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January 20, 2021 Women in Digital

At Women in Digital, we are fierce advocates for connecting, educating, and empowering women to give them the skills and support they need to thrive in the tech industry. We are very lucky to not be alone in this mission and another great organisation trying to build up women (and software) is She Codes. We were beyond ecstatic to be able to attend their She Codes Plus Brisbane Showcase last month. Keep reading to learn a little more about She Codes and some of our key takeaways from the night. 

Facts are facts. Despite national conversations about diversity in tech, women are still largely misrepresented in the tech industry. According to ARN, only a fifth of Australia’s IT graduates are women! While yes, diversity statistics are slowly improving, clearly, there is still a long way to go and this is why we love to support organisations such as She Codes.

In late 2020, we had the incredible opportunity to attend the She Codes Plus Showcase at Lightspace in Brisbane. If you haven’t heard of She Codes, you’re missing out! She Codes is on a mission to teach women coding skills, get women into technical careers, and build communities of like-minded women. Their vision is to increase diversity in tech by inspiring 100,000 women across Australia by 2025 and this is absolutely something we at Women in Digital can get behind.

Run in partnership with BHP, the She Codes Plus program is a six-month part-time course that focuses on supercharging the tech careers of women. This showcase was an opportunity to celebrate their achievement, share their portfolios and connect them with other professionals in tech including recruiters, hiring managers and potential industry mentors.

We were thrilled to attend this fantastic event and celebrate the 2020 graduating class. We were equaly excited to listen to a range of fabulous panellists including Sammy Herbert, Peta Ellis, Emily Taylor, Rene Chappel and Sorcha Abel (who was also the 2020 Women in Digital Awards Technical Leader of the Year – go Sorcha! See all our winners here). These women are five powerhouse leaders with an accumulative 78 years in the industry (woah!). They are also key role models for young women in tech. If there’s anything we’ve learned at Women in Digital, it’s that ‘you can’t be what you can see’ which is why showcasing these role models in this industry are so important.

Here are our key takeaways from the SheCodes panel discussion…

Connect with your network around you

You might have heard the saying that ‘your network is your net worth’ and it’s true! Although it may not be your all-time favourite activity, I think we can all agree that networking is a key skill for any professional. Building a network filled with strong, quality relationships is just as important. So if you find yourself wanting to level-up your networking game, start small and try ‘nudging’ one person a day. Watch over time as good things happen!

Be okay with not knowing all the answers

As much as we wish we could be experts in everything, that is never going to be a realistic goal. But that’s okay. This is your opportunity to ask questions, collaborate with others and build connections with other professionals in areas you may be unfamiliar with. However, if this is not your vibe, another way you can learn is by simply throwing yourself in the deep-end! What better way to learn than through experience?

Value your experience

Your experience is unique to you and to be honest, it is more than a lot of people have! Though many people follow similar career paths, it is highly unlikely your pathway is identical to any other individual and you, therefore, you have different (and meaningful) insights to bring to the table. So make your experience and career journey be your unique point of difference and flaunt it!

Find a mentor to support you through the journey

This all goes back to the importance of your network. Finding a mentor to guide you or simply offer advice throughout your career plays a key role in your network. Whether that’s a former teacher, past employer, or maybe someone you have looked up to in your industry, it’s always worth reaching out. Most people are more than happy to provide some form of mentorship and share their experiences with you.

Appreciate it’s not going to be amazing immediately – it’s a journey

The idea of a linear career is long gone. Hey, we’re not saying that you won’t thrive immediately at the beginning of your career journey (some people do!). But in the 21st century, most people will find that their career pathways become ‘squiggly’ rather than straightforward. This means it is important to accept and embrace that there is more than one way to achieve what you want in your career. You can read our insights from the Women in Digital Squiggly Careers Panel here.

Imposter syndrome is something we hear a lot of women in digital struggle with and a narrative we desperately want to change! Here are the She Codes Showcase panel’s top tips on beating imposter syndrome:

Go to meetups – once you’re there, doors will open

Can you tell we love networking? Guilty as charged! But we can’t stress this enough and neither could the SheCodes panel… whatever your experience or background, it is so important for women in digital to take opportunities to connect with others in your industry. If a door opens, assume inclusion, (don’t talk yourself out of it) and walk right through. You never know what might happen! Especially in the tech space, there are more and more networking and professional development events popping up for you to enjoy. We recommend challenging yourself to attend at least one event a month and bringing a friend to back you up if you’re nervous.

Personify your negative persona and tell it to go away

No one likes a ‘negative Nancy’. If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this! A lot of people have a nagging voice in their head that feeds on and metastases any feelings of inadequacy and failure. Does this sound like you? Go ahead and visualise this voice as a personification of your negativity. Name it, picture it, and every time you catch [insert name of inner critique here] being a voice of irrational negativity, just tell it to bug off! Don’t be your own worst enemy!

