How to get stuff done as a woman in tech
Innovation, People and Culture, Thought Leadership
Allyson Corcoran, Director of Service Sales, Cisco ANZ has been in the technology industry in a range of roles for 27 years.
Allyson is part of the Connected Women’s Network, an employee led initiative that supports a range of initiatives to help attract and retain women in technology, including programs such as an Executive Shadowing Program.
Winning the ARN Women in ICT Award for Achievement in 2014 as pictured below, Allyson shares her story and tips to help encourage women to join the technology industry.
By Allyson Corcoran
Technology was not my first choice. I fell into the industry quite by chance.
As a qualified Accountant, my first job was as an assistant accounts clerk for Data General, a company that manufactured computer systems. I enjoyed the vibe of tech, it was a developing industry in the early nineties that was different and fun. I would say this has stayed much the same, with an ever-changing environment and fast pace of the business. 27 years later, I’ve stayed in tech and have been in numerous roles right across Cisco over the last 20 years.
I’ve found my career to be fulfilling and interesting as there is a lot to keep you challenged and never a dull moment! Being in the tech industry has also allowed me to work flexibly, travel the world and develop my career in diverse areas of business. I have been fortunate enough to hold senior positions in finance, sales, operations and technical services during my time at Cisco which has allowed me to develop as a broad business leader.
In the technology industry there is certainly a gender gap. The challenge is building awareness and letting women know the types of roles that are on offer, and the range of opportunities in the industry.
I hope that sharing my story helps women to feel welcome and see tech as a place to learn, grow and enjoy every day. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Technology is not just for the technical
I’m not naturally drawn to the latest innovation and frankly, it is a struggle for me to keep up with the advances in technology. I would say to people with a non-technical background, don’t be intimidated by the technology or turn you off a career in IT (unless you are after an engineering job!)
You can learn the technical aspects so you are at a level where it is not a disadvantage. Think about your key strengths, and what you bring in your field of expertise.
How to get stuff done? Do what you say you will do, period.
As part of my role, being able to get to the core of an issue and get things done adds to my professional toolkit, along with building strong stakeholder relationships. The place of the human element in a digital world will never lose its value.
A question that I get asked frequently is how to get stuff done when there are many changes, competing priorities and new technology.
A value that I live by is to do what you say you will do, period. For me, focusing on priorities and what will make a difference works, particularly thinking about what results in the biggest bang for your buck and the greatest impact to the business.
Tactically I write lists, tick things off and hold people to account as you do yourself.
Keeping it simple goes a long way
In terms of how I approach work, keeping it simple is a great philosophy. It is a skill to be able to get to the core issue or problem quickly. We have all experienced meetings where the problem is discussed in different ways for most of the meeting time, leaving little room for discussion on how to resolve. I try to flip that ratio where possible – quickly get to agreement on the problem statement and spend much of the time working on the solution.
I am a chronic perfectionist and it has taken me a long time to work out that 80% is good enough in most cases, things don’t need to be perfect. Procrastination and agonising over the final 10-20% normally won’t make much difference to the result. Get it done, move on.
Be yourself, and say what you think
Authenticity, being honest and approachable is key to building your relationships and trust. I’ve learnt over many years that trying to be someone you aren’t doesn’t work and actually works against you. Have a voice, don’t be afraid to speak up. People will not always agree with you and that’s ok. It takes many diverse opinions to grow a business, make yours count.
One of the benefits of technology is working in a multi-cultural environment with smart, motivated, respectful people every day. I’ve found the industry overall to be inclusive with all walks of life and intelligent people. Be yourself, say what you think.
Give back outside your core role
The opportunity to get involved in many things outside my core role is an element of my company that I enjoy, particularly when there are issues I’m passionate about.
Don’t hesitate to take up opportunities that present themselves. People who are approaching you for a role or opportunity are doing that because they believe you have the capability and skill set, own that!
Be yourself, take what comes, don’t think about your gender, I never have. Think about who you are, your values and your capabilities and just give it your all.