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April 29, 2024 Women in Digital

Introducing the 2023 Women in Digital Awards Champion of Change powered by BlackCard, Renee Noble!

Renee Noble isn’t just your typical CEO. She’s truly a force to be reckoned with in the tech world as CEO of Tech Inclusion, CEO and Founder of ConnectEd Code and if that’s not all, she is also a Cloud Advocate for Microsoft. Her passion for technology, education, and community is at the heart of her professional journey.

Renee’s nomination for Champion of Change was centred around her incredible work with the Girls’ Programming Network (GPN) working to improve tech education for people of all ages and levels of experience, particularly women and girls.

Renee is really living and embodying the “if they can see it, they can be it” motto which has been evident in every step of her career journey! Her achievements as a champion for women in digital is nothing short of outstanding.

We were thrilled to talk to our 2023 Champion of Change about her winning entry, career journey and more.

Click here to meet all the 2023 Women in Digital Award Winners.

Congratulations Renee! We are huge fans of your work in the industry.

To try and sum up who I am at my core, I’m a person who loves to give to other people. Being able to build other people up is when I feel great, and helping other people flourish is how I feel like I am doing my part in the world. With that, I am also a person who goes all in on things. I struggle to do things by halves (but I am trying to have some more chilled-out hobbies now!) If I see the benefit or potential in something I want to give it my all, I want to see how good something can be, and I want to see what I have in myself to be able to make that a reality.

I’ve always been very motivated to prove what I can do, maybe originally this was to prove to others what I can do, but these days it’s more about showing myself how much I’m capable of. I just love figuring things out, learning what I need to take things to the next step, and working hard to make it happen. I could definitely have been described as a workaholic for a lot of the parts of my journey to this point, but along the way I’ve realised that all the opportunities I had to do all that work has been what lifted me up to this point, and that sharing the work around will not only benefit me by reducing my workload to closer to normal human levels but also make space for other people to have those same opportunities.

It has been a very conscious decision of mine to recreate opportunities that I had when I first joined GPN for as many people as possible. Being thrown in the deep end a little my first time at GPN helped build my confidence in my tech skills immensely, and having the support of the people around me was one of the things that made me feel like I had found a home in the tech scene. At that time, GPN was a tiny little thing with a tiny group of volunteers. Everyone had to do things they wouldn’t necessarily sign up for, things they didn’t think they were “qualified” to do. These days we have plenty of experienced volunteers, but it’s part of the culture I set out to establish to make space for those experiences – giving people a little bit of a push to take on giving a lecture, running a room, or leading a whole event.

And to bring our readers up to speed, could you give a little pitch for Tech Inclusion and ConnectEdCode. How did ConnectEd Code come to be?

So firstly, Tech Inclusion is the charity that I co-founded around the already existing GPN program. GPN had existed for over 13 years when we founded Tech Inclusion two years ago. Until then we had been under the umbrella of various organisations, but we thought it was about time we went out on our own. Now we have set up Tech Inc. (yep that’s what we call it for short! Our org where the Inc. stands for Inclusion!), we have a lot more ability to be agile, and to work with industry partners. We’re always looking for more sponsors and more university partners that can help expand and grow our program around the country.

Within Tech Inc we’re also looking at different ways to build on the work we are doing with GPN, providing more opportunities for our tutors, trialling a new program for year 3-6 students, and many other things that are on the to do list. It’s still all volunteer-run, but we hope to get to a place where we can have people working on this as their job, to help us achieve all these benefits for gender diversity throughout the tech education and career pipeline, as well as potentially other marginalised groups.

ConnectEd Code is actually also inspired by my GPN work. In 2020, everyone was having a bit of a watershed movement, I think. It was then that I realised that I had built up a huge amount of skills and a huge network through my work on GPN and they weren’t really being recognised and were under utilised at my job at the time. It was then that I decided I wanted to tackle the problems I wasn’t getting to take on in my job.

This was about tackling delivery of the mandatory Australian technology curriculum by really listening to teachers and working with the limited time they have and the constraints of the school system. I knew a lot of the pedagogical learnings I had from GPN would be something that could benefit a lot of people. Since then I’ve come up with a lot of really creative ways to work with schools to make meeting their requirements easy, while also having kids that are really excited to learn about technology. It’s all about bringing Coding together with content, community, and curriculum. You can do a lot of cool stuff with that as your basis, like have teams design and code the tech for an escape room, or solve a murder mystery using their hand-coded detective devices.

The crux of your nomination is GPN. Tell us more about this program and what you have achieved?

I joined GPN in 2014 when there were maybe 30 girls learning to code each term at a workshop in Sydney. In 2023 we taught 1500 girls to code around the country! And that’s not even back to our pre-COVID peak attendance of around 2000 a year, since some of our GPN nodes only started back up about a year ago, and a lot of the students have graduated high school and now become GPN volunteers.

When I joined, having a nationwide network of GPN nodes was not something that was on the cards, I don’t know if that had even been imagined. But today we have nodes in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, and regional Tasmania. And we’ve had four others along the way we hope are back on deck soon!

It’s amazing to see how GPN has spread over the country in less than 10 years, the full story goes something like this…

About a year after I joined, I discovered I had accidentally inherited the leadership of the program, and I was hooked. As I’ve mentioned, GPN was somewhere that felt like a home for me. I wanted to help more students and volunteers to find out about it. It felt like I was giving them a gift!

With a (big) handful of commitment, I was able to add some of the hands-on activity ideas we had been talking about for at least as long as I had been there. And with this I also made space for other ideas from our other volunteers to shape the event, adding our mentoring sessions for senior school students that has meant that a lot more students keep coming to GPN throughout their senior years, seeking that support as they look to their futures.

The student population at the events started to rapidly grow. Girls were bringing their friends, who then went on to bring more and more friends. At the same time, I was racing to reach out across the tech industry to find as many women to volunteer as possible to make sure we had enough volunteers for all the kids! This led to us having a richer, more diverse range of volunteers from a variety of tech, teaching, and other sectors, at various stages of their careers.

Eventually, we reached our cap in Sydney, there simply weren’t more than 180 computers we could use at the same time. We ultimately ended up having to add an extra day of the workshop, because so many girls were upset to be missing out. We had a problem that no one foresaw, too many girls wanted to learn to code.

And, while there were girls we knew were missing out in Sydney, surely there were girls around the country who would also love to go to a GPN workshop. Canberra was the first to jump on board, with support from ASD, and soon we had Perth, then Cairns, Mackay, Adelaide, Burnie, Melbourne, and Brisbane. In bringing on board people and partners from across the country I spent a lot of time working out what it really meant to be a GPN node. And then spent a lot of time making sure our content was something that could be delivered by the volunteers on hand at every location around the country, from the middle of Sydney where software developers are plentiful, to regional Australia where GPN events were run by passionate teachers. Finally, finding more ways to help more GPN die-hards get on board to help grow and support the program, and give them a methodology for spreading what GPN is, why we do it, and how to recreate it, to a diverse range of communities around the country.

We now have a great team of experienced GPN volunteers supporting nodes around the country, travelling to new nodes and supporting them as they come on board. And all our nodes are working together to support the growth of GPN nationally, sharing the knowledge that they have gained in their own communities and experiences. This in particular is something that has helped us thrive in recent years and looks to have us scale faster than ever into the future.

How are you planning to grow the program in years to come?

In 2024 we are hoping to have at least two more nodes up and running in capital cities around Australia and to be looking at reaching students in NSW that likely aren’t benefiting from our Sydney workshop. We’d also love to see our Sydney numbers return to their pre-COVID heights, and we’ll be chasing that this year too!

We’re also piloting our GPN Junior program for year 3-6 primary school students in Sydney. There is always such interest in our high school program from parents with younger kids, so we’re trialling a half-day experience designed specifically for that demographic.

Looking further ahead, I’d love to have a node in every capital city by 2026. I’d also love to get some of our regional Queensland nodes back up and running. With our expanded team and the help of our sponsors, I hope to be able to increase support for the hardworking teachers who were bringing GPN to life in pre-COVID years.

We have a lot of other ideas as well, from programs to support uni students who are new to coding, ways to reach more students in schools, workshops on ways to build essential career skills for graduates, and creating opportunities for high school and university students to experience what it’s really like to work in a tech team. These are just a few of the things we want to get done, we’re just waiting on the right partners to help us bring them to life and to energise our operations by allowing some of our volunteers to make GPN their job.

What led you to pursue a career in tech in the first place?

I actually ended up in tech by chance. Living in college my first year of uni a couple of people decided that they wanted to teach me to program at 11pm one night. That was my first ever experience of coding, I didn’t even know that anyone could just get started with it on a regular laptop before that. It really felt like a superpower.

I took to it quite naturally, and I saw it as a way to use all the types of maths and problem-solving that I had loved in high school. I was studying Chemical Engineering and Science degrees at the time, but added a computer science subject, and ultimately squished in another science major alongside my chemistry major in Science. For my chemical engineering honours thesis, I utilised coding and machine learning for sustainable energy solutions, coding my experiments up and leaving them to run overnight, coming back to my beautifully graphed results in the morning (most of the time at least!) Meanwhile, a lot of my peers were whiling away time in the labs, with one eye on their experiments as they slowly completed.

I really loved how I could use coding to solve problems in a new way that multiplied what I could do by myself by a factor of millions. I just had to know the instructions to tell the computer. I’d found ways to use code in my chemical engineering internship as well, to make processes easier for everyone and the huge amounts of data they had. I loved the feeling of scripting something and seeing the results come out and having achieved something or having uncovered the next problem to solve.

Upon finishing uni, I decided that I was going to take the computer science route, rather than the engineering one. I got my first full-time job at what is now Data61-CSIRO, then was in an ed-tech start-up for a while, then started my own business, and now work for Microsoft – all while I was leading and growing GPN.

Tell us more about your role and what it is you do in a week as a CEO and Cloud Advocate.

While all three roles, CEO for Tech Inclusion/GPN, CEO for Connected Code, and Cloud Advocate at Microsoft are similarly summed up as tech + education + community, they are all very different in terms of the kind of work I am doing for each of them.

For Tech Inclusion/GPN, as we grow and as we solidify the charity, it is becoming more high-level work. I am spending more time looking at contracts, policies, and prospectuses than I was before, which are all new skills I’m getting to build. I also only get to move up to these new tasks because there are other amazing volunteers who are taking on things that I used to spend a lot more time on, like educational planning and event management. I am still very focused on the mission, and how to spread that mission to other locations, so after my day job at Microsoft, I often have meetings to connect with the GPN Committee running leading GPN nodes around the country, with teams starting up new projects, or spending the weekend with my powerhouse COO, Alex Penna, at one of our classic “GPN Planning Parties”.

