Women in Transformation - Kathleen Mackay, Boral
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 Transformation. 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 Kathleen Mackay, Head of Digital Delivery at Boral, had to say.
Kathleen’s role is Head of Digital Delivery at Boral Ltd, Australia’s largest building and construction materials supplier. Kathleen leads the digital experience and also manages the applications support portfolio. In the last 12 months she has championed the deployment of new technologies such as Google G Suite for email and collaboration and has transitioned the delivery teams from a plan, build and run operating model to agile product teams with increased customer focus, adaptability and collaboration.
1. What factors do you think have been critical to the success you have achieved in your career?
There are certain attributes and opportunities that I believe contributed to my career progression: continued investment in learning and development, exposure and experience across various industries (both national and international), rhinoceros thick skin and last but by no means least, support and guidance from family, peers and leaders.
I also have a nerdy interest in how all things high-tech can transform how businesses operate. I studied Artificial Intelligence as my Masters in the late 90’s and am delighted to see this technology now maturing and embedding in our workplaces.
2. What initiatives have you experienced within an organisation that you believe have helped you?
There have been many initiatives that have shaped how I do things today, however there is one particular stand out: in 2017 I was selected by Boral’s CEO Mike Kane to attend a one year McKinsey Executive Leadership Development program. The training on defining and executing strategy was outstanding and it also gave me the opportunity to hear directly and learn from expert CEOs, in particular Gail Kelly, Grant O’Brien, David Theody, Diane Smith-Gander, and Sue Morphet. They inspired me with their intelligence, grit and honesty about the CEO role.
In addition to heavily investing in formal and informal training, I have alway sought out job opportunities that provide a platform for growth. I’ve had the chance to lead exciting, and sometimes very challenging, initiatives that improve the fundamentals of how organisations work. To succeed you need to think critically, influence successfully, be a team player as well as a leader, and sustain a fast pace in a changing environment which means you need to build in time to personally recover and renew. I build great teams and this allows me to turn my phone off and have real holidays!
If you can grow every day in your role, and take a balanced approach, over time the experiences add up and you soon build a solid track record. I stress the need for balance as high profile roles are demanding and you can only perform well over long periods if you look after yourself and also invest in the things you value in life such as family relationships, hobbies, and a circle of supportive friends.
3. Can you highlight any career defining moments?
Oh gosh where to start…. I think what defines a career is a vast tapestry of experiences - some wonderful, some awful, and everything in between. You learn something from everyone and every experience. If you are smart you take those learnings, reflect, grow and share your learnings with others without expectation of payment in return.
Now, a reflection that highlights a defining moment of being a career mother - whilst organising my return to work after maternity leave, I found explaining the concept of breastfeeding a baby and “pumping milk” to a couple of male managers somewhat awkward for all involved. Fortunately a sense of humour and a fully clothed demonstration cleared up the confusion and I was able to balance the needs of my daughter with my work commitments! My conclusion from that experience is that more education is required to support working parents and their managers to facilitate the return to work process. My experience was six or so years ago and I know that many companies have matured in this space since - well done and thank you!
4. What advice would you share with females on how to progress their careers within Projects and Change?
Be proactive, this is your career and it is your responsibility to drive it. Think hard about what your career objectives are and workshop them with someone you trust. Ask your trusted advisor to challenge you on why you want those things and how you plan to achieve them. In my experience, an open mind when considering opportunities can be helpful, for example, don’t immediately knock back a role on a “troubled project” as what sounds like a hospital pass can turn out to be a massive opportunities to make a difference.
My last piece of guidance is that teams that are made up of diverse individuals perform the best providing you build an inclusive culture. Spend time building your team and actively seek diversity of all kinds (e.g. background, gender, thinking styles) to reduce the risk of blind spots, groupthink and poor results. Create a culture that is curious, inclusive and outcome focussed by educating your workforce on diversity, respect and unconscious bias, and... lead by example by refusing to tolerate behaviour that is in conflict with the culture you are striving for.
P.S I’m happy to connect on LinkedIn and discuss any point in more detail. If you do wish to connect with me please attach a note to your invitation so I can correlate your request with this blog.