From a tender age, the allure of technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and telecommunications (telco) seized the imagination of Antonietta Mastroianni, the Chief Digital & IT Officer of Proximus. She found herself drawn to the intricate tapestry of these fields, mesmerized by their profound potential to shape the world, with an ambition to use these powerful tools to create a better, more connected world.
Proximus Group, headquartered in Belgium, is a leading provider of telecommunication services. Offering a comprehensive range of products including telephony, internet, television, and network-based ICT solutions, it’s recognized for its innovative approach to digital technology and commitment to sustainable development.
Inspired to Strive for Greatness and Excellence
Growing up, Antonietta’s dreams and aspirations were inspired by a deep fascination with high-performance individuals who personified greatness with a relentless drive toward perfection, unwavering dedication to their craft, and an indomitable spirit in the face of adversity.
She was captivated by the grace, strength, synergy of control, and fluidity of professional dancers, their mastery over their bodies making the rigorous appear effortless, embodying beauty, strength, resilience, grit, intense training, and unyielding pursuit of their art. Athletes inspired a profound respect for dedication, diligence, perseverance, endurance, and mental fortitude, as a testament to the magnificence of human potential and the incredible outcomes of synchronizing passion and hard work.
They taught Antonietta about discipline, the beautiful synthesis of art and athleticism, and the power of communicating without words. They drove her dreams and aspirations, encouraging her to strive for greatness, push beyond the ordinary, harness her potential, and imbue every endeavour with unparalleled commitment and excellence. They represented symbols of the indomitable human spirit, where passion meets perseverance, inspiring her to live a life of excellence and unwavering commitment to achieving greatness in her own way.
Overcoming Challenges to Become a Stronger Leader
On her leadership journey, Antonietta was challenged to establish and maintain a firm belief in her capabilities and herself, even when navigating environments that were not always supportive or inclusive.
“It was an unspoken but palpable pressure, one that tested my confidence and determination. I learned early on that to succeed, I had to cultivate an unwavering faith in my abilities. I knew the value I brought to the table, and I refused to let anyone’s bias or preconceived notions undermine my self-belief,” she declares.
Another challenge was articulating her ambitions and potential clearly and compellingly, even when they were seen as audacious and her potential was overlooked or underestimated. She learned to communicate her goals and capabilities with clarity and conviction, advocate for herself, navigate power dynamics, and build strong professional relationships to support her career growth.
The perception that assertive or ambitious women are aggressive or off-putting forced Antonietta to strike a delicate balance between asserting her ambitions and potential, to avoid any backlash associated with women who defy societal expectations.
These turned out to be invaluable learning opportunities that taught her resilience, assertiveness, and self-belief and helped her develop an authentic, effective, leadership style respectful of diverse perspectives and experiences. More importantly, they made her a stronger leader, committed to promoting inclusivity, equality, and empowerment in the workplace.
Helping Shape a Better-Connected World
As the Chief Digital & IT Officer at Proximus, Antonietta spearheads the strategic planning, building, and execution of all digital and IT operations, from overseeing the IT landscape to leading digital transformation efforts in line with broader business objectives. She helped craft data architecture and leverage the potential of AI by creating a robust, scalable, and secure data infrastructure that supports more data-driven insights and decision-making processes using AI technologies to augment capabilities, enhance customer experiences, and streamline operations.
One of Antonietta’s crucial duties is ensuring the cybersecurity of digital assets and customer data in this era of increased cyber threats and data breaches. She constantly reviews and updates cybersecurity strategies to provide robust defences and respond effectively to potential threats. She oversees the development and management of digital applications, including TV services, staying updated on the latest digital trends and ensuring their offerings align with evolving customer expectations and the competitive landscape.
Antonietta also nurtures the digital ecosystem to transform beyond telco, which she finds a rewarding experience. She’s helping to shape the digital future of the organization and influence the broader trajectory of the tech industry. “I’m driven by the knowledge that my work has a meaningful impact and is helping to shape a better-connected world,” she maintains.
Keeping Teams Motivated, Connected & Inspired
One of Antonietta’s primary responsibilities as a leader is keeping her team motivated, connected, and inspired. This requires open, regular communication to ensure every team member feels heard and valued. “I make it a priority to connect with each individual, understand their aspirations and concerns, and provide constructive feedback. By maintaining an open-door policy, I foster an environment of trust and transparency, which is crucial for motivation and connection,” she explains.
