Stepping Up For Technical Leadership – Girl Geek Dinner Sydney, August 2013

odd one out
Credit: Flickr / Ruth Flickr

My notes from the talk Robin Elliot, CIO at Foxtel gave at a Girl Geek Dinner.

CIO of Foxtel for over 11 years. On a mission to encourage women to step up and apply for technical leadership roles.

A leadership role is in your grasp and something you might find rewarding. Students don’t have a concept of what an IT career might be about, aren’t taking courses.

The tech industry changes rapidly, and it takes leadership to shape that direction.

On Her Career Path

  • Started as a programmer. Got first job programming COBOL.
  • Moved to being a team lead, about being good at what you do – and reviewing other people’s code.
  • Worked at company that became Accenture. Got to take on a lot of different sort of projects.
  • Said yes to a lot of different opportunities. Worked really well.
  • Was a project manager, but became more interested in the business side. Getting into position to question the why.
  • Started an MBA to study strategy side more. Helps connect with business stake holders.

On Working in the Tech Industry

  • Some people come unstuck because they are wedded to a particular technology, Need to be willing to learn and adapt, change and grow.
  • If want tech career that lasts the distance, need to stay current. Women are adaptable and resilient.
  • Stay curious and open, if offered opportunity to retrain, take it.
  • Started doing strategy work – what is the business trying to do? How are we going about it?
  • Believe in yourself as a leader and that your opinion matters.
  • Observation, if walking into a room with an important (tech) discussion chairs at table, around the outside – the women sit at the edge. Have to sit at the table (this comes up in Lean In too – Amazon).
  • Your opinion matters as much as anyone else’s. Sit at the table. Don’t take a “passenger” chair. Part of engaging, part of believing you have the right to be there.
  • Don’t underestimate the smaller, symbolic, things.
  • Women are good at being prepared.
  • Believe that you have a right to, and that you are ready to be a leader.

On Being a Leader

  • Had job to stop two shareholders fighting for long enough to get some technology up.
  • Was sure data warehouse would be the most important thing.
  • Leadership is having an opinion.
  • What could you do that could actually make a difference?
  • Find with women, wait too long for someone to give permission.
  • Forget the reasons, ask “what’s stopping me?”
  • Forget the reasons, ask what the next action would be.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of caring about something.
  • Lack of people who can see the bigger picture, and say they will try and get that to happen.
  • Work it out for yourself, back your judgement, and make it happen.
  • Belief that working hard and doing job well enough, someone will notice – it doesn’t happen like that.
  • Apply for jobs, even if you don’t have every skill on the list.
  • Notice that everyone is always “headhunted’? Not true – people apply for jobs, and they go out and get them.
  • Leadership jobs are stressful, demanding, but are very rewarding.
  • CIO is the last (or first) person responsible for technology in the company.
  • If it goes wrong, on her head. If it goes right… no-one notices. That’s technology!
  • Didn’t know how to do it, but found partners, learned.
  • Job as CIO is to find and build partnerships.
  • Think seriously about leadership
  • Leadership needed all over in community, health education.
  • Technology changes fast, effects people, and how people live and work.
  • Have an opinion. Make sure that voice is heard.

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