Friday, 06 November 2015 13:30

Interview with Kerrie-Anne Turner – her accidental IT life

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Kerrie-Anne Turner is both a power in the IT industry and a finalist in this year’s NSW Telstra Business Women’s Awards. She is a truly influential ‘Woman in IT’.

Her history goes back to Imagineering and Merisel days but many would also know her from a 15-year stint with Symantec.

“As a high school student I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up and my answer was nothing to do with computers” Turner said. “So contrary to my stated position I applied for a job with Jodie Rich’s software distribution company Imagineering (later Tech Pacific and then Ingram Micro) and ended up supporting Word Perfect and Lotus 123 – amongst many other things – it was a wild ride”.

She was ‘enticed and inspired’ by then President of Merisel, Verilyn Smith to join it and run the huge SofTeach weekend distributor/dealer and education roadshows. It was hailed by Paul Zucker of Australian Reseller New as “Reinventing the PC show where real business was done. Congratulation Kerri-Anne.”

Merisel was eventually swallowed by Tech Pacific and Turner joined Symantec. Then followed a 15-year career and meteoric rises including a move to Singapore as General Manager – India, Sales and Marketing Manager South East Asia and finally Senior Director Global Services. She left in 2007 – for the most part to raise her young family.

“I bled yellow in a big way and saw the transformation from a consumer focused company [Norton] to enterprise through acquisition,” she said [a common reference to Symantec’s corporate yellow colour and its amazing staff loyalty].

That ‘rest’ did not last long and she was again ’enticed’ to join StayInFront as Managing Director and later both as MD and Vice President, Asia Pacific.

To say this woman is driven would perhaps be an understatement. “My husband and kids know mummy is always busy – an executive,” she said. I found her a delight to interview so read on about her recent achievements.

The rest of the interview is paraphrased to avoid overuse of ‘she said’.

StayInFront allows business to do what it is good at – better, faster, cheaper, sharper, harder … It has, as one area of specialty, the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) field. It is all about empowering the mobile sales force – in the field - to help customers with real time stock levels, to talk about trends and to help the customer order what is going to sell. It is cloud driven and is really about providing good customer relations and protecting the Brand. A lot of the software development has been done in Australia and rolled out globally she says proudly.

Back to Kerrie-Anne Turner.

She is known in the IT industry as a visionary thinker with organisational agility and a keen sense of problem solving, underpinned by exceptional sales and strategic skills, and strong business qualifications. She has a proven track record of securing profitability irrespective of operational landscapes and at all stages of the business lifecycle: acquisitions, emerging ventures, international expansions, M&A, and turn-around scenarios.

In her spare time, she is a Board Member Fundraising, Advocacy and Marketing for Family Planning NSW, and leads a Mentoring Circle Program for NAWO (the National Association for Women in Operations).

We spoke about helping and mentoring young women – especially in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. 

The world needs great leaders and it needs more great women leaders in the technology sector. Did you know that our young women are dropping STEM subjects and development paths that lead to careers in technology at an extraordinary rate?  The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported a 20-year decline in year 12 girls participating in STEM.  We need to change this. As Sheryl Sandberg said – we need to “lean in”! 

If STEM is not your thing there is also opportunity in IT for the creative types – sales, marketing, support, and more. It should be more about fostering what it right for the student that what the schools want to teach. In the end its about following your passion. 

We spoke about the future – where to now. 

I have a lot more to do at StayInFront so they need not worry. They have been so supportive of my external involvements.

I recently delivered a lecture on leadership at the University of NSW’s LEAD program where a young woman asked me what I thought my legacy would be. Interestingly I hadn’t thought about that until the Telstra judging panel asked the same question.  Now I know the answer. It is the development and fostering of talented women for leadership roles.

I perhaps would like to create a ‘women in business’ community – no gender card implied – that becomes a trusted network for women to discuss career paths, education needs, mentoring, and more.

Whatever I do it will involve vision, passion, will, enthusiasm, urgency, drive … As I said to some close friends – I will use my skills for good – not evil. Cape optional.

So ends an amazing hour with Kerrie-Anne Turner. It is hard not to be impressed at her achievements and at how she has influenced some major directions in both the IT industry and in her charitable work.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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