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 Julie Canepa, CIO at Cisco.
For someone who has featured in the top 50 chief information officers in Australia by CIO Magazine for the last five years, working in IT was not in Julie Canepa’s original game plan, until the dotcom boom.
“I’d come out of university, travelled and had a few odd jobs, which weren’t very satisfying, but I was aware of the hype surrounding the dotcom boom.”
During this period she recalls a shortage of people to fill technology roles.
“I heard so much buzz and energy about what was happening in this industry in California, and the lack of people to fill the tech roles. So I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”
She found that she could add value almost immediately.
“I had the technical aptitude and good people skills which meant that I could bring value right away. I loved trying to solve engineering and tech problems. So far, it’s been such a fun adventure!”
Julie has now been in the IT industry for over 25 years, leading IT initiatives in a wide variety of global and regional roles. Today, she is CIO, Cisco Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China, and is responsible for driving strategy to enable business and IT alignment.
Twenty five years of adventure and thrills
Her love of the industry is the change and thrills.
“It’s the constant change that keeps me engaged. IT is not a place that stays still. This is a relatively young industry. I love that we are writing the rules and shaping the future for something as impactful as technology.
“As we saw when the pandemic hit, it changed our lives. Where would we be if we didn’t have this technology?”
Julie says being part of the changes in society and how technology can help is a part of the job she loves.
“I love that I am constantly learning and working with smart people, this fuels me. I love that it’s dynamic, too. It’s a fun and exciting place to start your career. You’re constantly learning and you have to reinvent yourself. It’s like running a race.”
There are lots of different career paths inside of IT and this can sometimes be misrepresented. The challenge, she adds, is the fast past of the change.
As a mother of three, juggling a career can be challenging.
“I admit I find it difficult, but the technology we have makes it possible for me. We have flexible working and great tech to help.”
On the industry front, Julie says finding new talent to come into the industry along with bringing in diverse perspective, is critical.
“This is really important. What we work on today is shaping our future for tomorrow. We need diverse perspectives here. I am really passionate about diversity in this industry.”
Julie is an executive sponsor at women in Cisco to attract and support women in the industry. She is also a board member for the Diversity Council of Australia.
She is still concerned by the lack of percentage of women in IT.
“When I started back in the USA, only 33 per cent were women. We haven’t made a lot of progress in the last 26 years of my career. This is a challenge we need to overcome.”
She has seen the benefit of having women role models in her own career.
“I was fortunate enough to work under two female CIOs and this helped so much. Having female role models gives women confidence that they can do it. I may not have come to where I am in my career, had I only had one kind of leader.
"I want to encourage women to join IT. You don’t have to have all the criteria, put yourself out there – you won’t believe what you bring to the table. It’s a great career path.”
Julie Canepa is a Member of ACS.