5 Minute with… Sarah-Louise MacDonald AACS

14 April 2021

Highlights

  • Get to know your local Branch Executive Committee member - Sarah-Louise MacDonald AACS
  • Sarah-Louise provides insights into what interests her about the tech industry and how she keeps her skills up-to-date, and why she wanted to be part of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and Canberra Branch Executive Committee. 

1. What do you enjoy most about working in the tech industry?

What I most enjoy about working in this industry is it’s dynamic nature. Everything is changing all the time, and with technology advancements, the way we design and implement solutions is always changing.  I also really enjoy how creative the work can be. This industry offers such an opportunity for creatives to come up with new and innovative ways to solve problems and create solutions. The best solutions are often tangential and this is where a creative mindset is really useful. I love that my job allows me to use logic and creative thinking every day. I also love that building technology solutions requires a lot of collaborative. I get to work with a genius team of professionals who are really passionate about solving problems and love nothing more then helping people. It’s easy to get up and go to work when you get to hang out all day with great people and work on creating awesome software solutions for passionate clients.  

2. What is the key piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to lean in and participate. This is a progressive industry that requires progressive thinking, the kinds of people who feel uncomfortable with women leaning in and leading, don’t have the kind of progressive mindset that’s suited for this industry anyway.  

3. Tech changes fast. How do you keep your tech skills up-to-date? 

As a full time working parent, I feel like it is almost impossible to keep up to date with training, nevertheless, I am a really curious person and I work for a company which really encourages learning. We are even incentivised to maintain up to date credentials and to set learning goals! 

I enjoy learning new things and am a voracious reader, however as a time poor Mum, I have had to come up with some tricks to ensure that I can maintain my professional skills. A few things I do to help maintain my skills are: 

  • Constantly “grazing” learning sources and setting personal goals to micro-skill each week.  I really like the ACS’s My Learning Portal as it allows me to create playlists and to set a weekly 60 minute learning goal. I like to take my tablet and complete the learning incrementally over lunch each day, it gives me a bit of headspace to cogitate on client problems while studying and also it is the rare child free moment I tend to get each day!!
  • Pegasystems also provides it’s employees access to LinkedIn learning, I listen to content as I am driving to and from work. Similarly, for my Pega Architecture skills, I love the Pega Academy which allows me to schedule missions.
  • I have a great network of friends who work in this industry, we have created shared lists of podcasts and research papers or articles that I often listen to or read before bed each night. We all add to the lists as we discover new things while “grazing” on topics of interest.  

4. What is your greatest challenge as a woman in ICT/leader/business consultant?

Gender Bias, if you look at the latest reports Australia has a long way to go to achieve gender equity both in terms of pay and treatment. In fact, a recent report by Bankwest Curtain Economic Centre’s key findings noted that it will take another 26 years for the “the full-time gender pay gap for total remuneration to close”  AND the World Economic Forums Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranked Australia number 44.  These reports reflect the reality many Australian women experience in the workplace and at home. 

While I am lucky to work for a progressive company which has been working hard to challenge itself and the industry at large to do better, I still have experienced the impact of gender bias in my career. Often-times women in this industry have to work incredibly hard to get the same level of respect and trust as their male peers. Thankfully, this industry really strives hard to innovate and advance, and where gender parity is concerned, we are no different. 

I personally feel that there have been a lot of changes in this industry to challenge gender bias and I have noticed that many of the people who persist with the kind of antiquated thinking that assumes women aren’t capable, have either grown and changed or are no longer in the industry. 

Nevertheless, there is still so much more that we can do to educate people on diversity issues and to also provide support to women to help provide more opportunities for them.  

5. How has ACS membership supported your career journey so far?

My ACS membership has been incredibly helpful in assisting me to gain additional skills and maintain skill currency but also to build my network. Having a great network is so important for any career and the ACS has allowed me to build a network of sponsors and peers who have helped to guide my career. I feel thankful that I have been given an opportunity to give back to our sector through my ACS BEC role too. 

Find out more about how to become a member of ACS, go to www.acs.org.au