Study Melbourne Ambassador Megha Bote spoke to technology leader Karen Gee as part of our ‘inspiring leaders’ interview series.
Karen leads transformational change through the use of technology and is a passionate mentor and coach in community diversity programs. She develops emerging leaders in technology and women in STEM.
Megha Bote: What does a typical day look like?
Karen Gee: Over the years, I’ve never experienced any day to be the same, that’s why I love it so much! With constant change for customers, with technology and with diversity of organisations, environments and people, there’s always something to do and something to learn.
Megha: Can you tell me about your career path – how did each role lead you towards your current role?
I summarise my career in four phases. The first was focused on technical roles. For example, engineer, software administrator and developer (short-term only before I recognised a career in coding was not for me), technology specialist and project manager.
I then moved focus to processes and methodology, for example, ITIL service management, agile and lean methods. I quickly learned it doesn’t matter whether we have the best or the worst of technology or processes, it really is all about the people! People and teamwork enable success for us, our teams and our customers.
I have spent most of my career in this third phase: leadership and delivering transformation change to enable technology to improve employees’ experiences and deliver value to customers.
I’ve now entered the fourth phase, having a portfolio career, with a focus on legacy leadership, giving back to others, and having a career with mixed roles and a ‘work/life’ balance.
Megha: What is the most enjoyable aspect of working as a leader?
To me, the role of a leader is all about people. Being able to encourage, empower and enable experiences for others to learn, grow and progress their own career pathways. I find it most enjoyable and a privilege to be a part of others’ career journeys.
Megha: What area of your job do you find challenging?
From my own experience, I can confirm there are different challenges at different times because of different reasons. I’ve had a roller coaster career journey as I know many have had too. With COVID-19 in 2020 it has been a year that has challenged us all beyond what many of us never thought would be possible.
To me, I think the importance of challenges is to find a way through it by handling it as an opportunity. We might be out of our comfort zones when we are challenged, but we can learn a lot by working through it. And I’d say from my own experience, it’s a lot easier to do when you have the support of your close network to help you through these times.
Megha: What abilities are important for success and enjoyment in your field? What values and personality traits are important to you?
With a career in technology or STEM where change is constant, I find three key skills for success are agility, resilience and passion. Integrity, teamwork, accountability, collaboration and growth are the core values, whilst openness and conscientiousness are the two personality traits that resonate most for me.
Megha: What advice would you give to women looking for a career in STEM?
If I was to bring it down to one thing, I’d say, “Go for it! The opportunities in STEM are limitless and the only restrictions are those we put on ourselves.”
The vast array of careers within each area of STEM, as well as across the sectors, are boundless. Your career pathway and journey can be very diverse and have opportunities for incredible experiences.
Don’t limit your options to traditional careers in science (like medicine and research, it could now be the space sector), technology (like computer science and coding, it could now be virtual reality and quantum computing), engineering (like manufacturing, it could now be machine learning) and mathematics (like academia, it could now be data analytics).
Follow your passions, take opportunities, leverage your transitional skills and gain experiences by taking an adventure, orienteering the roads of a career path in STEM.