Antonietta leads by example, demonstrating dedication, resilience, and adaptability, and showcasing the values and work ethics she wants her team to embrace. She showcases success by celebrating project completion and significant milestones to recognize the team’s hard work and motivate them to strive further.
She regularly shares inspiring demos and showcases cutting-edge technology and innovation to update the team on the latest trends, spark their curiosity, and foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation, and believes that understanding the “art of the possible” with technology can be a significant source of inspiration and motivation.
Antonietta places great emphasis on professional development, encouraging her team members to pursue learning opportunities, providing resources to enhance skills, and actively supporting their career growth. Knowing that their professional growth is valued serves as a strong motivator. She cultivates a culture of collaboration and inclusivity to help team members feel part of a supportive and inclusive community, and be more motivated, productive, and innovative.
“I aim to ensure that everyone in the team feels valued, respected, and included. My approach to keeping my team motivated, connected, and inspired is multifaceted and people centric. I believe that fostering an environment of open communication, continuous learning, recognition, and inclusivity is key to keeping a team motivated and inspired,” she affirms.
Leadership Success Is About Growing People & The Organization
Antonietta’s definition of success is deeply rooted in upholding and embodying the organization’s core values. It means aligning their collective actions with the principles they hold dear, creating a sense of authenticity and fulfillment in their mission. Success also means acknowledging that her team’s happiness and health are indispensable to their collective success. So, prioritizing her team’s well-being by fostering a culture that values and promotes self-care, is a crucial measure of success, as the organization’s mental, physical, and emotional health is a key driver of its overall performance and longevity.
Striving for excellence is another pillar of Antonietta’s success, not in terms of being infallible, but seeking to challenge herself, learn, grow, and push the boundaries of her potential, aim to outdo her past performance, and recognize progress as an achievement in its own right. She believes that execution, from a leadership perspective, is as vital as success, and that it isn’t just about generating ideas and setting goals but the ability to actualize these visions through dedicated, consistent action, as success rewards resilience and tenacity in the face of adversity.
Antonietta believes that success is fundamentally about growing her people and organization, inspiring and coaching those within the ranks, and cultivating an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute. It’s about leveraging her influence and skills not just for personal benefit, but to spark growth, inspire innovation, and create meaningful impact within and beyond the organization. Leadership success is about living her values, prioritizing team well-being, relentlessly pursuing excellence, executing with determination, and inspiring others to share in the collective growth and achievement.
Leveraging Passion for Technology to Make a Positive Impact
Antonietta’s passion for technology and telecommunications is a driving force behind the organization’s collective mission. She sees technology and telco as the lifeblood of the organization, the key to unlocking untold possibilities for the betterment of society.
“I’m deeply fascinated by the boundless potential of technology, particularly the transformative power of AI. I see it as more than just an impressive display of machine learning, but an indispensable ally in our quest for innovation and advancement. It represents the evolution of decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity in our digital world. My role is to foster an environment that encourages the exploration of this vast frontier, staying at the forefront of this technological revolution,” she elaborates.
Antonietta sees telecommunications as more than infrastructure or means of communication, but the foundation of a connected, inclusive world, a powerful tool to bridge gaps, build relationships, and empower people, regardless of their location, as connectivity fosters collaboration, breaks down geographical barriers and democratizes access to information. This forms the backbone of Antonietta’s leadership style and shapes her vision for the organization, inspiring them to reach for innovative solutions, challenge the status quo, drive transformation, explore, innovate, and strive for excellence.
“My ambition as a leader is to leverage this passion to make a positive impact on the world. I envision a future where our work in technology and telecommunications helps create a more equitable, connected society, giving everyone the means and opportunity to realize their potential. My goal is to lead our organization in turning this vision into reality, harnessing the power of technology and connectivity to make the world a better place,” she explains.
Antonietta notes that transitioning from a traditional telecommunications operator to a technology-oriented, digital ecosystem company brings a host of challenges and roadblocks, namely:
- Legacy Systems: It is complex, time-consuming, and costly to transition from outdated legacy hardware and software systems and infrastructure to newer technologies that support a digitally driven business model.
- Cultural Shift: Profound change in corporate culture, like fostering a mindset of innovation, risk-taking, and agility.
- Regulatory Environment: Navigating a new set of regulatory complexities related to data privacy, cybersecurity, etc.
- Talent Acquisition and Retention: Attracting, retaining, and developing talent and access to new skill sets given the competitive nature of the tech industry.
- Data Management and Security: Building infrastructure and processes for data management and ensuring robust cybersecurity for handling massive amounts of data securely and efficiently.
