At Morgan McKinley, we are passionate about supporting women in Data Analytics and Technology. Jacqui Kernot takes part in our latest blog series to share her success stories, career-defining moments and what advice she would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career.
Profile: Jacqui is a Partner in EY’s Cyber Security practice. She has worked in the tech industry and cybersecurity across the UK and Australia in a range of industries including Financial Services, Defences, Space and Intelligence, and Telecommunications. She also chairs Females in IT and Telecommunications (FITT), the largest and longest running professional body supporting women in the IT industry.
What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?
For me, getting up early and spending an hour meditating or exercising (or both) is really important. Having space in your mind to then approach the day conscious of the important, and not just the urgent work, is critical to making sure you own your day and not the other way around.
What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?
My most valuable piece of advice is to trust my intuition. I think it’s common (although becoming less so) that women are led to believe that somehow the problem lies with them. Systemic unconscious bias studies show this isn’t true – women not being heard or seen as valuable contributors is a common story that traverses countries and industries. If you feel that you aren’t being heard or seen, and you’ve done what you can to address it, perhaps the culture or environment isn’t for you. You can’t be hugely successful if your contributions aren’t valued, and that feeling of discomfort is a sign that something needs to change, not a sign that it must somehow be your fault. It’s amazing when you have a supportive environment what a difference it makes to your career and progression.
What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had many challenges across the years but, similarly to many women, my most difficult time came after having my daughter. I was very sleep deprived, in a new role and, further, was challenged by a manager who felt threatened (I had taken a more junior role with less travel which was more easily done as a new mother, and my new manager felt I was a threat to him as I had previously done more senior roles, including his). I worked with HR extensively and in the end, left the company, but it gave me great insight around the way women are treated when they become mothers. That company lost great talent, the whole process took up lots of time and many of the issues could have been avoided with more planning and support for women returning from maternity leave. In my case, I just put one foot in front of the other and worked my way through to a solution. While it wasn’t the best solution for any of the parties really, I learned a big lesson in how to do better as a leader, which I’m very grateful for.
How do you approach making a difficult decision?
I consult with peers and those close to the situation. It’s too late to wish you’d learned something or done more research afterwards. I also set a time limit and then stick to it. Bad news never gets better with age and the sooner you can make a tough decision and manage the outcomes and emotions which result, the better everyone feels. The worst decision is no decision – when everyone can see a situation is unworkable and needs to be resolved. That’s a sure way to lose good team members.
What do you believe will be the most in-demand skills over the next 10 years within the technology industry and why?
I think more and more we are seeing an environment where creativity and innovation make the difference. People who are able to understand their own biases, and work to remove them, free their minds to be more creative and find new solutions to problems, and new ways of working and engaging. Compassion, empathy and kindness have always been important, but now we are moving into an environment where machines will do most of the minutiae and a lot of work will be digitised or commoditised. The ability to build human relationships, understand the situation and the human problem and then find creative ways to solve it will be what defines success in a decade.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not EY. The article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.
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