Bernadette Stone is the Chief Information Officer of the Brisbane City Council and the quintessential woman in digital. With over 20 years’ experience in IT and senior management positions in Enterprise Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions, Bernadette has demonstrated her passion to drive change in fast paced environments. Companies on her resume include Accenture, Rio Tinto, Queensland Rail, Aurizon and Virgin Australia.

Clearly, she has built an impressive career in male dominated industries and we were very lucky to hear from Bernadette at a Women in Digital panel event earlier this year. Today, we were excited to chat to her about her career journey and developments in IT.

These are incredible professional accolades, but tell us, who is Bernadette the person?

Wow thank you… and that’s a big question. I guess first and foremost now I’m a wife and a mum of three girls. I used to be driven by very different things and definitely lived to work rather than the other way around. I now prioritise my time. I love simple things like winding down with my husband on a Friday night, gardening (geez now I sound old…) and watching my girls in whatever competition they’re in. Work is still important to me and I have a high work ethic and I loved to be challenged and to be part of real change. However, I think I have the balance not in a bad place right now – most of the time – where I didn’t before…

What is something that not many people know about you?

I guess it used to be little known that I’m hearing impaired. I was embarrassed about it for a long time and in some professional situations it can pose quite a challenge so actively trying to keep it hidden was hard. I learned to accept it for what it is and seek out help when I need to, such as letting the Chair of a Board know prior to a meeting or potentially weaving it into my introduction in large meetings.

What are you currently watching/reading/listening to?

From a leadership perspective I’m listening to Marty Moore’s leadership podcasts – you can find those on yourceomentor.com

Over the past 20 years, you’ve risen through the ranks in very male-dominated environments, do you have any advice or insights on this?

I’ve always been pretty ambitious not just in terms of vertical progression but in my professional growth. Sometimes that’s meant taking sideways moves to fill skill gaps where I felt I needed that growth. The other lens to apply is whether your core values are aligned to that of the organisation – especially as you take on leadership roles.

“Great careers don’t just happen, they are planned.” What does that mean to you? And what have you done in your own life to carve out your career?

I think I agree with that but when do you need to develop a plan and at what level of detail? I knew early on that I wanted to lead but hadn’t determined what that meant so I worked hard. When I started working it was at that time ‘work life balance’ started to be a conversation but no one took it seriously and I was routinely working more than 70 hrs a week. I knew I wanted vertical progression but I was also very determined that I wanted to develop the capability and leadership skills to be good at it when I got to the next level. I think there’s times in my career I could’ve taken more chances to move up quicker but I’ve chosen some sideways steps along the way that were meaningful for me. I’m a leader that genuinely wants her people to succeed so I’ve spent a lot of time planning how to understand my strengths and my ‘derailers’. There are so many diverse experiences I’ve had that I call on day to day that I wouldn’t have necessarily had if I had been in a bigger hurry to get here…

What would you tell early-in-career women reading this?

I wish I could’ve realised early on that I put more pressure on myself than anyone else did. I guess I’d say to try to keep perspective. All the dimensions in our lives live in a carefully balanced ecosystem – when one goes out of balance then it does impact other parts of your life. Try as much as you can to set your goals and be good to yourself while you’re killing it…

What technology development is most exciting to you at the moment?

There is a lot of hype surrounding Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Extended Reality and so on. The value of these technologies rely on good data so the exciting, emerging technologies, for me, are Data Technologies. There are technologies now that automate so much of what was manually intensive before – such as auto-tagging video images and automating the restructuring of data to enable bringing together previously disparate data. I’m hopeful these technologies mean that we can avoid having to wholesale change application landscapes to transform data to be usable and deliver more of the exciting extended reality, Robotics and AI outcomes.

What is next for you?

What’s next for me is what is now! Right now we (me and my fantastic leadership team) have set audacious goals for a target state that is transformational. Working with great people is important to me and that’s what I have in my team. I also need to know I’m creating impact. Seeing through this change will broaden and deepen my capabilities which will enable me to further my executive progression.

A huge thank you to Bernadette for taking the time to chat with us about your impressive career in digital so far. As a WID Advisory Board member, we are sure to hear from her again soon. If you want to read more Q&A’s with the top women in business, head over to our blog and stay updated on our Facebook and Instagram pages.