Kathryn Byrne, Chief Strategy and People Officer at Plexure
Having dreamt of becoming a vet at a young age and majoring in Arts at university, working in tech was not the obvious end result for Kathryn Byrne, Chief Strategy and People Officer at Plexure.
We caught up with Kathryn to learn more about how she somewhat "fell" into tech overtime, what her role actually entails day-to-day, as well as some great advice about having the confidence to voice your opinion. Thanks for sharing your insight, Kathryn.
“..as an Exec, you should have all the answers. Simple answer, I don't, and I would challenge any leader to make such a bold claim.”
Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what it is you do?
I work with lots of clever people to understand where our business is going and how to get there. A bit like drawing a map for a wild road trip...not forgetting the essentials like fuel, directions and good company!
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
My role is an interesting mix of People and Culture, Marketing, Strategy and Partnerships / M&A. It means each day is different and includes a lot of context switching (which keeps me on my toes)!
I could move from reviewing a conference pitch deck to a budget meeting, to a Values workshop or a partner meeting. I love the variety and wouldn't change it for the world! It does mean my time management and prioritisation skills are kept finely tuned.
What are some of the common misconceptions about working as a Chief Strategy and People Officer?
The most common is that as an Exec, you should have all the answers. Simple answer, I don't, and I would challenge any leader to make such a bold claim. I like to think that a good Exec can harness the collective brainpower of the business in a way that creates something greater - for the business, the team and the individual.
“If I'd had my way as a kid, I would have been a vet.”
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
I come from a family of teachers, so business, let alone tech was not something I grew up familiar with. I was an Arts major at university and only "fell" into tech when I got my first job at Accenture.
It was the time of the dot com boom (I'm dating myself) and everyone seemed to be jumping on the tech bandwagon. I "fell" into the more commercial side of it and helped start-up businesses to build their business case, teams and partnerships, which I thought was pretty cool!
If I'd had my way as a kid, I would have been a vet. In fact, I studied a lot of science topics at high school and almost applied for Vet science at uni. Part-time working in a vet put that idea to rest...you have to be made of tough stuff!
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Plexure?
I have spent half my career working in consultancy (IT, Implementation, Strategy) advising businesses across numerous industries, and half my career working within a business, mainly in Strategy roles but with a dose of Marketing and Analytics.
In a previous role, I fell in love with the power of customer data, which led to an interest and then a role in Loyalty. When I moved to NZ, I was keen to stay in the Loyalty space and was introduced to Plexure...
“Have the confidence to voice your opinion, even when others may not share the same view.”
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Have the confidence to voice your opinion, even when others may not share the same view. It's diverse thinking and constructive challenge that can move a topic forward.
What are the core skills required to be good in your role?
Be curious. Ask questions. Try to think in the customer's shoes.
Plus at least have a level of fellowship with Excel and PowerPoint!
Lastly, as Plexure continues to grow and evolve, what are the key traits and characteristics of people that will be well placed to work there?
We are a team. As individuals, we all have strengths but together we are stronger.
We are a scale-up business. Understanding that not everything will be perfect all of the time and that we each have to be comfortable in operating with ambiguity or have a role to play to bring about positive change.
Bring your passion and focus. We work in an exciting industry and have a lot of opportunities to pursue. Only people can unlock our strategy.