Women in Tech - Naomi Howard
Naomi is currently Head of Application Development at ASX, with a background across financial services and investment management. She has experience across a variety of companies from small agile startups to larger heavily regulated organisations and currently leads a multi-disciplinary team of Software, DevOps and Data Engineers.
What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?
I ask a lot of questions!
I’m not afraid to admit I don’t have all the answers and I am always open to learning new ideas. I’m keen to understand not just the problem we are trying to solve, but the why behind the what. I do get to work with incredibly smart people and for me this is an opportunity to listen, understand and then look for ways in which I can support them.
I attempt to manage my time effectively (but I do accept that I could be better at this). From a time management point of view, I prefer conversations over emails, and I try to keep my overall number of meetings to a minimum. One of the great tips I learnt was to book an ‘hour of power’ during the morning, to tackle your day’s most important tasks. At the end of the day, on the commute home, I try to organise what’s important for the day ahead using tools like Trello.
What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today and what do you attribute your success to?
A few years ago I successfully completed Ironman Zurich, a full distance triathlon. This was perhaps a little ambitious, given at the point of registering I was unable to swim more than a few strokes, never mind a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle topped off with a 42k run. I realised that making it to the start line would be a journey in itself. Consistent training, healthy eating, resting well and the support of my family helped me to make it to the race and get through the event on the day. The lessons I learnt from that one event have given me the confidence and resilience to tackle any work challenge.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?
I was advised early on in my career that my opinion and input matters and to not be afraid of speaking up. Obviously doing the right thing, is not always the easiest thing or even the most popular thing to do, but I truly believe that it’s better to contribute than to stay silent. Trust across the group, and the ability to engage in healthy conflict / debate has helped my teams make better decisions and deliver better outcomes.
As you transitioned to more executive level roles what was the shift you needed to make?
In my early days as a developer, although the scope of my role was narrower, I felt I had greater control over what I created and associated outcomes. As I have taken on more senior roles, this has meant relaxing this control whilst taking on broader accountability. I achieve this through empowering and trusting my team, helping them remove blockers and in basic terms ‘getting out of their way’, to let them get the job done. This approach also gives me time so that I can focus on setting and influencing strategic initiatives. It has meant becoming comfortable with uncertainty, from previously trying to do everything perfectly to creating a positive environment that allows for a fail fast, fail safe mentality. I’ve learned to focus on collaboration and experimentation for better and more innovative outcomes.
What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career in technology?
Just do it! The opportunity to build a successful career in technology has never been greater, whether this be as a developer, architect, DevOps expert, cybersecurity SME, UX/UI designer or one of dozens of other roles.
Technology is pervasive across all aspects of society, and a career across this space can be both rewarding and meaningful, giving you an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. For me, those that excel and are successful are those that are the most creative, collaborative, smart, passionate problem solvers with a no fuss can do attitude. Finally, given we represent 50% of the consumer population, we should take the opportunity to contribute to the next generation of digital products and services and ensure that they meet our needs.
How can we attract more females talent into technology in the future?
Raising more awareness at an early age in schools with role models that can share details on what a career in technology is really like, the diversity of role and the huge potential. At the ASX, we sponsor the UTS women in Engineering and IT programs. I’m incredibly grateful to have two extremely talented engineers in my DevOps team doing work placement from the UTS.
What do you believe will be the most in demand skills over next 10 years within Technology and why?
While everybody seems to differ on their definition of AI, one thing that is agreed on is the rise of machine-learning and deep-learning as viable ways to solve the next generation of complex business problems. Coding-to-learn, verses learning-to-code will allow us to realise new business benefit and I see this as one of today’s major skills growth areas.
The evolution of containers, micro-services and serverless is forcing us think about compute in a different way, decoupling traditional infrastructure and networking away from business logic. This way of thinking is still evolving and will potentially require a whole new set of DevSecOps skills over the coming years.
Often considered an afterthought, security has now become far more embedded into the entire software delivery lifecycle. Security by design is everybody's responsibility, irrespective of role and I see this as a massive skills growth area over the coming years.