"If you can see it, you can be it" - Tara Ridley, Director of the Partner Organisation,
Director of the Partner Organisation, Cisco Australia and New Zealand
People and Culture, Thought Leadership
Tara Ridley, Director of the Partner Organisation, Cisco Australia and New Zealand
I have been in the technology industry for coming up to my 25thyear, in a range of roles that has kept me challenged and constantly learning. Currently, I lead the Partner Organisation with Cisco ANZ, working my way up to this role over the years. In November, I received industry recognition from my peers, with an Achievement Award at the ARN Women in IT Awards. A career highlight, it has triggered a moment of pause, to reflect on and share what I have learned over the years in the hope that more women will join the technology industry.
A mantra that I wholly stand by is “if you can see it, you can be it”, which highlights the need for diversity, in any industry, as it provides an environment for enriched thinking, and paves the way for future leaders. Learning from those around you is key for professional development, and has really helped me to grow professionally and personally.
Find your support network around you
Role models, mentors, sponsors champions and advocates are key. Female leaders offer women the chance to see how leadership roles can be shaped and shared. This support network goes both ways, with senior leaders promoting and championing gender diversity and providing inspiration by sharing their story about how they started and their career journey. In male dominated industries, like technology, that support network becomes more valuable and important.
When I first started in the tech industry at 20 years old, I was very lucky to work with talented women who showed me that anything is possible if you want it and work for it. Watching these women in these senior challenging roles allowed me think, “One day, I can do that too.”
I take this part of my role as a senior leader seriously, and feel responsible and accountable to inspire women to join the IT industry.
At Cisco, we offer a range of initiatives to help our employees to grow in their roles, including the Executive Shadow Program, the employee led Cisco Connected Women’s network and Cisco Empowered Women’s Network, that reflects the strong camaraderie amongst women in our company, and industry.
Be open, confident, and agile
The technology sector offers more than technical roles, with a range of opportunities that crosses disciplines and skill sets. What helps is an appetite for learning, growth and an ability to adapt and change. Soft skills are valuable as they help to support the pace of rapid innovation. Some of our most successful hires come from outside of the industry, bringing a different point of view and diversity of experience that breeds new ideas.
But, there are also lots of pathways to technical roles, like Cisco’s Networking Academy. Be open to opportunities and think about how it can support you in your growth. If you are challenged, you will learn, so go for the job that will challenge you most.
Learn to be confident, and back yourself. In my view, developing communication skills really helps. This is transferable to any industry in any role, so take opportunities to practice. From an organisational point of view, customers come from all walks of life, and the more the make-up of your organization reflects your customers the more likely it is you’ll communicate effectively with them.
Be agile, learn and adapt to work the way that suits you best. Find your work life balance, and a place that supports the way you choose to work.
The message I take from my career is we all need those mentors and sponsors to support us, and if you can see it, you can be it!
Tara Ridley is the Director of the Partner Organisation, and recently won the Achievement Award at the ARN Women in IT Awards. Tara was recognised for building, transforming and leading successful sales teams for three companies in two countries over more than 20 years. You can find Tara on LinkedIn.