by Divina Paredes

A CIO’s top tip for building career resilience

Jan 22, 2018
Business IntelligenceCareersCEO

All jobs are ultimately about peopleJennifer Cherringon-Mowat, Genesis Energy

Jennifer Cherrington-Mowat is a prime example of how one should be prepared to work in a sectorthat is constantly evolving.

Technology will provide the career of the future, there will be wonderful career choices, says Cherrington-Mowat, who joined Genesis Energy in October 2016, to take onthe newly-created role of executive general manager technology and digital.

“You do not know what jobs will be available,” she says, on preparing for the future.

“Social media managers, Uber drivers, drone operatorshellip; these jobs did not exist 10 years ago. So how do you train somebody for that?”

In her case, it was through a combination of continuous learning, hard work, and never losing sight of the customer experience.

Upon completing her marketing and international business course at the University of Auckland, Cherrington-Mowat left for overseas under the Student Work Abroad Programme.

She returned to New Zealand after nearly 20 years of holding senior executive positions including vice president – digital technology and innovation, at Electrocomponents Plc in the UK, managing director for eBay, director (home and garden, toys, personal care) at Amazon and director, BT Business Online for British Telecom.

In her first overseas stint, she landed in Vancouver, Canada and worked at The Whistler. And it wasn’t because of her skiing skills, she explains.

“I am a terrible skier, I managed to injure myself.”

She worked in customer service, mainly restaurants. “I tell you what, customer service is a great way to start your career.”

At the end of the ski season, Cherrington-Mowat, whose father is English, thought of returning to New Zealand or going to the UK instead.

She chose the latter. She called friends and acquaintances until she found a place to stay while establishing herself in the new environment.

Two weeks later, she got a job at General Electric.

“That is where it started my career, quite nicely.”

When asked why she returned to New Zealand after decades of working in some of the biggest businesses in the UK, she replied:

“What we are doing here is at par with what those people are doing. This is the kind of stuff that is really exciting.We are pushing the boundaries of all of the big data processing.”

She further shares another career suggestion.

“I started in sales, which everybody should be doing,” she says, smiling. “Being told to ‘go away’ is a wonderful career resilience building.”

She draws on her experience at the start of her career, when she was assigned to do cold calling in the United Kingdom.

She says sometimes the person who gets a cold call doesn’t understand the concept of what you are trying to sell.

“And every time somebody told us to ‘go away’,” she says thoughtfully, “we would be like, ‘why did we not get the message through?’

“It just helps you shape the whole proposition to the point where you get to the state you know exactly what is going to grab their attention.”

“Some people can be quite rude to you,” she says. “You learn not to take it personally.”

“Starting in retail is fantastic as well,” she adds. “You see all of society, all types of people and you can change your approach and everything else to try to communicate with them.”

“All jobs are ultimately about people.”

Minding the gap

An issue she is cognisant of is the need to encourage more people to go into ICT.

“There simply are not enough graduates coming through the school system,” she says, and the numbers may not be enough to sustain the economy.

Corollary to this is her passion to encourage diversity, in particular getting more young women to work in ICT.

“We need more of them.”

Cherrington-Mowat says a lot of people are also worried they unable to take jobs in the technology sector, because they have not done degrees in the area.

“There are so many jobs,” she says, “you don’t have to know how to code to do a job in the technology space.”

“You don’t have to understand the ins and outs of infrastructure, architecture, development testing,” she says, referring to what she calls the ‘mainstays’ of ICT.

At the same time, she says, employers need to be more open about some of the skill sets needed for ICT roles.

She says when she interviews potential staff, she looks for attitude, personality and whether they are a team player.

“If they are open to learning, whatever skills they haven’t got, we can probably teach them or get them taught elsewhere.”

Jennifer Cherrington-Mowat with the team of scrum master Sam Fowler at Genesis Energy (Photo by Divina Paredes)

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Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap