Who is Nadia Phillips? Women in ICT Awards finalist

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Finalist in the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards and Head of Partner Success at Umbrellar, Nadia Phillips, discusses her journey into the IT industry, battling the glass ceiling and the influence a few kind words can have.

Nominated for her ability to disrupt the status quo of Cloud distribution, Nadia successfully launched and marketed MyCSP.io, shifting the value proposition far beyond the traditional approach of rebates, margins and lack of customer focus.

Flying the flag for the work-from-home flexible working life from the mighty Waikato and raising two boys, Nadia firmly believes work should be what you do not where you go.

What was the path you took to get to where you are today?

I studied a Bachelor of Management from Waikato Uni, majoring in Marketing and economics. Then a myriad of marketing/field marketing/event roles which all taught me different things; don’t underestimate how what happens to you, teaches you. To my time being self-employed while growing two boys, running our Hotrod and Custom Motorcycle business, then stage right enters the IT industry and the rest is history.

But more importantly, it’s what didn’t happen that has shaped this path the most. I gave up roles that made people gasp, missed out on a lot of roles, got made redundant, battled the glass ceiling with pompous old white guys who didn’t like me, I didn’t move to the ‘big cities’ choosing our lifestyle over career. I chose to be a mum and learnt how precious life is, especially when it almost gets taken away from you. I was able to be there for my dad when he battled and lost his fight with cancer. My CV probably looks a horrendous mess, but I wouldn’t change a thing, because that’s life right?! I was lucky, scratch that, I worked my ass off to have people take a ‘punt’ on me. Everyone’s path is different, own yours and kick its butt if it’s not going in the direction you want it to.

What’s the one film you go to time and time again, and why?

Grease. It has to be Grease. Call me old school, but there is something about Dani and Sandy, the wholesomeness and love story, the good girl turned rock girl, and those leather pants! From recording it on VHS and repeatedly watching as a teenager, even back then, I wanted to get lost in a story that I didn’t have to think too much about or get nightmares from, and the cars and the girls were cool. I married a hotrodder/custom motorcycle/dirtbike guy, so I think there is something in that…

More recently, it would be This is 40, because that’s a documentary, not a movie! I am at my happiest with a belly full of laughs, and that movie is more accurate about life than we like to admit.

Who is/was the biggest inspiration in your working life?

My Dad. I never really understood until I was older what he did, but what I always knew was that he loved what he did, working in forestry, he really truly loved it, so work was never a burden. He also chose for our family to stay in Taupo where we all loved to be, even though his work had him stationed in offices in Rotorua, Napier and Feilding. Instead, he made it work with a bit more effort to have the lifestyle he wanted both for work and home. He was an old school worker who embraced flexible working before it was a catchphrase!

Dad was also a leader I aspire to be like, respected and genuinely trusted and liked. I remember being a primary-aged girl and meeting a couple of his hired graduates who he mentored through their career and into ‘best of breed’ in their business. Even today they would drop anything if we needed help. That’s good business, but most of all that’s being a good person.

Another inspiration, I recall this one lady, I can’t even remember her name, she was an exec at American express. I was straight out of Uni and we were doing a team-building activity when she placed a post-it note on my back and all it said was ‘you are a star’. She looked me in the eye and said “you will go far”. I have thought back to that memory countless times. She will never realise how much that one comment meant to me.

Never underestimate as a leader how powerful your simple words can be.

What’s your best productivity hack?

Turn off notifications and take the time to make time. Figure out what the priorities are, what’s actually going to make the boat go faster, and go do it, without the notifications of everything in life beeping at you every second.

We have come to a norm where an email needs an immediate response, or we need to be seen to be ‘on it’ constantly so we don’t ever give full mindfulness to what we are doing at that moment. A simple task can take all day. Think back to when they had to write a letter and post it, and days later you would receive it. Be realistic that technology has made us more efficient, but not always more effective. Be kind to yourself and realistic with your time, and stop cc’ing every man and his dog, and don’t send the email at all if it’s not necessary.

You can choose any three people over for dinner – who are they, and what do you cook?

This took some thinking, but I settled on a good time over a long time, so have to go with Pink, Dave Grohl and Johnny Depp. With kiwi style BBQ cheeseburgers and dirty bourbons, because life for me boils down to good music, good banter and good times with good people.

How do you rate your work/life balancing skills?

Pretty high! I know WFH isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, it has enabled me to both have my career, to be me and do what I love, while also being the mum that I want to be to my boys. I am lucky that Umbrellar truly lives and breathes flexible working, they are results-focused versus time spent at work, as work should be what you do not where you go.

I can pick my boys up from school, go to basketball practice, watch their assemblies or work from the bach during school holidays, but I also get to work from my favourite café, or for those who know Hamilton, while enjoying an afternoon wine from Mr Pickles! For me, it means I am in Auckland when I need to be, and sometimes that means a night staying away, but staying in a hotel in the city is a great way to fill my sometimes very empty cup.

I don’t bake as often as I would like, and we probably eat more takeaways than we should, but they approve of the supermarket cupcakes and love a bowl of fries with mum at the local café.

I am blessed that Umbrellar is investing in leadership coaching for us, and I am learning to be kind to myself and be mindful when it is easy to multitask especially with the new way of working.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

Having stepped into the Head of Partner Success role in March this year, after a whirlwind two years which has a learning curve going straight up, I am looking forward to actually settling down, settling in and creating some calm through structured planning and leadership. We have some big rocks to get over first with recruitment and GTM execution, and our market doesn’t know anything other than warp speed, we work hard, but we play hard. If we can achieve results with smiles and banter over good food and wine, I may just achieve some of what I have in mind…

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Being made redundant and negotiating garden leave when the glass ceiling was coming down on top of me, and wondering if my CV would ever make me employable again. Losing my dad at 33 and losing my softness and trust in this world. But through friends and family, employers who believe in me and a little English Staffy puppy I healed and gave in to love and goodness again and to truly respect my self-value.

If money was no object, what would you do all day?

Explore and be in the moment of it, whether it be here in NZ or travelling overseas, adventure, fitness, health, outdoors, it could just be good food, a good coffee, a beautiful walking track or a full moon. But on a daily, it would be constantly taking the least beaten track. You may have realised by now, I struggle to sit still, active relaxer they call it.

I enjoy experiencing places like the locals, but always with a bit of luxury along the way, because I’m still a princess at the end of the day. If there is a fast car involved, even better.

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and why?

1998, back to my high school years, damn they were good years for me.  Sixth form. Car licence. No cares in the world. I love those people who shaped me. Some who are no longer here, some who are married and still there. My girls have still got my back after all these years. If only that 16-year-old girl knew what she knew now, would I do anything differently?

What’s your advice to women wishing to start or further a career in IT and the wider tech industry?

Do it. The learning curve will be steep. It’s fast-paced, faster than you can keep up, but it’s changing our world. Literally. Everything we do is touched by it, can be improved by it or can empower us to be better, stronger, faster. Embrace it. Run with it, and make a difference with it. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

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