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April 2, 2020 Holly Hunt

Insights from the WID Squiggly Careers Evening…

The following points are my squiggled down reference notes from an interesting Women In Digital International event that I attended in February 2020. The topic was Squiggly Careers which was facilitated by Carly Shearman with guest speakers Bernadette Stone, Zoe Caplen-Black and Karen Whiteford.

I picked upon a few common themes as I listened to these three distinguished female professionals during the course of the evening. Throughout their squiggly careers they have retained their positive attitude and embraced the change that was thrown their way. I won’t try to summarise their stories, rather expand on a few points that I found particularly interesting.

Look after people and all the rest will follow

From the outset, my handwriting couldn’t keep up with all the golden nuggets of information Bernadette shared about what was important to her as a successful leader. Her message, put quite simply; look after people and all the rest will follow. As a leader myself, I strive to surround myself with the best; people that embrace change and have a desire to keep learning. Surrounding our self with the best, as an example, could mean hiring people that are better than ourselves in the areas we need knowledge in. As I continued to listen and squiggle down note after note, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief knowing that we don’t have to feel as if we have to ‘do it all’. Whether that be in the home or in the workplace, we tend to juggle and forget to ask for help. Be kind to yourself, give yourself a break. Hiring people with strong leadership and EQ will prevail over capability sets when faced with challenging situations.

Choose values, skills and capabilities and NOT role titles

As a Program Manager by trade, I live and breathe project plans so it’s probably no surprise that I used to have a career plan in my 20s. That was until I actually hit my goal. What then? I found myself unsure of where to go from there because I was searching for a specific role title to put ‘in the plan’, yet I knew it was important to keep planning to help stay driven and focused. Bernadette, Karen and Zoe, all suggested that when career planning, stay away from choosing specific role titles and focus on what values, skills and capabilities sets you’d like to acquire, what it is that you want to achieve from the role and what you want to do, rather than exactly what it is. With that in mind, start to think about what makes you happy and what you’re good at. Do what you believe in. Do what you love. If you focus on your strengths, then you are more likely to shine. Although it’s good to have a career plan, ensure you’re continuing to scan, internally (self) and externally (market), not for the purpose of jumping ship but to validate you’re still on the right track – plans change, and so do you. If you hit a roadblock within your plan, remember that failure isn’t fatal. In fact, it can quite often be seen as an opportunity, at the very least for learning how to do things differently next time. If what you tried didn’t work, jump back in and start again. The failures will have taught you a lot and have helped define what your ‘non-negotiables’ are when looking for that next role. Don’t lose confidence with a failure. Communicate your value proposition with the value you are bringing to the next opportunity. When that time comes, ensure you are interviewing the organisations as much as they are interviewing you.

Don’t forget to acknowledge your current success (it’s not all about the next big move)

While executing this career plan, it’s important to self-reflect and remind yourself that ‘this’ is what you wanted. My husband reminds me of this often, as many years ago I wrote on my career plan that I wanted to be a project coordinator, then project manager and now a program manager. It seemed so far away at the time but before you know, through a combination of steps, you’ve reached your goal and onto the next challenge. So, remind yourself that ‘this’ is what you wanted, don’t forget to acknowledge the success rather than continuously trying to get to the next big move.

Choose a mentor that will challenge you to grow

The other person to assist with career planning is a mentor. Quoting Zoe “don’t just choose a ‘carebear’ mentor”, choose someone who will help you critically think and improve. Although it’s important to have inspiring people around you who make you feel good, choose someone who tells the truth, always pushing you to the next level. Seek diversity in guidance. This person might also be able to help you define what your non-negotiables are when looking for the next role.

Bring everyone along on the journey to diversity

Lastly, and maybe an apt way to finish the Women In Digital International event as we near International Woman’s Day, it was interesting to hear where the Q&A honed in on. There was a strong focus from the audience’s question on the importance of equality. Specifically, how can we find ways to learn from our male colleagues and leaders and involve them in diversity and equality conversations. We need their help. We can’t and shouldn’t do this alone as we have a lot to learn from each other. I felt that was an insightful way to end a jam-packed evening as Women In Digital International actually have a strong focus to include both male and females on their Board, within their speaker selections and in their event attendance. Let’s keep the diversity of thought alive by inviting your Man-bassador along to the next event!

Words by: Julia Morton

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March 10, 2018 Holly Hunt

When Michael Reid, State Manager of Cisco QLD moved to Brisbane after several years in Sydney he was astounded by the lack of diversity available within the Brisbane technology market. Not only were there fewer women within his team at Cisco, he found that any jobs advertised weren’t attracting the diverse talent he sought.

With around 10% gender diversity in his team, and fewer than 5% female applicants for his role, he was struggling why it was so hard to attract great talent at a company known for its employer of choice status. Unfortunately, Michael’s experience was an all too familiar one which was somewhat comforting and troubling to find out!

Sally-Ann Williams, Engineering Community & Outreach Manager for Google Australia says that women comprise only 3 per cent of applications to study IT at university, “yet we know that 75 per cent of all future jobs will require STEM skills and the vast majority of them are technical skills’’.

Not one to shy away from a problem, Michael wanted to know what actions he could take to improve the issue.

With this in mind, we discussed how important it is to:

  • Support community organisations like Girls Who Code, Tech Girls are Superheroes and of course, Women in Digital,
  • Create unique pathways for women to enter the industry,
  • Speak at local high schools and universities about careers in Digital and IT,
  • Champion women in the industry to ensure role models were visible for other young girls and women. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.

With an open mind, Michael decided to create an entry level opportunity that would allow him to recruit a talented and ambitious young woman into the company from the Women in Digital network.

Michael ended up hiring one of the first women we introduced to him,  and almost 12 months later, she continues to make a great contribution to the culture and diversity within the QLD team – something we’re proud to have facilitated through Women in Digital.