It is no secret that historically, males have dominated leadership roles in tech. The stats speak for themselves with female representation in tech having decreased in recent years. According to DDI’s 2023 Global Leadership Forecast, women make up 28% of professionals in the tech industry.
Canada’s only homegrown food delivery network, SkipTheDishes, has championed women in tech since its inception and continues to do so with top senior executives.
One of those executives is Melanie Fatouros-Richardson who was recently promoted to Vice President, Communications and Government Relations at SkipTheDishes. Since joining the male-dominated tech industry in 2019, when Skip was still in its start-up phase, Melanie’s role, vision, and leadership have been guided by two grounding principles: what does the business need in this moment and how can I help my team achieve their fullest potential?
Techtalent.ca sat down with Melanie Fatouros-Richardson, Vice President, Communications and Government Relations at SkipTheDishes to talk about Melanie’s experiences in leadership in the tech industry through the lens of communications and her commitment to promoting gender diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
What inspired you to join SkipTheDishes, especially at a time when it was still in its startup phase?
MFR: I’ve always been drawn to the energy that startups have, and that unique window in time to have a direct impact on how an organization grows and evolves.
Coming into Skip, I was excited by their innovative approach to food delivery and its potential for growth in a rapidly evolving industry that was still emerging in a lot of ways. I loved the idea of being part of a dynamic team, and I saw the opportunity to make a meaningful impact not only for Canadians but for our employees as well, all while helping to drive the company’s growth.
Since I joined in 2019, it’s been amazing to witness the company’s success and its ongoing evolution – and it’s even more meaningful to me that I’ve been able to do that from Winnipeg, where Skip is headquartered.
As a business, we’re now focused on diversifying our efforts and exploring new avenues. Even though we’ve outgrown our startup phase, our commitment to agility allows us to shift our focus toward other areas, including CSR and sustainability.
Can you tell us about your journey within the tech industry and how you found your path toward leadership roles?
MFR: I entered this field with a strong passion for innovation, and a desire to make a positive impact.
Having been at an app development company for three years prior to joining Skip, we focused on extending platform capabilities with our tech to help brands grow. This is where I first gained critical insight into how developers worked, and how product and tech teams function with the larger organization. I was one of only nine women when I joined that team.
When I first joined Skip, I leveraged that knowledge and proactively took on challenging projects, doing anything I could to help support the organization whether if ‘fit’ within my role or not. This allowed me to increase my scope of work and responsibilities, building out teams under me to help support the organizations growth.
Over the course of almost five years at Skip I’ve been promoted three times, starting as part of the foundational communications team as an External Communications Manager. Now, my responsibilities encompass a wide range from managing external and internal communications to driving employee engagement, government relations, corporate social responsibility, and our inclusion, diversity, and belonging initiatives.
Advocating for inclusivity and diversity became a crucial part of my career, along with emphasizing work-life balance. My teams work heavily with Skip’s People Team to ensure that this is engrained across the business. I’ve of course encountered road blocks along the way – no woman in a male dominated industry hasn’t, so that’s definitely not unique to me – but I genuinely see each one as an opportunity for growth. I attribute this to the culture that Skip has built – I’ve never felt a fear of speaking out, where in previous organizations I have.
What are some key lessons or experiences from your career in tech leadership that you believe can inspire other women who aspire to leadership roles in fields traditionally dominated by men?
MFR: I’m driven by two key principles: what does the business need in this moment, and how can I help my team achieve their fullest potential.
When it comes to the business – in my career I’ve navigated through moments of monumental change, and these experiences have taught me the importance of adaptability and staying resilient. It’s crucial to be flexible and open to new approaches and strategies. I’ve focused on staying adaptable, embracing instability, and never shying away from challenges – this is where you’ll see the most growth. Because right when change seems overwhelming, it’s the most important to embrace it, as that’s often when the biggest opportunities can present themselves.
When it comes to my team, I always want to create an environment where we’re comfortable taking risks to unlock our full potential. I’ve had the privilege of leading a team of high-performing women leaders, which I’m incredibly proud of. Building a strong, supportive, and collaborative team has been essential in creating an environment where our risk tolerance is high, and we have the phenomenal results to prove it. Stay the course through moments of immense personal and professional risk and you’ll realize the power that it can have when it comes to your team’s growth, continuous improvement, and success.
What strategies have you employed to build high-performing teams in tech, particularly those led by women?
Building high-performing teams, particularly those led by women, has been a significant focus of my leadership approach with a heavy emphasis on mentorship, open and honest communication, empowerment, resilience, and data-driven decision-making.
I also actively work to create a safe space for my team to come to me with anything – a challenge they’re facing on a project or with an individual, if they’re not seeing results on a project, or if they just need to vent.
This has led to not only the growth and continued success of my teams, but also to their overall job satisfaction. In particular, my focus on collaboration and engagement has resulted in significantly higher satisfaction scores compared to the majority of the organization. These are not ‘soft skills’, and my team’s success is a testament to the effectiveness of these approaches building and leading high-performing teams.
In your current role at SkipTheDishes, what excites you most about the future of the company and tech as a whole? Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
MFR: What excites me most about the future of the company and the broader tech industry is that there is still the massive potential for innovation. SkipTheDishes operates in the ever-evolving realm of food delivery and technology, which is filled with opportunities for advancement – we never sit still, and I can honestly say I’ve never been bored during my five years here.
Technology drives progress, transforms industries, and creates innovation. It’s amazing how fast tech keeps improving, not just for efficiency but also for connecting people and making the world better. The food delivery industry is ever evolving, with new customer preferences and expectations emerging, and I find it genuinely exciting to be part of a team that’s at the forefront of these changes.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in technology or leadership roles in tech companies?
MFR: For any young women considering a career in tech, my advice would be to find ‘your people’ at your job. Whether that’s a Women in Tech group, a colleague, a mentor – anyone that you can have honest conversations with. If you can be your authentic self and inspire others to do the same with you, it’s incredible. You’ll create a community where no one is afraid to bring up any adversity they’re facing, situations that may have made them uncomfortable, or to share your successes with, and in turn they’ll encourage and support you in expanding your scope and looking for that next promotion.
To be a great leader, you need to find what sets you apart, and identify how you can impact the organization. Don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings and present your ideas, even if they’re outside your job description – a good idea is a good idea. Focus on continuously learning from your own teams across the business – if I don’t understand something, I feel no shame in asking for more information or reaching out directly to individuals to get more details.
Fundamentally, advocate for yourself, even when it feels uncomfortable. Often in tech – and especially with start ups – there is not always a clear career path, so don’t be afraid to create your own.