To mark International Women’s Day 2022, Information Age is publishing a special series, Women in IT Leadership. We speak with 15 women in various tech roles across Australia about how they got their start in the IT industry, their approach to leadership, and how to encourage more females into technology careers.
Today, we speak with Lisa Tobin, Managing Director of Technology at Seek.
“A career in technology is a career at the frontier of change,” declares Lisa Tobin.
“Nothing works without technology now and it’s the one place in an organisation where you’ll know everything that's going on within it. And you’ll certainly know anything that's changing because you'll be part of it.”
For Tobin, the drive to know how and why everything fits together, and what connects to what, is essential because technology is the ‘how’.
“It's why I love technology – because I'm curious. I like to understand how everything works and then choose the right tool and use the right tool properly, so you can do the ‘how’ in the right way.”
For women considering a career in technology, her message is that it’s always moving and it’s a very diverse field that can accommodate all different types.
“You can be a software engineer, a data analytics person, project manager, or be deep in infrastructure, cloud computing or quantum computing, or you can be a bit more like me, a boundary rider.”
Tobin is someone who specialises in aligning people and doing the translating to get the leverage and value of what technology can do.
“At the core of it, all you need is to love learning, to want to continue to learn and have curiosity about how things work and why something is the way it is or why it’s not like that.”
An unexpected career change
It was a fortunate incident that led Lisa Tobin into the technology industry.
“I was in a small company that happened to be launching a technology solution for the first time. There was no-one else there and so I stepped in and it was a really fantastic opportunity to take what I knew of this business – it was small enough that I understood it end to end – and actually work out how technology needed to be applied and what we needed to build.
“At the end of that project, I was in technology. I love solving problems and building capabilities and building new things.”
Coming to technology after completing a humanities degree, Tobin’s applied that analytical training to problem-solving around technology.
“I'm pretty good at picking up what's going on or understanding what something means or the consequence of something, and so, I'm really lucky to have been able to leverage that in my career.”
But she’s never lost that love of writing and how it can impart deep meaning with simplicity.
"I love reading great writers who have the ability to craft a sentence, a single sentence that can make you cry, laugh or just be in awe at the sense they've conveyed so simply.
“I love words and literature, and also what different civilisations do. It’s the whole study of humanity, because I suppose what I care about is that we all have an option to be human and have a society that actually has that sense of caring for each other.”
Leading through aligning
Tobin approaches technology with an understanding that it’s not just about software, and that leading is about having self-awareness and adapting your own behaviour to suit the needs of stakeholders, colleagues and the challenge at hand.
“It's about joining people together in conversation and joining the dots by taking stock of the situation and working out what problems need to be solved and the relationships to align people around a common cause or goal.
“I love being part of teams that like to achieve things that are really hard, because I love that sense of satisfaction when we've gotten there and we’ve made a difference."
She sees her role as supporting people so they can bring their deep technical knowledge to the fore.
“Leadership is all about aligning people's thinking, working out what people's goals are and aligning them, and I need to know how to position conversations and opportunities so that they can do that.
“It’s facilitating to find the right solution at the right time to solve the right problem.”