Go to your crew to gas you up

We are all social creatures. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we naturally crave communication in some capacity (some more than others, of course). This is why finding your work crew may very well be the secret to both personal and collective success. If you need a boost after a rough day or just need some general motivation, connect with your crew and have them refuel your drive – sometimes you just need to let someone else be your cheerleader (we all know you are always being a cheerleader for someone!)

Verbalising the issue

If you’re a ‘fake it til you make it’ type of person and this works for you, then go for it. But truthfully, a lot of people struggle with nerves and it’s 100% okay to 1. Feel that way and 2. Verbalise that you feel that way. Remember, your coworkers, employers, and employees are human too. Most likely, they will appreciate your honesty and be able to sympathise. Plus, sometimes it can be a great ice breaker to verbalise your nerves.

Stop looking up at the things to do, look back at all the things you have done

My guess is that a lot of people reading this are looking forward to opportunities to level-up in their career. That’s great! You’re probably ambitious and hungry to succeed and we can’t fault that. But every now and again, it’s important to also look back at things you have done, take time to reflect and appreciate your accomplishments along the way. You earned it!

You should only be comparing yourself to you

Too many people fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others. It’s an easy thing to do and we have all done it at least once (or more 😂) in our lives but as soon as you stop that, the better off you will be and likely happier in general. There’s always someone who you think knows better when reality is, someone is thinking that about you in the same way! So next time, keep that in mind. Your career journey is YOUR journey. Keep doing you and go after what YOU want!

Final Top Tips:

  • Keep learning – It’s okay not to know everything. Google is your friend and so are industry workshops!
  • Find your tribe – Who are those special people in your life that will support you and your career no matter what?
  • Go and pitch yourself to someone else – Take a chance and put yourself out there! If nothing else, it will become a fantastic opportunity for feedback and confidence building.
  • Stay mainstream and don’t specialise too early – ‘Early specialisers’ may find themselves disadvantaged because they have boxed themselves into a corner in the ever-changing modern tech world. Broad experience is key for long-term success so learn as much as you can before deep diving into one specialisation.

A huge thank you to BHP, Amazon Web Services and BDO for sponsoring these amazing community events/ initiatives. Make sure you follow She Codes on LinkedIn to stay up to date on any upcoming events and workshops!

If you yourself are looking to hire some tech superstars, seeking your next opportunity, or wanting to partner with us to support diversity in digital, get in touch! We would love to connect with you. Follow us Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin!


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November 24, 2020 Women in Digital

A career as a Board Member can be hugely rewarding but it isn’t something you can make happen overnight.

Last week, we were joined by accomplished Board Director and Executive, Suzanne Ardagh (Lester Blades), an accomplished Board Director and Executive, to discuss the steps and skills you need to carve out your own Board career. With over 30 years’ international experience as a management executive and business leader, Suzanne has an extensive background in a range of industries and knows exactly what it takes to have a successful career as a Board member.

Here are Suzanne’s top insights on how to land your first Board position:

  • Find a cause you’re passionate about
  • Be a passenger, not a driver
  • Refine your skill of forward-thinking
  • Get at least one Board role while you are working in a Director capacity
  • Look at the other Board members
  • Get a great induction
  • Don’t be a seat warmer
  • Get a Board Buddy
  • Embrace the battle scars

Your first Board role will most likely (*cough* definitely) be unpaid

If you didn’t know this already, well now you do! There are many opportunities in the pro bono space to do a lot of good. It’s up to you to figure out what organisations really speak to you and what causes you feel strongly about helping! Consider the following: What are you passionate about? What will drive you to get up early in the morning or work late at night? Where are your values aligned?

You are there to monitor, guide, and give advice

It is important to remember that as a NED (non-executive director), your role is to bring your intellect, experience and advice to the Board, NOT make changes. In other words, you are a ‘passenger’ and will provide strategic direction to the business but not actually ‘steer’ the wheel.

If you aren’t sure what you necessarily bring to the table, ask yourself these questions; What I have done in my career? What experiences have I got that will make me a good director? Maybe you have previously managed budgets, lead strategy days or have experience managing risk or M&As. Your answers to these questions are what make up your Board career toolkit. When preparing your application, bring a summary of your executive career and answers to how you would bring value to the Board.

But it’s not only your experience and technical skills that are important. Developing strong contemporary skills (also known as soft skills) has become more crucial than ever for a career as a Board member.

A contemporary member should:

  • Have the ability to identify trends in datasets
  • Be creative
  • Be a problem-solver
  • Understand nnovation & transformation (working in disruption)
  • Have a progressive mindset
  • Be an agile thinker
  • Have an ability to deal with uncertainty

You can also read the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) recommended skills here.

Refine your skill of forward-thinking

Boards are a future, forward-looking role that requires a strong forward-thinking mindset to put the Board’s best foot forward. You are essentially a crystal ball for the company. This calls for a combination of insights from your lagging and leading indicators. The best way to describe these terms is by thinking about the business as a car. That is when you look out the windshield, you are looking at what’s ahead of you (leading indicators) but when you turn your head to look through the rearview on where you have travelled, you are reviewing past performance.

