As the nature of IT leadership evolves across Australia, characteristics associated with modern day leaders are changing alongside.
Outlined during the first Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) Alumnae program of 2017, females must now demonstrate authenticity and confidence in equal measure when stepping into leadership roles.
Developed to facilitate the mentoring of budding women in ICT, WIICTA Alumnae offers exposure to past winners and prominent industry figures, through interactive and informal networking sessions.
As WIICTA winners in 2016, Isabel Boniface - SMB and Marketing Lead, Microsoft; Holly Melrose - Client Services General Manager, eNerds and Lisa Stockwell - Vendor Development Manager, Arrow ECS Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) took to the stage to illustrate the importance of confidence.
“The biggest change has been within myself,” Melrose said. “Previous to receiving the award, I had no idea I was doing anything different or special and when I won, I learnt that I am progressive and gave me the confidence to learn new things.”
In taking home the Rising Star Award in 2016, Melrose originally started out as a receptionist, before progressing into a proven leader as General Manager of Client Services.
Today, Melrose is now responsible for eight direct reports within the business, achieving this growth in just five years.
“Being young and a woman, I had to do more to stand out,” Melrose explained. “It’s challenging being in that position but you got to do things that are out of your comfort zone to get that confidence and stand out from the rest.”
Meanwhile, Boniface won the Innovation Award in 2016 through her ongoing drive for excellence, outlined through her role as a change agent within the industry.
With a natural instinct to solve business problems, Boniface has continued to combat the challenge of business with natural creativity and over 20 years of experience.
“This was a stage for me that made me feel appreciated, that I was being recognised amongst peers, some even younger people,” Boniface explained.
“It gave me the confidence because being recognised in house is one thing, but it’s completely different being recognised by the industry.”
In drawing on her own experiences, Boniface advised females to drive change by highlighting one area that they can make a difference, and differentiating themselves accordingly.
“Pick out one thing you can ‘fix’,” she explained. “How do you do it? For me, it’s about being brave and not backing down. Embrace the uncomfortable situations.”
In winning the Shining Star Award in 2016, Stockwell was recognised for her instrumental role in growing the Distribution Central business, which now forms part of Arrow ECS A/NZ.
As a well-respected figure within the channel, Stockwell has been widely credited for her work in securing distribution rights with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft during 2016.
For Stockwell, such acknowledgment helped validate her belief that her contribution and efforts went beyond the organisation she works for.
“I’m just doing my job,” she said. “But for me, being authentic in how you represent yourself is also important and I try not to elevate any views or opinions out of proportion.
“Just be honest in your approach. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion or double guess the relevance of what you have to say.
“Identify what is positive for you, and do it well – let your personality dictate how you carry yourself.”
Talking the talk and walking the walk
During the event, IT recruitment specialists, Odgers Berndtson, also took to the stage to demonstrate the importance of displaying authenticity and confidence, rather than merely focusing on results and numbers.
“The best leaders succeed when they have authenticity around what their team looks like,” Odgers Berndtson Partner, Tim Sleep, advised.
“There needs to be collaboration, a genuine ration of the success of others and coming into the office with energy, with helps create the right team going forward,” Sleep added.
Through addressing gender imbalance in the ICT industry, Sleep said value can be found in achieving “diversity of thought”, which can’t be achieved when people are from similar backgrounds and walks of life.
“There’s talking the talk, and then there’s walking the walk,” he said. “There are leaders that believe in improved outcomes and strive for it.
“And then there are the rest that talk about it and take no action but this is changing.”
Echoing Sleep’s observations, Odgers Berndtson Associate, Emma Burns, advised that the conversation needs to focus on inclusion first, before the outcome of diversity.
“If we can get the inclusion piece right and have the conversation around that, then diversity is a natural outcome of it,” she added. “You’ve got to be aware of all the moving parts.”
Be bold for change
With 53 offices across 28 countries, and over 50 years of recruitment experience and expertise, Odgers Berndtson works with clients across a range of sectors, with the firm observing key interviewing characteristics impacting both men and women.
“Women generally talk about team work more than men,” Burns explained. “But there is a gender lens through the role. So, people need to spot the unconscious bias and get rid of them.”
In addition, Burns observed that a female presenting herself as assertive in leadership can be perceived as something else.
“When you think that you’re assertive, you can be perceived as aggressive,” she added. “When you think that you’re cooperative, you will be looked at not having a strong view point.
“So, you’ve got to understand how you are perceived and work on that.”
In a bid to tackle gender diversity in the ICT workplace, Burns advised females to add rhythm to their personality and how they engage.
“Just be authentic and honest in your answers; that’s you,” she advised. “We’re looking for people, not CVs.
“You also need to be involved in something that gives you purpose away from work, broadening your networking circle out of your niche spot, and take ownership of your own professional development.”
As a winner of the Achievement Award in 2016, Citrix Channel Sales Manager A/NZ, Belinda Jurisic, was recognised for demonstrating outstanding leadership during a career spanning over 20 years.
Having developed and executed on several partner strategies, Jurisic continues to demonstrate an ongoing passion for the channel in Australia.
During her keynote address, Jurisic emphasised the importance of people management, reflecting on her journey into IT and rise up the channel ranks.
As a result, Jurisic outlined key takeaways to consider:
- Put yourself forward for roles and think about how you can differentiate yourself to anyone else going for it
- Know what change you can bring that is positive to the role
- Rethink about what is important to you, write a list about what you want to achieve in the next six months and work towards it
- Lose the “female trait” of trying to do 90 per cent of everything. Instead, make aims more reachable, for example, do about 50 per cent of the work, then explain why you’re the best person for the job
- Be confident in yourself
- Take calculated risks
- Don’t live with regret and second guess yourself - it’s fine to apologise for something you did wrong
- Get to know yourself - determine your own strengths and weaknesses and change accordingly, not just for the sake of it
- Take time out for yourself if you need it - even if it means going for a walk and thinking about nothing else except you and where you want to be