It's International Women's Day - and the perfect time to introduce our new Chief Digital Officer: Graz Kania-Knight.
We asked Graz what drew her to join our mission and, in celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021, we sought her views on the representation of women in the tech industry, how she’s built her career with the support of other women leaders, and what advice she has for young women seeking a career in tech.
Graz joined the business in November 2020 and leads the solarZero Digital & Technology team.
During her 17 year career in tech Graz has focused on bringing the benefits of new technology to improve customer experience and create value. Graz started her digital adventure at KPMG in the UK and then worked with software startups. After moving to New Zealand seven years ago, Graz worked with teams at ANZ, Air New Zealand and Vodafone. Graz is passionate about creating a future that not only takes advantage of the latest technology but is also equitable and sustainable. She is exploring these themes as she undertakes her Masters in Technological Futures at Tech Futures Lab.
What drew you to work at solarZero?
As Chief Digital Officer at solarZero, what gets me out of bed every morning is working with our dedicated teams to accelerate New Zealand’s transition to be 100% renewable. By embracing the latest technology and improving how we work, I drive positive changes to help our customers enjoy the benefits of more sustainable and cheaper energy.
What do you enjoy most about working in technology?
I love that technology stretches our thinking. It helps to solve real-life problems in ways which are people focused. It does not exist in isolation, it needs to be designed and used as part of the larger ecosystem. Technology also creates opportunities to ‘do good’ for an equal and sustainable life. It constantly surprises and for sure keeps us on our toes as there is always more to discover and learn.
What does feminism mean to you?
I see feminism as a positive force of equality in all aspects of our lives. It’s about women and girls believing in themselves and achieving their goals rather than waiting for someone else to give them what they need.
While there have been some positive changes, there is still a lot of work to be done. Whether it’s about female representation in leadership roles, STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries or equal pay. It’s also about our own appreciation of the skills, experiences and qualities we contribute and being recognised for that contribution.
As a mother to my eight year old daughter, I care about how we help girls and young women to prepare for their future so they can thrive. Each of us has valuable experiences which the younger generation can benefit from when building their professional lives. It’s important that we share our learnings and support each other. It’s the topic I’m exploring as part of my Masters at Tech Futures Lab.
Why would you encourage young women to be interested in a career in technology?
While historically we might be used to linear careers, what’s valued in these ever-changing times is pursuing a portfolio of careers and roles. Working in technology is both rewarding and relevant for the future. The skills which are key going forward are problem solving, self-management, working with others and technology skills. If you are curious, love to solve problems and continue to learn, a role in technology might suit you very well. While women make up half of the workforce, we are represented in under 30% of technology related jobs - so there are a lot of opportunities to grasp.
Why do you think IT has such a low representation of women?
To ensure diversity in an industry, we need to see it in education and training. Culture and gender diversity suffer from systemic biases on the part of learners and learning institutions, and tech industry as a whole. Our awareness of the issues has improved and there is some positive action. One of the key positive changes we can influence is helping and encouraging more girls and women to make the relevant education choices, choose technology related roles and support them to continue their career in technology. Xero and organisations such as She Sharp are making great strides in these areas. We can all do our part too, by helping girls and young women in our own families, see their potential and options available at school, and through events and initiatives that help develop diverse skills, grow their confidence and recognise their value.
What is the benefit of having women as technology leaders?
As individuals we bring different qualities ‘to the table’. A diverse leadership team will reflect better the world of the customer, consider their challenges, connect points at a system level and develop different solutions. Having women lead more in technology substantially increases diversity of thought, approaches and experiences which are key to successfully solving problems. Diverse teams are more creative, innovative and ultimately more profitable.
Who are women that inspire you?
There are so many brilliant role models around us so it’s hard to keep the list short! Some of the great women who have inspired me are historical figures such as Marie Curie-Skowdowska; women in politics, judiciary and banking such as Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, Christine Lagarde, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jacinda Ardern, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama; futurists such as Frances Valentine; tech entrepreneurs such as Whitney Wolf Herd, Brooke Roberts, Sonya Williams and Kendall Flutely; authors such as Jo Cribb; educators such as Michelle Dickinson, Susana Tomaz and Mahsa Mohaghegh; and young women who inspire their peers such as Alexia Hilbertidou and Jaskiran Kaur Rahi. I’m also inspired by my eight year old daughter who is confident and spirited (as opposed to ‘bossy’). I want to help her thrive in the future and retain into her adulthood the sense of unquestionable possibility, capability and equity she has at this age.
Based on your experiences, what advice would you share with other women considering opportunities in technology?
- Be clear about your goals, what success looks like, how you will know that you are on the right track or need to change course.
- Believe in yourself, recognise what you have to offer and act on it. Don’t wait for someone else to give it to you.
- Say goodbye to your inner critic. Act on what you can do rather than be held back by what you might not yet be able to do.
- Build your ‘sisterhood’ as your support network, to help you become better and succeed. Debbie Wosskow and Anna Jones, founders of AllBright, call it your personal board of directors. Create truly reciprocal relationships, consider what you can learn from these women and men, and what you can give them in return.
What resources would you recommend for other women?
Books I have recently found helpful are ‘Take Your Space’ by Jo Cribb and Rachel Petero, ‘Believe, Build, Become’ by Debbie Wosskow and Anna Jones and ‘Know Your Value’ by Mika Brzezinski. I find that connecting with like-minded women and men creates a community which becomes a source of both inspiration and action. I’ve been exploring the AllBright community. I also find a great deal of inspiration at Tech Futures Lab.
If you're interested in joining solarZero - especially the tech team - check out our job listings on seek.co.nz