”