International Women’s Day spotlight: Jan Ferguson

On March 8 every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated all around the world to recognize the contributions and achievements of women across various communities while calling for greater equality. This year, the theme “Make It Happen” aims to encourage effective action for advancing and recognizing women. In conjunction with this occasion, Microsoft Asia Pacific will be featuring female leaders from around the region, sharing their inspirations as well as words of advice for women hoping to #MakeItHappen in the technology industry and beyond.

Jan Ferguson

jan_fergusonDirector of Customer & Partner Experience, Microsoft New Zealand
Jan Ferguson has been the Director of Customer & Partner Experience in Microsoft New Zealand since December 2008. She joined Microsoft in 2004 as the Small Business Manager responsible for continuing the company’s support of New Zealand’s small and medium business (SMB) community by providing relevant technology resources and support. She also took on roles such as Transactional Partner Manager and Group Segment Manager for SMB and Distribution. Ferguson brings with her more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, including five years with Hewlett Packard in their SMB division.

What empowers you to Make It Happen at work and at home?
I think that working for a brilliant, innovative company like Microsoft enables me to utilize my experience and at the same time capitalize on the connectedness of the organization. No one accomplishes projects or tasks on their own. There are always teams involved and the ability to garner the strengths of the team to accomplish projects is a real privilege. Our technology along with our philosophy of “work is what you do, not where you are” also enables me to deliver results both at work and at home. Microsoft also encourages us to challenge the status quo and think outside the box…this is the ultimate climate for an exciting career.

What advice would you give girls to help them reach their goals and Make It Happen?
Firstly you need to have an idea of what your end state is, what is your next step in your career and then the one after. Without a goal you have nothing to aim for. I am a great believer that you have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then match them to your future role. Play to your strengths, seek out companies or organizations that will turbo charge them. If you are going for a job, make sure you hire your next boss. By that I mean really make sure that his management style and the culture of the company really suits you. This will give you the ability to really unleash your potential. Or alternatively create a business yourself, give it a go!

What would you like to do more to inspire other women to take on leadership roles?
With many years of experience comes a level of self-confidence and an ability to see challenges more quickly and clearly. I take great pride in developing the next generation of women leaders both within Microsoft and externally by being that sounding board and calm voice of reason in my role as mentor.

Who are the women who inspire you the most, and why?
There are many, many women who inspire me every day. However I would say the first person who comes to mind is my mother Dawn. She is now 92 and still going strong. She is 5ft 3 inches of dynamo. A strong, quiet reserved lady, once she makes her mind up to do something, no one can stop her. At the same time she is very family oriented and giving. Just recently, she was edging her garden with river rocks on her own and no, she wouldn’t let us help her! Secondly from a leadership point of view, Sue Leikis at Compaq really inspired me. She had a tremendous business brain, great team building skills and a sense of fun that was second to none. Going BIG was her style. Finally Jane Sweeney, Managing Director of Anthem (a local New Zealand PR agency). She is a delight to be around. Full of energy, great ideas and has the ability to sell an idea extremely well, mind you PR is her game! This together with her steely survival skills and love of her family make her someone to be admired.

Why do you think it’s important to involve more women in the tech industry?
Firstly with only a 30% female demographic in our workforce, we are definitely underserving the female audience. Secondly our customers are both male and female and our decision making should be balanced appropriately. There is plenty of research around the world that demonstrates that the value of diverse boards is reflected in a positive improvement in the “bottom line” of business. (Here’s one research on the value of women in the top Fortune 500 companies) Technology is no different.

How do you think we can inspire/encourage interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) among young females?
I think that this has to happen at a very young age. It should be part of our curriculum from age 5. Kids learn at a young age, so coding should be taught just like English and Maths. They also need to be shown the creative side of technology like web design and movie making so that we excite a wider audience. I had the privilege of visiting the IT Hothouse in Christchurch last October. What an inspiration! A 12 year old was in control of the whole IT network. A 10 year old had designed and produced a digital comic film. They collaborated across all ages from about 8 to 17 and each of them took it upon themselves to teach the others some new technology. The older students were even taking their ideas offshore and commercialising them.

Have you ever considered a career/pursuing other interests outside of technology? And if so, what was it?
I have a passion for helping small and medium businesses unlock their true potential. Along with some able bodied industry specialists, I spent 5 years at HP and around 4 years at Microsoft in the SMB segment (5-500 PCs) marketing, selling and travelling New Zealand, evangelizing resources and technology that would “light up” SMB businesses. SMBs are the backbone of New Zealand. However they often don’t have the time or knowledge to truly unlock their value, so there is a tremendous opportunity here to support them.

At Microsoft, we strive to create an environment that helps us capitalize on the diversity of our people and the inclusion of ideas and solutions to meet the needs of our global and diverse customer base.

Find out more about our global diversity and inclusion programs here.

Read more about the experiences and inspirations from these female leaders in Microsoft Asia Pacific:

  • Pip Marlow – Managing Director, Microsoft Australia
  • Serena Cheung – Director of Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners Group (SMS&P), Microsoft Hong Kong
  • Mira Fitria Soetjipto – Human Resource Director, Microsoft Indonesia
  • Sunny J. Park – Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, Microsoft Korea
  • Rukmani Subramanian – Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Microsoft Malaysia
  • Karrie C. Ilagan – Country General Manager, Microsoft Philippines
  • Siriporn Pajharawat – Director of Developer Experience & Platform Evangelism (DX) Group, Microsoft Thailand
  • Jessica Tan – Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore
  • Flora Chen – Customer Service and Support Lead, Microsoft Taiwan
  • Duong Thi Kim Anh – Human Resource Manager, Microsoft Vietnam

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