Driving diversity in tech

Melissa Lim

Being the sole female voice in the room is something Melissa Lim is familiar with.

A natural leader, Lim is a partner at Walkers law firm and the only female director of the Blockchain Association of the Cayman Islands.

Previously, she was on the board of directors of the Utilities Regulation and Competition Office (which regulates the utilities, information, communications, technology and fuel sectors of the Cayman Islands) — and was also the lone female director there. Currently, Lim is one of two females on the Ministry of Financial Services Legislative Sub-Committee for Fintech.

“We need more women to take leadership roles in the tech sector in order to provide the diversity in views and experience to benefit the sector,” she says.

Lim grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and obtained a double degree in commerce and law from the University of Melbourne before working at law firms in Melbourne and London. She moved to Cayman 12 years ago and became a partner at Walkers in 2013.

Her areas of practice at Walkers include funds, finance and corporate law, which allow her to work on a diverse range of matters that involve cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

Blockchain is an emerging technology that involves the use of distributed ledgers, which are essentially a decentralised database that is accessible by and shared among a number of computers in a network.
The Blockchain Association is a forum for those involved or interested in this technology; it’s also a network to share ideas, drive initiatives, and discuss legislative changes in Cayman.

Lim sees her directorship role at the Blockchain Association as an enriching yet challenging one and says that is a great organisation for women to join in order to “skill-up in this area in a supportive environment.”

Technology’s many facets

Lim is fascinated by the many uses of blockchain technology as it has the ability to disrupt not only the financial services industry but many other industries as well.

“Financial institutions are looking at blockchain to automate payments. For example, JPMorgan is proposing to issue JPM Coin for this purpose. Real estate would benefit from blockchain to keep track of title transfers, and supermarkets are considering using blockchain to track their supply chain from farmers to the supermarkets,” she says.

Lim’s passion stems from her natural curiosity and eagerness to learn, as well as from the efficiencies and benefits that she sees technology can create. She gives an example of a recent business trip to the US where she was heavily reliant on Uber and Google Maps to get around the city.

“The potential benefits that technology can bring is endless as long as humans continue to innovate, and regulators encourage innovation.”

Future of blockchain

It is evident that Lim is a trailblazer in this male-dominated industry; as technology continues to grow, so will the career potential — for all genders.

“Tech is the future so don’t be afraid of it…I highly encourage women to join this industry,” says Lim.

She adds, “In my view, blockchain now is like the Internet was in the ‘90s, and I believe that in 5 to 10 years the use of blockchain will become prevalent.”

Lim cautions that there will need to be a lot of investment made and a thoughtful move away from existing legacy systems; but given the potential for the technology to create efficiencies, and thereby reduce costs and time, it’s only a matter of time before many companies will adopt blockchain enterprise solutions.

“I am very positive about this space and am looking forward to participating in and advising on this constantly evolving landscape,” she says.

Advice for the next generation

For young girls eager to pursue technology careers, Melissa Lim’s advice is to be curious and to always keep learning.

She encourages Cayman’s younger generation to learn how to code and sign up for the free courses offered at Youth Coding Cayman, an initiative which Walker’s supports in conjunction with the Ministry of Community Affairs, Cartan Group and Cayman Enterprise City.

“Tech is not a boy’s world – in fact, tech is already in so many aspects of a girl’s life, from smartphones to apps like Snapchat and Instagram. The tech world needs diversity to keep creating products and programmes that will appeal to the relevant audience. Look for mentors and be proactive in seeking opportunities to learn about this space.”