A born and bred gamer, we discuss making a business of your passion in a male-dominated industry with CTO and COO of Attensi, Anne Lise Waal.
CHANGING THE GAME
Anne Lise Waal has been described as one of the leading women in tech across Europe. For the past decade, she has worked as CTO and COO at Attensi – a provider of bespoke gamified training for a host of companies, with clients including Microsoft, NHS, Equinor, Bosch Siemens, Hiscox, Volvo, ASDA and the NSPCC.
Within her role, Waal has supported the company’s impressive growth and international expansion through her extensive knowledge and experience within the technology industry and by continuously scaling Attensi’s technology platform and simulation-based learning products.
As a passionate advocate for women working in the tech industry, we find out more about her take on the field today.
Q&A WITH ATTENSI
Firstly, could you provide us with a brief overview of your career background and current role?
Anne Lise Waal (ALW): I am currently the CTO of Attensi – the world’s leading provider of high impact gamified training. I first began my career as a consultant in Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance with a Masters in Computer Engineering. After that, I was initially planning to do a PhD but dropped out in favour of going into business. From there I quickly moved into the gaming industry after seeing a job opening with leading Norwegian game developer, Funcom. I spent seven years there as senior producer overlooking the development of AAA massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.
I thought I would never be able to go into gaming because I was not working as a programmer. That was until I came across an opening in project management, which I saw as my chance to get into the gaming industry. I started at Funcom in 2006 and worked closely with Trond Aas (co-Founder and CEO of Attensi) throughout my years there. We both left in 2012 and Trond started Attensi the following year. I then joined in 2013 when there was just five people on the team.
Women in tech is still an area of great gender inequality. What was your motivation to pursue a career in this field?
ALW: I am a born and raised gamer and it has always been a huge part of my life. After receiving my first games console at four years old, then my first computer (a C64) at seven, I was hooked from that point on. My dad is a tech geek, so it was always my dream to work in the creative tech business. I thought that to go into the gaming industry you had to be a brilliant programmer and my passion was not in programming, even though my education was. Instead, I transitioned into the business interface of tech, which began my journey in gaming.
How has your career journey been so far? What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
ALW: It has been an extremely exciting journey so far! Building a company takes blood, sweat and tears, but it is so worth it when you succeed.
My earliest accomplishment was to get that first break into the industry at Funcom. It was the first and only job interview I have ever done, so I was extremely proud of getting into the industry and working with talented people.
My greatest accomplishment has been being able to build a kick-ass team from scratch developing software as a service (SaaS) technology and simulation-based training products that have enabled us to rapidly grow into a market leader and most recently raise money for global expansion. It is difficult to find motivated people who share the business’ key values that make up the company culture.
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
ALW: The biggest challenge has been keeping up the stamina. When you are building a new business, times can be tough. You might not see the long-term bigger picture when working on the day to day, but when you remember to look at the long-term vision it helps you to keep your energy high.
In those first three to five years, it was challenging trying to grow both revenue and the business fast. Essentially, it’s about working to go beyond your limits when you think you don’t have any more to give.
I think about it like a marathon. When you know the finish line is waiting for you, you can hardly imagine how you’re going to get there, but the secret is stamina and motivation.
What plans do you have for the next few years?
ALW: At the moment I am focused on further continuing the business’ international expansion as the goal is to take a market-leading position in both Europe and US. I also plan for us to scale our business with great people, while keeping our culture and values at the core of what we do.
As a business we are always scaling the technology platform and simulation-based learning products. Attensi takes untraditional gaming technology into new market sectors that have never used it before and it has been highly successful, but our biggest enemy is the status quo. I like to challenge the ways things have been done in the past and be truly innovative. I would love for us to be completely radical on the product side, perhaps even expanding from B2B into the B2C segment.
Finally, what advice would you give for women considering getting into tech?
ALW: I would say just to take the leap, and make sure that your work is fun!