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 Shameela Gonzales, Executive Manager - Better Risk Outcomes Program at Commonwealth Bank has to say.
What made you originally chose a career in Technology?
I was never fond of mathematics or engineering during school, but I did stumble upon a love for technology fairly early on. I was raised by a single mum, from a culture that traditionally encouraged young girls towards a small set of career pathways. I am incredibly fortunate that my mum was my biggest supporter and while she hoped I would break the mould, she would never pressure me and always accepted me for who I was. Luckily, I have never been one to conform and having been told technology was “no career for a girl” it intrigued me that much more. My first experience with Technology at home working with an old PC and through my own little trial and error. In balancing my love for technology I have always complimented it with seemingly disconnected interests. For example, at university I did a double degree in Business and Technology but when I had to elect what I wanted to major, instead of the common choice of accounting or economics, I preferred Human Resources. I know this wasn’t the obvious choice, but for me choosing something I was passionate about has always held me in good sted.
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 for me I was fortunate that I identified early on I could add the most value when I was able to leverage my passion for technology and use it in areas of the business that I was really inspired by. My unique skill was my ability to understand technology solutions and be able to communicate them in a really simple way to ‘non-technology’ people. I enjoy always asking ‘why’ - why are things the way they are and are there creative ways to change it? This coupled with a tenacity that I bring to everything I do and a restlessness to find better ways to do things has served me well. In addition to this I am a master organiser; there is nothing I enjoy more than taking a messy and complex problem that needs to be solved and looking at how to break this down and planning how to best to tackle it. In more recent years in my career, as I have taken on more leadership responsibilities, my passion for people and my desire to really understand them and how to help them achieve their personal goals has also really helped me.
Have there been any career defining moments?
There have been a number of career defining moments for me. The starting point was when I looked for an internship in my penultimate year of university. After exporting opportunities with a number of the large players I was lucky enough to get an offer from CBA and a consulting firm. Having been through the extensive interview process's with both, CBA stood out for me as the process had been much more collaborative, there were opportunities for me to ask questions at every step and this experience gave me the confidence that it would be an environment that I could thrive in. After a successful rotation through my internship, I was offered a role on the CBA grad program. I was 1 of a few females on the 24 grad intake that year and took on a Business Analyst role in the Digital space. One of the most career defining moments for me was my return to work after the birth of my son. I was very unsure on my return if I could continue to progress and if the break would hinder my advancement but I was offered a promotion shortly after my return. I feel motherhood has actually helped round me out in my professional life. It has allowed me to bring more warmth and empathy in my role as a leader but also allowed me to cut-through problems much faster and get to the right outcome as any busy working parent will know you need to be efficient!
What advice would you give to other females looking to pursue a career in Technology?
My advice is to keep yourself as open as possible to various types of opportunities out there. Don’t doubt your ability to learn something the new, to adapt or your creativity to create change. In my personal experience, there were a few opportunities were I didn’t necessarily meet all the attributes for the role, but when given the opportunity I decided to take the leap. Quite often, my career opportunities have come from the time I have invested in building strong relationships and following my gut instinct. In terms of technology specifically, I find keeping an eye on key technology developments happening around the world helps you have a constant radar on what is emerging, and therefore what could be a great career opportunity. Don’t underestimate the value of a strong network. With such a rapidly changing environment, I find a lot of people I have met and known over the years have led such diverse career pathways and it either helps me pave opportunities for myself or at the very least, keeps me inspired!
Why should more females be choosing technology?
I see the rapidly changing environment we live in and see technology embedded in almost all aspects of our lives. It’s hard to imagine life without it. With this in mind, I see it is an enabler that has introduced so many existing and varied options for anyone interested in this industry. My only desire is to debunk the myth that women can’t take up very ‘technical’ roles as I have been fortunate enough to see a glimpse of the incredible talent that exists in CBA in our young, empowered and highly technical females! My advice to women thinking about choosing technology careers is that the opportunities and the types of roles available have evolved quite a bit, there’s more of an opportunity to find roles that combine technology with other areas you’re equally interested in.