How Kelly Drewett is inspiring the next generation of technology leaders
When Kelly Drewett finished high school, she was torn between studying computer science or the dramatic arts. Once she realised that she wasn’t going to be the next Nicole Kidman, she decided to follow the path that came more naturally.
Starting her career as an Application Engineer at Fairfax Interactive in Sydney, Kelly produced and supported applications. She then worked as the Lead Database Engineer for Yahoo! Australia and New Zealand. “I worked right in the guts of the dotcom era, which was very male-dominated,” she says.
The first 10 years of Kelly’s career involved tech-heavy work, including coding and database administration. While she enjoyed the ‘hands-on’ roles, she was encouraged to pursue a different path by her then company’s new CIO. This involved client interaction, uncovering business problems and finding solutions.
Those relationship-building skills and understanding of business operations and pain points saw Kelly transition into the consulting world, which then led to her co-founding Exposé: Data Exposed – a global data analytics and business intelligence consultancy headquartered in South Australia.
Since starting the company five years ago, Kelly’s responsibilities have changed from coding to management. She looks after day-to-day operations, including human resources and account management. “I call myself the Chief Culture Officer,” she says. “Without a fantastic culture, we can’t employ and retain amazing staff, and without them, we can’t make our customers happy.”
Almost half of Exposé’s staff are women – each bringing different skills around stakeholder management and solving business problems.
“These women contribute to an environment that drives the next generation of IT guns,” Kelly says. “The culture that women initiate within an organisation is second to none. It’s completely different yet works hand-in-hand with the fantastic skills men bring to the table, ensuring the longevity of client relationships from all facets.”
A vocal voice and advocate for increasing women’s presence in technology, Kelly says organisations need to do more to help young women change their views of the industry. This change needs to start at high school and follow through into university.
“IT degrees are very tech-heavy in the first semester, and we have many women dropping out because they don’t want to work on the helpdesk or do networking,” Kelly says. “We need to change that in order to open their eyes to the endless career possibilities in the industry.”
As a CEO, role model, and mother of two young children, Kelly is passionate about ensuring an inclusive future that provides opportunity. Her six-year-old daughter often says that she wants to be “a boss lady in technology like mum” — something Kelly says was almost unattainable when she was that age but is a realistic ambition now.
Determined to put her leadership position to good use in developing the next generation, Kelly has set up a project for secondary school girls. Guided by Exposé employees, the students participate in an eight-week program to learn about the industry. The results are always the same – the girls are surprised that they can have an IT career without coding and understand the value of understanding the business side of the industry and how the tech compliments it.
The program is part of Kelly’s ambition to change minds and remove the stigma around technology by highlighting the various career avenues. “The women working in technology are already changing the industry and culture,” Kelly says. “That is what brings me back to work every day.”
We know that as an industry we need greater representation and retention of female talent in our businesses and more women in leadership positions. Our goal is to radically change the face of the tech industry and many of our partners are just as passionate about unlocking female talent within their own organisation and across the industry. Microsoft Australia has been proud to partner with leading women’s development expert Megan Dalla-Camina, Founder & CEO of Women Rising.
Women Rising enables the females in your business to unlock their potential by giving them the confidence, tools and practical steps to take their leadership to the next level, and to help your business reach its goals. We would like to invite you and your team to join us in the July 2021 intake of the Women Rising Program. Learn more and register here: https://www.womenrisingco.com/msftpartners