As an example, financial results will give you a state of play but they won’t give you any insight into how the company will fare in the future. This is why a well-balanced system requires both. If your leading indicators aren’t aligned to put you on the right track to achieve your goals, it is up to you to help make adjustments to the strategy. Too often, companies will focus too much on lagging indicators and miss opportunities to influence important outcomes which is why a forward-thinking mindset is so important.

Get at least one Board role while you are working in a Director capacity

AICD courses and the like are great for theoretical understanding and foundations but nothing can ever match real-world, learned experience. Whether that’s for a non-for-profit or corporate enterprise, find opportunities to be involved in an organisation you are passionate about and be prepared to reap the benefits.

Look at the other Board members

Much like any other job, what makes a Board position great (or not-so-great) is the people you are surrounded by. So if you can, take a look at the other Board Members and identify as much information as possible about the role before you commit. Not every position will be perfect, but this due diligence can save you (and others) much time and effort.

Some great things to ask yourself include:

  • What experience will you learn from them?
  • Is it a board you want to be on?
  • Culture of the board?
  • What’s the attendance like?
  • What’s the time commitment?
  • Protocols of engaging with management?

Once you get there – get a great induction

Preparation is key. If not offered an induction, take the initiative and request a tour of the site, meet the management team and visit the ground staff.

Don’t be a seat warmer

A lot of people see boards as a stepping stone for their career. But there is really no-one worse than being THAT person. Not only is it annoying to be on a board with people who don’t pull their weight, but it will come back to haunt you in the wider community as word spreads.

Get a Board Buddy

For your first board position, it pays to have a Board Buddy. That is, someone that can show you the ropes and provide feedback for you. You can think of this person as a mentor in the building to help you find your feet and thrive in your first role.

While you are in leadership/Director roles, embrace the battle scars

Many leaders, Directors, and CEOs become uncomfortable in times of crisis or stress. But of course, this is where your greatest learnings happen and how you build business-resilience! This is something that will make you a terrific NED in the future. So when a storm comes (like leading a business through a pandemic), lean into it and learn!

Thank you so much to Suzanne for sharing her valuable time with us! If you are interested in learning more about Suzanne and her career journey, be sure to follow her on LinkedIn. You can also ready about our terrific 2020 Women in Digital Advisory Board here.

For more information on our upcoming community events, click here and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.


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November 23, 2020 Women in Digital

At the 2020 Women in Digital (Virtual) Awards, we were thrilled to host the Director of International Emerging Tech Innovation at Walmart (yes, Walmart!) as our international keynote speaker. Her name is Fareena Contractor.

A former molecular geneticist, Fareena has experienced her fair share of surprising career pivots to get where she is today. After helping develop the H1N1 vaccine in India and researching brain cancer suppressors at the University of Alberta, she left the lab in 2011 to explore Design Thinking and Strategy. This is where she found her calling in business innovation. Over the past 3 years at Walmart, Fareena has built a grassroots innovation organisation which has disrupted the status quo and effected significant changes across functions, levels and countries. We were so inspired by her personal journey and story of resilience, we HAD to have her speak at the 2020 Women in Digital Awards.

2020 has been a tough year (to put it mildly). Whether you’ve been separated from family, lost your job or struggled throughout isolation, everyone has a unique story to tell. In the face of this global crisis, we believe the role of resilience has never been more relevant (or important) to our Women in Digital community. Fortunately, Fareena was eager to lend her insights on building resilience and now we are thrilled to share them with you!

You can watch her full speech from the Women in Digital Awards here:

 

Here’s a summary of Fareena’s top 8 tangible tips (backed by science of course) on building resilience:

1. Eat well, exercise, rest

It makes sense that boosting your overall health will give you the strength to take on stressful situations as they come along. This starts with eating right and exercising, releasing those ‘feel-good’ chemicals we call endorphins. For the average adult, 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week is recommended (Australian Government Department of Health, 2019). But believe it or not, sleep is just as important. Without sleep, your ability to learn, make decisions and cope with stress drastically decreases. For most adults, medical professionals recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night (Harvard Health, 2017).

2. Connect with yourself & connect with others

Strong ties to family, friends, co-workers or any person or group of individuals are key to building resilience. They are your stress buffers, particularly your close family and friends. Together, these parties form your social network that you can lean on from time to time to help you bounce back from setbacks or offer support in return. But it’s important to also have regular check-ins with yourself as well to help assess your emotional, psychological or physical needs and deal with any issues you identify.

3. Meditate and reflect on the uncomfortable

Of course, nobody enjoys being comfortable. But it is something you should try and embrace. Next time you experience a situation that makes you feel any discomfort or stress, rather than avoiding it, sit in your discomfort, and clear your mind. Meditation can help counter the stress you’re experiencing by eliciting a relaxation response and help build resilience (Headspace, 2020).

4. Be creative

When we are creative, we automatically become resourceful and look to solve problems in new and interesting ways. It is so often overlooked as a great source to cultivate resilience. Think about what is your creative outlet? We all have elements of creativity – it doesn’t have to be a Michelangelo piece). Whatever it is, find time to be creative and create something!

