Sunday, September 25, 2022

A Successful Kiwi Businesswoman Tells: The Secret Learning I Needed to Propel Me Ahead

Let's be friends!

The books we're reading, the vibrators we're using, the rants we're having and more in our weekly EDM.

Whether you’re running a business, you have a dream to one day start one, or you’re eyeing up the corporate ladder, you need to read this story because there are things you NEED to know – like how understanding technology is KEY to career success. Thankfully, Tech Futures Lab is here to help.

Tech Futures Lab x Capsule

Ok so we don’t know if you know, but Amanda Singleton’s background is kind of a big deal.

Amanda builds brands. Sounds simple enough, but this is a woman who, through the combination of stakeholder relationships, reputation management and change management (oh so relevant in these pandemic times) has looked after the likes of Brand South Africa (yup, the entire country’s brand) as well as the 2010 Football World Cup, Genesis Energy and Vodafone.

Tech Futures Lab student Amanda Singleton
Amanda Singleton

Told you it was a big deal.

Now the Chief Customer Offer for Watercare which, sure, on the surface isn’t as sexy as country branding or pinnacle sporting events, but she’s responsible for how you feel about the water that runs through your taps at home. It’s a big job. It’s a job she’s really passionate about. But Amanda had the same problem that many women in business have. The idea that tech is a man’s world – and for some reason, women didn’t seem to have an easy pass into it.

“What I’ve realised is that while there are barriers to learning the skills we all need to go forward in a digital workforce, there are self-imposed barriers too,” she tells Capsule.

“One of the big frustrations I’ve always had is that I’m able to articulate from a customer perspective what their experience needs to be. But, I’m not able to understand how, from a digital perspective, it should be put together.

“It was frustrating for me, but, I acknowledge, I was frustrating to my digital partners because I always came at it from a perspective that it was ‘that easy’. I’d ask, ‘why can’t it be done just now? Why is it so expensive? Why does it take so much time?”

Now, Amanda’s job is big. As the most senior female executive at a monopoly utility company, she’s got a lot on her plate – but unsatisfied with watching the digital world’s advancements pass her by, she started studying for a postgraduate certificate in Connected Environments, offered by Tech Futures Lab, which teaches the power of data and connected technologies to lead change in industries.

Whether you’re reading this as a business owner, or someone who is interested in furthering a career, you’ll know just how precious data is in the 21st century – as well as how digitally connected we now all are. But, for most of us, we go to university, learn a whole bunch of stuff we immediately forget after we pass our exams (well, it’s true for me anyway, with apologies to my shorthand teachers). For some reason, a lot of Kiwis don’t continue learning – and it’s something, Amanda reckons, we need to change.

“What didn’t I learn in that course,” she muses. “I understand so much more around me. When things are put in front of me that I don’t understand, I’m now empowered to ask the right questions. I’m no longer intimidated by an architectural drawing, for example. It’s empowering.

“I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, I wish I had done computer science, I wish I had done more technical learning. It’s such a self-imposed barrier. Why can’t you do it now? It’s certainly not my interest to become a computer scientist – but now I’m able to look at the guys who do that through a different lens about how our environments are connected.”

Connections are everything

Amanda walked away from the certificate with a better understanding of how to use data more effectively for her business to be more effective and her customers to be happier – and how to use it to help drive her organisation forward.

Essentially, it combines data, ethics and digital technologies to give you an edge in a world where everything is changing, but one thing always, resolutely, remains the same. Connections.

“Connections aren’t made magically. What goes into the connection between the customer and the business? What does that connection consist of now? For me, that was really insightful – and it’s something anyone in business, or progressing in their career, needs to know.”

Another big part of her participation was demystifying some of those harder-to-understand areas of business that women (ok not women, just me) tend to try and avoid.

“It was phenomenal in turning tech speak into my world, and helping understand and make the connections we needed. It demystified the tech end of things and emphasised data.

“For most of my career, I’ve believed in a fact-based and science-based approach to delivery and strategy development. I’ve always had a focus on how we connect the dots that might not be so obvious to people – there are underlying truths there – and how do we use that to form action plans? But I never used to be that engaged about HOW we get that data.”

The gender bias in tech – and how to fix it

Women, traditionally, are more risk-averse than men. We’re taught to save, men are taught to invest, for example – but Amanda’s point is simple. What you’ve missed out on in the past, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on it in the future.

“My advice to a career woman? Be very clear about why you do what you do. What is it that you want to get out of it? And how does that contribute to society for the greater good?

“Do you feel good about your job? Are you just doing what you need to do to get by and just meet the requirements of your job description? Because that’s going to be a drag. I want to contribute to something bigger, and I want to go home every day and think that I’ve added value. And if you think there’s a way that you can add more value, you should do that – and upskilling is a big part of that.”

Women have traditionally been seen as more valuable when it comes to soft skills – people skills, usually – but when you combine empathy with technical knowledge and power, damn – that’s a woman that can change the world.

“You need your conscience, your softness, your human side – and you need the information about how the world is working and connected too. Having both, is where the magic lies,” she says.

“You could literally do anything.”

Here’s how to be that woman who can do anything:

So much is changing so you should too. Your skills at least. Tech Futures Lab is the place you’ll find opportunities to upskill and supercharge your career. Build that confidence to lead, engage and initiate projects so you can drive innovation for good using emerging disruptive technologies.

From power-packed short courses to a full Master’s degree, there’s options to suit your life demands. It’s founded by one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading women entrepreneurs in education and the future of work, so learning is always designed with that work/life balance in mind.

The Love Diaries: I Settled and Married Young, Now I’m Sad & Stuck in an Awful Relationship

Welcome to our series, The Love Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, fairy-tale endings, setbacks and heartbreaks. We’ll be...

Why The Digital World Needs You Even More Than You Think

We know that improving our digital skills are important for future-proofing our own careers, but there’s a wider focus we also need to pay...

Capsule Considers: The New Dyson Airwrap – Is the $1000 Price Tag Worth It?

Welcome to Capsule Considers, where we try out and review the latest products on the market and offer our honest, unbiased opinions, free from...

‘Teaching Was A Bloody Good Breeding Ground For Becoming A Comedy Actor’ How Are You Today, Karen O’Leary

In our story series ‘How Are You Today?’, we have a meandering, mental-health focused chat with some of our most well-known New Zealanders. Check...