- Rapidly Evolving Competition: Constant innovation and adaptability to deal with competition and the fast pace of change.
- Customer Expectations: Meeting high customer expectations in terms of seamless user experiences, personalized services, and constant innovation while undergoing a major transformation.
Despite these roadblocks, becoming a digital ecosystem company is essential in the face of rapid technological change to unlock significant new opportunities for growth and innovation. Antonietta is guiding Proximus through its ongoing transformation, pushing the boundaries of what a telecom company can achieve, and driving growth in its digital ecosystem.
“The journey’s complex but incredibly fulfilling and has the potential to significantly impact the industry. Staying motivated is vital in my role, and it largely comes from my passion for what I do, and my clear, defined goals. I thrive on challenges, constantly pushing myself to learn and grow. I stay connected with leaders in my field, reading about their experiences, and drawing inspiration from their journeys,” she states.
Building a More Inclusive, Innovative & Dynamic Telecom Sector
Throughout her career, Antonietta has led the way for women in technology, pushing boundaries, and showing that gender should never be a barrier to achieving greatness. Her successes and accomplishments have helped carve a path for other women, inspiring them to pursue their dreams in tech. She aims to demonstrate, through her journey, that diverse leadership fosters innovation, and that a culture of inclusion is key to creating a vibrant and successful organization.
Antonietta hopes to transform traditional telecommunications into a more technology and agile-driven landscape. Recognizing the shift towards digital ecosystems early on, she worked to steer her organization and the industry toward it. She underscored the need for agility and adaptability in the face of a rapidly evolving technological landscape and pushed for telecom companies to become more tech-centric to stay competitive and relevant.
One of Antonietta’s most significant contributions has been leading the transition to digital ecosystems, advocating for a holistic approach that does not merely focus on technological changes but encompasses shifts in business models, organizational culture, and customer engagement strategies. This has helped redefine the future of the industry, ensuring that it’s well-positioned to leverage the opportunities of the digital era.
“I’m proud of the impact I’ve made on the telecommunications industry. My efforts in promoting gender equality, envisioning a tech-driven future, and championing organizational agility have set a new standard in the industry. I hope to continue paving the way for a more inclusive, innovative, and dynamic telecommunications sector, inspiring others to do the same,” she states.
Leading The Charge in The Digital Ecosystem
Proximus aims to become a pioneering technological company, leading the charge in the digital ecosystem. This hinges on three core aspects: embracing software-based solutions, driving a cultural shift towards agility, and prioritizing sustainability.
The first step involves transitioning from traditional legacy systems, that can hinder agility and innovation in an increasingly digital and fast-paced world, to software-based solutions. This involves “softwarizing” assets, toward flexible, scalable, and efficient software-based systems. This will reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) to quickly adapt and innovate in response to changing market dynamics and customer needs.
Antonietta is also committed to driving a cultural shift, embracing Agile methodologies across the board, and promoting cross-functional collaboration, iterative progress, and a customer-centric mindset. This will help enhance the speed of delivery, responsiveness to change, and overall efficiency to empower teams, break down silos, and foster a culture of continuous improvement.
Sustainability remains a key priority for Antonietta, and she’s committed to integrating it into every aspect of the business. From adopting energy-efficient technologies to promoting responsible consumption, she aims to minimize their ecological footprint and contribute positively to communities. “Sustainability, for us, is not just an ethical obligation; it’s a fundamental part of our business strategy and corporate identity,” she says.
Antonietta plans to leverage rich data resources and cutting-edge AI technologies to drive personalized customer experiences, streamline operations, and make more informed, predictive decisions that drive growth and revolutionize service offerings. Proximus’ future roadmap involves establishing a comprehensive digital ecosystem to expand its service portfolio, forge strategic partnerships, and foster open innovation. It aims to provide a seamlessly integrated suite of digital services that cater to the diverse needs of customers, delivering greater value, and enhancing its competitive position. Antonietta is confident that, with its talented team, customer-centric approach, and relentless commitment to innovation, its well-positioned to navigate this transformation and solidify its position as a leading tech company.
Mentoring Women in Tech to Thrive & Lead
Antonietta acquired a Master’s Degree in Computer and Automation Engineering that helped her understand technological systems and their potential to revolutionize industries, and helped foster problem-solving skills and creative thinking. She embarked on a career that spanned four different countries, experiencing both the incumbent and challenger sides of the telecommunications industry across Europe.
