“Everyone has a voice, everyone gets to share their perspective."

When Poppy talks about building an inclusive work culture where people feel valued and respected, it’s not lip service.

“As a child I was bullied. Both my parents are Greek and I was one of the only children from a different ethnic background at my school. I was singled out and it’s made me really conscious of making everyone feel included and part of the team,” says Poppy, who is now associate director (customer) for two of Datacom’s biggest customers.

“I’m a big advocate for getting to know people, what they represent, and taking the time to talk to them, especially the introverts.

“Respecting differences is even more important in a sector like tech where you’re often dealing with real diversity imbalances.”

Photo of Poppy Salerno

Before joining Datacom nearly 10 years ago, Poppy held a number of demanding tech roles including Healthscope’s service desk manager, but she says her first job was one of the most influential in shaping her career.

“Working at the Parliament of Victoria taught me a lot about getting along with people with different viewpoints, and about the importance of trust, leadership, and collaboration if you want to get things done.”

Poppy went straight into a graduate IT role with the Parliament of Victoria after completing her studies and was rapidly promoted to a senior service desk analyst role and later to IT services team leader.

“My studies gave me a good grounding in technology fundamentals but once I started working I realised pretty quickly that my relationship-building skills were really vital and were what helped set me apart.”

Poppy’s potential was spotted by the Parliament of Victoria’s IT manager, Grant Inwood, who continued to mentor her long after they had stopped working together. She credits Grant with really shaping her whole attitude to tech and tech services. “His ideas don’t sound revolutionary now, but back then they represented a real cultural shift. He wanted tech to be an enabler, not a blocker.”

Being able to think creatively and see the big picture is another skill that has helped Poppy’s career, and one that has seen her leave a lasting mark.

She is officially recognised in the Parliament of Victoria's Hansard records for her contribution to cross-Tasman parliamentary collaboration, having initiated the inaugural Parliamentary IT Forum across Australia and New Zealand, which still operates today as the Australia New Zealand Parliamentary IT (ANZPIT) Forum.

In close to a decade with Datacom, Poppy has had lots of scope to develop her career, starting with a "very busy" service desk manager role that saw her looking after all the Victorian customers and taught her "a lot about time management".

She has taken on several other senior roles — including head of IT outsourcing, as well as operations and service innovation manager — that have set the path for her career growth.

“Part of my success has come down to being willing to take opportunities to expand my capabilities and to challenge myself.”

Poppy says her latest role is a rewarding one, putting her in the position to make a significant impact for the customer in a short space of time. The role has also proven the principle of ‘tech as an enabler’ and the importance of getting the basics right.

“We had a big customer that wasn’t happy and we’ve turned that around. We’ve done that by delivering on services, doing what we say we’re going to do, consistently, and building a relationship where we can openly talk about issues as they come up.”

With long service leave looming, Poppy has plans to spend time with her young boys — Roman (eight) and Max (three) — and to also indulge another of her passions by designing her family’s new home and doing some remodelling on an investment property.

But she’ll definitely be returning to take on more challenges at Datacom.

Poppy says as first-generation immigrants to Australia, her parents instilled a very strong work ethic and she likes to think they would be very proud of her now.

“There was a real passion and drive to chase opportunities, to do things for yourself, for your family, and for the greater good.

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