Ruth Rowan Spotlight

WITI News Staff

May 15, 2023

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Q: How do you balance your work and home life?

A: One, I think you have to do something that you enjoy and you love. I certainly find that in a leadership role, work comes into my head at all kinds of crazy times, and if I didn't love what I did and I didn't care passionately about it, that would be really annoying. I think that sense of finding something that you enjoy doing that you love that you can find a real purpose from is really important.

The second thing is you have to defend the things that matter to you. For me, weekends are non-negotiables, I really protect my weekends from work. I try to make sure that I can exercise twice a week. I like to have dinner with my husband. For me, protecting time for myself and protecting time for my family is really important. I really strongly believe that the way that you make work life and work and home life work is by being protective with your home life.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

A: Be yourself at work. But this sense of if you can really show up as your authentic self, whether that's, how you dress, how you speak, the hours that you work, the things you talk about are that are important to you, the more transparent you'll be and the more successful you'll be. And I've certainly spent probably the first 10 years of my career trying to be something that I'm not. You know, and that was back in the 90s, you know, where the world was a very different place.

Q: What is your biggest obstacle?

A: Probably myself. I think for so many female leaders, it's the person that sits on your shoulder that is creating doubt, that imposter syndrome. I think my biggest hurdle has been getting out of my own way, being more confident in myself, pushing myself forward more, taking more risks. Being myself more, rather than what I thought I needed to be to be successful in a large organization.

Also, speaking the truth. Just calling out the stuff you see that isn't working, that isn't good enough. I think the more I really encourage people to do that, the more I can create a safe space where people can challenge things that aren't working so we can get better.

Q: If you could start over, what would you do differently?

A: I would trust my instinct more than I did early on. I don't think anybody that made a decision that went with their instinct was wrong. If I could say anything to anyone it would be trust your gut, it's generally right.

Q: What books are on your night stand?

A: I always have like three or four different books on my nightstand. There's always the ones that I should be reading, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. One of my favourite books that I’ve just re-read is A Human Kind by Richard Breggman, who is a Dutch psychologist. If you have not read that book, it's just a brilliant book and I've gone back to it several times over the last couple of years. It has a very optimistic view on the power of humanity.

Q: Who’s your hero?

A: I have a number of heroes, but I think the first one would be my mum. I was born in the 70s, and she was a working woman who worked full time, which was quite unusual in that time. So I think really early on, she created a role model for me with an expectation that I would work.
I went to co-ed school, co-ed university. But my expectation is I just have an innate expectation of equality. Which has pluses and minuses, I think, you know, because I expect it, I don't always fight for it or create that as the level playing field. And so sometimes I'm surprised when I see inequality because I'm not expecting it.

But the positive is, you know, where I see it, I just call it out, and I think that's really important.
But the other role model is a woman from the tech industry who is a little bit ahead of me in her career. Her name is Karen Walker, and she was the CMO of Cisco - which is when I first met her - and she then became the CMO of Intel.

Sometimes when I'm in a bit of a sticky situation or I'm not sure what to do, I think, “What would Karen do? How would Karen approach this?”. She's just a really inspiring marketing leader.

Q: What does success mean to you and what has the achievement of success cost?

A: I think in a purely definitive sense, success is making sure that we're meeting our business goals and our business objectives. And there's quantifiable numbers with that. Those are the easy things for us - to say “yes, we hit our goals,” or “no we didn't hit our goals”.

I think the more difficult thing is when you link success to purpose. It's harder to measure, but actually has far greater impact. So I think for me that's what success is all about - asking, “Are we making demonstrable progress against achieving purpose?”. At Avanade we talk about how our purpose is to make a genuine human impact. There are many things that we look at in doing that, from bringing a more diverse workforce into our marketplace to helping our clients achieve their goals. For me that's real success; it's quantitative and qualitative.

Q: Do you feel you’ve reached your full potential?

A: I would say no, because I always think there's more potential. I don't think there’s anything holding me back necessarily apart from there being so much that I've yet to discover in the world.

There's so many scenarios, challenges, opportunities that I’ve yet to come across. And I think just as each of us gains experience with those, it just creates this richness of tapestry of who we are and what we know and our experiences.
I don't believe anybody has actually ever reached their full potential because there's always more to experience and that experience adds more depth to who we are and what we can do.

Q: Is perfection possible?

A: Certainly in our industry, I don't believe it is, because I think technology is moving too quickly for perfection to be possible.

Q: How do you take your whole self to work?

A: I am a big believer in transparency and I think that's how you take your best self to work. If something's going on at home - if the dog needs walking or your child's sick or something's going on that is going to affect your ability to work - I'm a big believer in being transparent. I'm a big believer in being transparent about the things that excite you, and even being able to express where you're disappointed or you're frustrated. I think that allows us all to be more human. The more we can be ourselves and express our humanity the more successful we're going to be.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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