This international exposure enriched her perspectives, understanding of diverse markets, and strategies to tackle varied business challenges. It shaped her ability to navigate the complex world of telecommunications and hone her skills in creating robust IT systems and digital strategies. As she climbed the ranks, Antonietta assumed roles such as Group Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital and IT Officer, overseeing and transforming the IT and digital infrastructure of multinational telecom companies. This helped her influence their strategic direction and guide them toward a future focused on technology and digital innovation.
Her contributions to the industry didn’t go unnoticed, and in 2022, Antonietta was honored with the title of “Telecom Woman of the Year,” a testament to her influence and impact as a female leader, and a symbol of what women can achieve in the tech industry. It affirmed her work and inspired other women in Tech. She also received the “CXO of the Year” award in 2021, for excellence in executive leadership, ability to drive significant changes, and contribution toward transforming her organization.
Antonietta feels a sense of accomplishment for the change she drove in the industry, through her journey of transformation, from traditional telecom to a digital and technology-driven landscape and is proud of the part she played in it. “I look forward to contributing to this ever-evolving industry, to inspire and to break down barriers for the generations of women in tech who will come after me,” she says.
A key part of Antonietta’s journey as a woman in tech is her commitment to mentorship and advocacy for other women. Recognizing the importance of female representation and support, she dedicated considerable effort to mentoring upcoming female talent, sharing experiences, insights, and lessons learned, to guide these promising individuals as they navigate their path in the tech world. She’s passionate about building networks of women in tech to help women uplift and learn from one another, create opportunities together, and build a strong community with a supportive environment to foster collaboration, exchange of ideas, and collective growth.
The most emblematic initiative that Antonietta is about to launch is her project, “High Tech in High Heels.” It goes beyond showcasing the achievements of women in tech, highlighting their journeys, struggles, triumphs, and unique contributions to inspire more women to explore careers in tech and challenge prevailing stereotypes and biases.
“High Tech in High Heels is more than just a project to me. It’s a reflection of my personal and professional journey as a woman in tech. It embodies my belief that women when given the right opportunities and support, can excel in the tech industry and play a pivotal role in shaping its future,” she insists.
Antonietta vows to mentor, inspire, and champion the cause of women in tech with the belief that gender diversity is not just an ethical imperative, but a key driver of innovation and progress, and hopes her initiatives will create a more inclusive and equitable tech industry where women thrive and lead. “I firmly believe that diversity and inclusion, especially gender diversity, can only enrich our industry, driving innovative ideas and better solutions,” she affirms.
Believe In Your Ability to Make a Difference
Maintaining a balance between her personal and professional life is incredibly important to Antonietta and largely revolves around setting boundaries and pursuing passions outside of work, such as her love for art, a creative outlet that provides a sense of balance and serves as a source of inspiration and relaxation. “I’m an ardent art enthusiast, having written an art book and collected over 200 paintings,” she reveals.
She enjoys sports as engaging in physical activities helps her disconnect from professional responsibilities and relieves stress after a long day at work. Starting her day with a walk to the office clears her mind, prepares her for the challenges ahead, and offers an opportunity to reflect and gather her thoughts before diving into the business of the day.
Antonietta’s tasks range from strategizing and decision-making to connecting with her team and partners. She takes regular breaks to enhance mental clarity for effective leadership. After work, she fills her evenings with incredibly fulfilling and rejuvenating hobbies like her art collection, writing, or playing sports. As a positive thinker, she approaches challenges as opportunities for growth and maintains a sense of optimism, even in the face of adversity. This keeps her motivated and inspires positivity and motivation in her team.
Antonietta is committed to continued growth in business, viewing each new experience as an opportunity to learn, expand her perspectives, and challenge herself to keep learning and growing, dedicated to staying abreast of changes in the field of technology and incorporating new knowledge into her leadership approach. She sends a clear and inspiring message to all aspiring businesswomen:
“Master your craft and believe in yourself. The journey may not always be easy, and there will be challenges, but with determination, resilience, and self-belief, you can overcome them. Remember that your unique perspective is invaluable, and it’s this diversity of thought that will drive the future of business.
Stay curious and keep learning. The world is changing rapidly, and continuous learning is key to staying ahead. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek help when needed, and share your ideas. You have a voice – make sure it’s heard. And finally, know that self-belief is crucial. There may be moments of self-doubt but remember that your potential is immense.
Keep your goals clear and your resolve strong. The path to success is paved with persistence. Above all, remember that you’re not alone. There are networks of women who have faced similar challenges, and their experiences can be a source of guidance and inspiration. So, reach out, connect, and believe in your ability to make a difference.”