Coaching for women in IT

The Women in IT coaching program helps women working in technology develop their careers in government. Sarah Killey from the Fair Work Ombudsman walks us through her journey.

Sarah Killey holding her award next to the words 'I was challenged to grow'

A little about me

I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by technology.

My father was a qualified electrical engineer and was driven by a strong passion to understand how things work. He was never afraid to deconstruct and fix things and teach me along the way. His insatiable thirst for knowledge also saw him teaching himself programming in his spare time. My mother shared his passion and both of them could see how important technology would be in the future and imparted that to me.

I ended up studying a double degree in business and information technology at the Queensland University of Technology.

These were some of the best years of my life. I made some great friends and found I was able to give back to the community as a Student Ambassador, Go for IT gURL scholarship winner and Google Anita Borg finalist. Through these programs, and my studies, I was able to achieve what I had hoped — to combine my love of technology along with a passion for improving the lives of others.

Joining the public service

In 2017 I made a career change from a global IT consulting job to the public sector. I joined the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) as Assistant Director - Program Manager of the Technology and Innovation branch.

I feel like I’ve hit the ground running since joining FWO and it’s been such an exciting blur. I often get so caught up with delivery and my team that I have little time left to think about my professional development and career goals. I was extremely grateful to have been nominated by my manager and supported by our CIO to participate in the Women in IT coaching program.

The coaching program is unlike any other leadership or mentoring course I have done. It has given me insight into myself and my capabilities, helped me identify my APS career path and provided me with the advice and tools to help me develop.

The program involved 3 hour small group coaching sessions with a facilitator on a monthly basis. This structure gave me an opportunity to set monthly goals, continually build on content and network with guest speakers and other participants.

I really enjoyed connecting with women from different agencies. By sharing experiences and providing support to each other, I felt like I gained a trusted circle of confidants.

The program challenged me to grow. I’ve always felt uncomfortable taking credit when things go well. But ironically, I would hold myself solely accountable when things didn’t go to plan.  I found out that this is common amongst women and can make them less likely to put their hands up for opportunities. So I set myself the stretch goal to put myself forward to be noticed more.

Earlier this year, I received an email calling for nominations for the IPAA QLD Top 10 Young Leaders award. Prior to the coaching program, I would have never bothered my managers for consideration. This time, I raised it with them and they were more than happy to support my nomination. I had achieved my goal just by taking that first step.  

I was shocked when I found out I was shortlisted and later, announced as one of the winners. The award acknowledged my leadership on key projects and initiatives of the FWO, including the In-Language Anonymous Report which helped vulnerable migrant workers and our internal ‘Spark Tank’ winning initiative.

I’m so excited for what the future holds, the coaching program has been invaluable to me and I would strongly recommend it to women in working in IT in the APS. It’s a great way to be supported as you put your best foot forward.

Registrations for the 2018/19 coaching program are open until 19 October 2018. EL1 women can read more about the program and register through the Women in IT page.