For ConnectEd Code, that is another one where I am lucky to not be taking it on alone anymore. Since I started at Microsoft, my fiancé and CTO, Jack Reichelt, has taken a lot more of the business. Most of my work for that will be chatting with him over lunch about new initiatives that we want to pursue in relation to new curriculums and the introduction of AI tech in schools. I’m in the loop in the education industry in a variety of ways, so most of my work is to loop Jack in so we can connect meaningfully with the schools and organisations that need some help in the tech space and provide them with a solution that works for their constraints and desires. Occasionally I might need to take a couple of days off work at Microsoft so I can go and be part of a cool event where we work directly with the kids, like getting a whole school year of over 150 students, coding to solve a murder mystery with data science, launch a weather balloon full of sensors, or build and code the electronics of their own escape rooms. Those are very exciting days to be a part of!

Microsoft is my full-time job, so that follows a bit more of a normal structure, except for the fact that I’m here in Sydney, a very awkward time for engaging with a global team during office hours. But, luckily, as a Cloud Advocate, the kind of work we do can be largely done independently. This might be writing a new module to be released on Microsoft Learn, working with the Microsoft Reactor in Sydney to host a YouTube livestream with a guest, writing a blog discussing an upcoming event, or working on collecting diversity and inclusion stories to be shared both internally and externally as part of my work on the D&I committee for my organisation. We’ve had so much cool new tech coming out from Microsoft in the last year, so some time has to go into getting up to speed with that, and then telling other people about what it was like to get started with it.

How do you manage to juggle it all while keeping your energy so high?

I really love giving opportunities to people, whether it’s the chance to learn, the chance to volunteer, the chance to join and be part of something. I think that’s what keeps me going, I’m just genuinely excited about what I get to offer people, and how they respond when they realise the possibilities they’ve unlocked through learning and building skills.

Also, having people along on the journey with me is now a major source of energy and momentum. I can’t pour as much raw energy in as I did when I was 10 years younger, but having a team who believes in the mission as much as I do and knowing that we will keep the momentum going as a team, it makes it both a lighter lift for myself and everyone, and makes me want to do it even more.

What does winning this award mean to you?

To be recognised in this way is a major honour. I’ve been doing this a long time, and you do kind of get lost in the day-to-day, never-ending nature of it. There’s always something more to do. But a moment like this is one to stop and reflect on all that I have been able to achieve on this journey, and all the people who are now on the journey with me.

Also, having this moment for GPN to be seen by a bigger audience is always so meaningful. That’s what all this work is about, and giving it a moment to be seen and knowing that could lead to an even bigger impact, that’s incredible.

You have achieved incredible company growth so far! Do you have any key personal highlights?

The highlights from my GPN journey really have been around uncovering the potential I could see in GPN and bringing that to life all around Australia. It’s amazing how many requests we get for GPN to start in different communities, or people travelling great distances to get to the closest GPN to them. It is also very special to me to know how many people are carrying GPN forward, to know that this idea to make GPN this crazy big thing is shared by others and together we can ensure GPN gets to continue into the future.

I have also got to have a lot of personally exciting opportunities around my work with GPN, doing photoshoots and events with other incredible women for Women’s Weekly, CREATE magazine, and the AFR 110 Women of Influence. To be included among lists of such talented people is both very humbling and empowering.

We’re so excited to know… what is next for you? Do you have an ultimate career goal or North Star?

I think we’re really in a moment in time where we’re seeing how important it is for everyone to have an understanding of technology, whether we think about how AI will play into our futures, or the impact of cybersecurity on our everyday habits. I think equitable access to opportunities around understanding how we can change our own futures with technology is key.

Whatever I’m doing, whether it’s through GPN/Tech Inclusion, ConnectEd Code, Microsoft, or something else, is about bringing tech education opportunities to the community in a creative way. There are so many exciting things about technology, I think it is worth the extra effort to think about how we can make the way we learn about tech as exciting as the opportunities that knowing how to code and create new technology has. I want to be at the front of that, taking on the things that people say “that sounds great, but impossible”, doing things that people just don’t know how to do, or creating whole new ideas that shake up how we think about engaging with technology. If I can do that, and make it easy for teachers, students, and learners of all ages to be able to use, then I’ll know I’m heading in the right direction.

It is commonly recognised that there are fewer women in technology. What do you think could be done to improve diversity in tech?

I have so many opinions on this, and it’s hard not to explain all the principles we have behind what we do at GPN. So I’ll sum it up in a few things we hold close to us, and some things we want to see even more of to help people at all stages of their tech journeys.

GPN’s core values are around ensuring that coding is fun, social, and represents a diverse community of people, not just “hacker” style people, but anyone, you can love ballet, baking, or basketball and still love coding. We also want to show more people that coding is relevant to them and can help them solve problems they care about, whether that’s helping people, the environment, or animals – coding exists across all industries and can be combined with nearly any aspiration in a new way. Being in a welcoming culture of diverse minds makes tech a fun place to be where we solve important problems together.

Another key component for people at all stages of their learning and career journey is role models. And that can’t just be one role model you see on the internet, or one who visits your school once. It needs to be a diverse set of role models at different stages of their own journey. The ability to interact with these different people is a core way to plan your own journey, seeing where you can be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years’ time. It’s a lot easier to hopscotch your way to your dream than to figure out the path all on your own.

I’d love to see these principles carried out in schools, from primary school, right through to universities and the workplace. When we focus on the people and problems to be solved first, and the tech tools later, we open up a new world of thought, new ways to work together, and hopefully more welcoming environments that will attract more women, and if we keep it up, will retain them too.

If someone wanted to get involved with Tech Inclusion or ConnectEd Code, are there any opportunities to do so?

To get involved with Tech Inclusion the best thing you can do right now is support GPN. If you’re high up in a company, find a way to sponsor us! Check out our prospectus –

GPN also needs university partners, that’s how we bring GPN to new locations. If you have contacts at a uni in a city that doesn’t have a GPN, we need to hear from you! You can reach us at

And for individuals, if you are a woman or a gender-diverse person, volunteer for GPN! There’s so much to give and so much to get in return. You never know where it’s going to take you, I think my story is a great example of that. GPN is everything we can collectively imagine it to be. Fill out our tutor sign-up form:

As for ConnectEd Code, we’d love to hear from anyone who wants to bring coding to their school or community group. We love working with individuals to make sure we give them the help they need, whether they need teacher PD, an awesome workshop for dozens of kids, or some tips and tricks on coding projects. We take pleasure in figuring out the hard stuff for busy people! You can reach out to us at or check out our website:

What do you believe is the importance of industry awards such as the Women in Digital Awards?

There are a lot of people out in the world trying to do their best, trying to do something incredible, or something that goes against the grain. This is often true for women in tech, just trying to fight the uphill battle to succeed as a minority group in tech.

Industry awards like the Women in Digital awards are a moment to take stock of what you have accomplished and take in the fact that while you might not have finished your goals yet, you are doing something amazing and to feel the support of your peers and the industry smiling upon you. It’s a nod to let you know you’re going in the right direction and to not stop now, you’ve got even more great things ahead of you.

Renee, if you could leave the Women in Digital community with one parting word of wisdom, what would it be?

I look at myself as someone who doesn’t have any innate talents. Might seem a bit self-deprecating, but actually it’s to remind myself that everything I have accomplished is something I figured out and worked hard to get.

If there is something that you want to accomplish, (that doesn’t rely on some unchanging characteristic, like being 7 feet tall) you can get there. You might have to learn something, there might be some hard yards to put in, you might fail a bunch of times along the way, it might take a lot longer than you imagined and some days are going to be harder than others, and you might even need to inspire some people to help you on your journey. And when you do get there, you’re going to be even more proud of what you have accomplished for everything you have overcome along the way.

If I had to say I have a “talent”, it’s that I want to make things happen and that I’m prepared to work hard to get there. If you decide you want to say the same things about yourself, then I can’t wait to see what you do.

Once again, congratulations Renee on this accomplishment and thank you for taking the time to chat with us!

To read more about our 2023 Women in Digital Award Winners, click here.

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April 23, 2024 Women in Digital

Your profile on LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for promoting both your own personal brand as well as your company’s brand. But with only a limited amount of hours in the day, it more important than ever to be proactive in accessing this valuable networking resource, obtain resources and support and build
relationships with potential clients.

In March 2024, Women in Digital were joined by Sarah Morgan, Managing Director from Bespoken Agency, to delve deep into the world of ‘If I Google You, What Will I Find’. With an incredible understanding of  all things Public Relations, Sarah showed attendees how important LinkedIn was to not only promote your personal brand, but also to train the algorithm to make sure LinkedIn works for you.

LinkedIn isn’t just for Salespeople

Everyone should be building their brand and developing strategic relationships on LinkedIn. And while your news feed may be filled with irrelevant posts written by Chat GPT, it is up to you to train the algorithm. Sarah often talks to people who are only using LinkedIn when they are looking at changing jobs, but is an advocate for using LinkedIn for many other purposes.

“LinkedIn has a fundamental part in career progression and career development. I will never shy away from that. But it is only one part in the cog in the wheel.”

Crafting a compelling profile

Your LinkedIn profile serves as your digital resume and professional portfolio. As discussed by Sarah at our April Professional Development Series, you should be ‘cleaning house’ and taking the time to craft a compelling profile that highlights your unique skills, experiences, and achievements. Start with a professional profile picture and a headline that succinctly communicates your expertise and aspirations. Use the summary section to showcase your personal brand and value proposition, and optimise your profile with relevant keywords to increase visibility.

Engaging with purposeful content

Engagement is key to maximising your presence on LinkedIn. Actively engage with content that aligns with your professional interests and goals. Like, comment, and share posts from other professionals in your network, and contribute meaningful insights to discussions. By demonstrating your expertise and thought leadership through engagement, you can expand your reach and attract like-minded professionals to your network.

Sarah suggests maximising the search bar to find content you are interested in. The search bar is at the top of any LinkedIn page you’re viewing, and it allows you to search for people, companies, posts, and more. Here are 4 search topics to get your started:

  • Search connections of your connections.
  • Search for job titles or organisations – for business development.
  • Search hashtags.
  • Follow and converse with people who shared or authored a post that is relevant to you – by doing so, you will be introduced to more of their connections and be exposed to relevant content.

Creating valuable content

“Don’t just consume content—create it.”

Share original articles, updates, and insights that showcase your expertise and provide value to your audience. Share success stories, lessons learned, and industry insights that resonate with other professionals. Utilise LinkedIn features such as articles and native videos to diversify your content and capture your audience’s attention.

