Kathy has held executive roles in healthcare for over 15 years including with public and private providers, consulting firms and vendors in Australia and Canada. She worked in the finance industry for many years before moving into healthcare. Kathy is the Principal of Ockham Consulting which provides specialised eHealth consulting to health services, government agencies and medical/research alliances.
Kathy is a qualified accountant (FCPA and FCAANZ), is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course and completed Leadership Strategies for Information Technology in Health Care at Harvard University.
What boards do you sit on?
Uniting AgeWell, a not for profit provider of residential aged care, community services and retirement living in Victoria and Tasmania.
Brisbane North Primary Heath Network, supports clinicians and communities in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, Moreton Bay Regional Council and parts of Somerset Regional Council, serving a population of over 900,000.
I also chair a community services committee and an industry community of practice.
When and why did you decide to become a director?
I was a member of Women in Technology when they ran an Executive Women of the Year award. One of my workmates encouraged me to apply, I had to prepare a presentation on why Boards need more IT savvy directors (still an issue). One of the prizes was a scholarship to do the AICD course. I have always had an interest and strength in strategy and big picture thinking, but was not prepared to make the personal sacrifices (despite encouragement) to head down the CEO route. I served on the UnitingCare Queensland Board and the Gladstone Area Water Board from 2002-2007 and found I really enjoyed it and was able to make a valuable contribution. I resigned both these Boards when I moved to Canada. Upon moving back to Australia, I was in senior executive positions and did not have the capacity to think about Board positions until I set up my own consulting firm a few years ago.
What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?
I would like another one or two, ideally in healthcare or associated sectors. I plan to maintain some consulting work as I feel it keeps me connected to my industry.
Please outline your career background.
I am a qualified accountant (FCPA and FCANZ) who hated accounting – apologies to all those accountants out there. So as soon as the opportunity arose I volunteered to help implement new financial systems, write accounting policies and procedures for new financial instruments and other project work. I ended up establishing and running business analysis groups as the bridge between IT and the business. I then progressed to Project/Programme Management roles, business unit management and then CIO of a group of hospitals.
Can you outline the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?
Prior to moving to Canada, I was interested in becoming a full time NED. I visited several recruiters in Sydney and got a consistent message “you are not in Sydney or Melbourne, you don’t have CEO experience”. This is despite the fact that UCQ is as large as many ASX100 listed companies and that the skills needed for a Non-Executive Director are different to those needed for a CEO. I decided to give up on it as I didn’t want to get bitter, and when my husband was offered a job in Canada we thought “why not”!
Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?
Those that put the best interests of their customers and their organisation ahead of their own and act with absolute integrity in everything they do. The “should we” question needs to be at the forefront of our minds.
Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?
I have moved a lot and worked with a lot of different people, some fabulous and others not so good – I have learnt from both.
What’s the diversity like on your boards?
Unsurprisingly as they are in healthcare, we have a good gender balance but at this stage, in my view, we lack enough cultural diversity.
How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?
I was a very early member of WOB and re-joined last year. I really appreciate the listing of so many vacancies and the support provided to women who are experienced directors or aspiring to be directors.
Any tips for women starting out in their career?
Don’t be scared to take measured risks, take opportunities that come along as you never know where they might lead. Maintain a strong network but not in a way that is all about what it is in for you, use it as an opportunity to give your time and knowledge to others, and to learn from them as well.
Join some voluntary, community Boards to get some basic experience and a taste for what is involved. I first did this in my early 30s and it provided a solid background for moving onto larger organisations.