She often gets accused of not looking like an accountant, but, for the past three years or so, Rachel Walsh has been Datacom’s chief financial officer.

“I started out at PwC, but, when my boys came along, I took up part-time work helping small businesses do their accounts. I thought corporate life was done but they invited me back in and I got stuck in.”

Being able to get back into corporate life after having a family is something Rachel doesn’t take for granted, and neither, she says, should the tech sector.

“Having a strong maternity or parental leave policy is essential if we’re to attract women into a sector, whether it’s finance or IT. Women of a certain age and at a certain point in their career will be looking to have children and will want to know they can come back and resume their career afterwards.”

Datacom’s current review of its policies in this regard is essential if we’re to attract the right talent, says Rachel.

“We’re very much on a journey and our reputation as an employer will play a large part in the next phase of the company’s life.”

Being able to attract talent is a passion of Rachel’s and she takes every opportunity to encourage women into corporate life.

“There is a juggle, a certain expectation that you can manage all the aspects of life, family, children, work, and everything else. Whether it’s women putting that expectation on ourselves or society or whatever, I don’t know, but it’s important to me that we consider the whole person, that we bring our most authentic selves to work and not put on a façade for the office.”

Rachel didn’t have a specific mentor while she was coming up through the ranks (“I had a number of people who mentored and coached me and I’m very grateful to them," she adds) but is a firm believer in the power of coaching and supporting to ensure the next generation of leaders come through the doors.

“I do believe we’re missing out on a whole section of the workforce if we don’t support those women because they’re the ones we want to be there to be our leaders of the future.“

The tech sector, in general, has been quite poor at attracting women into its ranks, says Rachel, and that has to change or we’ll never get on top of the skills shortage.

“How do you make it more attractive? How do we sell the end game, the lifestyle rather than the ‘It’s a boring job in tech’?”

Part of Rachel’s role involves supporting the Strive programme, which has been developed within the finance function (including risk, strategy and business intelligence), as well as the property and procurement function.

“It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in that it’s by the finance team for the finance team.”

The programme has four pillars that focus on supporting staff.

“They’re community, wellbeing, social, and opportunities for growth. At each location, we’ve set up an ambassador who can support our teams and link back into the Strive committee.”

The different pillars are designed to support all the facets of a staff member’s life, including career building.

“They’re hooked into CAANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) and CPA Australia to help people get the qualifications to advance through the profession.”

While it’s early days for Strive, Rachel has high hopes the programme's philosophies can be expanded to other areas of the business in the coming years.

“Our centralised wider finance function is a relatively new team. We’d had really high attrition and turnover and I wanted to grow a culture of excellence and opportunity.”

Alongside formal programmes, Rachel would also like to see a clear framework for careers that includes more graduate programmes, staff education, and training opportunities, as well as maternity and paternal leave, mentoring, and a clear career framework mapped out.

“This is part of our DNA, part of the Datacom way that we have always valued. I’d like to see that expand out to become a core platform for the Datacom people.”

For Rachel, Datacom is heading in the right direction.

“We’ve been quite fragmented in the past but we’re coming together. I’d like to see more of that. It’s a good place to work. We’ve got lots of good challenges and the chance to work with lots of great people, including women and men from all backgrounds."

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