Cass says “everyone has a responsibility to make change happen” and hopes to impart her perspective to not only women, but also men, businesses, communities and all those who influence change.
What brought you to work in IT?
I was working for a travel company who kicked off a multi-million dollar project to custom build an enterprise system.
They hired a Business Analyst who wrote a business requirements specification that was nearly 300 pages long. I was the only person who read it. So, almost by accident I was adopted by the software team to continue on the project as the product owner (although that term did not exist at the time).
My experience with process design helped enormously but this career change spearheaded a huge learning curve which continues today. I love the challenge and the creativity, learning new things all the time and working with really smart people.
Who has been the biggest influence of your success?
I have been lucky to have been led by three senior executives who were all inspirational women. I still espouse work ethics which I adopted from these leaders. The most valuable skill for me has been the ability to translate ideas between diverse groups and promote people working together.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of making a career leap and trusting that my skills were transferable in the tech industry even without relevant IT qualifications at the time. I was encouraged by an inspirational CIO (a woman) and so glad I took her advice.
What do you know now that you wish you had known starting out?
I wish when I started, that I had laser focus on the skills I needed to develop to succeed in this industry. For the first few years in tech, I treated it as a temporary secondment and missed out on a few opportunities to learn and develop. Had I known that one day I’d be leading an amazing software development team, I would have definitely made a few different decisions. As the saying goes ‘Start with the end in mind.’
And what advice would you give to women who are just starting in IT?
There are many pathways to get into the tech industry and you do not need to be a developer to make an impact. For example, graphic design, copy writing and facilitation are all pathways that can lead to a rewarding career in tech.
Be curious and learn frequently and quickly, but never discount the skills you gathered while travelling or your previous unrelated work experience because it will be relevant in whatever industry you choose to go in. Be confident that your skills are unique and any workplace that embraces diverse thinking will be lucky to have you.
What suggestion would you give for companies on how they can contribute to a more balanced and equal industry?
The ‘tick the box’ list of initiatives is an outdated metric to satisfy gender diversity (e.g. maternity leave, diversity quotas, flexible work). In my opinion these are rights, not perks, yet are often listed as a badge of honour for some organisations.
Be brave and innovative and empower a diverse range of your workforce to develop programs for you that you can support or trial. Employ design thinking to solve this problem like any other tech challenge you face. Your people will stay longer, will be more engaged and productive, you will attract talent and be more profitable.
What are the current challenges for women in IT?
Encouraging young women into the tech industry remains a challenge and they continue to be under represented in higher education. Resolving this will generate the mass of skilled workforce required to decrease the gap. Less ruminating on the problem and more innovative programs are vital for businesses to ‘walk the talk.’
Why do you think diversity is so important in the workplace?
Diversity is common sense and the only fair objective to support our diverse industry
. Being inclusive also needs to be part of this equation. I love the expression ‘Diversity is inviting someone to the party. Inclusion is asking them to dance.’
Having a variety of voices in the room to workshop solutions to problems will yield a better result in your solution design, decision making and will promote more effective collaboration. That is more engaging for your people – and more profitable for you.
What message would you like to leave for men and women on International Women’s Day?
Women have been campaigning for gender equality for over 100 years yet they are still underrepresented as CEOs, there is still a gender pay gap and there are still blatant gender biases in our communication, imagery and encouragement of our young people.
Everyone has a responsibility to make change happen and commit so the next generation won’t STILL be talking about this issue. Individuals, communities, businesses and entire continents benefit when females are truly recognised as equal.