We had the opportunity to interview Liesl Bebb-McKay , Head of the Foundery: RMB’s disruption & innovation unit at Rand Merchant Bank. Liesl is one of the advisory board members and speakers of Women in Digital & Data running on 27 September 2018 in Johannesburg.
Thanks for your time Liesl. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it lead to a career in digital?
I trained as a CA but soon discovered a passion for banking and in particular creating change. In my strategy role I realized the importance digital plays in creating successful future strategies and became increasingly involved in researching and implementing projects in this space. A colleague and myself were tasked with setting up a disruptive tech unit for RMB and so the FOUNDERY was born! It’s been a 3-year journey building our lab and I’ve loved every bit of it!
Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority, so why did you decide to pursue a career in digital?
I guess I fell into it, my career in digital was the natural evolution of my life in strategy - all business is digital
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in a male-dominated environment?
Being a woman in a man’s world has its challenges, for me it’s less about being able to compete but more about finding ways to thrive given the asymmetrical responsibilities we have in our lives as women and mothers. I believe that women make important choices as to how we live our lives and these are not always aligned to the way organizations were originally set up to operate - the challenge is adjusting organizational norms to meet the way we work.
What are some of the skills we should be learning to be successful digital ambassadors?
Curiosity would be top - you need to constantly be curious into how the digital world is evolving and then second the ability to keep learning and relearning in order to stay ahead and on top. I guess a huge dose of resilience goes a long way too!
What can women in the workplace do today to help build the foundation for successful careers? Women can be more deliberate about their success. I meet so many young, ambitious women with great ideas for their future but who haven’t taken the time to define what success means FOR THEM, what their own success will look like as opposed to how it looks traditionally. Also I find many women aren’t deliberate about creating their own success - using every opportunity for growth and seeing opportunities as they arise.
Digital transformation is something companies have been talking about for decades now. How to be part of the digital age? With the world growing and evolving as quickly as it does today, and new technology being made available daily, how does a business keep up with the ‘transformation’?
I don’t think digital transformation is any different to a core business strategy. If you want to remain relevant you need to plan for the scenarios that could play out and have strategies in place to stay ahead in all of these - many of these strategies will be digitally enabled
What are three key pieces of advice that you would give to women in digital struggling with digital transformation?
Focus on the strategy - digital is the enabler. Know your audience - different stakeholders will be driven by different needs - you need to understand and respond to these appropriately. Don’t be swayed by the first no...sometimes fear of change drives interesting behavior.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to yours?
Plan, be brave, believe you can
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women in the workplace?
Pull them out of the shade - give them opportunities they don’t think they are ready for, shine a light on their successes.
Fun fact about you?
I’m mad about my kitchen garden!