Cerri Jones, Global Business Development Support Manager, celebrated her 10-year anniversary at WiseTech Global last year.
With two young daughters at the time, Cerri initially joined WiseTech as a part-time Business Development Administrator and has since carved out an impressive career as part of a growing global team.
We spoke to Cerri about her career journey at WiseTech and why she’s stayed for as long as she has, her experiences as a working parent during the pandemic, and her thoughts on International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, break the bias.
Can you share a bit about your career journey?
Last year was my 10-year anniversary at WiseTech, which is crazy! When I joined WiseTech I was working part-time as a Business Development Administrator, and I had young children so the role allowed me the flexibility to be at home when I needed to be.
About four years into working at WiseTech I transitioned to full-time work, and that’s when I really started to develop career-wise. The team grew and the needs of the team changed, and we really focused on developing our skills to be more of a support role rather than typical sales administration. When I initially joined there were only 2-3 salespeople in the UK office, but now we've got a huge region that covers multiple businesses across WiseTech.
I was able to shape the role and the team to suit both my strengths as well as the company’s needs, and I think that’s quite unique to have that type of flexibility in a role. Looking at where we are now and how much we’ve grown, I'm very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at WiseTech and I also feel quite proud of how much both myself and the team have achieved.
You celebrated your 10-year anniversary at WiseTech last year, why have you stayed so long?
First of all, it’s definitely the people. We hire, nurture and reward good people. Working alongside people who are genuinely interested in you makes a big difference, as opposed to just working to meet deadlines and getting the job done.
But it’s also the little things. Often people will look for a job based on the job description, the salary, or the rewards that come with it. But for me, I’ve stayed in the job for as long as I have because of the small, everyday things.
I love that I can come to work each day and decide where I can add the most value. I’m given the flexibility and autonomy to be valuable, rather than sitting at a desk and working through a list that somebody else has given to me. At WiseTech, we’re able to add our own opinions and perspectives, and I think that's where we get a lot of value when we promote diversity of thought.
One of our mantras is creative abrasion, and I think in other companies that could be seen as a negative thing. What I love about WiseTech is that when we disagree, it’s seen as a positive because we usually achieve a better solution in the end. It might take us a little bit longer to get there, and that’s where our mantra ‘slower today, faster forever’ comes into play, but we’re going to learn a lot and in the end, the result will be what’s best for everyone.
Finally, our flat structure and the ability to talk to anyone at any time is a really unique part of our culture. A top-down, hierarchical approach has never worked for me, and I've really struggled in those kinds of environments in the past. But at WiseTech, there is so much crossover with different teams and so much freedom to collaborate with each other which I really enjoy.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in tech?
Looking back to my childhood experience and now looking at my own daughters’, we've definitely come a long way in terms of gender equality. Now, there is more promotion of STEM at an earlier age and for girls in particular, which is fantastic.
But I think whichever industry you end up in, you're going to face some level of discrimination because all people come with their own opinions and judgements. So if technology is what you're passionate about, if it's what you think about when you get up in the morning and it's what really motivates you to be curious and to learn - then go for it.
Whatever career path you take, following your passion is going to give you so much more satisfaction than if you settle for the easier road. Some of the best things in life come out of the most difficult challenges, and for me, even in just the last 10 years while working at WiseTech, I've seen a lot of change and improvement.
Even though you’re joining a company as it is now, be encouraged that change and evolution is going to continue and it’s going to get better and better. And if you do decide to enter the tech industry, you’ll be one more female in a male dominated industry, and you’ll become part of the change.
What has your experience been of the move to a hybrid work model ?
In the beginning there was a lot of talk about how fantastic it is and how the pandemic has brought about a new type of flexibility that we've been trying to work towards for decades.
But slowly we started realizing that women were actually more adversely affected by this situation. As a woman and a parent or carer, the downside is that you’re still expected to do everything which is not always possible.
I think for a lot of parents, going to work can be a form of respite; it gives you the opportunity to be somewhere else and focus solely on work. It was challenging when the lockdown happened in the UK, because it wasn’t a typical work from home experience.
If you had children, you were having to manage them being at home too. This often meant being day care or their teacher as well as doing your own work, so it was very challenging at times. Day-to-day you could have a routine and a plan, when something unexpected happens you have to adapt and be flexible, and this seemed to be heightened by the conditions we were living with
Overall though, I had a positive experience , and I think that comes down to a combination of my colleagues, my manager and WiseTech’s approach. Each of these enabled me the flexibility to make the situation work for me. A company can have policies and culture which promote a balanced, flexible and accessible way of working, but it actually takes the people within that company to live that reality, and those mantras, to make it work collectively.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I take it as a nudge to remind myself that there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made. I feel very privileged to live in a developed country, not to be facing poverty or have any imminent threat to my personal safety. But there are still a lot of places, even in the UK, where women are suffering and it's purely because of their gender.
IWD is a reminder that we need to be making a collective effort to bring awareness to these issues and then take action to bring about the change we want to see.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘break the bias’, what does that mean to you?
I think break the bias is a great theme because often the most difficult thing is not actually making the change, but getting people to realize that there needs to be a change.
Breaking the bias really starts with thinking about what bias is. It’s important to ask ourselves, “where is my bias?” and then be brave enough to challenge our own thoughts and beliefs.
International Women's Day is about gender equality, but there is actually bias across so many areas of our lives. So it’s a great habit to get into, to say to yourself “where is my bias in this situation?” Because it’s likely there will be something there and once you recognize it, you can challenge it and then you can decide whether or not you need to change it!