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 Cherie Ryan, Vice President and Regional Managing Director at Oracle ANZ.
Cherie Ryan admits to being a geek.
When the technology boom was taking off some twenty years earlier, she knew where she wanted to be.
“There was a buzz around how tech was changing the way companies worked internally. We moved from documents in Excel to systems that all linked together. Data management became big. I wanted to be a part of this.”
Recalling her first role in a very male-dominated IT sales company, Cherie says it was very much a boys’ club. “The whole sales team was male. I was the first female to join.”
But she decided early on that her gender would not affect her work or her career goals.
“I said to myself, ‘Cherie, yes it’s totally male-dominated, but you have to stand your ground, have confidence and take the challenge’. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped doing that; this has become my ethos throughout my career.”
A different approach
Cherie believed her approach would differ to that of the males and that she could bring an element of engagement.
“As women we are a lot more consultative and engaging. I did things differently to the guys: I was engaging with partners; I wasn’t just focused on the deal or high-fiving everybody; or thought, I’m the best guy in the place.”
“Building ongoing relationships with customers is where I put my focus. This made me more successful. Integrity is very important, and I was trusted by customers and partners.”
Today, she is Vice President and Regional Managing Director at Oracle ANZ. Her focus is on infusing a customer-centric culture across the organisation. What she loves since stepping into the role in 2019 is rebuilding the technology leadership.
“There has been this huge change management effort that has enabled us to bring in fabulous leaders who deliver a fresh approach to working with customers. It’s been very motivational for me.”
During the pandemic, Cherie found one of the biggest challenges was not meeting her colleagues in person.
“I came into the role and hadn’t met many of my employees. I’ve been doing all this leadership change working from my home office. I know others who came into roles during the pandemic and felt the same.”
Also important to Cherie is building relationships with the federal and state governments. “Looking to the future, we are going to need a lot more IT people. Oracle has been building its technology agreement with the government. We need to start bringing people into our industry.”
To encourage careers in IT, Oracle runs a program with universities and schools.
“We have a program called Fast and Curious – this is one of the ways Oracle is working with the schools to encourage STEM and make it really fun. Another one is called Social Ventures Australia, where school children can connect and chat with professionals in different tech careers.”
Fortune favours the prepared
Reflecting back on her career, Cherie says she feels extremely fortunate. Back in 2003, she became seriously sick with a very rare lung and artery illness that almost took her life.
“I was on death’s door. Then magic happened. A visiting surgeon – one of only three in the world who knew how to fix my problem – was at the hospital. He operated and saved my life. I felt I’d been given a lottery ticket to life.”
Prior to her illness, Cherie worked long hours sometimes until 2am, surviving on two or three hours of sleep.
“Back then I felt my job and title was important. I learnt a big lesson lying in hospital. I lost connection with that young person who took time to do other things. I became too focused, too dedicated, to my detriment.”
“Although I nearly died, I was lucky that I had a chance to reflect on my life and go back to being a person with a broader vision on the world and not so work focused.
“This incident shaped me; I see it as a godsend and it helped me to rethink how I live my life.”
One of her daily pleasures is walking her two cocker spaniels with her husband.
“We leave the phones at home. We get out in nature and chat without the phones ringing and vibrating. That’s sanity to me and we all need sanity.”