Strategic networking

Networking is a cornerstone of success for professional, especially in the technology industry. Be strategic in your approach to connecting with others on LinkedIn. Personalise connection requests and focus on building meaningful relationships with professionals who share your interests and values. Join LinkedIn groups and communities relevant to your industry or areas of expertise to expand your network and engage with like-minded peers. Check out Sarah’s 6 Steps on ‘How To Use LinkedIn For Business Development’.

  • Step 1: Optimise your page – Use translations if you serve a global audience, add keywords in your description as LinkedIn is
    indexed by Google, add hashtags to follow (not in your page copy), add a branded cover image and lastly, add a custom button
    (i.e., Visit website/contact us).
  • Step 2: Execute your LinkedIn marketing strategy – create a social media strategy and a content plan for LinkedIn i.e., what are
    your goals for the page?, what will you use your page for?, are you going to advertise?, what are your competitors doing?
  • Step 3: Make a content plan – how often will you post? what topics will you cover?, how can you repurpose existing content to use
    on LinkedIn? are you going to curate content from others?
  • Step 4: Turn on Creator Mode – If you’re constantly sharing updates, this is the feature for you.
  • Step 5: Look at Sales Navigator
  • Step 6: Follow your community

Continuous improvement

LinkedIn is not a static platform—it’s constantly evolving. Regularly review and update your profile to reflect your latest achievements, experiences, and skills. Monitor your performance metrics and analyse what content resonates best with your audience. Experiment with different posting times, content formats, and messaging strategies to optimise your results and continually refine your personal branding efforts.

And of course, the number one tip Sarah has when it comes to using LinkedIn for your personal brand…

“Start Now!”


March 18, 2024 Women in Digital

Ten years. More than 13,000 members. An awards program that has seen 2,328 nominations, 238 finalists, 95 winners and more than 5,500 attendees across all our events. From humble beginnings in Brisbane a decade ago, Women in Digital (WID) has forged a name as a peak body for women working in Australia’s digital sector. 

Holly Hunt founded WID on March 18, 2014, after she realised the digital industry was missing something – a strong female presence. As a future-of-work specialist, she was particularly fascinated by the confidence gap between women and male candidate, plus the lack of inclusive digital events. Fast forward to today, WID collaborates with some of Australia’s leading technology businesses and industry heavyweights to deliver events, workshops and awards designed to promote diversity in the industry.

Terry Weber, Regional Manager – QLD, NT and PNG at Cisco and Platinum Corporate Member of Women in Digital said, “Partnering with Women in Digital has been an amazing collaboration for Cisco. It not only boosts our workforce, but also sparks innovation, diversity, and resilience in a fast-changing digital world. It has helped us change the conversation and support equality and inclusion for everyone.

So in honour of our 10th birthday, we asked 10 of our biggest supporters about Women in Digital and the state of the industry. Here are their answers!

How have you seen the digital and technology industries change for women over the last decade, or since you have been in the industry?

Rowena Samaraweera, Head of Customer Experience Design at Auto & General – I am really pleased to say that I can now see a lot more senior women hitting the CIO/ CTO role which was still quite rare even 10 years ago. Not far behind them are a more visible group of female senior leaders, as well as a wonderful cohort of female founders establishing their own businesses and social enterprises.”

Gavin Douglas, Head of APJ Alliances at Wiz – “I’ve seen increased awareness of the benefits of a more diverse workforce to employers (and their customers), an increase in employer programs to support women at work, eg. career breaks, paternity leave, work from home/flexible working hours etc. to support those with families/carer responsibilities (male + female) and more resources like Women in Digital for women wanting to forge a career in digital and tech.”

Lisa Sarago, Chief Executive Officer of Land on Heart – “Although I only recently joined the tech industry, I have already seen a massive change, with more visibility of women in tech, and championing their successes. There has been a lot more emphasis on women in tech from leading tech giants promoting their own, as well as through our social media, seeing the number of networks, events, and awards becoming established institutes – highlighting and celebrating the deadly female talent in tech.”

Nicola Lambie, Group Head of New Business Solutions at Findex – It’s been fantastic to see the rise of women across all aspects of digital and technology, from trailblazing senior leaders in traditional and start-up businesses to the shift in developer and engineering teams away from being dominated by males to more balanced or even female-led, and all supported by the wealth of networks and courses for women in digital and technology (shout out to the amazing She Codes, for which I’m an alumni of!) and the increasing accessibility within schools for girls to participate in STEM subjects and opportunities.”

Michael Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Megaport – “Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed a significant shift in the IT and tech industry towards inclusivity and opportunities for women. There’s been this incredible wave of initiatives and programs aimed at levelling the playing field and ensuring we tap into the full potential of women. From mentorship programs, diversity training, and equal hiring panel requirements to women represented in leadership, we’re making strides to address gender disparities. There has been a growing recognition and studies that have highlighted the invaluable contributions that women bring to the table, leading to increased efforts to foster full participation in all aspects of technology and innovation. I’ve had opportunities afforded to me by women in leadership; I’ve had the chance to learn from those leaders, including colleagues and team members, which would not have been possible if the room was only filled with men.”

Brooke Powell, Partnerships and Account Manager at Rivernet – “When I first started working in the technology industry, I was the only female in my team and had only met two other women in the company during my year in that organisation. As a 19-year-old looking ahead at a career in the tech industry, I found that uninspiring and unacceptable. My next role saw more female colleagues, but it was still a very disproportionate ratio of male to female. From the conversations I shared during my career there, I noticed a significant pay gap between men and women doing the same work. This was a real blow, as I had believed that a gender pay gap was a thing only companies that are ‘old school’, had a ‘legacy mindset’, had ‘boy club’ leadership, were ‘change-resistant’ (and all the synonyms that go with those terms) would continue to allow in this day and age – not a cutting edge, modern tech company!? Since completing my degree and starting my current role, I have to say there has been a huge change of tune. I started in 2022 as the second female employee, and now in 2024 we have 6 female employees – which occurred without aiming to meet any sort of gender ‘quota’. The pay is fair and even across the board and the team is the most cohesive and well-retained team I’ve ever been a part of.”

Zoe Ackerman, Safety & Wellbeing Data Analyst at Collins Foods Limited – “With increased awareness regarding gender diversity, there has been a significant increase in access to initiatives that are trying to close the gap. Initiatives such as Rails Girls and Women in Digital are helping to open paths for women in the technology space. Government and companies are clearly measuring gender diversity and what gets measured gets managed, as they say.”

Vinojini Nair, Major Pursuits & Planning Lead at GHD Digital – “Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed significant strides in gender diversity within the digital and technology industries. There has been a notable increase in initiatives aimed at encouraging and supporting women in tech, from mentorship programs to networking events and advocacy campaigns. Companies are placing a stronger emphasis on diversity and inclusion, recognising the value of diverse perspectives in driving innovation and success. That said, there is still significant work that needs to be done to deliver on these so they don’t stay as empty promises/cupcakes in meetings – this is decades of habits that need undoing!”

Rebecca Dredge, CEO & Founder of Kiddo – “The landscape has transformed significantly in just the past four years I have been in the industry. Companies have undergone a remarkable evolution towards greater support and inclusivity. We’re witnessing a surge in women leaders and entrepreneurs, serving as inspirational role models for future generations. While there’s been considerable progress, the journey towards full equality is ongoing, promising even more positive change on the horizon.”

Bel Lloyd, Founder of Zandi Group Consulting – “The rise of remote work, increased funding for STEM education for women and increased representation of women are standout shifts that have helped drive momentum for gender equity in the digital and technology industries over the past decade. Remote work has helped level the playing field. Providing women with greater flexibility and access to job opportunities in the digital and tech industries as we can now balance work and caregiving responsibilities more easily.

STEM education and initiatives for adult women are better funded now than ever before. I’ve personally experienced the momentum to promote women into STEM education and industry roles. Through COVID I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to re-invent myself and joined She Codes a coding education community with the sole mission to get more women into the tech industry. I’ve been actively involved as a mentor and now as a Lead Mentor due to the strong sense of community and progress being made by programs such as this.

How has Women in Digital been part of your diversity journey over the last decade, or since you have been in the industry?

Rowena Samaraweera, Head of Customer Experience Design at Auto & General – I joined WID to see if I could help raise awareness of the amazing digital and technology career paths out there as I wanted to see more women applying for my roles, learning new skills and representing the 50% of the community and user base we are designing for. I have enjoyed being part of the awards program and being able to hear the stories of women’s success and celebrate the achievements of the companies who really are embracing diversity and reaping the rewards. I also have found so much personal inspiration from networking events and meeting people in the digital community.”

Gavin Douglas, Head of APJ Alliances at Wiz – “Women in Digital has been hugely educational for me. I had a very simplistic view of diversity; what it meant and why it was important when I first got involved in WID, though I still have so much to learn and as the question implies, diversity is a journey. I still get a lot wrong but bring a curious mindset to learn from others on actionable ways to empower women. The experiences I have had, the information I have gathered/read and most of all the people I have met – have helped me to better understand a few things: Diversity is multi-faceted and so much more nuanced than simply having more of one minority (or another) in the workplace. eg. diversity of thinking is critical; Diversity won’t just happen – even if everyone in an organisation has the right intentions, explicit steps need to be taken & programs created to ensure diversity is front of mind and becomes a part of the every day.”

Lisa Sarago, Chief Executive Officer of Land on Heart – “I came across WID as was nominated for an award with WID by my team in 2022 and subsequently won the award. During this time, I was able to expand my network to include some amazing female tech experts and innovators – my fellow nominees – and also in the broader tech industry. I continue to support and work with WID as I see it as a critical platform for women, including Indigenous women, to be recognised for their skills and achievements. Particularly this year, when we called for #CountHerIn, WID saw the value of including a category for Indigenous women, but also called for Indigenous women to be nominated for any award.”

Nicola Lambie, Group Head of New Business Solutions at Findex – “Women In Digital has been the ONE constant network in my career journey over the past ten years. The leadership demonstrated by Holly and the team puts women firmly on the agenda in the digital and technology industries and I have enjoyed so many events, webinars and meet-ups that have allowed me to meet, interact and learn from a diverse group of women (and men!) through this time.”

Michael Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Megaport – “Women in Digital has been an integral part of my leadership and diversity journey over the past seven years. In 2017, I stepped into a role leading 60 folks in QLD. At that time, 6% were female. With the support of Holly, we made a tremendous turnaround to 30% female diversity over three years. This partnership led to my contributions back to the WID Advisory Board. WID has provided me with invaluable resources, support, and networking opportunities. It has also offered a safe space for males to ask difficult questions and understand best practices when approaching sensitive topics or decisions. Without male champions of change, it’s almost impossible to re-write the status quo since they continue to hold most positions of power. I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative impact Women in Digital has had on empowering women, breaking down barriers, and offering a community that celebrates & recognises their achievements. The Women in Digital awards ceremony was an idea Holly and I devised on the back of a napkin. To think that today, more than 1,000 people attend each year is astounding!”

