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Tech trailblazer honoured as Outstanding Alumnus of the Year

Published:01 March 2021

Sheila Doyle is CQUniversity's 2021 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.

Transitioning 50,000 people to working remotely sounds like a challenge – making it happen quickly a near impossibility.

But last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic took corporate reliance on technology into overdrive, Sheila Doyle and her team did just that.

It is her determination and influential leadership that has seen CQUniversity announce Ms Doyle as Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for 2021.

She’s one of four inspiring CQUniversity 2021 Alumni Award recipients, at a time when adapting, embracing risk and always learning are vital skills.

Based in London and leading a team of 1800 people as Global Leader at Deloitte Business Services, Ms Doyle was commended for championing change, innovation and technology to deliver impressive solutions.

Across three decades, she’s worked at CIO and board level for organisations including Norton Rose Fullbright, BP, Royal Mail, IBM and Deutsche Bank, and in 2017 was named a global top 25 leading women in Chief Information Officer roles by Silicon Republic.

Originally from Ireland, Ms Doyle began her CQUni Master of Information Systems degree studying remotely while working in Singapore, then completing it after moving to Melbourne for a new role.

She credits the course with growing her skills for making connections with people, remotely and face to face. But the study also brought plenty of challenges.

“It was a lot to juggle, and I remember doing my final exam the day before my first son was about to be born,” she said.

“He was breech so I knew he wasn’t going to arrive mid-exam – but I was very pregnant, the invigilators kept checking on me, and offering me cups of tea!”

That was in 1996, and Ms Doyle was one of just a few women in the male-dominated information technology field, having moved into IT in her first job in banking.

“It was the ‘80s and I didn’t even own a computer - I took the job then had to enrol myself in night classes to learn how to code!” she said.

Returning to work after maternity leave, management obstacles to her continuing in leadership roles made her determined to promote equality, diversity and career progression in her teams.

“It was a very frustrating time, and it was only when a senior woman in the organisation recognised what was happening and offered me a new project to lead, that I was able to progress,” she explained.

“So I seized that opportunity, and ever since I’ve embedded that approach within my team, encouraging colleagues to take opportunities, and also laying foundations to ensure future opportunities, especially when they’re stepping back after having time away from the workplace for life events.”

Ms Doyle went on to achieve her Doctor of Business Administration at RMIT, with her thesis exploring the impact of innovation, workforce diversity, and globalisation on IT management and practice.

Innovation has been at the heart of her work since, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic upended workplaces globally.

“One of the biggest challenges for my team was the need to ensure that our 50,000 strong professionals across Europe and the Middle East could quickly work remotely”, she said

“This was a challenge but the team were brilliant, we had all the right plans and preparation and everything worked exceptionally well.”

Ms Doyle said the transition prompted the use of new collaboration tools and a new appreciation for the vital work of technology support teams.

“Normally IT doesn’t get thanked a lot, so to see people on LinkedIn and Twitter sharing how great the IT team was, that was unusual!”

And Ms Doyle said “the challenges of COVID-19 has allowed the digital transformation to be accelerated in many industries, opening up opportunities for young people entering the digital world.”

“The pandemic has accelerated the use of digital technology, and what would have taken five years to implement now takes a few months,” she said.

“So it really is a great time to be starting a career, because there are so many different roles in technology and digital services.”

“My experience has always been that you take what’s in front of you, rather that planning too hard or trying to pin down exactly where you want to go,” she said.

“It means you’re much more open to opportunity – you have to take that element of risk.”

Ms Doyle shares her story on CQUniversity's new podcast How to Change a Life. Subscribe here to get weekly episode from Monday 8 March 2021.