Winner of the ARN Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) Achievement (Partner) award in 2021, Jane’s career began in the mid 1990s with strategy and project management roles.
She has since gone on to a variety of top-level leadership roles in large global technology organisations and is today recognised for her extensive technology consulting experience, client centricity, leadership qualities, passion for people and belonging, and embracing difference.
How did you get your break in the IT industry and progress to the role you have today?
I began my career working in healthcare, with a company called Southern Cross Healthcare. Southern Cross is a private health insurer, insuring one in three New Zealanders, as well as running hospital and clinics. It was in this role that we started looking at how to achieve better health outcomes for communities. We ran a healthcare pilot which brought together the funding for public and private services to create more value and a healthier community.
During this time, I started to spend more time looking at systems and data, thinking about the need to underpin what we were doing with a more robust technology framework.
I soon ended up moving to Australia around this time, and it was when I was introduced to a CRM start-up called Siebel, where I learned how to code. The skills were invaluable to help me work on the opportunity of creating a single view of the customer and patient. With Siebel, I worked with many clients across APAC, Europe and Silicon Valley, where I helped in product design and engineering the product.
After a time, I began to think more about how I could use my skills to help customers implement different solutions, which led to my move into professional services.
What have been some of your career highlights and proudest moments?
A huge motivator for me is being able to have a strong positive influence on our communities. Some of my proudest moments have been working on systems and programs that deliver real social impact. During my time with Siebel for example, we worked closely with governments’ systems to aid with child protection, or on programs to help manage case work for disability services. These are the types of projects that have been the most meaningful for me. You know when building a system like that the difference this will make to a child’s safety.
One of the big things I said to the team when I started with Cognizant was, whether you’re a big global organisation or a local business, you need to embed yourself in the community that you live and work in. We need to think about the needs for Australia and our commitment in building digital skills. This has been reflected with the local launch of the Cognizant Foundation and the work we’re doing on indigenous internships and skills development among disadvantaged youth.
What are some of the key lessons you've learnt along the way?
I’ve learnt that people really need you to listen. It doesn’t matter what level you are, whether you’re the leader of a company or working as part of a team delivering a project, a critical skill is to listen and ensure people are heard. Creating an environment where people have an active voice and can contribute is fundamental to team success.
Something that has always stuck with me is a mantra from the All Blacks team (which is very apt given I’m a Kiwi): “Leave the jersey in a better place.” We’re custodians of the business here at Cognizant, with one eye on the now and one eye on the future. We must ensure we not only take our responsibilities seriously to improve the business, but also consider what we’re building and leaving for future generations. The future goes beyond just our leadership team too; it’s how we think about and engage our people, customers, culture and our community as a whole.
What are some of your professional ambitions in the months ahead?
One of my biggest ambitions is to navigate and support our team to find a new post-pandemic work mode that will be more flexible than what we have experienced previously.
The toll of the past two years on individuals mentally has been significant, coupled with the clear digital talent shortage in this market, everyone has been working incredibly hard to meet both professional and personal demands. The personal needs of our people are really significant at the moment, we all have our different levels of resilience too. There is a responsibility and expectation on employers to listen, guide and help people navigate through this.
Who or what has influenced you professionally?
I’ve been fortunate that right from the start of my career I had incredible leaders who took an interest in me and the work I did. Leaders who lifted me up and presented me with opportunity and support, and who also taught me it was ok to make mistakes – just not the same one twice!
I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great mix of both male and female leaders. And the ones that have shaped me and motivated me are the ones who don’t forget the human element of what we do, which is so important in a professional services company. Our global leader, Brian Humphries, is a great example of this – he is incredibly personable and interested in our people, just as much as the growth of the business.
These are the people who you want to work with, who create that passion for what we do.
If someone is giving you a hard time, stop and ask yourself “what would Michelle Obama do?” which helps put things into perspective for me!