Building self-belief, embracing challenge and staying fiercely unique rank as standout attributes of successful female leaders in New Zealand, as outlined by an executive line-up of inspiring women of influence in the channel.
Whether climbing the corporate ladder to run large-scale local and global corporations - or starting out from scratch building a business from the ground up - these high-flying executives and daring entrepreneurs epitomise inspiration, determination and acumen.
In New Zealand, female leaders currently run Microsoft, Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, Lenovo and VMware, in addition to Spark, Computer Concepts Limited (CCL), IT Engine, Duo, Tech Data and Nextgen Distribution among others. While encouraging, diversity in the channel has a long road ahead to reach levels of true equality.
In recognition of International Women's Day, this in-depth Reseller News analysis features career guidance for aspiring female leaders from executives of Microsoft; Cisco; Spark; Palo Alto Networks; Computer Concepts Limited; Duo; Intergen; Lenovo; Exeed and Ingram Micro.
Overcoming industry barriers
When some people find out that Misti Landtroop - managing director of New Zealand at Palo Alto Networks - is a solo mother, uneducated misconceptions occasionally form and with that, uninformed questions follow.
“Is your daughter okay? Who is looking after your daughter?” recalled Landtroop, looking back on nearly 11 years of being a solo parent. “Dealing with prejudice from being a solo mum continues to be the biggest challenge to overcome. It’s shocking that in 2021 this is even on my list of challenges, let alone number one."
Landtroop - who has more than 20 years of executive level experience within the technology industry as a dual citizen of both New Zealand and the US - acknowledged that while juggling work and family can be challenging, the ongoing support of her Kiwi Whānau is crucial to creating a sustainable balance.
“My daughter is the best achievement of my life and I’ve never come down from the ‘new mum high’, even almost 14 years on,” she added. “My unsolicited and free advice to anyone who judges a solo mum (or dad) is just don't and always remember to be kind.”
In an open acknowledgment of past challenges faced, Vanessa Sorenson - speaking as managing director of New Zealand at Microsoft - accepted that dealing with imposter syndrome “nearly got the better of me”.
“Getting out of my own head about not feeling good enough, or the feeling of getting found out that I am not good enough, has been a long and hard struggle,” said Sorenson, awarded with Entrepreneur honours during the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards in 2017. "As I came through my career no one was talking about this and also there were very few other female role models in senior roles. My wish is that more women support other women, putting a hand up not a hand out.”
As co-founder of Duo, Kendra Ross has scaled the fence of three towering industry barriers during a career spanning more than 25 years, the first centred around negotiating the ‘old boys' club’ mentality.
“It’s still there but instead of focusing on its impact to me I ignore it and look for ways to build influence around the edges,” added Ross, inducted into the Reseller News Hall of Fame in 2018. “Sadly, the second challenge is women seeing other women as competition and not lifting each other up.”
Once again, Ross - also acknowledged with Entrepreneur honours during the inaugural Reseller News Women in ICT Awards in 2016 - adopts the strategy of changing this culture through behaviour, freely providing time and advice to other female executives across the channel.
“I look to lift and bring women with me, whether it’s business or community,” she said. “Lastly, being dyslexic during my early career without the technology tools of today was a huge challenge. Now it’s awesome because technology supports this challenge and makes it strength. Always look at how you can flip a challenge into a positive to win.”
Echoing Ross’ comments, Barbara Kidd - general manager of Cloud across New Zealand at Ingram Micro - acknowledged that despite the IT industry still anchored around a 'man’s world', the biggest roadblock to personal growth centres around approach.
“Where men might strongly make their case and offer unwavering self-belief, which accelerates their careers, I’ve realised modesty and self-doubt have held me back, even when I believed I was the best person for the job,” she outlined.
“Having the guts to stand up, make a case for myself, know that there is something I want and then go out and ask for it, is probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome. This isn’t something that comes naturally to many women, me included. But facing reality and taking responsibility for my own career has delivered the results I’ve sought.”
As CEO of Spark, Jolie Hodson said leading through the COVID-19 pandemic tested all skills from a professional and personal perspective, following 12 months of spearheading response and recovery efforts across the country.
“There wasn’t a playbook for how you manage an event like this, so being adaptable, staying calm and voicing my concerns or fears to my trusted support crew were important ways that helped me navigate this challenge,” she recalled. “What helped me was having experienced other natural disasters and leading through those, so I could lean on this experience.”
Unsurprisingly, the health and safety of people and customers ranked as Hodson’s primary concern, and once this situation was under control, the team quickly shifted gears to helping support New Zealanders to learn, work and connect in ways unfamiliar to the masses.
“This was as we faced the most significant health and economic crisis we’d experienced, plus all the uncertainty that created,” Hodson recalled.
Newly appointed as country manager of New Zealand at Lenovo, Libby Macgregor - who overcame the challenge of relocating back home following more than 15 years working overseas - cited the importance of remaining authentic to help negotiate tough situations.
“Authenticity creates an attitude where people feel more in tune and connected to you and your team,” she said. “It also instils a sense of loyalty to your company and its mission, especially when surrounded by people equally true to themselves. Besides, people can sniff out someone who is faking it a mile off.”
As outlined by Macgregor - recognised as a Shining Star during the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards in 2017 - women in the channel and the wider technology sector now possess the power to be change makers and promote ally-ship across New Zealand.
“Both having and being a mentor helps to achieve this, as well as furthering your own career,” she added. “Secondly, there is no need to sacrifice your career in order to have a family - it should go without saying that in this day and age, the two are not mutually exclusive.”
In offering executive-level guidance to aspiring female technology leaders, Leanne Buer - speaking as country manager of New Zealand at Cisco - documented why understanding unique individual qualities can help create a solid foundation for future growth.
“Work out what makes you great at what you do, what makes you stand out, what makes people want to follow you?” advised Buer, inducted into the Reseller News Hall of Fame in 2019. “Identify this and continue to build on it.”
For Buer - also an Achievement winner during the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards in 2019 - success is also heavily linked to “people, people, people”.
“Get to know your team, their passions, what they are good at and what they do not enjoy so much,” she said. "Understand the individual strengths in your team and leverage them for the best group engagement and results.”
Read more on the next page...