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Post-modern CTO

Divina Paredes | Feb. 18, 2013
Vodafone NZ's Sandra Pickering employs 'ruthless prioritisation' to tackle redoubtable tasks.

She points to the experience over 20 years ago when the four banks ASB, Westpac, Bank of New Zealand and ANZ formed Paymark (then known as ETSL) to set up the network that allows the processing of bank cards in point of sale terminals. She says this is the reason why anyone can use an Eftpos card in any bank or ATM or any shop in New Zealand "ahead of the world".

"That is what is going to happen with near field communications. I think that the industry needs to set standards and you want common standards, common operating systems and security and all those things," she says. "Customers don't want to say they are getting different security settings among carriers. They want to know that the industry is providing a common set of standards and practices like the ATM network we have got."

Coming into IT

Pickering has been working in technology jobs for the past 31 years. "My career has been one that has been built on experiences over a long period of time," she says.

Her first job right after completing sixth form was in an insurance company. "I started at the very bottom, worked as a trainee tape operator, and then basically worked up from there."

The same company trained her in programming, and this paved the way for other roles in her first 10 to 15 years of work. She got into the telco industry when she joined IBM in 1987 and worked on developing systems for Telecom.

IBM started selling the software it had developed across the globe which was how she got into management. "I was asked to lead the team to go to the UK. From there, basically, I was managing teams in the UK, NZ and the US to develop software and install it."

In 2003, she enrolled at the University of Otago and completed a post graduate diploma in business studies. "The practical things I learned on the job after all those years were a real bonus when it came to do the postgraduate work. It was great, I really enjoyed it."

Pickering is involved in two Vodafone initiatives to address the IT skills shortage -- the graduate programme and apprenticeship scheme. She has also set up Inspiring Women into Technology, speaking at forums encouraging more women to consider a career in IT.

"There is a big talent pool in our country that is not being utilised and potentially there won't be the types of jobs or the training that I got when I got into the industry. We need to train people," says Pickering. "The whole environment today where we want people already trained [and] have got the skills, we need to rethink that strategy. As big business, how do we bring young people and train them up and provide an environment where they can learn? And then we can create a much bigger talent pool for our industry."


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