Brooke Powell, Partnerships and Account Manager at Rivernet – “I was first introduced to Holly at WID in 2019 while I was studying a Bachelor’s in IT and Business Management at UQ. Being involved in the events through volunteering and invitations, I was able to see that not only did women exist in the industry, but also that they held influence and impact in the industry. The statement ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ that is often WID’s north star, is extremely accurate – when you can’t picture yourself in a role, how can you possibly begin to aim for it? WID’s community has been a real highlight throughout my journey over my career, having that connection to other women in the industry has provided a support network, enabled mentorship, and exposed me to a wealth of knowledge through the sharing of experiences and advice.”

Zoe Ackerman, Safety & Wellbeing Data Analyst at Collins Foods Limited – “I have only been a member of Women in Digital for about a year. However, the advocacy, networking, community and informal mentorship, and leadership have all influenced me and are no small part in helping build my confidence and support me in my current role. Many thanks to the community.”

Vinojini Nair, Major Pursuits & Planning Lead at GHD Digital – “Women in Digital has been a crucial component of my personal journey, providing a platform for women to connect, learn, and advance in their careers within the digital realm. This community has played a vital role in fostering support networks, sharing experiences, and advocating for gender equality in the industry. There is an unspoken appreciation when women who are facing similar challenges, support each other and cheer each other along… especially when not many others are voicing us!”

Rebecca Dredge, CEO & Founder of Kiddo – “Women in Digital has been instrumental in fostering invaluable connections, providing me with exposure in the industry, and offering unparalleled networking opportunities for my business. The WID community stands out for its unwavering support, extensive reach, and remarkable diversity. As an entrepreneur, the connections I’ve forged through WID have propelled my business forward, enabling me to establish strong ties within not only the industry but with corporates, other entrepreneurs and business leaders alike.”

Bel Lloyd, Founder of Zandi Group Consulting – “Women in Digital has played a huge part in helping me see what I can be. Bringing together influential and inspirational women in the digital arena to network with and be empowered by. Winning the award for Digital Marketer of the Year with WID was an incredible feeling. It was empowering and gave me confidence I didn’t know existed. WID is fostering a community of empowerment and encouragement for women to be seen, heard and recognised – a powerful combination for contributing to the increase in representation of women across the digital and technology industries. Efforts from WID have contributed to not only raising awareness but also in creating opportunities for women in these fields to advance and gain seats at tables where once there were none.”

Where do you hope the industry is in 10 year’s time, in regards to gender equity?

Rowena Samaraweera, Head of Customer Experience Design at Auto & General – There is still a lot of work to be done, both to move forward and to hold onto the progress we have already made. I’d like to see more progress in young women studying in STEM, or mid-career women cross-training so that women are participating equally in what will be a heavily digitised economy. Research shows that gender stereotyping starts early, so we also need to bring schools, even at the primary level, into the conversation, as well as parents. We need to make sure women are part of the move to AI, to ensure safe and non-biased application of AI technology. In 10 year’s time I hope we have removed the ‘surprise’ around gender in the digital and STEM industry, dismantled as many of the unconscious biases as possible, and are being led by talented men and women who are confident to embrace all differences in their teams.”

Gavin Douglas, Head of APJ Alliances at Wiz – As I see it, gender equity is a human right, my hope is that there are some aspects that are addressed well before 10 years, for example, compensation (address the gender pay gap) and access to digital tools and education. Others may take longer to become equitable but we must see: more women studying digital/tech courses and choosing careers in the digital/tech industry; women representing 50% of leadership roles – to provide role models; making digital environments safer for women and girls.”

Lisa Sarago, Chief Executive Officer of Land on Heart – “Hopefully beyond parity for both gender and Indigenous representation.  In 10 years, my vision is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls across Australia, regardless of whether they live in remote, rural or urban areas – know that they can be the next tech giant if they want to – that if they dream of being a tech professional, they know that there is a path for them to follow, and it isn’t a difficult one, because we have already created and walked that path before them.  Just like our ancestors did for us.”

Nicola Lambie, Group Head of New Business Solutions at Findex – My daughter turns 10 this month and we speak a lot about equal opportunities for all. My hope is that by the time she turns 20, we don’t even have to mention the issue or need for gender equity and that digital and technology can be one of the leading industries where this is the case.”

Michael Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Megaport – “In the next decade, I hope that ALL industries, not just IT/Tech, empower and support women to reach their full potential. For the IT and Tech industry specifically, I see us serving as a beacon for women to join this industry, feel appreciated, and make an immeasurable impact. I hope to see a time where women are not only equally represented across all levels of the workforce but also thriving in leadership positions, shaping the direction of innovation and driving positive change. 50% of Megaport executives and Board are women today. I envision a culture where gender biases and stereotypes are dismantled, and women aren’t just “breaking glass ceilings” but designing the whole ceiling itself. I have no doubt we will get there. With initiatives like Women in Digital leading the charge and companies doubling down on diversity and inclusion, we can all look forward to a future where Women In Digital is no longer needed, a time without gender bias… We’ve still got a ways to go yet.”

Brooke Powell, Partnerships and Account Manager at Rivernet I hope in 10 years time, the gender pay gap (which is still present between men and women today) in the industry has been closed. I hope that technology companies have modernised and adapted their workforce with the same sense of innovation and thought as their own products and services. We know a diverse, equitable workforce produces long-term staff retention and improves innovation – so it only makes sense to invest as much thought and effort into your workforce as you do your solution offering – one can only be as good as the other. I hope that in 10 years time in the tech industry, there is a strong representation of women in leadership. I’m hoping for an even split between men and women across C-suite, board, and management roles. I really hope to see strong representation of non-binary leadership in these positions as well.”

Zoe Ackerman, Safety & Wellbeing Data Analyst at Collins Foods Limited – “I hope the sector is well on its way to achieving gender parity at all levels. Not just overall numbers but equitable representation in all departments and sectors, including technical roles where women are currently underrepresented. I also hope that the workforce, in its entirety, is working towards gender equity. That the complex and nuanced forms of discrimination that can affect women of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities and health and biological cycles.”

Vinojini Nair, Major Pursuits & Planning Lead at GHD Digital – “Looking ahead, in the next decade, I hope to see even greater progress towards gender equity in the tech industry. This includes not only increased representation of women in leadership positions and technical roles but also a culture shift that prioritises inclusion, equity, and respect for all individuals regardless of gender. I envision a future where women feel empowered to pursue and thrive in any aspect of technology they choose, where diversity is celebrated as a driving force behind innovation, where leading with vulnerability and other attributes that make us feminine are seen as strength and essential in ensuring optimal outcomes and where gender equity is not just an aspiration but a reality. And if I’d really allow myself to dream without any boundaries, I’d love to see a time when every voice gets listened to in the board room, not just those of women.”

Rebecca Dredge, CEO & Founder of Kiddo – “In a decade, I envision a world where the concept of ‘gender equality’ becomes obsolete, where our daughters and sons inhabit a realm where they’re acknowledged solely for their abilities and actions. A world where mothers receive support in the workplace, where such support is the norm, and where every individual can thrive and reach their utmost potential within a nurturing environment.”

Bel Lloyd, Founder of Zandi Group Consulting – “Let’s pick up the pace, keep the momentum and in 10 years imagine a world where diversity isn’t just a buzzword as part of a conversation, but the norm in which society operates, where companies in all industries will prioritise inclusion, creating safe environments where everyone, regardless of gender, thrives. Remote work needs to stay. The future of remote work isn’t just about flexibility—it’s about levelling the playing field for gender equity in the workplace.

Overall, while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done. My hope is that the next 10 years bring us the opportunity to focus on progress over perfection, to make mistakes as we go, but to keep moving in the right direction, fail fast, learn together, lift each other up and continue to address systemic barriers, biases, and stereotypes to achieve equity. So that my daughter is free from many of the burdens inequity brings and has the opportunity to focus instead on driving humanity forward into what will be an incredibly enlightened future we may have only ever dreamed of, shaped by the powerful forces of technology emerging today.”


March 8, 2024 Women in Digital

March 8, 2024

Cancel the cupcakes. This International Women’s Day we are licking the status quo – quite literally.

Bin the usual tokenistic cupcakes and serve up some real and sticky conversations this International Women’s Day (IWD) to drive greater equality in the workplace.

That’s the call from Women in Digital (WID), a national organisation representing Australian women in the digital industry with a community of more than 13,000 people.

To encourage IWD conversations that spark actual tangible change, WID will lick the status quo – quite literally – by handing out giant lollipops, not cupcakes, at its sold-out breakfast event in Brisbane on Friday, March 8.

The colourful lollies are sweet but come with a serious side, by way of stickers spelling out what women really want:

  • Real change, not tokenism
  • Equal parental leave
  • Universal childcare
  • Super contributions during parental leave
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • More women in leadership
  • Promotion pathways
  • Men championing workplace change

All 250 people attending the WID IWD event at the Emporium Southbank will receive giant lollipops, and be encouraged to share pictures to their socials with messages of changes they’d like to see in the workforce.

At the breakfast, WID will also launch its 2024 Women in Digital Discourse, which will ask women in digital about their real insights and experiences in the workforce and thoughts around areas for improvement.

The in-depth survey which will form the national discourse – the first sentiment of its kind to be published later this year – will be filled out by women at the event and emailed to thousands of in WID’s network.

WID CEO Holly Hunt said IWD was an opportunity to have real conversations – not just cupcakes and coffee – to help advance women’s career prospects.

“The stark reality is women continue to confront a myriad of barriers in the workplace, from a lack of flexibility in senior roles to poor policies around maternity and paternity leave.

We also know there is still much work to be done to close the gender pay gap, with landmark data released a couple of weeks ago revealing many large organisations pay women substantially less.

“What women really want from IWD is advocacy for tangible change, but what they largely get is an unfortunate exercise in corporate tokenism, with talkfests accompanied by cupcakes, tea and coffee, all of which lead to nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, women like cupcakes but on IWD we want something more meaningful. We want our cake, and we want to eat it too – that’s not much to ask.”


For more information, or to speak with Holly, please contact Melissa Grant at Bespoken Agency on / 0402 717 107.

About Women in Digital: Women in Digital is a national organisation offering events, mentoring and corporate services for organisations that value diversity and inclusion in digital.

