To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Technology. They will be discussing their success, career-defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Katie Tan, Senior Leader in Technology had to say.
Profile: Katie Tan is an experienced senior IT Leader with a varied background in technology and management. She started out as a software engineer, progressing into line management, project leadership and management of large IT portfolios.
She is enthusiastic about driving and executing strategy, solving complex challenges and implementing initiatives to enable business operation and growth. She has extensive financial services experience, in setting the strategic direction and implementing leading technologies to deliver business value and strategies in achieving business growth, transformation, product innovation, improving efficiency and cost reduction agendas.
Katie is passionate about supporting the career development of technology professionals, she is also an advocate of women in IT.
What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today and what do you attribute your success to?
When I started my career working for a leasing company in Australia, I was quite surprised that I was the only female software developer in Technology. Having come from Malaysia where I worked for a global firm, there were about 20-30% of women in Technology back then. Although my experience and skills were on par with my male colleagues, it was a challenging start as women were perceived as less technical and adapting to this environment was a challenge. What helped me through this was being resilient, adaptable and perseverant. There were many instances when things were in a state of disrepair and I was able to turn the situation around through sheer determination and the drive to succeed.
Given all these challenges what did you do to ensure you continued to progress and develop?
I think a lot of it came down to the fact that I persevered, never ceased to learn new skills, displayed courage through adversity and most of the time worked a lot harder than my peers. What I brought to every role was a can-do attitude, and the determination that once given a task I would make sure I did my very best to deliver. Like many women, I never sought out new roles but it was people that I had worked for previously that put my name forward and recommended me for opportunities as they knew my track record. On thinking about how I have delivered challenging programs that were off track it often came down to leadership. Taking a sound and pragmatic approach and ensuring that the people with the required skills and positive mindset were on board (both new hires or developing project teams with existing team members), then empowering them to deliver and not being afraid to get in the trenches with them when necessary. Gaining the respect of the team is key. You can’t command respect, it has to be earned.
Have there been any career-defining moments?
For me, it is not just the results and the business outcomes that I am most proud of, but it is also the investment in people and seeing them progress and build great careers. The joy of getting an update regarding their career progress or achievements is very humbling and fulfilling for me even if we no longer work together. I also started and continue to sponsor a university cadet scholarship program, partnering with UTS and brought this program to life in three organisations I worked for. The majority of the cadets were offered a role beyond their cadetship which is very encouraging.
What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career?
Just because you feel isolated being in the minority group, don’t be afraid to put forward your ideas. You need courage, assertiveness and negotiation skills to work with your male cohorts and be able to demonstrate to them that you are as capable as or more so than them. Also consider building your support network, or even just having someone you can talk to who has been in a similar situation to share their experiences. I also recommend finding a mentor who can support you in your career development. A career in technology is an excellent choice for women. It covers a very broad spectrum and there are such a variety of roles to consider. Go for the discipline where you have the interest and passion and you will do well.
What are the IT skills of the future?
Technology keeps evolving and it can be hard to keep up. I think trending technology like AI, data science, machine learning, big data, cyber security, Internet of Things etc. will continue to be in demand. In my view, any technical skills can be learned and the soft skills that are critical in any IT job and will put you in a good stead are strategic thinking, analysis and problem solving, attention to detail, relationship building, collaboration and having a good level of emotional intelligence.