Broadspectrum’s leaders: Karen O’Driscoll

This is an occasional series about Broadspectrum’s leaders. By sharing their stories, it’s an opportunity to celebrate our people, their successes and their diversity. In the words of inaugural interviewee, Karen O’Driscoll, “Our leaders have real lives too, and have learned through challenges, successes and mistakes that they can share with a wider audience.”

For Karen O’Driscoll, being herself and engaging others has been key to her success.

As Group Director, Digital Services, Karen leads a department of 200+ employees, contractors and partners. Her days are full, with many people trying to get just a few minutes of her time. It’s a balancing act she’s mastered, with the help of able assistant Vera Aleksovska and her husband Michael. (More about her family later).

Her department designs, delivers and operates the technology we use across the company every day. And without this technology, many of us wouldn’t be able to do our jobs easily, or perhaps at all.

“It’s an enormous responsibility when you stop and think about it. Luckily, I rarely have time to. Technology has afforded us untold benefits, but when it stops working, we have to fix it, and fix it fast,” she said.

“One of the main challenges I face is ensuring we can attract and retain people with the right skills in our teams. We need people with flexible technical skills, people with business skills, and people with a combination of both.

“My team is split evenly along gender lines, with a range of ages and backgrounds. Flexible work arrangements are in place where employees or roles require it. It’s a really diverse and collaborative team; we work hard and laugh often.”

Training and development are key, she says. As is ensuring the team is progressive, customer focussed, and leverages the different skills among team members.

Some recent examples of customer focus include developing an Internet of Things (IoT) platform to connect client assets and automatically generate notifications when limits are exceeded. This was trialled at BlueScope Steel; and we are now delivering dashboards through our Panorama Portal so clients such as GoodStart and the Australian Government can access real-time information and easily raise notifications to ensure we deliver work efficiently to optimise their assets.

Karen’s team is now mapping the digital future of Parklea Correctional Centre as part of our ongoing enhancements to the safety and security of the centre and the rehabilitation of inmates.

During her 15 years with the company, Karen has moved through various roles giving her the chance to learn the business and understand the challenges and opportunities.

“I made sure to learn as much as possible from every role and regularly put a plan in place to develop different strengths in different roles,” she said. “I’ve also had some great mentors and supporters.”

When asked what advice she would give to others she’s acquired a few valuable lessons. “Be humble because you won’t always be right. You can learn something from every interaction. Be honest. Always admit if you have made a mistake or could do better. Support others and build a network. Do what you say you are going to do. Follow up regularly.

“I am a strong believer in letting things go” she said. “By this, I mean you have to let go of the unimportant things and you need to be confident to let go of your control so the team can feel truly responsible for their work.”

Outside work, Karen enjoys photography, running and skiing. She and Michael took six-year-old Ethan skiing for the first time this year.

“He was a little over-confident, but he had fun racing down the green slopes in Thredbo,” she said.

“Ethan is an active and happy boy; his autism adds a lot of colour and some interesting challenges to our daily life. We’ve spent time learning and understanding how to help him develop in the best way he can. And we’ve learnt about the psychology of behaviour and the various ways people can communicate.

“It has also taught us lots about accepting difference. We are strong advocates of true inclusion for everyone and are committed to building a future for Ethan where people who think and behave differently are embraced and given the opportunity to be their best.”

And this is where personal and work-life converge to deliver a holistic and better outcome for our business and our people. Karen’s advocacy for inclusion, flexible work practices and helping people to achieve their personal best all contribute to a leadership style where people can thrive and are inspired to work together to deliver better solutions.