With a community that’s grown to more than 13,000 people during the last nine years, Women in Digital has become a cornerstone of the Australian tech community with the key focus of improving gender diversity in the industry.


March 5, 2024 Women in Digital

In the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced lives, it’s easy for our achievements to sometimes fade into background noise, drowned out by the everyday cacophony. We too often overlook the essential task of acknowledging and recording these moments which can go a long way in boosting confidence, especially when you need a pick-me-up! Sound like you? Well, we have a second question for you: Have you ever heard of an encouragement bank?

In February 2024, Women in Digital held an event in Melbourne powered by Corporate Member, Cisco featuring Ai Mawdsley, Fiona Boyd, Vinojini Nair and MC’d by Helen Fridell. The topic was: lessons on the career climb (is it really a ladder?)

Among all the incredible insights and advice shared by our panel, one thing that really stuck with us was a piece of advice from Ai Mawdsley, Chief Operating Officer of Private Media and 2023 Women in Digital Employer of the Year Winner. What is that you ask? An encouragement bank.

What is an encouragement bank?

An encouragement bank is essentially a collection of compliments or positive affirmations. But it’s really much more than that; it is a deliberate practice of self-care, self-empowerment and pulling apart imposter syndrome brick by brick. It serves as a repository for moments of validation, recognition and support that often get overshadowed or forgotten. By consciously recording these instances, you not only acknowledge your achievements and strengths but also cultivate a mindset of gratitude and self-worth.

Here is what Ai Mawdsley said about what the encouragement bank means to her:

“It’s a human condition: you could be told nine positive things and one negative thing and that negative thing is the only thing you’ll remember from that meeting.”

How to implement an encouragement bank?

It’s actually pretty easy, just start an excel spreadsheet or wherever you like to take notes. Every time someone gives you words of encouragement, like telling you that you are good at your job or that particular project you delivered was amazing – write it down!

It’s a tool that helps you reframe your narrative, instead of dwelling on setbacks or criticisms and helps you navigate challenges with greater resilience and confidence. But most importantly, on those bad days when life will inevitably get you down – it’s something to reflect back on to remind you how amazing you are.

Ai mentioned she also sought out a boss who could be her career champion:

“I was being repetitively torn down by a former manager and I had to ultimately exit that role for my own wellbeing. Now I’m in a role where my manager is a champion for me and regularly reinforces that I’m good at what I do.”

What if you are a manager who struggles to give positive feedback?

It’s true. Sometimes just giving a compliment or positive feedback can feel vulnerable, let alone receiving one.

What we can tell you is that just like every good habit, it takes consistency and practice. So here are some of our best tips to train those positive feedback muscles:

  • Be specific and timely: Provide compliments that are specific and timely to maximise their impact. Instead of generic praise, highlight specific behaviours, actions or achievements that you genuinely appreciate. For example, instead of saying “good job,” you could say, “I really appreciate how you handled that client meeting today. Your thorough preparation and clear communication made a significant impact.”
  • Regular feedback sessions: Schedule regular feedback sessions with your staff to create structured opportunities for recognition and encouragement. Use these sessions to not only provide constructive feedback but also to express appreciation for their contributions. Incorporating positive feedback as a regular part of these discussions helps create a culture of recognition and support within the team and improves retention.
  • Lead by example: Lead by example by modelling the behaviour you wish to see in your team. Demonstrate the importance of recognition and appreciation by actively acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of your staff. Whether it’s publicly recognising accomplishments during team meetings or privately expressing gratitude for their efforts, your actions speak volumes and set the tone for how feedback is given and received within the organisation.

We wish you luck building your encouragement bank!


February 29, 2024 Women in Digital

For those pursuing an academic pathway, university is arguably some of the best years of your life! They are also crucial years that can serve as a pivotal launchpad for your career (and we’re not just talking about the qualification at the end). From internships, vacationer programs, student clubs, networking events and more, there are many ways to get your foot in the door and gain some real-world industry experience long before you toss your graduation cap. The key? A keen eye to recognise opportunities and the drive to go after them.

Meet Mackenzie Kerr. Mackenzie is currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Information Technology (majoring in Software Information Systems) / Bachelor of Business Management (majoring in Marketing) at the University of Queensland. She is also an Undergraduate Business Analyst at NTI, a recent Digital Engineering Vacationer at EY and has completed an impressive list of internship programs and industry roles that have set her up with an incredible foundation for her career.

With so many achievements already on her resume, we wanted to chat with Mackenzie and drive deeper into her experience finding opportunities at university, juggling study and internships and also ask her advice for students trying to land competitive positions or stepping into the corporate world of tech for the first time. As one of our very first interns who participated in the 4B Internship program – a partnership with Women in Digital, Cisco and Data#3, we also wanted to ask her a few questions about her experience with the program!

To kick things off, tell us! Did you know you always wanted to work in IT? What drew you to a career in IT and business management?

Leaving high school, I wasn’t set on any particular career. In fact, I originally applied for a Bachelor of Science majoring in Data Science as I’d heard that this was going to be the ‘in demand’ job. After receiving an offer for this course, I came to the realisation that I had absolutely no interest in this degree! I always enjoyed studying IT as one of my high school subjects as we did a lot of web design and development, so I decided to apply for a Bachelor of IT at UQ. As for business, I figured that if I was going to go to uni I may as well do a dual degree to broaden my career options in case either of the two didn’t work out.

In hindsight, I have found the areas of IT and business to be very complementary and both have provided me with a wider range of opportunities compared to if I had done a single degree.

Were there specific courses or projects during your university studies that you found particularly beneficial for your career?

Much of my IT degree has consisted of group projects where we are given a project brief and are tasked to design, develop and build a product over the course of the semester. I have found these subjects to be the most beneficial as we get to work in diverse teams where each member brings their own unique skills. This has taught me that utilising different skill sets in a team can actually make for a better-performing team, rather than each person trying to excel at everything.

A lot of students worry about having too much on their plate. How have you managed to juggle work, study and life?

For me, it is important to know what habits and routines work best for me. Personally I have found that I really enjoy the structure of a 9-5 so I have structured my work and uni around this. I work regular business hours on three days of the week and use the other two days to do uni whether this be attending classes or at home studying. Where possible, I try to avoid overlap (i.e. working on uni days or doing uni on work days). Having distinct work and uni days has really helped me to separate these two parts of my life and allowed me to be more present in each – I know that when I arrive at work I am 100% focused on work and on my uni days I am far more engaged in my classes.

In saying that, I am such a big believer that what works for might not work for everyone! I would strongly recommend finding out the routines that work best for you and doing what you can to fit your schedule to that.

We know a lot of students are nervous about the idea of going ‘part-time’. What is your response to this?

My response is simple – I get it! I was so worried about decreasing my subject load and extending my degree because I thought it would put me behind my peers. I thought that graduating a bit later than intended would mean that all my friends would be out working while I would still be stuck at uni.

I have been doing 3 subjects per semester and 3 days of work for pretty much my entire degree. Although this has meant I will graduate a year later than intended, I truly believe that it was the best decision I made career-wise. Having the ability to work 3 days a week in various industry roles has given me a wealth of work experience before graduating and more importantly, has allowed me to explore my own skillsets and discover a multitude of potential career paths. I have found this experience to be infinitely more valuable than having an extra year in the workforce and to be quite honest, most of my friends ended up extending their time in uni either by going part-time or changing degrees.

When should students start exploring opportunities for internships or entry-level opportunities? Is there such a thing as ‘too early’?

I would say that the right time to start exploring is whenever you feel ready – so long as you are still able to enjoy this season of your life as a uni student. There is absolutely no pressure to start your career the second you get into uni, and I truly believe it is important to enjoy this time while it lasts. Personally, I started looking at IT-specific industry experience in my 3rd year, as I was genuinely curious about what the world of tech had to offer and wanted to experience what an IT career would be like.

Where should students be looking for these opportunities and is there anything they need to know / any tips when looking?

LinkedIn, Seek, Indeed and word of mouth. I am a huge LinkedIn advocate and see a lot of internship opportunities either posted by companies or advertised by employees. The more you search the job section of LinkedIn with keywords like ‘internship’, the more tailored your algorithm will become and the more relevant your suggestions will be. Who knows – you might just stumble upon an algorithm-recommended opportunity on your morning scroll!

As weird as it sounds, LinkedIn ‘stalking’ people is also a great way to see what internship opportunities are available. You can stalk people who study similar fields in a similar age range to see what programs they have been involved in, and then go to the company website to find out more about the program such as when their application period is. This can be a great way to find out which companies run regular intern intakes and can help you plan ahead for internship periods.

What advice would you give your peers aspiring to land competitive internships like you have?

Think about your personal brand and unique skillset, and let this guide your application letters, resume and  interview answers. It is tempting to think that you have to be the best at everything to land these opportunities when in reality, it is just as valuable to identify what your unique mix of hard and  soft skills is. I would also strongly recommend using any mock internship opportunities that are available to you – interviews can be the most intimidating part of the application process and having interview practice personally boosted my confidence ten-fold. They are a great way to practice responses and get feedback without the pressure of an internship at stake.

Also, a running Excel spreadsheet of annual internship opportunities that tracks application deadlines, internship dates and interviews never hurts 😉

Did you face any unexpected challenges stepping into the corporate world of tech? How did you overcome them?

For me, my biggest challenge has been to accept the fact that I am by no means technically strong. Whilst I have a foundational technical understanding, I suck – and I mean suck at programming. I spent a lot of my degree worrying that this meant there were no opportunities for me and that I was at an immediate disadvantage because of this. I found it quite challenging to recognise that I didn’t have to be good at programming to have a career in tech and that there were plenty of non-technical IT roles out there. To overcome this, I spent a lot of time focusing on what my skills are and what kinds of roles these translated to – even though I may not be cut out to be a Software Developer, my skills are just as valued.

What can interns expect entering their first internship programs or undergraduate positions?

No one expects you to know anything, and everyone is there to support you! These programs are designed to give you exposure to the industry and for you to learn – you are not expected to enter your first internship with a wealth of knowledge. In fact, most internship positions will focus on how you learn, not what you know. It’s important to remember that every experience is what you make it – take the opportunity to be curious, ask questions and make lasting connections with those that you meet.

Tell us more about your current role!

Of course! I’ve recently started in a Business Analyst role and am absolutely loving it. For the platforms that are in my team’s remit, the BAs are responsible for identifying business requirements from our internal stakeholders and translating these into actionable solutions for our developers to implement. This can be anything from implementing new features on our platforms to identifying ways we can leverage our platforms to streamline business processes.

