Alex, Global Head Elektron Data Platform at Refinitiv, has forged a tight interlock between the Technology and Product teams, using her experience in the financial industry to highlight the importance of helping customers combat financial crime.
Alex Cesar
Alex Cesar

Alex spearheaded delivery of Refinitiv’s global award-winning Media Check service, which uses artificial intelligence to screen and process information helping customers avoid missing critical information. A role model for women in Technology, Alex volunteers for a number of charities aimed at embedding technology skills in urban communities, with young people – particularly girls.

She has been shortlisted for the 2019 Tech Star Award.

Alex, how does it feel to be nominated for our Tech Star Award?

I am honoured and humbled by the recognition from my colleagues at Refinitiv. My success is only made possible by the great team of people I work with and this nomination is our nomination. A big thank you to all those great professionals that make my job so interesting and fun!

Can you tell us about your career path leading to your current role?

My first trip to the City of London was for a job interview for a software programmer role at Global Markets IT with HSBC in 1996. I was so nervous, and my English was not that good either. To my surprise the senior person interviewing me was this lovely, full of energy, bigger than life Irish woman called Ruth Brennan. Ruth was super patient with my English and focused on my technical skills. Ruth took a chance on me and offered me a role. From then on, I did not look back.

My career opportunities and life style choices took our family to New Zealand and Singapore. Back in London now, I feel that the experience of living and working abroad was an invaluable learning opportunity.

My experience within the financial industry in technology roles, led me to have the right profile to head Refinitiv’s Elektron Data Platform Technology responsible for a data platform that can discover, integrate, enrich, and consume the content the financial industry needs – whether that’s into a data centre, managed service, or the cloud.

You volunteer with CoderDojo, a volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people; can you tell us more about that?

I first got involved in 2017 when our organization sponsored 10 CoderDojos for girls only. I was so excited for the opportunity to take my teenage daughter with me for the first one that I did not even consider she would not be interested. To my surprise, on the morning of the first CoderDojo, she refused to come along, explaining coding was not for her. After a serious conversation and some bribery, she reluctantly joined me. She now enjoys coding, is really into maths, and has excelled in her latest project which was a prediction of the crypto currency market trends.

I realised that the lack of understanding of STEM subjects causes children to shy away from these subjects. This realisation has led me to volunteer to CoderDojo and Urban Synergy as a role model and mentor for networking sessions to help overcome the stereotype of STEM.

What has been your most memorable lesson in terms of diversity and inclusion?

My most memorable moment about diversity and inclusion was shared with my son; I remember when he was 5 years old and came to the office in Singapore with me for the day. On our way home, he was very quiet and when I asked him what was bothering him, he asked me: “Can only Mums be bosses in banks? Can I not be a boss too if I decide to work in banks?

At that moment, based on his narrow view of my work environment, I realised that diversity and inclusion, goes beyond the usual descriptions. It is about anyone, anywhere that is a minority and it is so important that all people are given the same opportunity.

What would you tell the 18-year-old you knowing what you know now with regards to your career?

I would wish her luck and I would not change anything. All mistakes, all heartaches, all successes and happiness were what made me who I am, they were invaluable lessons.

If you could take a month off to go travelling, where would you go and what would you see?

I would walk the Camino de Santiago with my family as I think this could be a great way to connect with my teenagers without the disruption of electronics and a fantastic opportunity for the entire family to improve our Spanish language skills.

I would walk the Camino de Santiago, as an opportunity to challenge myself both physically and mentally. The views of the Pyrenees are supposed to be breath taking and the strength required for the walk strenuous. It would be a great opportunity to see the beautiful nature along the way.