By Katrina Read
I have a confession to make: I am not the poster child for career planning. Why? Because at any point in time, I have no idea where my career is headed. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I was good at Maths and Physics, and I loved problem solving and tackling new challenges. I grew up with an engineer for a father, who took every opportunity to teach me how things worked – from electrical circuits to aerodynamics. When I was twelve years old, a simple question about what a spark plug was famously turned into a three hour lecture on fuel injection systems, complete with detailed diagrams and a hands-on workshop. When he purchased his first computer, I taught myself how to hack into the operating system and changed all his application names to Disney characters – whoops!
My mother wanted nothing more than to see me grow up and have a successful, professional career – and steered me towards information technology because she saw a growth industry that had the potential for me to excel, earn a good wage, start a family and work from home. Who knew she’d get it so right!
At university I studied a double degree – Software Engineering and Commerce at The University of Melbourne. A degree chosen half-heartedly, but turns out it couldn’t have been more perfectly suited to my personality. At the very heart, I’m a geek. I love gadgets. I love rolling up my sleeves and cutting code to create cool apps. But I also love the world of business. I love learning about new industries, and the challenges they face. I love brainstorming ideas with business leaders on how technology can help take their company to the next level.
In my career, that’s been my greatest challenge – finding roles that allow me to balance the technology with my love of business. It wasn’t until I joined IBM that I truly found an organisation that allowed me to do both.
IBM is one of the few, if not the only, company in the world that can help an organisation fundamentally transform their business for the better. We have some of the most innovative and exciting technologies in the world, and the industry and business acumen to use them in a way that delivers value to our clients. Ginni Rometty, our CEO, was famously once asked “Is IBM cool?” We define our own version of cool, where cool means creating technology that is going to help give you better healthcare. That is going to help make cities operate more efficiently. That is going to help reduce the amount of waste in our food chain. That is going to help give kids a better education. We even use our technology to help people find their soul mate!
What’s really “cool” about IBM, is that I don’t have to lock myself into a career and follow the path defined for me. I have the freedom to follow my passion, and restlessly reinvent my skills and expertise based on where the industry is headed.
When I wanted to use analytics to better understand the impact of weather on shoe designs for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, IBM said “Go for it!”
When I thought there was opportunity for Energy companies to do more with analytics and wanted to realign my industry focus, IBM said “Go for it!”
When I proposed we crowd-source motivational videos from our most inspiring leaders, IBM said “Go for it!”
When I feared launching my blog, since voted in the Top 20 Business Blogs in Australia, IBM said “Go for it!”
When I needed to work from home for a few weeks because I had a new puppy that needed to settle in, IBM said “Go for it!”
When I asked if I could fly to New York to network with emerging technical female leaders, you guessed it, IBM said “Go for it!”
And most importantly, in those moments when I doubted what I was capable of, IBM whispered in my ear, “You go girl. You got this!” 🙂
If you mapped out my professional career, it would most definitely not look like a ladder that took me from Graduate to Executive. I’d describe it more like a jungle gym, with exciting and unexpected views at every turn. I joined IBM as a business intelligence specialist through the Cognos acquisition. (A fun fact: I was the first Cognoid in the world officially signed over to an IBM contract at transfer of trade – but we’ll leave that story for another post.) When that role became too easy, I followed my passion to architect more complex business analytics solutions and worked with an incredible global leader and team of analytical rockstars around the world. When I felt myself becoming complacent, I followed my instinct and took on a role to drive strategic initiatives across IBM Growth Markets, including Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa, Central-East Europe and Latin America. That was a big risk as the role was new and undefined, but I took a leap of faith knowing that I’d be working for one of the most influential leaders in my career to date. When I saw an opportunity to drive more synergy across our teams, I become the Big Data & Analytics Technical Leader for IBM Growth Markets. And earlier this year, when IBM redefined our business structure and created the much needed IBM Analytics Business Unit, they asked me to lead the senior architect team across Asia Pacific – and of course, I said “Let’s go for it!”
IBM provides incredible opportunity for people who are prepared to work smart and dare to create new ideas. I’ve been blessed to work with amazingly talented people, from Vice Presidents to Interns, and travelled the world – from my home in Melbourne to Macau, Manilla, Jakarta, Singapore, Auckland, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Nashville, Las Vegas, Orlando, New York and then some.
At IBM, I’m the master of my own career. When I feel like the job’s getting too easy, I go hunting for the next challenge. That doesn’t have to mean a new role or a new company, but a new focus. A new problem that needs solving. A new opportunity that is ripe for the taking. A new perspective. And I’m fortunate to have had exceptional leaders that have valued my passion and allowed me to continuously feed the fire in my belly.
And so the hunt continues… 🙂
What will you make with IBM?