For me, this has been the perfect opportunity to combine my foundational technical knowledge with my broader business understanding. I am really enjoying learning about the intricacies of business processes and finding new ways we can use technology to solve non-technical problems. I have also been so lucky to have such great support from my new team and have loved working with them so far!

What advice would you give or what would you tell younger Mackenzie about university life or working in tech? Is there anything you wish you had known earlier?

I would definitely tell myself that uni is not an accurate representation of your career – it can be so easy to get caught up in the bubble that is university and forget that there is so much more beyond campus. To be quite honest, I spent the first few years of my degree wondering how my studies could possibly be preparing me for a career – aside from some basic programming understanding and a little bit of theoretical technical knowledge, I felt wildly unprepared for a career in tech! It wasn’t until I had a little bit of work experience under my belt that I realised the most valuable skills uni had taught me were soft skills – things like communication, teamwork and critical analysis of problems. So if I could give my younger self some words of wisdom, I would definitely tell her that uni isn’t forever and that there is so much more to learn from industry work experience. (I’d also tell her to not over pluck her eyebrows, but that’s another story…)

Are there any industry-related support networks, communities, events, or extracurricular courses you would strongly recommend to students or recent graduates wanting to break into the industry?

So many! Uni societies are the best place to start as they run heaps of events with industry professionals which are a great way to learn about potential career pathways or internship opportunities. I also find these events great to talk to professionals about their own career path – it’s always valuable to learn about how others reached their current roles, especially if it was on a ‘non-traditional’ path. I would also strongly recommend attending any mock interview or case study-type events that are run by societies as these give you a chance to practice real-world skills in a low-stress environment.

I would also strongly recommend Cisco’s MentorMe program – this isn’t an internship per se, but it is a great opportunity to connect with tech professionals and learn more about the types of careers available in tech. Over the course of the program, you will attend a variety of information sessions on topics such as new tech innovation or impactful tech projects, as well as professional skills like resume writing or interview tips. You will also be paired with a dedicated mentor, which is the perfect opportunity to build a meaningful relationship and ask all of your tech-related career questions. I had such an awesome experience in this program and still keep in touch with my mentor almost two years later!

Do you have any last pieces of advice do you have for students who are aspiring to build a successful career in digital/technology?

Figuring out what you don’t want to do in your career is just as valuable as figuring out what you do want to do. It’s okay to try different roles and not like them, as this just puts you one step closer to figuring out roles that may be more suited to you.

Also, make the most of being a student! It is the best opportunity to learn about tech careers without the pressure of having professional responsibilities. More people have your back than you think and there is no better time to be curious.

You are among the first group to participate in Women in Digital x Cisco and Data#’s 4B Internship program. How would you summarise your experience?

The 4B program was my first insight into a career in tech and I really could not have asked for a better introduction! The program provided exposure to a huge variety of tech roles from non-technical roles such as sales and account management to highly technical software engineering roles. It was the perfect opportunity to understand how tech businesses like Cisco and Data#3 operate, as well as gain insight into the different paths into tech careers. I remember being so blown away by how supportive the Cisco, Data#3 and WID teams were and it made me realise just how keen other industry professionals are to see young women succeed in tech. The 4B program has huge sentimental significance to these organisations and it was truly such a privilege to be part of the first intake honouring Brenda Conroy’s legacy. I truly could not speak more highly of this program and would encourage anyone who is passionate about a career in tech to apply.

What was your favourite part/s of the internship?

As cheesy as it is, definitely the people. The teams at Cisco, Data#3 and WID were so welcoming and supportive, which really made the idea of starting a career in tech way less daunting. I also really enjoyed learning about the high variety of non-technical roles that are available and it really helped to ease my concerns about having a more non-technical skillset. It was so reassuring to learn that so many of the team had such unique paths to their current role, regardless of their technical background.

How did the program open doors for you?

The 4B program allowed me to form strong connections across these organisations which I have been able to utilise in many different ways. Since being a part of the 4B program, I have been able to participate in Cisco’s MentorMe program, secured permanent employment with Data#3 and been a regular attendee at WID’s events which are an amazing way to network with other amazing industry professionals. I have also maintained relationships with many of the people I met through the 4B program and have used these connections as references, career consultants or even just friendly faces to chat with about tech careers, uni studies and life in general. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would have a strong professional network, let alone one as supportive as I do. Knowing that I have the support of so many has made such a huge difference to my confidence and speaks volumes about the value of having a supportive community.

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November 13, 2023 Women in Digital

To coincide with this year’s SXSW conference in Sydney, Women in Digital partnered with tech powerhouse Canva to bring together an interactive event for our Sydney community. Embracing the SXSW spirit of innovation, this event centred on the theme: “The Future of Work: How to leverage technology for your career & company” discussing ground-breaking technologies, managing the new normal of modern collaboration, building a culture of innovation and powering forward towards a brighter more technologically empowered future. The conversation also expanded beyond tech to soft skills, professional identities, the value of backing yourself and how to assess company cultures. We would love to share some of our attendee’s favourite takeaways with you!

The WID x Canva Sydney Community Catchup was a morning filled with ‘magic moments’ including bottomless breakfast snacks, virgin mary mocktails, bingo networking, a DJ, a Yo-Chi bar and of course, a wow-worthy panel sharing so many nuggets of insights that our notes were overflowing thanks to:

Here are some of the audience’s top takeaways from this event:

Find your tribe:

Build yourself a community of inspiring individuals who will lift you up, share knowledge, and help you thrive in your career. You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: your network is your net worth. Find your support crew who will support you and your career!

Assessing your work culture:

A quick litmus test on company culture Stevie shared is to ask your people how they feel on a Sunday night about going to work on Monday. Don’t get us wrong, it’s always a little bit sad when the weekend comes to an end but if you or your team are waking up on Monday dreading the workday, well maybe it’s time to reflect on that a bit more and investigate further.


Don’t wait for someone else to recognise your talents and achievements. Advocate for yourself and own your worth! Take the initiative to nominate yourself for opportunities, awards, projects, and promotions and never allow your insecurities (or other people’s insecurities for that matter) to stop you from just going for something you want. As Emily said, “nominate yourself more, otherwise no one knows what you do well”.

Contribute to a culture of innovation:

Whether you are in a remote or hybrid work situation (or somewhere in between), make sure your meetings and engagements at work are deliberate, intentional and accessible. This is where tech comes in handy! Contribute to a culture of innovation, encouraging inclusivity and knowledge accessibility by using digital channels at work that can reach everyone. Information shared in person doesn’t always trickle down organically.

Be brave and speak up:

As Jet pointed out, you should never shy away from sharing your insights, ideas, and concerns. Your perspective is unique and valuable, and by speaking up, you contribute to the collective growth of our industry. The same rules apply if you see injustice or patronising behaviour in the workplace: Be brave. Speak up. Call it out. Find your voice and use it.

Nervous? Do it anyway:

Sometimes people need to be reminded to just go for it (and we are happy to be that support community)! Don’t hold back when opportunity knocks. Often the biggest advancements in your career come when you take that leap of faith. Trust in your abilities and embrace new challenges. As Vida encouraged, “Don’t wait for confidence, do it anyway”. We also love this comment from Ivy who said, “The only race you can’t win is the one you didn’t enter”.

Embrace a risk mindset:

To achieve successful innovation, don’t get attached to what you have achieved in the past. Look forward to a future of possibilities and opportunities in which a risk mindset is crucial to innovation. A particular quote we love by American leadership author John C. Maxwell is, “Fall early, fail often, but always fail forward” and we think it wraps up this idea of risking failure to achieve success perfectly.

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November 6, 2023 Women in Digital

Winners announced for the 2023 Women in Digital Awards

Women in Digital is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2023 Women in Digital Awards. From 75 finalists across 15 categories down to just 15 incredible women in digital, we are proud to introduce you to this year’s winners.

“The Women in Digital Awards were founded in 2018 based on the idea ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and celebrate incredible individuals within the digital industries and the organisations that support them. We are now in our sixth year of spotlighting these incredible leaders so the next generation can see it, and be it.

From Founder of the Year to Software Engineer of the Year, the Women in Digital Awards provides a platform for women to celebrate their achievements, an opportunity for the digital community to lift up others in the industry and finally, a chance for us to come together to celebrate organisations and individuals that are making outstanding contributions to the industry and improving diversity in digital. All entries to the awards were incredibly compelling and everyone who was nominated should be incredibly proud of themselves. – Holly Hunt, CEO & Founder of Women in Digital

You can learn more about the 2023 WID Award Winners and their entries here.

2023 Women in Digital Award Winners

Renee Noble – CEO, Tech Inclusion (NSW)
Winner, Champion of Change powered by BlackCard

Renee Noble is CEO of Tech Inclusion, CEO and Founder of ConnectEd Code and Cloud Advocate for Microsoft, where her passion for technology, education, and community is at the heart of her professional journey. Renee’s nomination was centred around her incredible work with the Girls’ Programming Network (GPN) working to improve tech education for people of all ages and levels of experience, particularly women and girls.

Abby Phillips – Senior Designer, Kablamo (VIC)
Winner, Customer Experience Leader of the Year powered by Symplicit

Abby Phillips is a Senior Product Manager at Kablamo and has been crowned the winner for her contributions to Firestory, a cloud-based data and AI platform for bushfire management that is turning limitless data into life-saving decisions. Leaning into social media and how users propagate important information online, coupled with Machine Learning, AI and data mechanics, Abby and her team have created an efficient way of distilling geolocated data that allows rescue services to predict fire and disaster outcomes more accurately.

Elakkiya Ramarajan – Lead Data Scientist, VAPAR (NSW)
Winner, Data Leader of the Year powered by Shell Energy Australia

Elakkiya Ramarajan is a Lead Data Scientist at VAPAR, a leading provider of AI for managing pipe condition assessments. Leveraging her expertise in AI, ML and computer vision, Elakkiya has transformed workflows and decision-making within VAPAR, propelling the organisation to the forefront of innovation.

Belinda Lloyd – Marketing Projects SME, Servco Australia (QLD)
Winner, Digital Marketer of the Year powered by Salesforce

Belinda Lloyd is a Scrum Master, tech mentor and Marketing Projects SME at Servo Australia where she explores the power of data and technology in marketing to deliver business results that exceed expectations and create positive customer experiences.
From her expertise in data-driven and growth strategies to her innovative use of MarTech, Belinda has shown she is a leader in digital marketing.

Carrie Hu – Head of Digital Product, New Aim and Chief Digital Product Officer, Dropshipzone (VIC)
Winner, Digital Transformation Leader of the Year powered by TechnologyOne

Carrie Hu is the Head of Digital Product at New Aim and Chief Digital Product Officer at Dropshipzone, Australia’s leading B2B2C marketplace delivering digital solutions to real-world problems. Navigating a saturated marketplace and supply chain disruptions, Carrie has lead her team to overcome digital transformation challenges with true finesse and deliver a truly impressive project.