5. Be generous and give back

You know the saying – the more you give, the more you get. Generosity fuels the soul, giving you a sense of purpose and wellbeing as well as that warm and fuzzy feeling. Who doesn’t love that?! Being generous doesn’t require anything drastic either. Simply buying a coworker a coffee, volunteering at a local event or putting a few dollars towards your favourite cause is enough to get those feel-good vibes flowing!

6. List things you are grateful for

We may not celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia but anyone can see the benefits of taking the time to be thankful for what we have in our lives. It not only increases positivity and self-esteem as you reflect on your achievements but also helps reduce stress and make you happier overall (Happify Daily, 2020). Fareena recommends that every day to sit down and write out three things you are grateful for. This can be anything – if your family is safe and healthy then that’s enough to be grateful for as not everyone has that.

7. Experience new things

Take opportunities to experience new things! Leaving your comfort zone to try new things can be undoubtedly daunting but what better way to build confidence and resilience? Now, we’re not pushing you to jump out of a plane or anything but you could travel somewhere new, give pilates a go or experience anything that energises you and will help you create new memories.

8. Smile 🙂

This is the most simple step to building resilience that you can apply immediately! According to recent research published in Experimental Psychology, when you smile, the emotional centre of your brain (called the amygdala) is stimulated and releases neurotransmitters that moves you into a more positive space (Marmolejo-Ramos et al., 2020). Also, you’ve probably heard this before but smiling really is contagious (Wood et al., 2016). So we recommend you start now! 🙂

Thank you to Fareena – we are so excited to see what this powerhouse is going to do next! If you are interested in learning more about Fareena, connect with her on LinkedIn.

Want more? To read our Q&A interviews with our line-up of Women in Digital Award Winners, head over to our blog and keep an eye out on our Facebook and Instagram. You can see the full list of 2020 Women in Digital Award winners here.


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September 12, 2020 Women in Digital

With such a wide array of new opportunities available in marketing, it isn’t surprising that many people struggle to see exactly where they fit in. Emma Wilkinson knows this first-hand.

A self-reported ‘digital unicorn’, Emma is an adventurous go-getter who has worked across a broad range of industries and specialisations, gaining a wealth of experience along the way. She has worked in Fortune 500 companies, including AVON, AECOM and Mitsubishi, as well as smaller boutique businesses throughout Australia. Currently, she is helping bridge the gap between traditional marketing communication and the burgeoning technology sector as the Digital Project Manager at The Distillery. Impressive right?

We were thrilled to have Emma share with us her impressive journey as a female tech lead and hear how she found her niche in the fascinating field of marketing, who although isn’t on the tools, is absolutely thriving.

The following words are by Emma Wilkinson

A year ago I walked away from being on the front line in digital because no matter how hard I tried I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Five months ago after trying on new career hats, a concerning number of “hope you are okay” gift baskets from my parents I came to the conclusion that maybe I was a mythical digital unicorn (cringe) as well a female tech lead who didn’t have the ambition to gain c-suite title or work on the tools.

Without a doubt, the industry requires more females on the tools however what I have found in my time is that some technical people are better suited to become Mary Poppins of digital. Someone who takes the project lead role and can using their technical know-how to proactively predict what a client is going to require, know how they will react (good and bad), and understand when to agree, disagree or suggest alternatives. They are also someone who understands the creative and technical functions and constraints of platforms and systems so that they can easily map out the next move and know when to react by changing direction needs or raising a red flag with their teams whilst be comforting, informative but firm in direction.

I am a project manager with a background in IT, strategy, system design and development, web development, UX and graphic design, digital marketing, account, and community management. Some skills and knowledge are more proficient than others but my technical knowledge has allowed me to become more of a ninja project lead whilst still being a role model to those who want to be on the tools and a mentor to those launching businesses who find the world of tech overwhelming.

I am often misunderstood because I don’t fit into the presumed roles of a software engineer, digital architect or digital marketing specialist. But I have over time learnt that my voice doesn’t need to be the loudest or in every conversation to be heard. I have led over a hundred websites in launching, I still wear my heart on sleeve and genuinely care about each project and supporting my team in their own career journey. I am breaking the mould of what a female tech lead is not because I think I should but because this is just who I am.

To those who want to thrive in tech, my message is simple. You don’t have to be at the top of the chain, an expert or be on the tools to thrive you just need to learn when it is appropriate to interject with your knowledge, actively listen and learn and respect the ecosystems you work in to predict the next move or recognise a red flag. You are not saving the world but you are building systems that keep the world afloat and provide tools to those who are saving the world.

Thank you so much Emma for sharing your insights. If you are interested in learning more about Emma, connect with her on LinkedIn.

Are you a woman in digital that wants to contribute an article. We would love to hear from you! Send us an email to [email protected].



April 21, 2018 Elise Le-Galloudec

By Kathy Wilson

It wasn’t all that long ago that seeking part-time work was like hanging a sign across your LinkedIn profile saying “not that interested in my career.” Not only was there a salary penalty but promotions suddenly became “unavailable” and career-enhancing projects would disappear like a puff of smoke.

