The #SaltSessions Women in Tech #WiT interview series speaks with thought leaders from around the world to get their opinion and advice on how they have grown their career in tech and overcome challenges and adversity during their career.
What is your current role and the most exciting part of your work?
My current role as the GM across Operations and Sales at New Era has been a great opportunity to grow our exposure in the regions. New Era has over 650 agreements with education facilities, with a large amount of these clients being in Auckland and Northland. We have been very present in the wider regions, facilitating thought leadership and innovation sessions across our client base, which has added significant value to our schools. Our recent topics have been about safety in schools and sharing how technology can keep both staff and students safe, both in a physical environment and online.
What has been your most career defining moment that you are proud of?
I am extremely proud of my successful engagement with all types of clients, and proven success in winning, retaining and growing accounts. This is definitely not a one approach fits all scenario, and overcoming these challenges is extremely rewarding. I love this feeling and feel pumped every time I’m successful in making a difference for my clients. Relationships are everything.
What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?
Ideally, increased visibility of successful women in technology being promoted and involved in campaigning to this target audience would add value. There needs to be more organisations that consider diversity in their workplace at the time of recruitment, and ensure the support mechanisms are in place to guarantee success. Girls in technology will provide a great balance and will add significant value to any organisation that enables this opportunity.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?
Having to prove to be much better than any male in an organisation prior to be treated as a trusted advisor; or someone that has knowledge that will add value, has most definitely set me up for success. I continually strive to ensure I understand the smallest detail through to the bigger picture. This enables me to speak knowledgeably on any topic that may be raised.
At interviews, I am often asked how I am going to be able to manage in a male-dominated senior leadership team, with which I reply, “This is the environment I have worked within throughout my technology career over the past 20 years, so I’m comfortable with it and can work effectively within it”.
What is the biggest deterrent in your opinion to women succeeding in the workplace?
There are still many organisations that will select a male over a female, particularly in senior leadership and board roles. This happens even when statistics back up the advantages of women and diversity in the workplace. It is not uncommon for these roles to be given to other males in similar roles, and not advertised; this makes progression quite difficult, but not impossible.
Women need to be confident, push the boundaries, strive for what we want, and know what we’re capable of.
However, I don’t think this is the case for all areas in the business though and do believe equal opportunities in less experienced roles are much more competitive and definitely achievable.
Remember — be confident, don’t underestimate your worth and don’t let others minimise you.
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in your career and why?
I directly reported to an Owner/CEO at a loyalty marketing company that was extremely innovative, detailed and intolerant of incompetence. To be successful, I had to be agile (before it became fashionable), highly knowledgeable, and competent across a wide range of technologies, situations, languages, and staff. Other staff found it difficult to do this; however, I thrived on it and would attribute my career progression to this expectation and grounding.
As an employer, what would you recommend to other companies regarding infrastructure to have in place to develop the best talent?
Definitely personal development plans and online training resources that are relevant and keep up with technology. A tool that identifies talent across the business and enables career tracking will significantly assist staff loyalty and retention.
Be open to new ideas, technologies and innovation. Welcome change as it’s great, and helps us discover new and wonderful experiences.
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women’s careers?
Guest speaking at events that support this transition is a good way to make yourself available to mentor others interested in developing themselves.
At Genesis, we had a woman in the workplace luncheon monthly where we all came together informally and support one another in our roles. What an amazing idea, so simple yet effective.
Be a strong advocate for ensuring all staff are well-supported and encouraged. Celebrate success no matter how small. Promote and support a strong culture of acceptance in the workplace.
What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
I have worked across many companies that talk the talk about diversity and inclusion, but doesn’t walk the walk. The workplaces we should be looking to join should be evidenced in their demonstrated diverse leaders, innovative approaches, and being brave in the media about what they are doing and why.
We all need to hold ourselves accountable for this. It is easy to take the safe option and continue to do what we know, but progression will be slow if we do not step outside our comfort zone. Companies have been undone by promoting an initiative in place, then not living up to the values. Taking up this initiative on our own is a great way to challenge ourselves.
Who is your modern-day hero?
So many people I interact with at any one day, but they would all have an innovative, open, high energy, forward thinking, and positive personality.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
Twitter, LinkedIn, Meetup’s, in addition to following diverse leaders in relevant roles or organisations that I identify with. Networking events are also great, I am a strong supporter of learning by engagement and experiences with others.
What is your biggest stress reliever?
Walking, hiking, and just getting out and doing some exercise. I did the Tongariro crossing this year and loved it. Work-life balance is a great preventer of stress, and of course it’s so good for you.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
Take every opportunity, be confident, get out there, and do it!
What job did you dream of when you were a kid — your Plan A career path?
Nursing which I did for a while and thoroughly enjoyed the give back factor. I am still actively involved with community events including collecting children’s books and donating them to regions where there is a need, taking 30 boys from St Peters College to Samoa to do service in the Samoan community, and always contributing to local group activities that help to keep our environment safe.
Fun fact about you?
I used to pretend I was one of the famous five in the Enid Blyton series of books, and to this day think that imaginary life would be amazing.
Annette prides herself on acting with integrity and leading by example. She has created opportunities that build service cultures which inspire continuous improvements, delivers against business strategies and generates sales growth above expectations.
Key strengths that Annette brings to her role includes agile leadership, relationship management, innovation and emerging technology, strategic planning, digital delivery, managed/outsourced professional consultancy services, and chapter/tribe management and transformation.
Annette also has experience and is trained in environments using Scaled/Lean-Agile Methodology, and best practice framework including SCRUM, SAFe, Spotify Squad, and DevOps. She also has extensive industry experience across information technology, electricity and gas, dairy, health, marketing, insurance, banking, printing, and manufacturing environments.
A significant part of Annette’s career is actively coaching and mentoring teams of over 150 from senior management and front-line employees, through to contractors and external delivery teams. Annette is also continuously introducing new and emerging technologies, and value add partners to her work.