A 20 year roller-coaster career in software has taken Kim Engel from Sydney to Auckland and back to Australia. WorkCover Queensland’s Principal Test Analyst says she has found an employer whose values align with hers, the flexibility to be a working mum, and a team dynamic which has reawakened her love for software testing.
Like many in her field, Kim Engel ‘fell into’ software testing, having been poached from a developer team. She has always enjoyed the hands-on aspect to software testing, but her career hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Climbing the ladder in her first organisation, she soon found herself managing 75 people. In a leadership position, Kim was drifting further away from the technology that she had fallen in love with. “I was becoming disillusioned with budgets, spreadsheets and politics… I lost my passion for my role, and then the stress took its toll. I ended up taking a year out.”
In need of restoration, Kim and her husband travelled the world. It was an opportunity for reflection and a chance to gain perspective on her career.
Returning home, the couple settled in Auckland, where Kim worked as a consultant, before they moved to Brisbane for a change of scenery. “Working from home in a new city wasn’t good for my social life - although I had the benefits of flexibility, I wasn’t interacting with people. Within six months, I began to seek permanent opportunities, and after a year back in action, I applied to WorkCover - and I haven’t looked back since.”
Kim and WorkCover: right place, right time
Kim says it’s an employer-employee relationship based on shared values, compromise and flexibility (but not to the point of isolation), and a team dynamic that allows her to thrive. And finally, once again, she is up close and personal with technology.
Kim reflects on two decades in software and leadership and offers three pieces of advice to women pursuing a career in technology:
1) Think about your goals, rather than progression for progression’s sake.
“I’ve pushed for promotions throughout my career because I thought that’s just how it worked. Now, I consider what I will be doing in any particular role - rather than just climbing the ladder. And what we want changes over time! In the past, I loved telling people what to do. But now, I know I can show people, and coach them.
At WorkCover, I’m really enjoying software testing again - I love that I’m hands-on and that I can coach people without managing them. I can guide the team towards testing approaches in a flat, peer-to-peer structure.”
2) Back yourself and have ‘the pay talk’
“Women in tech often ask for a salary well below what men ask for. After leaving a workplace, I would almost always find out that I was being underpaid compared to my male colleagues who were earning 20-30% more - but managing teams less than half the size!
Seek advice from recruiters, do your homework and find out your market value. Talking about pay can be hard - it feels taboo. When I was younger, I underestimated my own contributions and achievements - but I’ve come to learn you have to back yourself.
WorkCover has clearly defined salary bands, so I don’t have that nagging curiosity of ‘How underpaid am I this time?!’”
3) Be selective with your employer - ensure they value the WHOLE you
“Women in technology are highly sought-after. Many employers now realise they need to deliver better work-life balance, flexibility and other factors which are important in people’s lives.
As a working mum, I need that flexibility. There is a genuine focus on these things at WorkCover.
I work from home one day a week with my husband, as well as extra days when required. Our working days are just over seven hours, with flexible start and finish times. My kids are starting to get used to seeing my face around again!
I also really value the opportunity to purchase leave – this allows us to have more weeks of paid leave during the year for a reduced monthly salary. It allows me to spend quality time with our kids during school holidays.”
Values and culture: a perfect match
“I know I will be at WorkCover for a while! People seem to be apologetic when they say they stay somewhere for a long time. Here, those people have not stagnated; the company has evolved and technology is always changing. We have great benefits and a good culture, so I say, ‘Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve been here a decade! If you’re learning and you’re challenged everyday, and the company’s values align with yours - stay.”
After nine months in her role, we ask Kim her view on how values are lived at WorkCover.
“When you read about an organisation’s values, you don’t know if they just exist on paper or if they’re actually embodied. But here, the values are genuine. We embody our values of excellence, integrity, responsiveness and respect. We have a really bright, down-to-earth team, and a strong mutual respect for each other's work. I love working for an organisation that exists to help people.”
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