Guest Blog - Women in Technology: Joanne Walker, Westpac

Louise Langridge 05.03.2019

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Technology. They will be discussing their success, career-defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Joanne Walker, Head of Transaction Banking, Business Bank, at Westpac had to say.

joanne walker

Profile: Joanne was appointed Head of Transaction Banking, Business Bank in November 2017. She is accountable for delivery and management of technology services for Merchants and Digital n the Business Customer segment.

Joanne has been with Westpac for three years, prior to that she held senior roles in AMP and also led the Shared Services function at Macquarie Bank. She is a passionate engineer with a love for databases, complex problems and solution design.

What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today and what do you attribute your success to?

I think that you have to think very broadly about your career and your skill-set. We operate in such a dynamic environment that as technology changes around you must be able to change yourself.  What’s worked for me is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable - in fact, it’s now one of my criteria when considering a role. In my mind success can always be attributed to recurring themes no matter the position. Work hard, have a learning mindset and most importantly don’t be a passenger in your own career.

Another aspect that I think is important is to take the time to deeply understand what you are good at and what makes you your unique self.  In my case I love to solve problems - the bigger the better! I was fortunate to understand this early in my career after getting the results of an aptitude test when I applied for the technology graduate scheme at Barclays. This, coupled with living in different cultures around the world,  has given me perspectives on both myself and others that I may not have normally had.

What have there been any career-defining moments?

Every moment is defining in some way but there are two key decisions I have made in my career that stand out.  The first was to focus on deepening my technical knowledge with a move from development into the world of Oracle databases. I set about learning everything I could and through a lot of hard work became a certified professional within the first year. This opened a number of new career doors and enabled me to travel and live in Australia.

The second was my move to management.  As much as I loved databases I could see that my learning curve was slowing and I would soon be looking for different challenges.  I spent time with people in my professional network and was fortunate to be given a great opportunity managing 5 people. Within 12 months that increased to 50 people across 2 countries – quickly forcing me to learn how to become successful through other people.  Also, I figured out that having a diverse team that works collaboratively is essential – enabling you to look at things from a different perspective and work together to achieve an outcome.

What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career in Technology?

Think big!  There’s nothing you can’t do if you harness your natural strengths and really put your mind to it.  Being a female in technology means that you bring a different perspective and set of interpersonal skills that, these days, companies are actively seeking out. I’d also suggest that when thinking about your career, set yourself some time limits.  If you haven’t achieved what you set out to do, ask yourself why and do something about it. Get feedback from people and come up with a new plan, never give-up on your aspirations. Oh, and a good sense of humour also helps!

How can we attract more female talent into Technology in the future?

We need to increase the number of females we are bringing into broader roles at the entry level, making sure they are on-boarded well and given the technical expertise they need to be successful.  I think it’s also important to look outside of standard technical disciplines - we can teach technology but it’s much harder to train people on softer skills and ways of thinking which is where women often excel.  Finally, we need to encourage school-age children (and their parents!) to consider STEM as a great future career. Westpac Group and many other companies have some fantastic initiatives to bring STEM into the primary school classroom as well as senior school and university programs.  As female technologists, it’s our duty to get behind these programs and give them our full support.

Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter

Louise Langridge's picture
APAC Regional Managing Director
llangridge@morganmckinley.com.au