Women Lead Data Podcast Episode 7: Fostering a Data Driven Culture with Stefania Ólafsdóttir of Avo

May 2, 2024

About the episode

In episode 7 of the Women Lead Data podcast, Lindsay is joined by Stefania Ólafsdóttir (CEO and Co-founder of Avo) to learn more about her leadership journey in the data industry. Stef shares her story about how the common challenges of dealing with broken event tracking data led to the birth of her company, Avo. We dive deep into Icelandic culture to learn more about the 1975 Icelandic Women’s Strike, how it paved the way for the world’s first democratically elected female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, and how this led to a generation of Icelanders who believed you had to be a woman to be president. Stef also shares some great insights about how she tackles goal setting as a CEO and how this helps her manage the different roles in her life. This is a juicy episode, you don’t want to miss!

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From Mathematics to Data Pioneering

Stef's journey into the data world is a vivid illustration of how unconventional paths can lead to groundbreaking careers. Initially set to follow the well-trodden path of mathematics graduates into finance, Stef's curiosity and desire for innovation guided her towards the nascent Icelandic startup ecosystem. This pivotal decision unveiled a passion for working with massive datasets and solving complex problems, particularly in the field of genetics at Decode Genetics. Here, Stef's work on distributed computing and genetic data analysis not only laid the foundation for her data engineering skills but also underscored the transformative power of data in driving scientific discovery and innovation.

The Genesis of Avo

The creation of Avo was a direct response to the acute challenges Stef encountered while managing data at QuizUp. The explosive growth of the gaming app presented unique opportunities and challenges in data analytics, emphasizing the need for a robust framework to ensure data integrity and quality. Avo's inception reflects a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in managing large-scale data and the necessity for tools that enable effective collaboration across different teams. By focusing on event-based data and prioritizing data quality from the source, Avo addresses a critical gap in the analytics landscape, offering a solution that is both innovative and essential for businesses relying on accurate and actionable data insights.

Fostering a Data-Driven Culture

Stef's vision for Avo extends beyond technical solutions to encompass a holistic approach to data culture within organizations. By facilitating early and effective collaboration between data producers and consumers, Avo aims to enhance not just the quality of data but also the way teams perceive and utilize data. This approach fosters a more data-literate workforce, capable of leveraging data insights for strategic decision-making and innovation. The emphasis on cross-functional collaboration ensures that data is not only accurate but also relevant and aligned with organizational goals, ultimately leading to better user experiences and business outcomes.

Advocating for Gender Equality and Inclusion

A significant aspect of Stef's narrative is her commitment to promoting gender equality and diversity in the tech industry. Drawing inspiration from Iceland's progressive policies and her personal experiences, Stef actively works towards creating an inclusive environment at Avo. Her efforts to achieve gender balance within the company and to increase diversity in its cap table are commendable steps towards addressing systemic inequalities in the tech sector. By sharing her experiences and advocating for change, Stef contributes to a broader movement seeking to dismantle barriers and create equal opportunities for all individuals in technology.

The Balance of Leadership and Parenthood

Stef's experience underscores the significance of supportive partnerships, both at home and work, in managing these dual responsibilities effectively.

The challenge of balancing the demanding role of a CEO with the responsibilities of parenthood is a theme that resonates deeply in Stef's story. Her candid reflection on the transitions and adjustments required to navigate these roles highlights the importance of support systems, both professionally and personally. Stef's experience underscores the value of flexible work arrangements and the need for a culture that supports work-life balance. By demonstrating that it is possible to lead a successful tech company while being a present and engaged parent, Stef provides a powerful example for aspiring leaders, especially women, in tech.


Stef's story is a testament to the power of innovation, leadership, and social responsibility in the ever-evolving field of data science and analytics. Through Avo, she not only addresses the technical challenges of data quality but also champions a more inclusive and equitable tech environment. Her journey offers valuable insights for data professionals and serves as an inspiration for aspiring leaders in technology.

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