SAP Australia (NSW)
Winner, Digital Workforce for the Future powered by the Queensland Government

SAP Australia is a market-leading software and technology company with a vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Our judges were very impressed to see SAP lead from the front with their digital skills initiative, achieving fantastic results as they work toward their major commitment to equip two million people with digital skills by 2025 globally

Private Media (VIC)
Winner, Employer of the Year powered by Hunt & Co.

Founded in 2001, Private Media is Australia’s leading independent media company who were chosen the winner for their impressive initiatives and growth, including but not limited to, delivering impressive parental leave inclusions, partnerships with Indigenous communities, improvements to the recruitment process and emphasis on diversity, inclusion and wellbeing.

Fiona Boyd – CEO, ipSCAPE (NSW)
Winner, Executive Leader of the Year powered by Avanade

Fiona Boyd is the CEO of ipSCAPE, an Australian cloud-based SaaS company. Fiona is a dedicated and collaborative senior leader with a passion and demonstrated track record for building successful teams, businesses, and new products over her 25+ year career. Fiona’s submission was incredibly compelling and it is abundantly clear Fiona has made a significant impact as a leader whose authentic leadership style, courage to lead through uncertainty and upstanding character has transformed ipSCAPE into a thriving organisation.

Christina Hobbs – Co-Founder and CEO, Verve Super (NSW)
Winner, Founder of the Year powered by the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur

Christina Hobbs is the CEO and Co-Founder of Verve, Australia’s first superannuation founded by women, led by women and tailored for women. It is the only super fund in Australia that invests with a gender lens that is also ethically screened. Ultimately, Christina’s entrepreneurial vision, strong social impact and exceptional purpose executed with tenacity has landed her the title.

Louisa Warren – Manager Office of Indigenous Engagement, CSIRO (QLD)
Winner, Indigenous Leader of the Year powered by RACQ

Louisa Warren is a proud Torres Strait Islander passionate about working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous organisations to create positive outcomes for her community, leading a first-of-its-kind project in her role in CSIRO – an Indigenous Jobs Map, an Indigenous-led online platform leveraging AI to support Indigenous employment outcomes.

Rebecca Dredge – Founder and CEO, Kiddo App (QLD)
Winner, Innovator of the Year powered by Auto & General

Rebecca Dredge is the Founder and CEO of Kiddo, an app launched in 2019 that connects parents to local, verified and affordable babysitters, nannies and NDIS care for children. It is the first care platform in Australia that provides both C2C, B2C and NDIS functionality.

Shenal Harakh – Founder and Developer, Shenal (NSW)
Winner, Rising Star of the Year powered by Entain

Shenal Harakh is a freelance Digital Strategist, a no-code Developer and is currently on the cusp of creating her own agency firm. Despite being so early in career, Shenal has expertly carved out a distinctive niche for herself in the Australian no-code space and shows an inspiring commitment to giving back to the community.

Riva Mendoza – Associate Software Engineer, Canva (QLD)
Winner, Software Engineer of the Year powered by Youi

Riva Mendoza is an Associate Software Engineer at Canva whose outstanding passionate display of ownership, strong technical ability and leadership as an early career Software Engineer earned her the title of Software Engineer of the Year.

Teena Glassick – Senior Director, Product Engineering & Operations, Skedulo (QLD)
Winner, Technical Leader of the Year powered by Culture Amp

Teena Glassick is the Senior Director of Product Engineering & Operations at Skedulo, leading a global product engineering team of 90+ engineers and driving Skedulo’s culture, process and delivery across all product engineering teams globally. Teena is described as an inspiring leader, a dedicated mentor and a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion.

Demelza Green – Principal Experience Engineer, Patient Zero (QLD)
Winner, UX Leader of the Year powered by Rio Tinto

Demelza Green is the Principal Experience Engineer at Patient Zero whose sophisticated AR app in partnership with Indigenous-owned and operated cultural hub, Birrunga Gallery, won her the 2023 UX Leader of the Year title. Demelza’s entry deeply demonstrated strategic leadership, a focus on user-centred design, innovative design thinking and a deep commitment to cultural integrity.

Women in Digital Awards Partners

The Women in Digital Awards is only possible with our partners. Thank you to our following partners:

Gold Partners – Cisco and Data#3
Silver Partners – Rivernet and Amazon Web Services
Bronze Partners – Jumbo Interactive, Youi and Shell Energy Australia
Photobooth Partner – Rio Tinto
Entertainment Partner – Vocus
Events Partner – Bright Humans
Category Partners – the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, Avanade, Salesforce, Auto & General, Entain, The Queensland Government, Shell Energy Australia, Culture Amp, Rio Tinto, RACQ, Youi, Symplicit, Hunt & Co., BlackCard, TechnologyOne


October 10, 2023 Women in Digital

Here at Women in Digital, we believe that gender diversity is just the beginning of a much broader conversation about workplace diversity. Diversity isn’t a one-dimensional concept; it takes many forms and when you examine high-performing companies it becomes increasingly apparent that diversity—of thought, culture, and experience—is not only desirable but essential. Someone we were very excited to talk to on this topic is Nazli Seghar.

Hailing from Iran and now a prominent business leader and transformation advisor, Nazli Seghar exemplifies the power of passion and perseverance. From her childhood dreams of becoming a movie director to her unexpected entry into computer science, Nazli’s story is a testament to the power of pursuing one’s true interests and passions, even when the path seems uncertain.

Today, Nazli is a Customer Success Executive at Cisco with over 20 years of experience under her belt in successfully leading teams in various government and large private organisations including the University of Newcastle, CSIRO, AWS (working in space innovation!) and Cisco where she has carried through her unrelenting drive to explore the possibilities of emerging technologies.

In this Q&A, we discuss Nazli’s journey into tech, her experiences working as a woman in tech in Iran and building a professional career in Australia, and the unique challenges that have influenced her leadership style and approach to managing diverse teams. We also heard Nazli’s advice on getting your foot in the door with large tech innovators, facing cultural barriers at work and more.

This promises to be an inspiring read!

To kick things off, what did 5-year-old Nazli want to be when she grew up?

Back when I was 5 years old, I had my sights set on becoming a movie director and producer. I would go on scouring for stories, rounding up all the neighbourhood kids feeling like a mini-Hollywood casting director, and putting on performances that would leave their parents in awe (or at least, they pretended convincingly!). Lights, camera, action—In my own eyes, I was the little maestro of backyard blockbusters!

How did you end up in your current role at Cisco?

Six months ago, I embarked on an exciting journey with Cisco, taking on the role of Customer Success Executive as part of the ANZ Customer Success team. This position, relatively new to the tech industry, is centred around aiding customers to maximise the value from their investments. Rather than a traditional sales-centric role, it’s about fostering a positive customer experience as they navigate their transformational journey.

Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about ensuring customer success, and this role allows me to focus on just that. My particular enthusiasm lies in the industry I am currently engaged with, which adds further motivation and excitement to my work. At Cisco, I continue to champion customer satisfaction and success, making their journey both seamless and rewarding.

It is commonly recognised that there are fewer female leaders in digital and technology. Could you tell us a little bit about your career background and how you ended up working in the industry in general?

When I was faced with the decision of choosing my future career in Iran, the university entrance exams were very competitive, leaving little room for choice. I initially dreamed of becoming an architect, but circumstances led me to be accepted into the field of computer science. Surprisingly, it was harder to get into computer science, and I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting accepted and to be honest, I had only added it to my list to please my mum, who had already been disappointed that I didn’t aspire to become a doctor. With a computer science degree, I embarked on my journey in technology, and it felt like a natural fit for me. Even when an unexpected opportunity arose for me to study architecture and even work at an architectural firm a few years later, I realised just how fortunate I was to have veered away from pursuing architecture, and that I eventually found myself doing what I am doing now. My current path aligns perfectly with my curiosity for emerging technologies and my personal passion. It is a testament to the fact that when you follow your true interests and passions, you naturally gravitate towards a fulfilling and rewarding career, regardless of the specific academic path you initially embark upon.

You were able to grow an impressive resume working in Iran before moving to Australia. What was that experience like? How did go about building up your network, and professional career in Australia?

Back when I was completing my bachelor’s degree, a miraculous opportunity presented itself—I stumbled upon Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), of all things, for my thesis. Little did I know that this seemingly niche topic would open doors for me in the vast realm of the online world including leading the software team of the first web platform in Iran. Fresh out of university, I ventured into Iran’s male-dominated tech industry, working on the country’s first online platform without the convenience of Google. Instead, we relied on books and hands-on learning to deliver. Although the challenges were immense, the result was exceptionally rewarding. When I relocated to Australia, by a stroke of incredible fortune and reward for working hard and getting good marks in my master’s degree, found a job at university which was a stepping stone for me for my future career. I found myself working at CSIRO—an experience that has played a pivotal role in shaping my career and leadership in advanced technology. With each new wave of emerging technologies, I’ve been irresistibly drawn in. I was curious about the potential of cloud computing within AWS and that’s how I ended up working at AWS which led me to leading the aerospace and satellite business in ANZ for AWS and working with amazing space innovators in the region. I love pushing my limits, constantly seeking new challenges, and right now I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by the greatest and brightest minds in Cisco. Collaborating with these remarkable individuals who have shaped technology infrastructure across the globe is a privilege beyond measure.

Reflecting on that, is there anything you would do differently? And what would your advice be to someone starting fresh in a new country?

Growing up in war in Iran has taught me not to dwell on the past with regret. If I have emerged from those circumstances alive, I consider it a success. While I do acknowledge and learn from my mistakes, I view them primarily as opportunities for personal growth. Thus, would I change anything? Probably not, as it would hinder the valuable lessons I have learned. They are like treasures. However, I constantly strive to do better and improve upon my past experiences.

To anyone embarking on a new journey in a foreign country, my advice is to recognise that most of the limitations we assume to exist are often confined within our own minds. It is essential not to let those self-imposed limitations restrict our potential. I often advise my mentees that migrating to a new country is like finding yourself in a situation where you lack the keys to various aspects of life, from finding a home to applying for jobs and more. It can be overwhelming, but instead of succumbing to the pressure, approaching it with enthusiasm, excitement, and curiosity will often result in positive outcomes and solutions to most challenges.

How would you compare your experiences working in Iran vs. Australia? Were there any interesting challenges you had to overcome?

