How my father inspired me to become a high-tech CEO
Growing up in the UK in the late 70s and 80s when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and leading the country, I thought it was quite normal for a woman to be in a leadership role. By the time I was 8 years old, my tech career was already being mapped out for me – I just had no idea at the time. I was blessed to be born in to a family where my father loved to play with the latest technology and worked for the new “IT Department” for British Telecom in the 80s.
Bless your Daughters with Tech Experiences Early On
My father gave me all sorts of inspiring high-tech presents. The best one, was a Commodore 64 he brought home – and very quickly, I was addicted to Donkey Kong. It would be the longest 45 minutes of my life waiting for the game to load from a tape drive and I still remember the disappointment of seeing a ‘syntax error’ when it failed.
At 9 years old my father taught me how to code a simple program that would flash my spelling homework on a green screen for me to type in correctly. My sister and I very quickly became top of the class in spelling and everyone wanted to know our secret.
Give Girls Encouragement to Master Technology
My father encouraged us to learn computers all through school and during the holidays I used to earn pocket money by doing data entry for him at the office. Skills I didn’t think twice about at the time, but that now have paved that way to my success.
This was the start of a career I never knew I would have. I left college with no idea what to do with my life, no money or desire for a burning career but knew I had computer skills to fall back on. So took a role as a trainee IBM AS/400 operator until I worked out what to do with my life. A decision that changed my life forever. A few years later after travelling the world, climbing mountains and catching trains across Siberia, these skills led to sponsorship to live and work in Sydney, Australia.
How I got to where I am now
The day I arrived in Sydney nearly 20 years ago with a suitcase and $500 in my pocket, I stepped off the plane and thought I was the luckiest person alive. It felt like I had finally arrived home.
In my first week of arriving in Sydney I met the CEO of KAZ who was growing a very successful company. Peter offered me the job at the interview and I remember negotiating an additional week before starting as I needed to find a home! I grew up in Peter’s company and learnt more than ever. It’s where I experienced a culture like no other, caring people combined with some very smart technical skills and a natural curiosity for gadgets.
For 6 years I lived, worked and played as if it was my purpose. I really wanted to make a difference and felt very fortunate to have the new lifestyle I now had. As my career continued to move forward to Microsoft, this opened my eyes to a new way of doing business, a science in sales & marketing or a “Microsoft MBA” as we like to call it. At the same time my personal life was also blossoming. Meeting my very talented, wonderful husband (who only proposed to me because he couldn’t beat my highest score on Donkey Kong) and having two beautiful children.
Welcome to Breeze
Today I am fortunate to be a CEO of our own successful business, a cloud integrator called Breeze. Breeze has won global awards for innovative solutions and thrives on helping our customers to solve real business problems using Microsoft technologies. We get to play, create and innovate our own disruptive cloud products.
But what I love the most is being able to apply the best of our skills and experiences we have learnt from others along the way. We nurture the creativity in our technical staff and grow relationships with our colleagues and customers because we care about them as people. Whilst our passion is technology, it’s the people that matter the most. Technologies change, evolve and move on, but people will always remember that you were there for them, even when the technology fails on you.
A Message to Fathers and Mothers
Please know that even a small amount of time spent with your daughters playing with technology can open up a whole new world of opportunity ahead of them and let’s face it, the rate technology is evolving we need future generations of girls to be comfortable in the IT workforce. We know that boys naturally gravitate towards games and devices whereas girls may need a little more encouragement and your time is the best gift ever.
To my wonderful Dad, Happy Father’s Day and thank you for my career!
Sending lots of love across the miles.