But in 2007, Tim Ferriss forced the world to take a look at the way we all work  with his international bestseller “The Four Hour Workweek.” No longer was there a direct link between hours worked and commitment and success.

The flow-on effect has been slow in coming but is now picking up steam. Finally, like a shy little sister at the dance, part-time work is stepping out of shadows and presenting herself as a powerful career tool.

All over the world, millions of dollars are flooding into part-time and flexible work in 2018 as both employers and employees catch on to its advantages.

But have the tables turned so much that part-time work now actually boost your career?

In many cases yes. And for women in digital, it’s a “hell yes!”

So let’s take a look at six specific ways you can use part-time work to skyrocket your career.

1. Use job-sharing to make you part of an unbeatable package.

By developing a strategic job-share partnership, you can take you from a “maybe” candidate for a stretch job to a “must have.”

By matching your skills with someone similar but complimentary, you can potentially double the expertise, experience and skill sets you bring to a role. It also means that when and if the need arises, there is the ability to scale up rapidly (e.g. for a launch/end of financial year/time-sensitive report).

Increasingly – job sharing is a thing. And for senior, well-paid and challenging roles.

Companies are becoming open to hiring senior people on a flexible basis, according to recruitment firm Timewise.

“The British company surveyed 200 local senior managers and found that two out of five would consider hiring candidates for a senior role as part of a job-share. It also estimated that 770,000 high-income earners in Britain now work part-time, an increase of 5.7% on the previous year.

There are no losers in this scenario and big wins for innovative employees.

2. Use the flexibility of part-time work allows to develop skills in new areas

Very often, even the best full-time jobs involve using the same skill set over and over. I kind of rinse and repeat. Sure, you may have mastered the skills required but once you have done that a plateau can set in.

That’s what happened to Tracey – a coder in Sydney.

“When I first started my job

Part-time work, by its very nature, frees you up for things other than your primary job.

Spend it to upskill in new areas that can take you in a whole different career direction.

3. Get your foot in the door at an up and coming company.

Once you have a few years experience, you expect a certain salary – and that’s a good thing.

But what about if your dream company is a bit speculative and can’t afford you at that rate?

Easy.

Negotiate a part-time contract to get your foot in the door.

4. Make more money

This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes, working part-time can mean you end up bringing in more money.

If, for example, you take on a 30 hour a week gig and a 15 hour a week gig, your total income might exceed a full-time salary.

5. Be available to last minute and short-term opportunities

By its nature, part-time jobs mean you are free to dabble in small, cool and/or one-off projects.

Who knows, maybe that small gig you pick up might lead to you being the next big thing in digital in a few years.

And finally…

6. Part-time work can make you happy – and that makes you a far better company asset.

According to an article in Fast Company,  https://www.fastcompany.com/3048751/happy-employees-are-12-more-productive-at-work ) happy workers are more productive workers.

Here’s what the article said: “A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”

If you can find your work/life balance that works for you, you’ll be far better and your job – and a much more valued employee.

Shawn Anchor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. At those times, individuals tend to be more creative and better at solving problems.

Kathy Wilson from Elite Reputations gets women great part-time jobs. She knows that starting a job search can push everyone single, insecure button you have and she has a plan for you to follow that is simple and easy and will get you a new job in 4 weeks or less. And she’s released a course called “The World’s Most Real Guide to getting a part-time job that isn’t crap and pays what you deserve“.



February 25, 2018 Elise Le-Galloudec

By Sejal Jamnadas

To a casual observer, it might seem consultants spend an excessive time on PowerPoint; re-sizing and aligning boxes, re-arranging slides and re-editing tag lines. We’re known for creating ‘pretty presentations’.

Not only that, most people are terrible at it. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is all too real and commonpainful to read, even worse to listen to and unfortunately too easy to do.

Alas, beautiful PowerPoints do exist and are a pleasant harmony of structural and graphical design. And of course, they are existential to the consulting way of life. We (defending all consultants on the planet) inherently believe that PowerPoint is the ultimate tool for crafting compelling stories and framing important messages.

What most people don’t understand is that a PowerPoint presentation is (or should be at least be) an extremely concise showcase of months and months of client deliverables. Every interview, meeting, data analysis and research is turned into insightsso that only the most relevant knowledge makes it to the client in a nutshell. Not forgetting, the client sponsor is clearly an extremely busy, BUSY person and has no time for consultant bullshit, so it’s best to get to the point quickly.

This means the initial ‘information dump’ of 500 slides from all the work the team produced will eventually dwindle down to 10 slides. The client only wants to see the tip of the iceberg, which is the most important part anyway (likened to the 80/20 Pareto Principle).

In all respects, an impeccable PowerPoint presentation is clearly more complicated than most would think. Here are some important structural and graphical design considerations:

Structural Design

The message to the PowerPoint is key. What are you trying to achieve? What is the intent of the audience? The Pyramid Principle is a framework used to communicate the key message effectively and early in the presentation.

