Gail Williamson

Chief Growth Officer - WiseTech Global
AGSM Graduate Certificate in Management, 2001

Tell us about your current role?

WiseTech Global is an ASX 100 listed global technology company with 60 offices worldwide. Our logistics technology solutions are used across 150 countries by the world's largest logistics companies to coordinate the movement of goods and materials domestically and internationally.

As Chief Growth Officer, my focus is on accelerating growth and geographic expansion for WiseTech worldwide, delivering on strategic initiatives, breakthrough technologies and leading the global brand. With a broad role that spans capital markets, distribution channels, communications, culture, marketing and stakeholder management, it's a little like being the centre back on the football field. I am passionate about high growth, globally scalable innovation, and engaging teams and mobilising resources to deliver it.

How would you describe what you do (what you 'make'), your specialist skill?

Our people solve problems for one of the most complex systems in the world - the global supply chain. Technology in this space is evolving rapidly, the problems are deep and challenging and the industry itself endlessly fascinating. We want to make the world better, we want to solve the inefficiencies, improve the sustainability of the supply chains and reduce the resource usage worldwide.

Ideation and problem solving, most closely aligned with systems thinking, is what we do best. It's energising to look at all the different parts of a system, how these parts interrelate and connect, what their interdependencies are as part of the bigger system, and then approach solutions from this holistic angle. Ideally tackling challenges and being able to see these discrete and seemingly disparate parts adjust and align to achieve the best solution. And then of course, the challenge is to mobilise resilient teams and make it scale globally. Regardless of the pressures and challenges, it's a huge privilege to be surrounded by so many intelligent, driven people whose value sets similarly focuses them on doing work of great benefit to future generations.

Culturally, we encourage creative abrasion, extraordinary diversity of thought, second-order thinking, matched with engineered processes and semi-autonomous execution through technology architectures. These underpin the way we tackle everything we do at WiseTech Global, including our technology innovation, so it's been a real alignment for me both from a personal and business approach. I've been fortunate in my career to have been able to exercise that in different industries, roles, organisations, and teams, through investment banking, funds management, healthcare, design, film, and technology sectors across both major conglomerates and small businesses.

How has your leadership style changed or pivoted in the midst of the unprecedented uncertainty we are now facing?

Empathy, curiosity and accountability are key skills in these environments. I've benefited in part from familiarity with some of the issues in supply chain, cross-border complexities, digital technology etc. presented through the extraordinary times we find ourselves in.

In these uncertain times, leaders are stepping up to take responsibility and support their teams. It's important to bring your people on the journey, support and reinvigorate them, you can get into the trenches and aim to be a source of clarity, amongst the external chaos.

The mental shift is a gear change, which involves questioning more, seeking more frequent data, testing assumptions, and doing more scenario soundings with our teams. We all get tested in the face of crisis, but those opportunities we can identify through the chaos, that align to our values, are worth doubling down on. Team and culture are critical factors for any business' success. While moving a 2000+ workforce, working in 60 global offices across 30 countries to remote working appears challenging, our advantage was that as a true technology company we were already leveraging many of the systems, architectures and approach essential to mobilise this change swiftly.

Our focus is on empowering the people around us with the skills needed to face new challenges. One of the practical ways we did this at the start of COVID, for my people leaders in the Growth team and for a number of other key people across WiseTech, was rapidly implementing a concentrated resilience training program delivered in short daily sessions online. That allowed us to refocus on the bigger picture, understand better physiological and psychological impacts, and provide practical tools to manage self-care and support teams. Our approach is to always focus on the dual-track – one is keeping an eye firmly to the future, encouraging our people in building breakthrough technology and identifying opportunities, and the other is moving with agility and resilience through change.

How have you responded, adapted or innovated as a result of this new world reality?

At WiseTech, we've already grappled with many of the issues that businesses are facing today. The challenges as an Australian company globalising and embarking on a rapid growth trajectory. On this journey we've had to identify the pain points, processes and nurture the culture and people around us to build the architecture, engineered processes and behaviours to drive development and quality of our technology - and importantly one that can scale out globally.

We've built our technology so that many of the bottlenecks that usually occur in digital transformation are not present. We have applied that same ethos, vision and commitment to the way we do our work as well. We use semi-automated delivery of information, communication and education and deliver easy to access, highly scalable, configurable technology.

A significant amount of our work is forward asset building - our people are already focused on the future so when the present changes rapidly they're able to move and pivot around that. We're not changing our long-term goals through COVID-19, but we are looking for ways to accelerate our activities.

What was the catalyst for your response?

In many ways our response was an escalation of behaviour and processes that already exist through our technology innovation; focusing on the output, focusing on the longer term, making the appropriate adjustments, testing and iterating. Being able to respond to change is inherent in our culture and is integrated into how we work. And so, while COVID-19 is a unique situation, the way that we are able to respond to it should ideally be a function of the way we think, live and breathe every day.

What were you able to tap into from your AGSM qualification in this new world reality that's been most useful / impactful?

I've a deep respect for lifelong learning, it's a compulsion, and the benefit of attending the AGSM early in my career was gaining an ability to articulate frameworks and learn a common language to voice internally formed ideas and intuitive thought. What the AGSM imbues in its graduates is the need for deep thinking, skills of good followership as well as leadership, the precision of execution, engagement and dynamics of teams, and an appreciation of diversity and cross-functional capabilities.

I'm forever reinforcing my teams to 'think up and out', meaning to think about whether the idea has universal applicability - can it be scaled? Can the execution be semi-automated with only minor localisation? The AGSM brings that kind of global thinking to the local cohort. In times of uncertainty and rapid change, having the tools and knowledge to lead with conviction and strength are invaluable, and a driver of business and personal success.

What are you most optimistic about over the next few months?

I'm optimistic that we're going to see a more humane and empathic view of all the layers and parts of our communities, as we all face unprecedented challenges and circumstances. I am also genuinely excited about the rapid embracing of technology and digital. Innovation is a critical element in climbing out of the global challenges, exacerbated by old world industrialised models, that we face across our communities. Greater adoption of technology will create new pathways and advance our collective potential in ways we never envisaged. Those who may have originally resisted this change will be running toward it. We're going to see a greater recognition of the power of technology to create jobs.

I'm very proud of the fact that I am part of an Aussie homegrown global powerhouse that has set a challenge to create something of true value for the world. The world has never been more aware of the criticality of supply chains than it is today. And the fact that in this environment of fear and uncertainty, we have chosen to double down and make sure that we can deliver even more for our customers, our people, our communities and the world, I find that exciting, enlivening and purposeful.