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.
This week, we speak with Ange Ferguson, Chief Transformation Officer at Thoughtworks.
Raised in Melbourne with teacher parents, Ange Ferguson believes she got lucky in the lottery of life.
“Growing up, everyone we knew were either teachers, nurses and pharmacists; professions that had names. So my exposure to IT was limited in terms of a future job prospect.”
Her introduction to computers came in the 80s via her father who taught mathematics and physics, and had set up a computer lab at the school at which he worked.
"Then in 1995, I remember using the internet for the first time – I was 17 and I’d just arrived at university. It was exciting to use this technology that connected people to the rest of the world.”
The idea of global connectivity and closing the cultural divide across nations had her hooked.
Ange then switched from studying philosophy of logic at Melbourne’s Monash University to a degree in computing.
This led to a part-time job working in tech support for a major bank, and from that moment she has hasn't looked back.
In 2006, she joined Thoughtworks Australia as a program manager, and has since held consulting and leadership positions in Australia, India, China, South East Asia and the UK.
Thoughtworks is a global technology consultancy that integrates strategy, design and software engineering.
“At the time, Thoughtworks was expanding and was looking for project management people. What struck me were the people who were really excited about what they were doing.”
She adds the enthusiasm for their work was refreshing.
“Often, in project management you work in cultures where people are not hugely motivated. You spend time trying to convince them not to hide at their desk and to get excited about their job. Here, it’s the opposite, sometimes I have to say 'hold on, we need to catch our breath!’”
She fell in love with the staff’s culture of excitement in their work and the global connections the company had to offer.
Sixteen years on, she holds the position of chief transformation officer.
“As a professional services company, rather than a product company or banking business, the variety I’ve experienced working here is massive!”
“I love learning new things. Working as a consultant, typically there will be a new problem to solve, either every six to eighteen months. It’s like having a new job and that’s what keeps me excited.”
Since taking on leadership roles, more opportunities have opened up for Ange.
Initially, she began as head of delivery in Australia, the job expanded to the same role in India, and then extended to the Asia-Pacific region.
“When I started we had less than 1,000 people, now we’re over 10,000 people across 17 countries. At Thoughtworks, there is 50 per cent participation of women in our Australian workforce, and around 40 per cent representation globally.”
Ange is especially proud of the company’s First Nations Delivery Centre.
“Here we are focused on creating opportunities for First Nations people in Australia – this sector is massively underrepresented. There is a huge amount of opportunity for this, and I love being a part of it.”
Technology is part of every industry, Ange says.
“It’s not going away, if anything, expansion and the speed of change are increasing, not decreasing. There is a huge amount to be done and finding more amazing people to do the work, is part of the challenge.”
“I’ve been taken to places both conceptually and geographically to countries that I would have never imagined. The skills we have in technology are portable and create amazing sets of opportunities. The potential of connection is super exciting for me.”
Ange is also on the advisory board for Hitnet, the program bringing health-related information and services to some of the world’s hardest-to-reach people.
“I am pretty work-driven, but I spend time with friends and family, and work on Hitnet.
“People expect execs to be all about the job, when it’s a constant balance to look after areas in your life that make you who you are, so you can be your best at work.”