Semi Koen

Executive Director

Information Systems

Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Areas of focus: Software, platforms, architecture

Years in the industry: 18 years

Tell us a little bit about your career journey at Mizuho to date...

I embarked on my journey with Mizuho nearly 15 years ago, initially joining as a developer. It was an exciting entry into finance, and Mizuho provided an environment that encouraged experimentation and growth.

Over the years, I progressed through various technical roles with incremental leadership responsibilities. In 2019, I had the opportunity to move to Mizuho's headquarters in Japan where my manager and I undertook the challenge of establishing a new team within Global IT. What began as a two-person initiative has now evolved into a thriving team of 20 members, spread across Europe and Asia. We are actively engaged in building software in-house, adopting industry-standard platforms, and driving the delivery and architecture for global projects involving large cross-functional teams.

My tenure at Mizuho has been marked by continuous learning, evolving leadership roles, and a dedicated commitment to spearheading transformative projects that contribute to the organisation's success.

You have been a key contributor to organising the Mizuho Graduate Programs for ISD. Why is Mizuho a great place for young talent to start their career?

For those venturing into IT, Mizuho provides not just a job, but a nurturing platform for a fulfilling and successful career. Contrary to the common perception of financial institutions facing innovation challenges due to their size and legacy systems, Mizuho defies this stereotype and is remarkably agile. Despite its growth through mergers, bringing along inherent challenges, the organisation addresses them head-on with a culture similar to a startup or software house. This approach allows Mizuho to pivot easily in response to market changes, fostering an environment that thrives on adaptability and innovation.

Beyond technological prowess, Mizuho places a strong emphasis on professional development. Mentorship programs and a supportive management approach ensure that young talent receives guidance and encouragement to reach their full potential.

Last but not least Mizuho's global footprint not only offers international exposure through projects, but also promotes collaboration with a diverse range of colleagues, enriching the overall experience.

At Mizuho, every day brings new challenges and opportunities — there is never a dull moment at work!

As part of Mizuho's global mobility program, you worked in Tokyo for a while. What was the experience like and why is internal mobility important?

Working in Tokyo was an enriching experience that provided valuable insights into Mizuho's brand as one of Japan's "mega banks". I gained a deeper understanding of cross-cultural communication and the intricacies of Japanese business practices. Building rapport and trust took on additional significance in order to fulfil Mizuho's commitment to diversity.

Given these experiences I believe that internal mobility is a catalyst for professional development, cultural understanding, and building a cohesive, globally aware personnel. Witnessing first-hand how the company operates in different regions is a must, and promoting diversity has never been so relevant. Having said that, pursuing the mobility program wouldn't have been possible without the invaluable support of my husband who took on the role of the primary caregiver for our daughter. I am grateful for this support, recognising that such arrangements may not be as straightforward in other situations.

As a woman in tech, what challenges have you faced and what are the top tips for someone pursuing a career in this field?

I normally learn through hands-on experience and also observing others in action, so the notable lack of female role models has been the main challenge I have faced over the years, making it essential to carve my own path. Fortunately, I was privileged to have exceptional internal and external mentors and a highly supportive management team that not only empowered my professional growth but also encouraged me to stay true to myself.

So my top tip for women in tech is rooted in this authenticity: never loose sight of who you are. I have found strength in retaining my femininity, empathy, and other leadership qualities that come naturally to me. These attributes, often differing from the leadership styles of some of my male colleagues, not only foster a more inclusive work environment but also enhance the diversity within the tech landscape.

Why is digital intelligence important to you and how has it played a part in your career progression?

Being in IT inherently implies a certain level of digital savvy, given the nature of the field. Personally, staying attuned to digital trends and emerging technologies has allowed me to lead with informed decision-making and drive innovation within my teams. If you are interested in further insights, I have previously shared my perspectives on the importance of digital leadership in an article, which you can explore here. In brief, digital intelligence equips individuals with adaptability to change, data literacy and the critical thinking skills needed to thrive in a rapidly evolving business setting.

If you could have any fictional character join your tech team for a day, who would it be and why?

I think it would be Super Mario. His resilience, problem-solving skills, and ability to navigate multi-dimensional levels would bring a fun vibe to our projects. Plus, with all the pipes he deals with in the Mushroom Kingdom, he can protect us from 'data leaks'.

What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom after coming across it in a second-hand shop in Japan. It delves into the meaning of life, the importance of relationships, and the pursuit of one's passions. It has prompted me to reflect on my own values and priorities, encouraging a more thoughtful approach to both personal and professional aspects of life.

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