Diversity brings balance, creativity, and innovation

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Candice Dillon’s belief that a diverse team brings balance, creativity and innovation has shaped her approach to leadership and recently earned her the award for Digital Diversity Leader at our CIAO 2019 event. Diversity, in her opinion, is not only male-female diversity but also the diversity of culture, opinion, approach, and style. Teams that look at problems and challenges in different ways can solve them in unexpected and creative ways.

The chief information officer at Nationale-Nederlanden (NN) International started her career at Accenture. Famous for her end-to-end capabilities, she adopted a leadership style that would help her get the job done — and fast. “I’ve had moments throughout my career where I had to challenge myself because I’m naturally direct,” she says. “I can still be pushy, but I’m working on it.”

When she joined NN over two years ago, one of her key goals was to look for ways to create more collaboration across the international technology teams. “I love this job. I get to work across 11 different countries with a group of amazing leaders. We’ve become a team and together we’re driving our international business into a digital and data-rich future. I have always been someone who functions better in a team than alone, and this is a team I am proud to be part of.”

In an industry that needs to keep up with the rapid speed of technology, Candice says knowledge and imagination hold the key to solving future problems. “I truly believe that if we’re able to leverage modern customer-engaging technology and move our data into the cloud, machine learning and AI can unlock new potential. We need the imagination to put technology to work,” she says.

Leading the way

“A leader is only as effective as the people he or she works with. I really believe diverse teams function better,” she says, adding that while diversity is broader than male and female, women bring something different to the table.

“Women are often more empathetic in nature and this enables them to easily bring the customer and user experience to the forefront — always thinking about how the technology will be used,” she says. “I’ve worked with so many brilliant women in technology but for some reason, a lot of them are unable to break through the glass ceiling.

“There seems to be something underlying in the Dutch culture where women stop working. I believe women have the right to choose but I do think women need more encouragement.”

Passion for tech

Candice is a self-proclaimed girly-girl who grew up in South Africa.

While studying Speech Pathology and Audiology, Candice and her mentor experimented with nerve testing technology and this is where the first technology spark was lit for her. Instead of going to medical school, she opted to do a Post Grad in Business Administration at the University of Witwatersrand Business School in Johannesburg and started at Accenture in 2001.

She says getting more girls to pursue technology-focused roles should start at home. “It’s not easy to crack but I don’t think we give our girls enough exposure and building blocks to get them interested in technology. 

“We need to look at the way we teach and get rid of the mindset that girls aren’t good at math. There should be more examples and more role models for women,” she says.