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Looking ahead and breaking the glass ceiling through self-belief
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

Born in Taihape and growing up on an army base in Waiouru New Zealand, I was a typical rural kid, but with technology a big part of home life. My father had a technical role in the New Zealand Navy, so we had computers at home from a young age. I developed a love for writing code and using computers in early high school. I never thought about the fact that I was a girl into writing code, it was so normal in the house that it became a part of our every day. 

When I arrived at university to study computing and information systems in a class of 130 people, I was one of three girls. Walking into that class was the first time I noticed the massive difference, but it's not something I dwelled upon. 

Mindset plays a big role, and I’ve always focused on being good at what I do. Even when there have been moments of challenge or you get comments that marginalise you, you’ve got to be brave and stand up for yourself. The story you tell yourself is important – walk into the room and know that you have earned the right to be there. But also, be yourself, you don’t need to act like a man to feel in control. Just be yourself and be good at your job. When I held the Chief Information & Technology Officer role at New Zealand Rugby, I never gave the fact that I was a woman in a male-dominated industry a second thought to how it impacted my ability to do my job.

When it comes to barriers that women face, some people, particularly women, suffer from imposter syndrome. A study reported in The Independent revealed feelings of unfounded self-doubt can kick in from the age of 23 for women, with 62 per cent admitting they have rarely experienced true confidence throughout their lives. 

I believe women must learn to reframe our thoughts and know our worth. Never underestimate your personal experiences in life and what you bring to the table, your opinion matters.

Insights on tech

I was recently awarded the IDC/Brightstar 2023 CIO of the Year, and when I reflect back on my time in the industry, data and digital technology have come a long way. What started as a by-product of activity has now become the building block and foundation of everything we do. The rapid advancements in data technology have fundamentally changed business models around the world.

A lot of people fear technology, and this comes from a lack of understanding and horror stories that often get reported on. If you look at generative AI, for example, it’s so rapid that most people don’t even know what it's going to look like next week. This creates a sense of uncertainty and leads to fear. The good news stories for data and tech aren’t widely reported on, for instance, how often do you hear about someone who builds a solid data platform that can be curated and customised to create a good customer experience? Hardly ever.

Outlooks on tech 

For the insurance sector, the digital experience brings a new opportunity. While the human experience at claims time should never be replaced, more simpler claims, like replacing your windscreen, can easily be done through customer-led digital experience. Cyber Security and AI tech are the two of the biggest things on my mind. The key is to think about the person at the other end and care about their data and the impact it can have on them when something goes wrong. 

Similarly, when you run tech teams, you have the potential to make someone’s day easy or difficult. You must always remember why you are there and the impact you can have on people. We deal with complex topics that people may not understand and the impact of what the IT teams can touch every day can either be disruptive or helpful. That’s why I am always reminding my teams to be mindful of the impact they are making today.

My biggest advice to young women is to not be afraid. If someone offers an opportunity that feels right, take it, if someone opens a door run through it. If someone asks for a volunteer, put your hand up – just don’t be afraid. Don’t sit there in the corner saying I don't have enough – you are enough. Self-belief is your biggest superpower. Don’t be afraid to take your space in the room.