Women in Tech - Gillian Kidson, Coal Services
To celebrate International Women's Day on Friday, 8 March 2019, 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 Gillian Kidson, Head of IT at Coal Services had to say.
Profile: Gillian’s role is to provide strong, strategic leadership to the business to deliver a modern IT strategy, associated architecture and the technological capabilities required to aid the significant transformation programs underway. Designed to lay the foundation for a more responsive and customer-centric organisation, this work is critical to the company delivering on its 2020 strategy and beyond; enabling it to evolve to meet the changing requirements of the NSW coal industry and its workers.
What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today and what do you attribute your success to?
I think one of the big moments in my career was very early on when the company I worked for did a large restructure across the technology division, resulting in everything being outsourced for BAU and only a small number of staff remaining to be part of a project team. Having the confidence back then to be brave and find my voice and question the decision to let me go gave me a reprieve! I was able to influence a different outcome, but specifically demonstrate my value and why they should not only keep me on but give me more responsibilities, and as a result, the next big challenge landed squarely in my lap. I am the kind of person when given a new challenge that will always do what it takes to ensure I can deliver.
This is not always easy, and this scenario required me to learn a whole new technology to enable a roll out of Unix environments across multiple sites in the group. I'm not saying some moments weren't hairy, but I stayed the course, asked lots of questions, read whatever I could get my hands on and made it my business to become the expert. After the first site rollout went smoothly I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. I think my success has really been down to the mindset I have brought to all my roles: not wanting to fail, having a real drive to deliver, being ready for any obstacles thrown at me along the way and prepared to tackle them head-on.
Have there been any career-defining moments?
A career-defining moment for me was being given the opportunity to utilise my skills outside technology and lead an operational area of the business. I was fortunate to have an amazing CEO that saw the potential in me and wasn't afraid to allow me opportunities that pushed me outside of my comfort zone and that stretched me. During this time, I relocated overseas and worked with engineers to deliver large scale engineering projects. I also managed the finished goods warehouse including logistics for exports. This experience highlighted one of the biggest learnings for me – don’t restrict your thinking to just technology.
Whilst overseas I also finished my Masters of Business. I found that the whole experience of utilising my new found theoretical learnings combined with specialist skills experience extended my capabilities. It gave me the skills to identify the business problem and be proactive in solving it through traditional business and process activities or technology solutions where required.
What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career in Technology?
- Don't be afraid of working in technology. There are so many avenues this can open up for you.
- Don’t be limited by other people’s perception of people in technology. Technology underpins all businesses infrastructure – people, processes and systems. Critical leadership roles will depend on the understanding of technology as we evolve our digital world.
- We may be tagged as Geeks and Nerds but we are not so different to anyone else.
- Don’t follow the expected path and only look for the roles within areas that are deemed acceptable for a female. Be brave and pick an area where females are underrepresented (Security, networking, architecture) and have a go. As managers, we are constantly looking for a change in the dynamics of our teams but our options are limited.
Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter