Women in Tech — Director of Security & Compliance

Jan 22, 2024

An interview with Director of Security and Compliance, Elísabet Árnadóttir. Conducted by Bylgja Pálsdóttir, Senior Communications Manager

As we kick off 2024 here at atNorth, we’re also wrapping up this series of interviews, which have lifted the hood on atNorth’s strong female workforce. In case you missed it, my previous interviews with Tracey Pewtner and Mardís Heimisdóttir where they shared their career experience, insights, and learnings from their different backgrounds and why they embarked on the atNorth journey are well worth a read!

Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Elísabet Árnadóttir, who joined us last year as Director of Security and Compliance. Read on to learn more about her not so run of the mill’ career path, from prosthetics to data centers, and why she feels education could be the missing link to gender diversity in our industry. 

Welcome Elísabet, it is so great to sit down with you and hear your story first hand!
Thank you Bylgja, likewise. So far, my journey here has been great – so good that I can’t believe how quickly the past ten months have gone! 

Tell me a bit about your career – where did it begin and how has it changed through the course of your journey?
I always wanted to be an architect. I initially went into civil engineering to be better equipped for it – my first role was as a Calculations Designer at an engineering company. I quickly decided it was not for me and went back to school to complete a master’s in engineering management and a business degree as well. This rebooted my career in high tech at a prosthetics company where I was responsible for operational excellence, compliance, and quality management. Quickly I moved into the technology, banking and fintech industries and discovered a true passion for cyber and IT security and the accompanying standards, law, compliance, and rules!

What has been one of the most memorable moments of your career to date? 
For me, it’s the people I’ve worked with along the way that stand out. Projects come and go but I have been so fortunate to work with very good people and very good managers who have had the ability and foresight to put complete trust in me and the team – and this taught me how crucial trust and transparency is to the success of the team and organization. I try to inject this ethos into my own team – I trust my employees and I listen to them. I know that different opinions are good and that it’s ok to disagree. 

If you could fast forward five years, where do you think you’d find your future self?
Still working in security and compliance with atNorth! There is a tremendous energy within atNorth right now and I want to be a part of every moment so I can grow and learn and help support the company throughout this exciting journey.

What advice would you give to the female workforce here at atNorth and beyond, to all the women looking to become successful business leaders?
Today’s work world is entirely global in nature – not only do most of us tend to work with colleagues in different countries and continents, but many of us do this in a remote, work from anywhere environment. This makes team collaboration absolutely critical to the working day. We need to be vocal, share our opinions and feel comfortable doing so in order to succeed. We need to be confident to ask questions and challenge the status quo because the reality is that most people want to share their knowledge and are happy to help. So, ask questions, share your opinion, and voice what’s important to you.

Our culture at atNorth is very supportive, which is helpful. But, as with any fast-moving company, we are all super busy, so as a manager, I’m learning to take down the silos – sharing the quick wins and exciting moments with my co-workers. Information sharing and collaboration is vital, so everyone feels they are part of the team, particularly when you’re in a fast-paced, growing business. 

In your opinion, what are the driving factors that can impact a woman’s ability to balance happiness, career motivation, and pushing through the senior-level glass ceiling? 
From what I have experienced, this can differ between regions and countries. Living and working in Iceland has provided me with a lot of opportunities I may not have had in other areas. In Iceland, women have the same opportunities as men in education and a university degree is not expensive. In business, we have legislation for registered companies that requires a gender balance across board members. These are fundamental factors to promoting the female workforce and gender diversity. 

Similarly to above, what do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership today in both business in general and our industry specifically?
A lot of people talk about how businesses need to be better at breaking down gender barriers in the workplace but what is so often ignored are the earlier stages. We need to look at the education system to understand where the interest lies in the STEM subjects, what is the gender split and how can we improve this through schooling, extra-curricular activities, and career awareness. This will help us not only improve the gender ratio but also address the skills gap across the industry.

What are you most looking forward to this year at atNorth? 
I’m looking forward to getting an even deeper understanding of the data center industry as well as further building on the strengths of my team and co-workers so we can continue to bring more information sharing and collaboration across the business, as we continue to deepen team knowledge and work together to reach our company´s unified goals.

If you could describe in three words, what it’s like to work at atNorth, what would they be?
Challenging, fun, and rewarding. There are a lot of projects on the go, a lot of challenges to face and obstacles to overcome but we all see the vision and know exactly where we’re heading. The path is not straight and narrow, it is testing, and this makes it more fun and rewarding in the long run. 

Last question — if you were starring in a movie, who would play your character? 
Either Nicola Walker, Carrie Mulligan, or Kate Winslet – probably Nicola Walker. On the face of it, she has everything in order, she appears so calm and collected but inside, there is a whirlwind of emotions constantly unfolding. To me, that is resiliency at its best.