Sonia Couto, Managing Director of Konverge Digital Solutions, is a business visionary and strategic leader who sits at the helm of two award-winning tech start-ups. Sonia is passionate about technology, and in her role, she focuses on innovation, growth, pivoting, and, most important, creativity. She has been with Konverge Digital Solutions since 2007 and is described as a highly results-driven leader known for “getting things done.”
Sonia is also the founder of MenuSano and Field Eagle, tech companies that are part of Konverge’s portfolio of companies. She has overseen the development from its inception. Working with the teams, Sonia drives initiatives leading to strategic partnerships and growth within Canada and internationally.
Sonia has been the recipient of several awards that acknowledge her excellence in leadership in the software industry, including the Business Leader of the Year (2021, North America), RBC Women of Influence Nominee (2020), Best Tech Manager (2019, Timmy Awards), Top CEO of the Year (2019, IAOTP), Leadership Elite’s Most Influential Woman in Software Development (2018, Canada), Most Influential Woman in Software Development (2016, Canada, CV Businesswoman Awards), IT Businesswoman of the Year (2016, Canada, CV Businesswoman Awards), and Game Changer of the Year (2016, ACQ Global Awards).
As a dedicated member of the tech community, she stays involved and passes on her 15-year experience in tech to women starting their careers and start-ups learning to navigate the space. She is a mentor for the Scotiabank Women Initiative Mentor Program. She is also on the Board of Directors at the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research. As a breast cancer survivor, her interest in health has led her to advocate for early breast cancer detection and support for women undergoing diagnoses. She is an ambassador for a not-for-profit called After Breast Cancer.
She hosts a podcast called “The Healthy Menu” which focuses on health and technology and how we can live healthier lives.
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Table of Contents
2021 and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned?
Sonia Couto: I’ve learned in the past that for any business to be successful, it must embrace change. For companies to survive in 2023, they must look at how the world has changed, what the most significant needs are due to the pandemic and how the company can pivot to fill that gap. I’ve learned to prepare for the worse and have two scenarios ready in the business plan to adapt quickly.
Our relationships with our clients also changed in not being able to be face-to-face, so we started podcasts and live streaming to engage with our clients and, as a result, started a platform for tech discussions that have become popular. This allowed our clients to see what we were up to regularly. We continue to do this now.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2023? What advice would you share?
Sonia Couto: Businesses should focus on new areas to serve that will generate new revenue streams and ways to pivot the business and keep costs down.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Sonia Couto: With our start-up MenuSano we discovered a new market to enter. As restaurants were shut down and food supply was high in demand, we found that our biggest client was, in fact, Food manufacturers. We quickly made changes to the application to support manufacturing processes.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2023?
Sonia Couto: I have always tried to run the business with the mentality that change needs to happen often, and if something is not working, experiment and change. I wasn’t ready to work from a full-time home aspect. We were able to adapt, but the collaboration was not the same. I wish I had been better prepared with processes in place to deal with the team’s mental health and better collaboration.
Going forward, we are operating in a highbred model and figuring out the best model. Changing some of our tools for better communication, transparency, and collaboration is the most important.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2023?
Sonia Couto: I think 2022 and even 2023 are going to remain 50/50. People got used to not having to go out to get what they required and the convenience of going back to old ways. I expect more technology to be developed to support how the world has changed and will function in the future. I think the concept of smart cities will be a reality much sooner than we expected.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Sonia Couto: That’s a good question, probably way more than I should. But realistically, I would say at least 10 to 11 hours a day.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Sonia Couto: I find that communicating effectively with my teams starts by sharing their successes, encouraging and showing an interest in their success. Sharing my previous failures and how I overcame them as examples.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Sonia Couto: Right now the real challenge is having the talent required to keep up with changes.
In 2023, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Sonia Couto: In 2023, I was mostly interested in learning about new strategies for marketing. I’m always looking at non-traditional ways to market ourselves, and that requires being creative.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Sonia Couto: This is a very frustrating topic, but I do think leaders are of the stats. They have to be if they want to keep up with change. I’ve learned that no matter what I do or say, I can never please everybody. There is always someone who is unhappy or disagrees.
Making people happy became like a full-time job for me, and I reached a point of exhaustion because of it. As a leader, I had to take a moment and remind myself that I need to care about my team, but keeping the business flourishing should be my number one priority. So, I’ve tried to rely on my other leaders to support their teams, and it’s not so reliant on only me.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Sonia Couto: A business superpower is reminding myself that I’m doing my best and being kind to myself. I find that daily journaling and meditation helps me stay focused.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Sonia Couto: Success in 2023 to be looks like having a better work-life balance. I have to admit the year 2022 has been one of the hardest for me mentally.
My vision is to have better processes in place to support the teams and clients, have the management team own their departments, contribute to the company’s business vision, and not have everything on my shoulders. This would allow me to focus on the areas of the business that need me and let me be creative, which is what I love to do.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Sonia Couto for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Sonia Couto or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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