Never leave career moves to chance

Pip Marlow and Russell Crowe share a vaguely similar career trajectory, sort of.

Like the Kiwi-born actor, Marlow left New Zealand for Australia, then moved to the United States, and is now based in Sydney as public sector director for Microsoft Australia.

Thus, the picture of Crowe, geared up for his Gladiator role, was part of Marlow’s presentation at the recent Global Women Forum in Auckland. But, she says, their work locales are the only thing they share in common.

Marlow has been working in the ICT sector for more than 15 years, and has some pointers for managing a career in a constantly shifting work environment.

Foremost is to have what she calls a “development plan”.

Most people will change jobs several times or even change careers at least once over their working life, she says. “The success of these moves can be enhanced by having a development plan that bridges the gap to between your current role and that next job or career move. ”

“You might have fallen into your current career, and been moderately or even very successful, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your future career moves to chance,” she tells CIO New Zealand.

“It sounds obvious, but you need to look objectively at your career goals in the light of some considered self-analysis. What are your skills, abilities, education and interests? And how does your personality and value-system impact your potential choices of career?

“Be as objective as you can when you think about the roles that you would like to move into, and don’t limit yourself to one role or career. Think of the ‘stepping stone’ roles you might have to take to get to your final destination.”

Career planning is a balance of many factors, she says. “Once you’ve aligned your career development plan to your personal goals, think of how you might network to further reach your objective.”

Marlow encourages the use of social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to do this. “Ensure that you are following the blogs of influencers and elites so that you’re attuned to the industry and are able to talk about the key concerns, achievements and objectives for the industry as well as getting a better understanding of the environment and key players.”

As for the saying ‘it is not what you know, it is who you know’, Marlow says it is a combination of both. “If you don’t nurture that network, you miss that opportunity.”

“When you move [overseas or to another company], really understand what your network is both at your origin and your destination,” says Marlow.

Marlow’s insights are drawn from her experience in moving into senior ICT roles. She is presently in charge of one of the largest teams in Microsoft Australia, servicing the government accounts that include defence, education and health.

When shifting roles or workplace, “be clear what you are looking for”, she says. When she was considering the move to Microsoft, she asked her dad for advice, as she thought it was a “backward step” from her MD role. “At Microsoft, you are in a big pool,” she quotes him as saying. “Sometimes you take a sideways [step].”

Marlow, who is married with two daughters, says wherever you are working, it is important to focus on emergent opportunities. At Microsoft, she looked at the role of becoming a managing director, and thought about getting the right development “so when the role becomes available, I am a great candidate”.

At the same time, she says, “I don’t put my eggs in one basket.” If she does not get the role she aspires for, she is looking at other options, like another international move.

Her message is also about continuous development and to stay in a “learning mode”.

“There is always an opportunity to learn in any role,” she says.

At the Global Women Forum, Jennifer Moxon, managing director, IBM New Zealand, discussed what leading organisations are doing to be globally competitive.

Citing the results of the latest CEO survey of IBM that included ANZ respondents, Moxon says the standout companies share three common qualities: creative leadership, customer centricity and operating dexterity.

Elaborating on these three areas, she says, creative leadership means persuading and influencing rather than command and control style of leadership. “You encourage experimentation, invite disruptive innovation and keep innovating in the way you lead and manage using viral communications rather than top down commands,” says Moxon.

Customer centricity or focus means companies analyse masses of data on the web and tap that intelligence to predict what their customers really want. The standout companies even “co-create” products and services with their customers.

The third, operating dexterity, refers to organisations that simplify their operations and increase flexibility to improve response.

Moxon says New Zealand’s geographical distance has encouraged Kiwis to come up with “creative solutions, particularly in our political and regulatory environment, science and education. However, there is always room for improvement — particularly around business innovation and general infrastructure.”

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