How do you use it?*

Structure the communication as a pyramid, presenting the main message first.

Develop the rest of the pyramid to support the main message, in ever greater detail.

Use topic sentences to tell the story mapped by the pyramid.

Why use it?

The main message, or the answer to the problem, is what the client wants to hear first, so it belongs up front.

People absorb information more easily when they know why they are receiving the information, and the main message creates that context. Stories are easier to remember.

Graphical Design

Now that we’ve covered sequencing and story-telling around main messages, we can focus on the singular frame.

Probably the most important element of each slide is the ‘Governing Thought’ title. The ‘Governing Thought’ title refers to an action statement which communicates the storyline of the slide in a short and understandable way. If necessary, a tag line may be required to describe a diagram or a set of points in the frame.

Of course, there are other important graphical considerationssome would consider almost “fanatical”…

Consistency is king. Use the same font, bullet, line, box, figure style and color throughout the presentation.

Use sober colors for a more professional look

Increase spacing between text to make it easier to read slide

Avoid use of clip art illustrations. Use simple illustrations to give a more professional look

Put conclusions below graphs

Never use shape effects*

Pick PowerPoint apart (say that 5 times in a row!) and you’ll begin to appreciate how subtle considerations in structural and graphical will alter the message. Beyond everything, we need to be constantly mindful of the ‘time-poor’ audience that want clear, relevant and logical answers…but don’t want to think too much about it either. That’s what consultants are for; to do the thinking, problem-solving, filtering, simplifying, tinkering, magic and wrapping it all up like a neatly-wrapped present.

*References made from Accenture 2013 Consulting 101

Sejal is a management consultant at Accenture with a keen interest in design and technology. She’s fascinated by design as a framework for creating meaningful human interractions with digital products, from AI, blockchain, e-commerce, social media tools and more. When she’s not in an office, you’ll find her tucked away in coffee shops eating “brunch food”, brainstorming for her next post and drawing stick figures as accompanying illustrations for the blog.



February 12, 2018 Elise Le-Galloudec

By Sejal Jamnadas

An attempt to use design thinking could be likened to experiencing the peak of your professional imposter syndrome. I mean surely, somebody will eventually figure out that you have no idea what the final outcome will be of the session. All you have is some butchers’ paper, post-it notes, the people sitting in the room and a hope that the session won’t fall completely off the rails.

The reality is, using design thinking (rather than just reading about it) is messy and awkward. In fact, it can be a huge risk; but it pays to work through the initial awkward mess and focus on clear intended outcomes rather than worrying about the reactions of participants.

The hardest part of the process is usually convincing the team to congregate for 1 hour during the week to discuss how they might ‘align priorities’ and ‘build a roadmap going forward’of course, with the intention of using design thinking methods. On my most recent project, I knew the client would not immediately be receptive of a “design thinking session” where “everybody gets to write on post-it-notes”. I could only imagine the reaction would be disappointing and awkward at the very least.

Undoubtedly, it was going to take a lot more than just the promise of a colourful room filled with post-it notes and ‘innovative ideas’ to convince the client to participate in a design thinking session.

To help you relate or empathise, I’ve illustrated the key 5 awkward phases that goes through the mind of a ‘facilitator’ planning to run a design thinking session.

STAGE 1: THE REALISATION

You’re at a critical point of the project. You’ve found the ideal moment where you know the team could benefit from brainstorming their ideas, understanding the problem and context, or gathering feedback to come to a shared understanding. I like to think of this as the problem or ‘tension’ for which Design Thinking methods can be incredibly useful.

STAGE 2: THE ‘DREADED ASK’

Now you need to muster up the courage to tell the client that you’re intending to gather everyone in a room to try some ‘methods’…

STAGE 3: THE ‘WHAT WAS I THINKING’ MOMENT

You’ve sent the meeting invite to the team with a standard agenda which no makes no reference to Design Thinking. Nobody knows that you’re frantically sifting through 10–15 Design Thinking methods to construct the best recipe for the session to achieve its outcomes. You suddenly hate yourself for organising the session in the first place and end up drafting back-up slides in case it fails. You start to have dreams of the client team giving you disgusted looks when you explain to them “you can only write one idea per post-it-note with a black sharpie”.

STAGE 4: THE COMPROMISE

You think you’ve found the perfect recipe at least twice. But of course, you’re bound to wake up in the middle of the night and realise the recipe is shit, scrapping the recipe and starting again. The session is tomorrow so you settle for some ‘safe’ optionsyou think to yourself, a bit of rose-thorn-bud and affinity mapping is not overly time-consuming and not outrageously ‘creative’, so you decide that’s the bare minimum you’ll do. Of course, you know there’s a lot of other great tools you’ll have up your sleeve which you plan to use spontaneously if the session goes relatively smoothly. Although at this stage, you’ll be happy if the client doesn’t fire you on the spot.

