IT Brief Australia - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
Story image
IWD 2024: Embrace Your Vulnerability to Drive Growth
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

Brené Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change,” and I could not agree more. Some of my biggest career moves have come following moments of great vulnerability - including a job change on my return from parental leave. Throughout my career, I’ve experienced professional curveballs, been thrust into areas outside my expertise, and navigated organisational change – all of which have created the (career) woman I am today.  We all face these challenges in our working lives, but it’s how we choose to approach them that is the key to driving growth from the unknown.
After racking up a country and career change, four redundancies, three children (including twins) and countless business pivots, I’ve learned the importance of embracing change and learned a few things along the way:
The timing will almost never be “right”
Opportunities are often masked as ‘impossible challenges’, and they rarely, if ever, grace us at a convenient time. Most of us will never be 100 per cent ready when a big opportunity comes along, but with a big dose of self-belief in our skills and ability to learn, we can turn it into something great. For me, if something comes my way that feels outside my comfort zone – like becoming ANZ Country Manager for Amazon Alexa – I take a moment to consider the learning curve versus my excitement to learn. If it sounds like a great challenge and I’ll have fun along the way, I’ll take a leap and worry about the details later.
Find your propeller

My advice to women who are looking to advance their careers is to find someone or something that drives you forward – your propeller. Your propeller could be a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor, but the secret sauce you’re looking for is someone who sees your potential without bias and will push you forward when you need encouragement. I've been fortunate enough to have several amazing leaders throughout my career, who have challenged me to take the bigger step and to get comfortable with the fear that is a natural part of the change process. I recently learned that fear and excitement generate the same physiological response in our bodies – sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, butterflies. Now I consciously try to mentally convert my fear into excitement when I'm in uncomfortable situations – like public speaking! 
Sometimes embracing change, just means sitting in it
Deep curiosity is one of my superpowers and having a solid grasp on all aspects of my role helps me to drive effective decision-making. That said, being in the midst of a change like a business pivot or re-organisation can lead to information overload. It’s okay to ask leadership for more information about what’s driving the change, which will then let you figure out what strengths or growth areas will come from it. Can you lean on mentors to help you learn and add another skill to your arsenal? Ultimately, growth here comes from how you navigate the change – with curiosity, and a willingness to lean on others to help you figure out what’s next.
Growth is supposed to be uncomfortable
Great ideas and great leaders are rarely born overnight – innovation and growth take time and it’s meant to be challenging. Fear of the unknown and the comfort that comes with sitting in the familiar can be blockers to growth. At Amazon, we are builders, and I love the "just do it" culture that comes from that. If a person or team has a great idea there is space available to experiment with it. It’s so important for businesses to give their people space to explore new ideas and the safety of failure along the way. Innovation doesn’t happen in comfort zones – disruption does!
For many of us, fear of failure can hold us back. I recently attended a workshop by leadership coach Ruth Gotian who recommends writing down the worst that could happen, and then, writing down the best that could happen. From there, you can decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Equally, ‘mini-exposure therapy’ is another tactic I empower my team to use when learning new things. You don’t jump straight into running a marathon, you build on the distance over time. Equally effective is finding small ways to incorporate learning a new skill or adding something to your routine each month.  

In the spirit of International Women’s Day 2024, I encourage all women, particularly those working in STEM, to truly embrace change – whether in their personal or professional lives. In taking these sometimes uncomfortable steps, we continue to grow and evolve as individuals – both personally and professionally.