Once perceived as a back office function, visionary ICT Leaders are the social impactors, the innovators and disruptors, they inspire followers and empower action. There is so much opportunity in this space for those who are curious and courageous.

The Women in ICT Leadership Conference was held in Sydney yesterday and there were so many quotable moments! I was lucky enough to chair the event and to co-facilitate with some of the most inspiring heads of ICT and Digital in Australia. Most of them were women. Many spoke about where ICT is at, right now (yes: AI, cyber security and data ownership were major themes)… but most spoke about careers and attracting more diverse talent to the mix.

This is my top 40 highlights:

Shae Howard, Director Government Data Centres and Cloud Services, (ICT & Digital Government) Department Finance Services & Innovation

“If you’re only doing things you’re comfortable with, you’re probably selling yourself short”

“There’s no secret sauce or silver bullet, good leadership requires hard work.”

“a lot of people didn’t have a specific plan and have still ended up in really awesome places”

“Mindfulness has really worked. Stop, take a breath, create space for perspective”

Craig Wishart, Chief Information Officer, KPMG

“Competence breeds confidence breeds trust”

“CIOs must be able to move from the cost of IT to opportunities to add value”


 “Business views of technology have changed dramatically. People of all backgrounds are far more tech literate, but they’re not aware of what it costs to run. They’re used to free stuff. TBM helps you to show the true cost of the apps. Educate them: you need the tech, plus the security plus the support systems.”


Kristine Witford, Senior Manager, Core Systems, KPMG

“No longer is strategy a 3 year thing. Every 2-3 months we’re doing strategy reviews to make sure we’re relevant to the business, checking the strategy is on track.”


Alice Crawley, Leader for Future Skills, Westpac

“Regardless of the brilliance of your tech, if the people aren’t ready for it, it’s going to fall flat”

“Informal channels are how stuff gets done. So how are you leveraging those?”


Jackie Montado, Chief Information Officer at PepsiCo

Jackie is both formidable and generous. She encouraged bravery in career choices.

“If you always succeed, you won’t learn. If you dwell on failure, you won’t learn. Fail fast, learn and move on.”

“Sometimes a career opportunity works out, sometimes it doesn’t. and if it doesn’t there’s always something else.”

“Career is a subset of my life, it’s not my life.”

“What’s the worst that can happen? If you can handle that, then do it.”


Anthony Molinia, CIO, University of Newcastle

“It’s not what, but why you’re changing. Work through the how with a great deal of transparency.”

“Consider the organisation’s direction and potential disruptors. Amid constant change, you’re either a problem looking for a solution, or a solution looking for a problem.”


Katherine Squire, General Manager, Software Engineering at nbn™ Australia

“If your mandate is change and you’re energetic but you meet dead eyes and ‘we tried that, it doesn’t work’… that’s a great thing. The ones who’ve tried, are the most cynical? When you find them and listen, they’re you’re first followers. But you need to be resilient, because it takes a while for people to trust that you’ll see it through and that you have the support of senior management to do so.”


David Hackshall, Chief Information Officer, Cochlear

“Find the opportunities and run toward them, or others will; then the opportunity will pass you by and you’ll be a spectator.”


“The hype cycles and buzz words like big data and AI: listen for people in the business using those, it’s a sign that there’s an appetite for innovation and change. Many of these words are marketing – generated hype, but be on the bus or you’ll be underneath it.”


Mariela Millington, Chief Information Officer APAC, Brightstar Logistics

“Don’t ever be in the financial position where you can’t walk away from a role. Senior roles do come at a price. You need to be able to make a decision if it’s not right.”

“Apply for jobs you think you can do, not the ones you know you can do. There’s greater satisfaction in those roles.”


Dr Maria Miloslavljevic, NSW Government Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Finance, Services and Innovation

“Cyber risk is one of the most complex problems of our lifetime. It’s the thing that will force us to get risk management right.”

“I cannot do my job properly unless I can influence other people to do their jobs effectively. Influence is not something that happens at one point in time, it’s a long, long cycle.”

“Nothing speaks louder than a solid track record.”


“To be a trusted advisor, you have to have a thirst for knowledge and understanding.”

“Identify your gaps and develop yourself constantly.”


Joyce Harkness, Chief Information Officer, Avant

“I use the power of story to engage with others. In a planning session, I make sure there are gaps to share stories about who you really are. You gain a deeper understanding of how a person thinks, who they really are.”


Leanne Fry, Chief Innovation Officer and CIO, AUSTRAC

“We need to master technology so the technology doesn’t lead our decisions.”

“AI is coming in on top of data, but we still haven’t worked out who owns the data. We may not have the answers, but we need to be aware of the implications”


“Networking isn’t about what you can do for me, but how can I find out about what’s going on.”

“There are jobs that are advertised, there are jobs that you know about and there are jobs that you don’t know about – and they’re the good ones.”


Chris Fechner, Chief Information Officer, Department of Planning & Environment

“There’s a comfort zone, a discomfort zone and then a zone of terror. When it’s your career, get into discomfort but stay out of the zone of terror.”

“When there’s a new job offer, don’t say no. You don’t know what additional contacts it will give you, what it will lead to. Job Descriptions are useless and opportunities don’t always re-emerge. It may not be perfect timing, but it could lead to something great.”

“Having a group of mentors is critical for career planning. They help you make connections, stopping you from making stupid mistakes and you can try things out with them, role play your proposals with someone safe.”


Jennifer Bardsley, Assistant Secretary, Australian Public Service

“My biggest struggles were also the best platforms for development transformation.”

“You can find and create opportunities. There’s no one way, more opportunities will come, you can creative about finding them.”


Ian Harvison, Group Technology Officer, Downer Group

“When there’s a job offer, you don’t need to decide alone if it’s the right opportunity. Ask a mentor for an independent, unbiased view to help you make the decision.”


Nathalie Moss, Head of Technology, Cards, National Australia Bank

“Female role models lower the barriers for other women.”

“Being awesome at your job is just the ticket to the game. You have to be more than that to progress your career.”

“We tell our kids ‘you have to try new things’ (like broccoli), but we need to tell women too.”



If ICT Leadership is your space, how do you hear from those who inspire you? Connect with them, listen, lean in to them. I look forward to hearing from you next.


Cath Nolan

MD, Gender Gap Gone

Ready to take the next step in your career? Let’s talk about how a Coach might benefit you. Email me directly at cath@gapgone.com.au to line up a conversation.