Western Australia’s leading advocate for women in tech – Women in Technology WA (WiTWA) believes – “If you can see her you can be her, so let’s see her!”
WiTWA Tech [+] Awards
To celebrate women in technology, WiTWA is hosting its 2021 WiTWA Tech [+] Awards on Friday 5 November at Crown Towers. These awards will shine a light on a diverse representation of Western Australia’s talented female leaders spanning local and national industries.
This year, we’re proud to have six nominees representing Kinetic IT and PROTECT+ in the Tech [+} Awards, each showcasing their inspiring stories and unique pathways into the career they have today. We sat down with each nominee to break down the conversation around being a woman in what has traditionally been a male-dominated ICT industry. We’re excited to celebrate and elevate these women, who have pushed through the challenges, led by example, and continue to make an impact in the ICT community.
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Jess Todd – Her story so far
Jess Todd is the Senior Manager of Workforce Planning and Participation at Kinetic IT, a team responsible for analysing and optimising workforce design to meet the current and future needs of our business. Jess’ team is also focused on driving Kinetic IT’s strategic engagements with Australian industry and community partners that create meaningful benefits for Kinetic IT’s crew, customers, and the communities where we operate.
An engaging and present leader, Jess heads up an all-female team who represent the new generation of workers: they lead with purpose and are socially, environmentally, and politically conscious. Her open leadership style promotes transparent communication and empowers thought leadership. Jess’ belief that ‘the mark of a great leader is demonstrated by those who follow positively in her footsteps’ inspires the way she engages with her team and peers. She encourages those around her to ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to living the values and positively impacting the employee experience.
One way Jess achieves this is through mentorship, in particular, supporting women about to embark on the exciting journey of parenthood while also navigating the daunting task of leaving the workforce during a pivotal time in their careers. Having recently experienced a similar situation, Jess takes a pragmatic and objective approach, using her personal experience to guide this particular colleague and others to understand the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead, and how to craft a meaningful role and re-join the workforce with purpose and confidence.
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Like many of us, Jess has experienced the highs and lows of pursuing her dream career, learning important but tough life lessons along the way. In 2016, she was awarded a Women in MBA (WiMBA) scholarship with Curtin University to complete her Master’s in Business Administration. A prestigious and celebrated milestone but no walk in the park, as Jess had to balance studying full-time while working full-time in a role that saw her travelling across Australia to work on major customer transition projects. In 2020, Jess became a first-time mum to daughter Imogen, and in the lead-up to taking parental leave, Jess found herself juggling long days and late nights working on multiple major customer tenders while also preparing for the unknown world of parenthood.
Describing herself as a ‘natural catastrophiser, Jess can easily fall into the trap of assuming the worst and spending a lot of energy to prepare for a situation that may never eventuate – something we’ve all done at least once in our life. Through her own mentors, Jess has learned to take the time to check in with herself, allowing her to focus on what’s within her control and stay connected to what’s important and achievable. When asked to name one of those ‘ah-ha’ learning moments, Jess reflected on a time in her early days as a 20-something-year-old landing her first corporate job and becoming overwhelmed to the point of having a meltdown. One of her managers at the time said the simple words “You’re not saving lives here”, which gave her the reality check she needed, and which has kept her grounded ever since.
Speaking on the importance to find what works for you, Jess explains “I’ve learned to connect with a few trusted sounding boards with who I can have honest conversations, and who will help me see through the haze and find a better solution. Before this, I’d tried mindful breathing when I felt stressed and it didn’t work… I’m a talker, not a breather!”.
Female culture in ICT
The importance of meaningful and valued opportunities for women in ICT is crucial. Having seen the positive impact it can have on young women first-hand, Jess believes it’s important to enable young people to develop STEM skills from an early age. This is why she advocates for organisations that create engagement and learning opportunities for students, such as WiTWA’s Techtrails program or The Smith Family’s Learning For Life and other programs to ensure no child is left behind.
When asked what her aspirations are for her daughter and the world she will grow up in, Jess said “I often wonder what she’d think of our generation’s efforts, of the 20 years of progress that she will grow up in. I’d like to think that there are more female CEOs, Chairpersons, business owners, entrepreneurs, politicians and public figures and she can think – ‘ok, that is a realistic option for me, I have as much choice and opportunity as anyone else’. I would hope the next generation doesn’t have to advocate for equity, that they can expect equity.”
Sage advice from Jess
Having worked in the ICT industry for over eight years, Jess has noticed a change. She believes it’s becoming less focused on just technology – the devices, apps, programs etc – and more on the human factor. This, Jess feels, is shifting conversations towards the importance of emotional intelligence, diverse and inclusive communication, and the need for the ICT industry to engage a wider range of people, capabilities, and skillsets to truly transform and leverage the power of technology. We asked Jess what advice she has for any women looking at starting a career in a STEM-focused environment.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for, and accept, support along the way. Whether it’s a scholarship for women, intake quotas in a grad program, an opportunity to be mentored, female networking events or a friend getting you a foot in the door. Apply for every job even if you don’t meet all the criteria because I guarantee you someone else will (and he’ll probably get it). Be confident and back yourself because once you’re in – your capability can do the talking but getting in is the first step.”
WiTWA Tech [+] Awards
People’s Choice is now open! Cast your vote and support the amazing women making a difference in the ICT community. Register your vote here.
Head to the WiTWA website for more information on the WiTWA Tech [+] Awards or to see the stories of this year’s nominees.
You can also find more stories about women in tech at Kinetic IT on our website.