IWD 2019: the possibility of balance

For 2019 the International Women’s Day theme is “Balance for Better” and with Ribit’s focus on ESTEAM students and accelerating innovation in industry, I am sharing my “own personal story and experience as an employee and employer, how you jumped started your career, leapfrogged your competition into great jobs to advance your career, along with what you look for in a student to hire”

How I got started in tech

I had no plans for a career in technology, I studied arts at university and originally wanted to be an historian. Then, many years ago, I was standing in the kitchen at work chatting with the CEO and happened to mention that there was a problem with the computer system in the office.

[Pro-tip: never casually mention problems to a CEO unless you are prepared to help fix them]

She mentioned that we needed an IT manager and, since I sounded like I knew about that ‘stuff’, asked if I wanted the job.  My ‘prudent’ response (having no experience at all for this job) was “yes”. And that is the true story of how my career in IT started.

Since then I have studied various technical subjects and have done many different jobs in tech and have enjoyed a fascinating career.

How I progressed my career

In the early days I did not even realise that I had a career until a mentor asked what I was doing about my career. At once I realised that it was up to me, I was going to have to drive my career because nobody else was going to do it for me. I started to think about myself as a product, started to look at the skills and qualifications required to progress my career. I started to seek out new opportunities and to learn new technologies.  Knowing stuff is important, and knowing how to apply it is even more important.

Ability to execute is critical

Many people have great ideas, but few have the ability to execute on them. This, together with enthusiasm, is probably the key thing I look for in a new team member. The ability to execute is all about delivery, it means not taking things at their face value, following through and delivering without excuses. It also means closing the loop on things, and ensuring that the item is delivered with the best possible result. 

Balance?

I must confess that I am very unbalanced by some people’s standards. I work a lot, study, have startup interests, and have family and friends. That is balanced for me. You need to find what is balanced for you. Don’t let anyone else decide for you.

Sometimes you will want to focus on an opportunity and that is okay. Other times you will want to make space in your life for other things. The important thing is doing what is right for you at the time.

An important factor in maintaining balance is being yourself. This means being vulnerable, but I think that it is worth it in the long run.

Another important part of balance is being thoughtful and reflective about how you are feeling, how you are performing and how your relationships are going. This kind of regular temperature check means that you can rectify things if you are starting to get off track – because balance is not just about work.

Perhaps the most important thing in maintaining balance is ensuring that you keep up significant relationships – family, friends, partners. This will ensure that you have other parties who can also reflect on and celebrate your journey together with you.

Author: Kate Carruthers

Kate Carruthers is Chief Data & Insights Officer for UNSW Sydney, and is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Engineering. She is certified in information security and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies terrorism and security. Kate has extensive experience in senior roles in ICT, marketing, data and digital; and is a member of the NSW Government’s Data Analytics Centre Advisory Board. Kate is currently working at the intersection of data analytics, AI, ML, privacy, cyber security, and data protection.