Women in Transformation: Deborah McDonnell, Qantas Loyalty

Daniel Preston
March 8, 20186 mins read

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 Transformation. 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 Deborah McDonnell, Agile Portfolio Manager - Qantas Loyalty, had to say.

reajeg4bsd6vro5te4xula_thumb_261dd_1.jpgThroughout my career I have had the opportunity to lead teams and see projects through from initiation to delivery. For 15+ years I have demonstrated my ability to work collaboratively to achieve strategic goals,  always giving my all for the benefit of the team, the stakeholders and the customer. My technical background in IT provides a structured approach in which I can apply my strengths for the benefit of any challenge that presents itself. With this and my commercial acumen I proactively ask the right questions to identify risks before they become issues and offer timely solutions to address.

I am adaptable and flexible and have stayed at the forefront of emerging methodologies throughout my career, more recently adopting Agile practices in delivery which is very exciting and something I am passionate about. Obtaining certifications as a Scrum master and SAFe agilist is allowing me to bring all my experiences to the fore in consulting, coaching and mentoring teams to take on these new ways of working and drive towards outcomes with greater transparency and adaptability.

What factors do you think have been critical to the success you have achieved in your career?

"People ! People ! People ! I can’t emphasise enough the importance of relationships and building supportive networks around you and being supportive of the team you are sharing your journey with.

We spend so much time at work that surrounding yourself with like minded people and people that you can share the highs and lows with is of utmost importance in this fast paced and ever changing working environment.

Stretching yourself, taking on challenges as opportunities, being confident in the fact that if other people trust you and think you can do it then go with it and go for it ! Surprise yourself ! 

Nurturing the talent in others and setting up others for success and succession planning and being ok with doing yourself out of a job by mentoring and coaching the future talent.

Not being the hero, acknowledging the team that supported you in achieving the outcome and being humble and acknowledging their contribution. Cliche I know, but there’s no I in TEAM !

Playing the devil’s advocate, challenging the status quo and asking the dumb questions when no one else will.

All in all being genuine and honest and just being yourself, your team will respect you more and together you’ll achieve great things !"

What initiatives have you experienced within an organisation that you believe have helped you?

"I was fortunate enough to start my working career as a graduate trainee and have had access to many great training courses throughout my career for both technical and soft skills. 

Most importantly there has always been a strong focus on developing leadership skills. Recognising that developing and coaching our leaders and our teams is ultimately an organisation’s biggest asset and recognising that if we invest in our people that the results will follow has certainly helped. Providing tools and frameworks on how to have the difficult conversations in order to get the best out of our people has been instrumental in my overall success.

Flexibility in the workplace - Having had 2 children and being able to return to work part time has also supported my ability to be where I am today.  I’ve been fortunate to maintain a career and be a ‘present mum’ in a supportive and flexible working environment to achieve a well rounded work/life balance.

Whilst not as active as I might like I’m a member of the Qantas Group Women’s Network and was fortunate to recently attend a presentation by Dr Kakeyna Ntaiya, the Woman who Demanded Education. Initiatives such as these, #pressforprogress, are key to building our networks and taking the time out to share in her inspirational story is just another example of how Qantas supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Communities of practice and knowledge sharing across the group - leveraging other’s experiences and knowledge sharing to avoid reinventing the wheel and learning from others

Mind matters initiatives - Focusing on Resilience and being mindful of self and others wellbeing

Collaboration week - providing opportunity to observe other parts of the business and learn from their successes and building networks to leverage ongoing"

Can you highlight any career defining moments?

"Maybe more a life defining moment than a career defining moment ! - Acknowledging and accepting that being a working mum is actually just as beneficial, if not more so, as being a stay at home mum !  Listening to the females in my life and having their support and encouragement to pursue my aspirations and not be defined by being someone’s mum or wife.

Having 2 boys and demonstrating to them that women are just as powerful and can be just as successful in the workplace as their dads but still be home to take them to soccer training and singing lessons and be there for the milestone moments and acknowledging that we’re not superwoman and that we’re not perfect (and having them tell you that !!!). Having a supportive husband and family network and sharing the home responsibilities (and outsourcing where possible !) is also very powerful from a role modelling perspective and without that I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Accepting that I’m a better mum for having an outlet in the workplace and being a role model for them to ensure they don’t just accept the status quo and that they see their mum, and females in general, as being strong and impactful in multiple facets of life and accepting that as the norm for their female friends and acknowledging and respecting them for that choice.  

Ensuring the balance is key to being a better performer, work colleague and mum !"

What advice would you share with females on how to progress their careers within Transformation?

  • "Don’t take no for an answer 
  • Female intuition exists ! Follow your gut/instinct
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way, think outside the box - there’s always another way to get to the desired outcome
  • Focus on the people and together you’ll deliver
  • A problem shared is a problem halved
  • You are an agent for change, if you see something you don’t like or disagree with you can do something about changing it
  • Support each other, it’s not easy, its not a competition and when all is said and done, we’re only human"


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