This is an intriguing question. One of the greatest aspects of Australia is that if you remain focused on your goals and genuinely passionate about your pursuits, your efforts will not go unnoticed, and you will make progress. While challenging situations exist everywhere, in Australia, these challenges often revolve around specific individuals you encounter in your career. In Iran, however, there are additional political challenges that make things significantly more complex, especially for women. Unfortunately, being a woman in the tech industry and striving to become a leader is still more challenging for women worldwide. In Iran, this situation is exacerbated by laws that favour men. However, in Australia and Western countries in general, there is growing awareness and encouragement for gender equality in the tech space. While there is still progress to be made, the recognition and support for doing what is right is increasingly prevalent.

It is often said that as a woman in the tech industry, you must work twice as hard to gain recognition. When you add an accent to the equation, the expectation is that you must work three times as hard! Building trust becomes crucial, and being extremely results-driven becomes a necessity. In Iran, that wasn’t any barrier, but there were thousands others!

How have your cultural background and experiences influenced your leadership style and approach to managing diverse teams?

You may be aware that Iran is a collective society where strong loyalty to family is highly valued. In this cultural context, the interests of the family always come first, and individual needs take a backseat. The concept of family honour and shame is shared by all members, where success brings prestige, and any dishonour affects everyone. This deeply ingrained aspect has profoundly shaped my leadership style, emphasising the importance of unity, responsibility, and the collective well-being of those I lead.

As a leader, my team and customers are like family to me. I take responsibility for my team members’ mistakes while celebrating their individual achievements. I deeply care about my customers’ success and treat them with the same genuine interest as I would my family members. I prioritise their best interests, even if it comes at a cost to my own situation. This genuine care has fostered strong bonds with my team, leading to lasting connections that transcend time and cultural backgrounds.

Coming from a diverse cultural background, I empathise with the challenges faced by individuals from minority backgrounds. Embracing diversity, I actively seek varied viewpoints rather than surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. I value the unique perspectives that diversity brings to the team and strive to create an inclusive environment. Learning from exposure to other cultures and their leadership styles has been instrumental in my personal and professional growth.

You have worked with some heavy hitters in Australia including CSIRO, AWS and now Cisco. How did you get your foot in the door? What is your advice to others looking to get their foot in the door with large tech innovators like these organisations?

It is often said that success in one’s career is a blend of passion, hard work, and a sprinkle of luck. There are moments in life where the choices we make can have a profound impact, and that’s where luck comes into play. I have encountered several pivotal moments in my journey. Meeting two incredible women during my masters at the University of Newcastle paved the way for my first job, leading to more opportunities. The first job is always challenging, but once you secure it and perform exceptionally well, the doors begin to open. As a woman, I encourage others to seize chances and never assume they won’t be chosen. What I always emphasise to my mentees is to go for it— the worst that can happen is not getting it. Throughout my years of experience, I have hired numerous individuals. I believe that technical skills can be learned, but finding the right cultural fit is crucial. Interviews are also a chance for candidates to assess if the company aligns with their values. Ultimately, my advice is to pursue something you love and a company that brings out your passion. Go for it!

In your opinion, what can organisations and leaders do to create a more inclusive and diverse environment, particularly in relation to gender and cultural diversity?

To promote diversity and inclusivity, we must actively and consciously embrace differences with an open mind. It’s important to challenge ourselves to be comfortable with discomfort and resist the natural inclination towards familiarity, whether in gender or culture. Stepping out of our comfort zones and creating a safe environment where everyone can freely express themselves is crucial. By doing so, we can foster a culture of inclusivity, embrace diverse perspectives, and work towards a more inclusive future.

What advice do you have for women that are wanting to progress in their career but perhaps face some cultural barriers?

To pursue your ambitions, you must be resolute and courageous, with a clear destination and well-defined goals. Seek a reliable mentor, take ownership of your future, and actively engage in networking. Showcase your capabilities and ask for assistance when needed. If cultural barriers arise, seek advice from those who have overcome similar challenges. With determination and perseverance, success will be within reach. Remember, it is up to you to demonstrate your worth and make your dreams a reality.

Any final thoughts you would like to add?

First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude to the Women in Digital for providing this opportunity and for the incredible work you do.

To all the amazing women out there, I offer this advice: never underestimate your capabilities and always aim high. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. Believe in yourself and embrace the power of your potential. Keep pushing boundaries and reaching for the stars!

And just for fun… What is a podcast or book you are loving right now?

One of the books I cherish, recommended by a mentor, is “Untamed”. Additionally, I found great enjoyment in reading “The Dopamine Nation”. As a dedicated podcast listener, “Space Connect” is among my favourites, and “Everyday AI” by CSIRO also captivates my interest. These resources have enriched my knowledge and sparked my curiosity in various subjects.

Is there something you wish was illegal but isn’t?

I believe that while society is aware of the prohibition of certain forms of discrimination, additional measures should be implemented to combat them in various ways. I strongly advocate making such discrimination illegal, akin to crossing a red light. By enacting stringent laws and enforcing them rigorously, we can foster a more inclusive and equitable society that upholds the values of fairness and respect for all individuals.

What is your favourite way to waste time?

I have a deep passion for cooking, especially when it comes to discovering new recipes that I haven’t tried before and preparing them in my kitchen! There’s something incredibly satisfying about exploring different flavours, ingredients, and techniques to create delicious dishes. Cooking allows me to unleash my creativity and brings joy as I experiment with new flavours and textures. It’s a delightful journey of culinary discovery that I thoroughly enjoy.

You’re suddenly teleported to an airport with a plane ticket in hand. What location are you hoping to see on the ticket?

Egypt, I really want to visit Egypt.

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September 1, 2023 Women in Digital

In this day and age, it’s no secret that women are underrepresented within the field of cybersecurity, making up approximately 11 to 25 per cent of the workforce. We want to bring more awareness to careers in cybersecurity and shine a light on women currently working in the industry, like Susie Jones.

Every day, business owners are hearing about the cyber risks threatening their business. But with the rate of change in cybersecurity accelerating, many smaller businesses are simply being left behind by an industry designed to solve the problems of larger enterprises. These small businesses are some of the most at-risk and underserved parts of today’s economy, despite being the backbone of every society. Finding a way to help business leaders take back control of their risks is where Susie thrives.

Susie Jones is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cynch Security and is an experienced cybersecurity, risk, insurance and innovation leader passionate about solving cybersecurity challenges faced by small businesses. She is also Victoria’s Cyber Strategy Mission 2 Expert Advisory Panel Member and Cyber Industry Advisory Board Member at RMIT University.

In this Q&A, we discuss with Susie her entry pathway into cybersecurity, her journey co-founding Cynch Security, common misconceptions about starting a career in cyber, and advice for women interested in breaking into the field. We also talked about the cybersecurity challenges small businesses face today and what these businesses can do to be better protected from looming cyber threats.

To kick things off, what did 5-year-old Susie want to be when she grew up?

For the longest time I was 100% sure I was going to be a lawyer – I only changed my mind when I realised as a teenager that I might not always win, even if I was right, and so the idea lost its charm!

There have been varying studies over the years in Australia that suggest the percentage of women working in cybersecurity floats around 11% to 25%. Tell us about how you ended up working in cybersecurity?

I started my career in insurance and risk management, and climbed the corporate ladder using that expertise. It was that expertise that led me to meeting my now co-founder, Adam, at my previous employer.

We realised that by combining my risk management and business acumen with his technology and cybersecurity expertise we could create a really powerful solution to a very human problem.

We will do an introduction before this but could you tell us a little bit about Cynch Security and your current role?

At Cynch, we are dedicated to supporting small business leaders to build cyber resilience, or what we call cyber fitness. Our core product is a cyber risk management SaaS platform that translates all the complexity of cyber into plain language, actionable steps that those without technology backgrounds can implement themselves. We also support large organisations that have a large number of SMB suppliers to measure and improve their third party cyber risk.

As CEO, I lead our business operations, sales and customer success.

What motivated you to start your own cybersecurity company in the first place?

In a prior role at my previous employer I was fortunate to be invited to speak to a number of small business owners who had suffered a data breach. Their stories of the emotional impact those breaches had on them as well as the financial loss showed me the human side of cybersecurity, and once we came up with an idea of a solution we just had to take the leap.

In your opinion, what are the most significant cybersecurity challenges faced by small businesses today? How can they better protect themselves from cyber threats?

The biggest challenge in my opinion is that in order to avoid an incident the business needs to get it right 100% of the time, whereas the cyber criminals only need to get it right once. That’s why we talk about building and maintaining cyber fitness. Because the fitter a business is when they fall victim, the easier it will be for them to recover – just like with physical fitness.

Small and scaling businesses often lack dedicated IT departments and resources. What are the practical and cost-effective measures you recommend to enhance their cybersecurity position?

Password management and access control is fundamental – if an attacker can’t get into your accounts through a virtual front door, they are more likely to either move onto another victim or they will need superior skills in order to find another way in. Reusing the same password across multiple systems is as damaging as leaving all the windows and doors of a building unlocked and open – make the criminal have to work for it.

How do you recommend small businesses approach employee education and training to foster a culture of cyber security awareness?

Openly talk to your team about security and scams that you’ve seen around. Share examples of phishing emails, provide password management software. Basically, be intentional about your security.

Can you share more about your journey as a woman working in cybersecurity?

99% of the time my gender has no impact on my working life. I think it may have been different if I’d started my career in this industry, but I didn’t. I experienced much more sexism and gender bias against me when I was working in insurance and risk management.

What is your advice for women looking to break into the field of cybersecurity?

If you’re changing careers, then lean into whatever skills you have already developed and look for roles where you can use them also. If you’re just starting your careers, then look at the roles being advertised and seek out skills listed.

Are there any specific educational paths, certifications or general resources you recommend to upskill or get support / meet people in the field?

Attending conference are a great way to get access to a variety of people in difference security fields, so I’d recommend that over formal training for most.

What do you think are some common misconceptions people have about a career in cybersecurity? What do you wish more people knew?

That you have to be a technologist to add value in this industry and it’s just not true. I’ve known plenty of people who were great with computers but couldn’t make in the security, just as I know plenty of people like myself who are successful without a tech degree.

With the rapid advancement of technology, what emerging trends or areas of cybersecurity are you particularly interested in right now?

I know there’s a lot of investment going into access management and control and I think this will continue for many years to come.

What steps can be taken to encourage more women to pursue careers in cybersecurity and increase gender diversity in the industry?

The language used by many in the industry is overly complex and unappealing to many women. We need to talk like normal humans if we’re going to be able to convince more women that the field is interesting.

What is your favourite piece of advice you’ve been given?

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, remember that everyone else is just making it up as they go along too.

And just for fun… What is your favourite way to waste time online?

Watching movie trailers!

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