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[Leadership Pathways] Failure is a kinder teacher than we give her credit for

In our Leadership Pathways series, ThoughtWorks leaders from around the world reflect on their career journeys, experiences in leadership and advice for technologists. In this episode, we sat down with Sue Visic, Director of Data & AI at ThoughtWorks Australia to learn more about her journey as a leader in tech.

What was your first job?

My very first job was at the age of 14 years and nine months (the minimum legal age to get a job in Australia) working the checkout at our local family run supermarket. My first “proper” job was working as a marketing assistant for a geospatial software development and drafting office for the resources industry in my home town of Perth.

What is your personal mantra to motivate and inspire you to be your best self?

I really love the Da Vinci quote “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Situations and people are always more complex than we give them credit for, and being able to actively listen, engage and distill key information to create a narrative and simple path forward is something that I aspire to do every day.

When did you realise you were a leader?

I keep reading stories of people who knew they were leaders from a young age. While it’s true my dream job as a 10 year old was to be the Prime Minister of Australia, I don’t feel like I truly led a team until my early 20s. It was with a team that needed someone to speak up, bend the rules a little, and rally people to a common purpose. I didn’t realise I was the leader of that team until much after the fact. At the time, I just leant in and intuitively knew what needed to be done to get things moving. More opportunities to lead kept presenting from that point onwards, and I kept showing up.

Is there a moment in your career where you feel like you failed? How did that help you grow?

Lots of moments and lots of mistakes, some obviously bigger than others, but all of which added to my resilience ledger and more importantly always inspired positive changes in how I approach my work and how I lead teams. Failure is a kinder teacher than we give her credit for, and for many, it’s an opportunity to realign, rebuild and sometimes reinvent what we want to focus on. Failure has taught me to accept my mistakes, to keep my head up, approach a problem head on and never let it get the better of me.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I am not sure there is one specific thing that I am most proud of but what brings me the most joy is in inspiring people to see what others see, which is the best version of themselves. It’s common for people to have self doubt, fear and be intimidated by the task at hand. But helping people to give their best and then seeing them achieve the outcomes is something that gets me skipping to work.

What’s important for aspiring leaders to know about leadership?

So many things! Trust your instinct, always tackle the hardest thing first every morning, give credit where it’s due, really get to know your people and what motivates them, speak out when something is not right, be optimistic, be decisive and always stay humble.

What do you appreciate the most about working at ThoughtWorks?

This one is easy! I think it’s the freedom to be curious, the encouragement to learn and the space to build your own path. Because ThoughtWorks has such a flat hierarchy and appetite for autonomy, it’s really easy to find a space that you are passionate about and make meaningful contributions and change.

What do you love about tech?

As a self-professed change agent, being in the tech industry that is always evolving gives me the drive to constantly learn and adapt. It is a space where something that may not have even been in the realm of possibility mere moments ago can suddenly change the way in which we interact with each other and the world around us. It is also an industry that attracts amazingly creative people who inspire and push me to keep exploring new ways of thinking. I am lucky to be surrounded by these people on a daily basis.

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