STAGE 5: THE AWKWARD INTRODUCTION

You’ve finally made it to the session and you’re excited. You truly believe the tools you’ve prepared will help the team understand the situation better and come to a shared sense of clarity for an approach going forward. Only thing, the team is visibly confused when they come in with their laptops and notepads to a room full of post-notes and sharpies. Deep breath. You tell them what you’ll plan to do today, doing your best to ignore mixed their expressions of excitement, boredom…and of course, a heavy air of awkwardness and scepticism.

So now we’ve established the REAL emotional journey of design thinking in its 5 phases, here are my few simple tips on helping to overcome the inherent awkwardness of it all.

  1. Have a clear intention and vision of the outcome: Understand what stage of the project you’re in and what outcome is desired. Then find the methods which will help to achieve the outcome and communicate this intent to the participants.
  2. Know your methods, and practice it alone or with colleagues: Do the training, speak to experts, watch videos and tutorials.
  3. Avoid using the word ‘Design’ or ‘Design Thinking’: Unless the client reads the Harvard Business Review or Forbes, its generally a fairly vague buzz word which a lot of people don’t really respect. People who believe in it respect it, but unfortunately, you can’t assume everybody trusts the idea of design thinking. Best to avoid freaking people out.
  4. Have faith in the methods: If you doubt the methods, so will the client or the audience that is participating in the session. Be enthusiastic and engage everyone in the room so they all feel included in the process. 

 

 



January 28, 2018 Elise Le-Galloudec

By Sejal Jamnadas

You don’t suddenly have a mentor by asking someone to be your mentor. You don’t have a mentor by setting up monthly phone-calls or writing timelines and goals. It’s also not enough to just latch onto one mentor to cry to about all your woes and dreams. Artificial, formal mentoring relationships are like trying to squeeze the last drops of honey from a bottle, watching it drip down till it forms a small puddle near the mouth, but never actually making its way out to be useful.

A truly valuable mentoring relationship between the student and the mentor should be natural, like free-flowing honey from a bottle. Some of the best career advice I ever got was never from a formal mentor that I caught up with regularlyrather it was from one-off interactions in the office kitchen, on the way down the elevator, on the train or at office drinks. They’re one of those rare interactions where neither the student or mentor agree on any commitment, but share a degree of vulnerability and honesty which is mutually beneficial.

And every mentor will be differentdifferent to each other and definitely different to you. One senior executive at my organisation told me to “specialise” in a field, one told me to “just have fun”, another told me to “try different areas of the business”, and another suggested I “blog at least once a week”. The thing is, every professional will have a different story and a different level of vested interest in youbut regardless, you have the ability to take all their life experiences and make ‘informed’ decisions based on their advice and your own morals.

So how do you develop such enriching personal and professional relationships?

  1. Be honest and openshow your personality.
  2. If you’re genuinely curious, ask questions.
  3. Don’t have a pre-defined ‘mentor’ criteriayou’ll find mentors in people you’d least expect.
  4. Touch base in a couple of months.
  5. Don’t try too hard (please).

Also, a weird trick; but map all your ‘mentors’ on a page and cluster by where you met them, in what context and the area they pursue their work. Stick it on your wall as a reminder to call upon these mentors if you’re stuck on a particular issue or want to share a piece of work.

On another note, sometimes you’ll meet inspiring mentors that you might never see again and you will never be able to thank them. That is okay. Remember what they said, record it, and apply it. When the time is right, you’ll have the chance to pay it forward many more times.

Liked this article? Why not head over to our Career Tips section for more such articles.



October 10, 2017 Elise Le-Galloudec

By Sejal Jamnadas

‘So, where do you want to go in your career?’ is probably the hardest question anybody could ever ask me.

Firstly, because I don’t have actually have a ‘good’ answer. You know, like all those people who can ramble on their 5 and 10 year career plans and know exactly what industry they will be working in.

Secondly, I feel like the questioner will instantly judge my competence or potential for ‘success’ based on the clarity of my answer. It’s something along the lines of “Oh, I think I’ll be a manager in the next 5 years” or “I’m not entirely sure yet, I haven’t given it much thought”.

If I say the latter, I can feel almost always sense the drop in tone of the person’s response of “Oh…okay…true”. It’s awkward to say that least and the conversation is abruptly changed to the plans for the weekend (which still happens to be 4 days away). Have I made my point yet?

There are absolutely zero empirical studies which correlate your ability to define clear career goals with that individual’s competence or potential for ‘success’. Goal-setting is important if you know fairly well what you want; but let’s cop some slack for those career ‘floaters’ who are too wildly curious about everything to be fixated on one career aspiration.

You won’t have to look too far to see there are many successful people that dramatically changed careers at all stages of life. Martha Stewart was a full-time model and then did a short stint as a stockbroker in Wall Street before turning to gourmet cooking with recipe collections valued at more than $400 million. Ellen Degeneres worked as a paralegal before she became one of the funniest and most popular talk show hosts in America. There are countless stories such as these that exemplify the myriad of pathways we might take to have a variety of careers. 

The problem for most people sometimes comes from the comparative pressures from colleagues that have studied the same degree and work in the same career level. It’s easy to compare success based on career progression and wealth, when everyone is trying to follow the exact same path. In saying that, these pressures are very much self-induced and can be tackled by embracing the fear of the unknown. In short, my bite-sized tips for being OKAY with not knowing where you’re going in your career:

You have an opportunity to learn a new transferrable skill each day; whether it’s a nifty trick on excel or learning to deal with a difficult co-worker.

You will make life-long friends and networks you can reach out to no matter where you go.

You are learning to be both flexible and resilient when the work gets touch.

You are wildly curious and open to trying new ideas, activities and career paths. Who knows what exciting new opportunity might come knocking at your door tomorrow?

The way I see it, you’ve widened your lens to all the world’s opportunities, picking up bits and pieces to create your unique brand. Why be a metal cog in the machine, when you can be stretchy rubber that fits into any system or industry that appeals to you?

One thing is certain though – in the next 12 months, 2 years, 20 years – I’ll continue to be just a little bit nerdy, quirky, ambitious and fascinated by people. I’ll also be covering my grey hair, probably still eating brunch and drawing all over whiteboards. I hope that answers your question.



September 27, 2017 Elise Le-Galloudec

It’s not all about the benjamins. Today’s workers increasingly value the ability to work where and when they want, with many saying it’s even more important than pay.

As a long-time remote worker — I currently write remotely for Biteable’s blog — I can personally vouch for the benefits of flexible work.

At Biteable, our marketing team is spread over San Francisco, Melbourne, London, Hobart and Seoul. We stay in touch using tools like Slack, and have weekly meetings on Google Hangouts. Most people don’t work 5 days a week, and can work whenever they like. It’s an arrangement that offers some major benefits, both for our team members, and for the company.

Here are five ways employees and employers around the world benefit from flexible work policies.

Closing the gender gap

“The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.” – The New York TImes

More flexibility when it comes to work can drastically improve the gap, by attracting and keeping more women in the workforce. But women aren’t the only ones who value flexible work nearly half of dads also say they want a flexible workplace culture. When dads can more easily juggle work and home responsibilities, moms (and kids) benefit too.

When employees can schedule work around their lives, instead of the other way around, they  can pursue passions like travel, education, hobbies, or volunteer work. But employees aren’t the only ones to benefit from flexible work.

For employers, flexible work options can attract skilled employees who bring their own unique perspectives to the table. Many of these candidates might not have even applied otherwise.

A wider talent pool

Flexible work means more options, both for employees and employers. When employers don’t insist on employees being physically in the office from 8-5, Monday through Friday, they’re able to cast a wider net when hiring.

This can open up new opportunities to qualified candidates who might have otherwise faced schedule conflicts due to kids, medical appointments, or long commutes.

Stay-at-home or single parents, military spouses, or professionals with medical needs or disabilities all benefit from these work arrangements.

Allowing remote work broadens the talent pool further, by not limiting potential employees to those in the immediate area, and saving employers from paying relocation costs.

Whether an employee wants to travel abroad while keeping their job, or wants to live in a smaller town or a rural area with few local opportunities, remote work makes it possible.

Increased productivity

While employers might fear that remote workers are spending more time on Netflix than Excel, research shows that’s not the case. One study found that employees were more productive at home than in the office. These workers made on average 13.5% more calls per week than workers in the office, translating to roughly one extra work day every week. They also reported a higher rate of job satisfaction.

Moreover, in today’s global, hyper-connected world, business doesn’t happen on a 9-5 schedule. Having employees working from anywhere, at any time, can mean quicker response times and improved customer service.

Fewer distractions, more efficient, engaged workers, decreased stress, and improved retention all translate to more productive employees.

Happier employees

Now, more than ever, work-life balance is a top priority for employees, especially for millennials and parents. The ability to adjust one’s working hours play a major role in achieving it.

Many employees today opt for part-time or flexible work in order to pursue passions or education, or care for children or aging relatives. Working remotely, or working in the evenings or on weekends makes this possible, while helping employees to maintain balance, and avoid stress.

When employees are stressed and overworked, productivity suffers. Happier, more empowered employees means improved performance, decreased turnover, and fewer absences and sick days.

Cost savings

For employers, the cost savings of a remote workplace can be tremendous. The cost of office space, especially in major urban hubs like San Francisco, Melbourne, and London has skyrocketed. Not to mention utilities, cleaning and maintenance, furniture, office supplies, and all the other smaller expenses that come with a physical space. Even shutting down the office for one day a week could make a difference for the bottom line, especially when combined with the other benefits of remote work.

Employees benefit from remote work too, saving money on commuting costs like gas, parking, and public transit. The ability to live in an area with a lower cost of living, or save on childcare costs can likewise make a huge difference in an employee’s budget.

Final thoughts

Flexibility isn’t just a buzzword — it’s the future of work. As worker priorities shift and technology makes flexible hours and remote work more feasible, it’s likely we’ll continue to see more employees choosing when and where they work.

With this shift, companies and employees stand to benefit from financial savings, increased productivity, higher worker satisfaction, a wider job/talent pool, and a move towards more equality in the workplace.