Elisha Harrington: Why I’m Unafraid to Take Up Space in the Technology Industry
POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of October to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — [email protected].
From the outside, technology can seem like an intimidating field to enter as a woman as it’s a traditionally male-dominated industry. Entering this industry may sound daunting, but it’s incredibly important and the opportunity to work with innovators and changemakers is unparalleled.
We’re at an exciting time in the industry, with speed and scale at the forefront in a way like never before. For example, as we head back to the office, what does the hybrid office space look like and how can technological advancements help? How can we ensure we get the best of both worlds, whether it be the flexibility of owning your morning by going for a surf and not worrying about the morning commute, but also those times where you need to be in the office for an important face-to-face meeting.
Creative solutions are now more important than ever to empower businesses in every industry. This is what I love about working for a company like ServiceNow, our creative solutions help empower our customers to innovate and take control of their day.
I’ve innovated in many industries across many domains and have now found my niche. I started with a Bachelor of Business before beginning my career in technology consulting where I was tasked with leading digital transformations across different industries from telecommunications to banking.
I found that software was driving a lot of the innovation and core operations in these industries, which sparked my interest. I have always been focused on the future, where industries are going and what that means for me and, through this, I realised being part of a software company was really my next step. I believe this is where true innovation is made and I wanted to influence that, so I navigated building up areas of expertise in technology consulting to then work directly for the inventor.
I’ve always wanted to solve challenges in a more innovative way and when digital workflow company ServiceNow came calling, that was my answer. I am currently the Senior Director in the Chief Innovation Office for ServiceNow, reporting directly to the Chief Innovation Officer in the US Headquarters.
It can be quite daunting starting to find a role that works for you, so here are my five tips:
Go After What You Want
I currently work at ServiceNow, working with customers and partners (such as banks, logistics companies and supermarket chains) to think outside the box, grow their company, innovate and build connected and sustainable operations.
I work with the highest level executives in these organisations on strategies to achieve customer and operational excellence. I work with them to imbed intelligence in all that they do and build sustainable operations that harness their data, helping them make real-time decisions and remain resilient and competitive in the market.
I bring the best of industry research, and advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to really help our customers thrive. I knew that I wanted to work for a software company so I spoke to people in the industry to gain an understanding of what it’s like, which confirmed my decision. I wanted to tackle problems in key parts of every business, including IT, HR, employee, customer and operational teams. At ServiceNow, we work in all these areas and, given my broad background where I’ve consulted into all those functions before, I was able to hit the ground running.
Never Stop Learning
I have always had a philosophy of continuous learning ingrained in me which I believe is important — both academically and professionally. I’ve always studied and worked at the same time (I’m currently studying for my Masters of Data Science!). I also work with not-for-profits in my own time to help them and learn how they operate. The insights and deeper understanding I gain is then brought to my day job at ServiceNow.
My role is very strategic, and I am fortunate to work across a broad range of areas, but I know that not every job will give you that satisfaction and expertise that you’re interested in. Having offline projects is another way to get involved in your areas of passion, as the learning you’re most interested in will always be in your own time.
Navigating and researching in your downtime or on weekends is where creativity and passion set in. I’ve always loved experimenting in my own time, working with academics from universities in areas like sustainability, working on volunteer projects with the most brilliant minds in the industry, and learning along the way. It’s more effective than just reading news articles and it helps you bring your best to work each day.
Find Your Eureka Moment
Determine whether you want to be the person that creates, designs, builds or sells as it’s important to determine where you sit in terms of your skillset and personality, to have the most fulfilling career in the technology industry.
There are so many different areas that you can specialise in that it becomes hard to navigate because it’s all exciting; from data analytics to newer technologies like blockchain, there is so much choice! And now, almost every company is a tech company in some way, and tech roles and the need for tech skills is only growing.
The challenge for those wanting to enter the industry is finding that eureka moment, that moment when you decide what you really want to do. Because I’ve touched so many areas in my career, it’s been challenging to find the depth I want to specialise in — until recently when I had a eureka moment and realised that it’s sustainability.
Sustainability is a passion of mine and, while it’s taken me a little while to get there, it all started to connect when I looked back on my career and experiences. I realised that I’ve been helping businesses transition to more sustainable business models way before the climate agenda was front and centre, so it was the perfect evolution of my skills and passion.
Seek Out Experts For a Fresh Perspective
In the academic families I was brought up in (both at home and university), conversations on economics at the dinner table were very informative and I always was influenced by my family, their friends and their knowledgeable conversations.
I was exposed to that at a very young age, surrounded by very mathematical and finance-driven people that were always ready to debate and argue with you at the table. I find that debating and teasing out a topic with someone in the same or similar field helps you see different perspectives and uncover new problems to solve.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Up Space
I am unrelenting and fearless because of the power of my experience, skillset and vision for the industry. I can communicate and be bold in that vision which is what Australia needs to drive the industries of the future. From new climate technologies, new green technologies, and new energy sources — we need bold, strategic thinkers that can navigate what makes a successful business through a sustainable lens.
Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo or existing ways of thinking. Change the old ways of thinking into a new foundation for the industries and take them to new heights. Growth, new inventions, and innovations lead to success in the tech industry. The future of tech is changing all the time so it’s an exciting time to consider a career in the industry.
Whether you’re still at school and looking into university degrees or looking to take your career in a new direction, I would urge you to consider a career in tech. The industry is continuing to grow at an incredible rate, so there are many opportunities and exciting challenges for the next generation to tackle.