Sometimes, in a professional conference, especially one that begins early afternoon, mid-work-week, it can take a while for things to get going. For introductions to begin, animated conversation to spark. For the standard taupe convention meeting room to warm up and for the buzz, well, to buzz. Sometimes, some of this, or all it, never happens; that even though you are there, you’re not "there, there."
That was not the case Wednesday, 30 May, in Edinburgh, Scotland. That day, ISACA’s 2018 EuroCACS wrapped up noonish and the SheLeadsTech™ seminar followed for the balance of the day. The women and men in the room activated SheLeadsTech program elements—raising awareness, preparing to lead and building global alliances, engaging over three hours. I have no doubt many in the room have been actively in touch in the hours and days since and will continue those connections. In doing so, they take up the challenges and embrace the wisdom that three women, long-tenured leaders, in technology, delivered that day.
First up to the podium, but in no way planted there, was Melinda Matthews Clarkson, CEO of CodeClan and the driving force behind Scotland’s first Digital Skills Academy. Her “Get Gritty” theme came through, woven through a quick review of what propelled her into tech (improving efficiencies of networked printers while an admin in the hospitality industry) to her current focus, leading a business “where you have a match of culture where you work, and work with your heart.”
Crediting leaders who’ve inspired her, including Angela Duckworth’s research and book entitled Grit, Clarkson listed grit characteristics: courage, conscientiousness, endurance, resilience and excellence. She underlined their meaning and application in her own life, both professional and personal, and emphasized the importance of mentors, coaches and cheerleaders in her career, and shared how she feels she is valued in those roles serving others.
She remarked on how difficult it is to get women into tech jobs, yet the greater challenge is keeping them there. Yet, “if we get just 10% more women working, our GDP in the UK will go up,” noted Clarkson.
Stats were definitely the storyline of Anne Moises, Scottish government CIO and leader of “Safe, Secure & Prosperous,” Scotland’s cyber resilience strategy launched in 2015 and designed to achieve world leadership and recognition in cyber resilience by 2020.
Moises shared government job data from 2017, noting that while the overall workforce shows a makeup of 52% women, in the government’s digital directorate, only 38% of employees are women. She echoed Clarkson’s call for help to get women to apply for these jobs and stay part of the tech workforce, especially in Scottish civil service where compensation and benefits are strong.
Building and leading the many vectors of Scotland’s cyber resilience program across public private enterprise, the educational system, STEM efforts and extensive up-skilling activities have reinforced long-held lessons for Moises: collaboration is essential; always build awareness; continue to build skills; and share experiences—the good and the bad. Moises noted that these are also strengths she’s seen more often in women than men, a theme affirmed in the murmurs of those present—women and men.
While Moises described a career path solely in civil service, the career course of Gail Coury, Oracle Cloud global CISO, ISACA Women’s Leadership Council member and SheLeadsTech volunteer leader, has traversed roles within Oracle as well as previous information security leadership for PeopleSoft and JD Edwards. Coury balanced her seminar remarks between candid stories of courage and her “pearls of wisdom” list inspired by Oracle’s co-CEO, something of a call to action for the crowd:
- Things need to make sense. Ask questions for explanation and understanding;
- You can recover from a bad decision, but not indecision;
- If you don’t ask, you won’t get—a lesson she illustrated with her experience in building and winning her case to attend the Stanford executive MBA program, supported by Oracle;
- Just because everything can be put online does not mean it should be (also illustrated by the previous day’s firing of American actress Roseanne Barr from her TV show, based on an outrageous tweet);
- Integrity matters; be honest and straightforward;
- Don’t stand still, make it happen. Have a sense of urgency.
While their paths—past, present, future—differed, this SheLeadsTech trio of speakers converged and captivated. They didn’t just speak, they engaged attendees with stirring stories and authentic anecdotes, telling of the bad, and the good behavior; of policies they shaped; and of people who shaped, inspired, motivated them. They talked of overcoming barriers and bias, challenging conventions and, yes, achieving success. And while they were the day's designated speakers, no doubt much the same was exchanged at every SheLeadsTech event roundtable that followed that day.