Across different career stages, we spoke to finalists of categories including graduate, technical, rising star, achievement, and diversity & inclusion (D&I) champion categories about their experience getting into in the technology industry, growing their IT careers, and what the recognition means to them.
They each gave one piece of advice to women considering a career in technology, painting a clear picture of community and continuous learning driving impact in this exciting and dynamic industry.
Graduate: Caitlin Fitzgerald-Carter
I am a former teacher with a background in linguistics, but I’ve always had an interest in machine learning and natural language processing, and so what started out as a hobby ended with a new degree and a complete career change. This recognition reflects the long hours and hard work I put into building my new career in technology, and it’s also a testament to all those around me who supported me in taking advantage of opportunities along the way.
My advice is to reach out to people in your chosen area and find a mentor – don’t be afraid to approach people. The most valuable insights and lessons I’ve gained throughout my first year in tech have all come from the experience and expertise of those around me, and I’ve found if you show curiosity and enthusiasm for someone’s field, they’re usually more than happy to make time for a chat.
Technical: Parisa Safari Nejad
I was born and raised in Iran, where I studied software engineering and entered the job market as a mobile network engineer. My work has made it possible for me to travel around the world, including UAE, Brazil, Afghanistan, Singapore, and Zimbabwe before settling in Australia. Being a finalist of the WIICTA awards is a celebration of the journey that has been my career, an acknowledgement of the resilience I have built in the face of hardships, and a recognition of all the allies who helped me along the way.
As someone who has spent most of her career in technical, customer-facing roles, my advice to those who are considering a career in IT would be: do not waste another minute – join us on the amazing career path, filled with fun and excitement. You never know where you could end up!
Rising Star: Ryo Suda
I’m half-Filipino and half-Japanese, grew up in many countries, and my career has been diverse in terms of locations, industries, and roles. I’ve worked in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, the UK, and the US, in interesting industries such as gaming, oil & gas, and start-ups, and it was challenging to be accepted as my authentic self. But after joining Cisco, the culture at Cisco has given me that community to allow me to be my authentic self and that’s why this recognition means a lot to me; as a migrant in Australia and as I finally found my place and home in Australia.
“I tell women considering a career in IT to just go for it! The IT industry is so agile, you can really make an impact in this industry where you constantly learn new things and have a community of professionals to help hone your skills.”
Achievement: Kathryn Porter
To be recognised by the industry for my 25+ years is very humbling and exciting. I started as a receptionist in the late 80s for Telecom in Brisbane and worked my way up at Telstra and Cisco. I have held global and regional leadership roles and also had multiple exec sponsorship roles for employee groups, Women of Cisco, and Allies of First Nations. Being a finalist is recognition for the teams that’s I’ve led and the results we have achieved together, and it means a lot to me that other women will see that it is possible to have a long and rewarding career in technology.
My advice is to be unashamedly yourself, take risks, speak up, listen to feedback and learn from it. Be an advocate and supporter of other women. Be kind, compassionate, and collaborative in the pursuit of results.
D&I Champion: Kim Gascoigne
I strongly believe that everyone deserves to be valued, respected and celebrated for who they are regardless of the things that make us all unique. I am really driven by the vision of creating a world where inclusivity and empathy prevail.
I am so thrilled to be recognised for my skills, achievements, and contributions, and a testament to the impact of this purpose-driven role as D&I program manager at Cisco. I also spent nine years as the executive assistant to the vice president of ANZ. It holds great personal significance as I often struggle with imposter syndrome, and this motivates me to continue pushing boundaries, embracing new challenges, and striving for continuous growth.
My one piece of advice to women considering a career in technology is to believe in yourself. We all have unique abilities and perspectives, don’t let self-doubt or societal stereotypes around STEM discourage you. Be fearless in pursuing your passion, and seek out mentors, sponsors, and allies who support your growth.
D&I Champion: Elyse Selitskiy
I am absolutely passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and dream of a world where we don’t even need employee resources organisations because our differences are accepted, celebrated, and just part of the norm. I have made it a personal mission to see how I can support and use my platform to elevate DEI front and centre when doing my work, but also for the organisation that I work for – and to be recognised as a finalist is an assurance that I might be doing something right, in line with the other D&I finalists recognised in the industry.
IT was actually my fall-back career choice – initially I wanted to get into film production, but after playing around with Linux systems and building applications, I was hooked. I started off as a technical consultant in a small software company in New Zealand, moved on to a global software company, and at Cisco I was lucky enough to have been recently promoted to a leadership role managing the AppDynamics ANZ Sales Engineer Team.
The advice that has resonated the most with me recently is from Simone Giertz – an inventor and robotics enthusiast – and she said, “Enthusiasm is a much more potent fuel in life than duty and just because something is boring doesn’t mean that it’s important.” Whatever career you choose, be enthusiastic about it. There will be moments in that journey where you will have highs and lows, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of dosage of the lows, as it makes you appreciate the highs more.