Welcome to our series that showcases some of Australia’s innovators, movers and shakers in and around ICT.
This week, we talk to Michelle Beveridge.
It was a January day in the early 2000s that changed Michelle Beveridge’s career forever.
A group manager ran into the IT department asking for help. Beveridge – the only person there during the Christmas break – was obliged to help, and ended up working closely on a tender application for a major project. She refers to this as her sliding doors moment, one that led her down the path of managing tech.
When the company won the tender, Beveridge got more than just gratitude.
“At the end they said, ‘fantastic work, and now we want you to run the project’,” she says.
Beveridge quickly went from a low-level strategic advice role at Australia Post to the head of a $36 million project with more than 100 staff.
“It was a huge leap in my career. When they offered me the role I thought, ‘OMG, I’ve never done anything like this’. But if they have faith in me, I should have faith in me,” Beveridge says.
Beveridge took the job and loved it, discovering a new talent and passion for large-scale tech and IT projects. Six months after that project completed, she went into her first CIO role, and never looked back.
Since that moment, Beveridge has taken on many Chief Information Officer roles in different industries including financial services, education and travel.
It started at insurance group OAMPS Limited in the mid-2000s, where Beveridge worked as the General Manager of Information Services. She then went on to work as the CIO at IDP Education Ltd and Open Universities Australia, before joining global travel coming Intrepid Group in 2014, also as CIO, where she still works today.
Last year, she was listed in the top 25 of the CIO50 Awards, and also received the Women in Travel (Technology) Award.
Beveridge doesn’t boast the typical path into the tech industry -- that of a youngster who always dreamed of working on a computer, a passion that started young. She began her professional career as an accountant in the 1990s, long before the iPhone or even computers existed on every desk.
After learning to code, she came to an important realisation.
“I realised this technology could make my job easier. I had this little light bulb moment, that this tech stuff could make a lot of people’s work easier,” Beveridge says.
For Beveridge, her career since that moment has been about helping others achieve that same light bulb moment – that technology should be embraced, and can vastly improve the work of anyone.
“I still get the lovely inner glory when I see someone have that little “aha” moment when they figure out how that technology will help them,” she says.
At her current role at Intrepid, Beveridge manages the tech services across the company’s 30 offices around the world, serving more than 1600 employees. The CIO role sees her work with an in-house team of developers and system architects, onshore and offshore, including a 24-7 support service.
In her time at the company, she has overseen the successful implementation of a new communications system for Intrepid’s global workforce, the introduction of CRM and improvements to the customer experience, as well as the transfer to cloud-based services for applications and infrastructure.
“Everywhere I’ve been CIO I’ve grown that team into one that doesn’t sit in the backroom anymore, but one where the people go out and talk to the businesses – they make friends and learn about them,” she says.
“We’ve no longer got the business and IT divide; it’s a team working together.”
Instead of focusing on arbitrary metrics or financial results, Beveridge likes to measure her success with something a bit different.
“The more people that are asking questions, the more I know I’ve got them engaged,” she says.
“That means there’s a lot of demand from the business for changes and for involvement in projects, and it means I know that they’re interested in what we’re doing.”
At Intrepid, Beveridge has found a company with values that mirror her own.
“I find that if a company matches my values, I’m much happier with what I do and deliver better value,” she says.
Intrepid has a focus on responsible travel, and became a carbon neutral business more than seven years ago. Last year, the company’s philanthropic fund had donated more than $5 million to programs in the communities that it operates.
“They believe in purpose beyond profits. We have a growth target but we think about our impact on the community, too. We encourage giving back to the community with the Intrepid Foundation,” Beveridge says.
“I find that that culture permeates the whole organisation. It’s not just about great trips, it’s about how we’re building the communities that we’re visiting.”
Beveridge has also had a focus on philanthropic ventures in her own career, and is a member of several volunteer groups, including the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre and the CIO Executive Council.
She has been a constant advocate and shining example for women in tech, and has actively worked to close the diversity gap that still exists in the sector. Beveridge has served as the president of the Victorian ICT for Women Network, and has also been involved with Go Girl and Go for IT.
“We’ve still got a long way to go. We still have a small percentage of CIOs being female, but I’m seeing more female engineers coming through, which is fabulous,” she says.
In terms as advice for budding technologists looking to follow in her footsteps, Beveridge has a few practical tips.
“Be prepared to back yourself and take the risk,” she says.
“Absolutely get to know your business, what drives it, what drives revenue, what drives productivity, and what your CEO and board are interested in.”
As a member of ACS since 1999, Beveridge has been an active participant in the organisation and regularly devotes her time and expertise.
She says it has proved a mutually beneficial activity, offering a space for Beveridge to pay her knowledge forward, and to learn from other people in the industry.
“I find it really valuable for networking,” she says.
“It gives me the opportunity to talk to people with other skills in the tech field. I can talk to these people and learn what they know, and I can leverage my knowledge to give back to the network.”
Michelle Beveridge is a Fellow of ACS.