One of several women holding key management roles at New Zealand's largest distributor, Kelly Eyerman talks to Heather Wright about women in technology, her Apple love affair and maintaining balance.
As someone who used a typewriter at University, technology wasn't Kelly Eyerman's planned career path.
Then she borrowed her best friend's Apple II to complete her final term papers and was 'inspired'.
It was the start of an ongoing love affair for Eyerman, now Ingram Micro's general manager for Apple, consumer division and retail sales.
“Technology wasn't a passion of mine until I got involved in the Apple business with Ingram Micro US in 1993,” she says. “At the time, as it is today, Apple's driving philosophy was all about enhancing the user experience by producing the best, most intuitive products.
“I liked the idea of being part of something that made things better, and I still do.”
Her enthusiasm for Apple remains undiminished. Ask what her favourite technology is, and she passionately espouses the virtues of Apple iOS.
“Using this ecosystem to manage my work, life and fun is just amazing. Intuitive and secure, I sync all my devices, manage data, organise my life – grocery lists, family calendar, travel management, emails – the list goes on and on.”
At a time when there's been increased focus on the role of women in IT, Eyerman says she doesn't see a shortage of women in the sector.
“Ingram Micro employs many women in our organisation, both here in New Zealand and globally, as do many of our vendor and reseller partners.
“There is perhaps a misconception about what IT is. You don't need to be a programmer or developer to work in IT, there are so many functional role opportunities,” she says.
“Technology will be the future language and is the future of New Zealand. Technology is totally pervasive. [It's] already New Zealand's third largest and fastest growing exporter, so there are plenty of opportunities ahead of us as a country.”
Eyerman notes one thing is certain: the speed of change will continue to accelerate. “It's exciting to be part of this great industry.
“Girls who are in school now, know more about IT than previous generations ever did.
“I am optimistic about the future of women in this field. You can really have an impact in the world and I hope they grow the interest they have into a fun and fulfilling IT career.”
Despite her optimism about women in technology, she does acknowledge that there have been the occasional times when it seemed extra credibility was needed in order to gain the respect that a male in the same position is assumed to have.
“This has been frustrating, but it is changing and I don't let it get to me. I just carry on and know that this is just part of the job.”
Having strong female mentors over the years has helped, she notes.
“I have had many amazing managers in IT who were women.
“Those mentors/managers showed me that knowledge, dedication, attention to details and courage are all key attributes of being a successful woman in IT,”
For women just starting out in technology, Eyerman has some straightforward advice.
“Do what you love. Be open to giving a role a try - even entry level roles will open doors and lead to greater opportunities.
“Don't settle for less than your best standards - always strive to be the best you can.
“Be a good listener and be diplomatic and fair in your approach and maintain a positive attitude.
“And get out and network and have fun!”
The Oregon native says her current role at Ingram Micro has come about through professional and personal drivers.
“Having worked in the IT industry since 1990, I've continually progressed though many exciting roles and enjoyed a great career.
“There have been many highlights during this time in the technology field. From 2000 to 2007, I worked in the logistics division and had
the privilege to work with both the operations and executive teams at Apple.
“This was a big learning curve, going from business management into logistics and operations programme management, but an amazing experience.”
“This professional path, coupled with a dream to move abroad and live in New Zealand, brought it together and, as they say, I am now 'living the dream'!
It had been a personal dream to live in New Zealand - having visited the country previously on holiday - and that dream came true in 2007 when Eyerman and her husband moved here. A job with Ingram Micro as senior business manager for software licensing soon followed.
The appointment of Ingram Micro as a New Zealand – and later Australian – distributor for Apple, saw Eyerman heading up the Apple division for Ingram Micro New Zealand and acting as a formal advisor for the Apple division of Ingram Micro Australia.
“It is the best of both worlds and I feel privileged to still be working for an amazing organisation and to be living in such a beautiful country.”
Her current role sees her with a team of 17 associates.
Responsible for sales, marketing and procurement for the division, which includes Apple and 20 other third-party vendor brands, Eyerman says she takes a 'very open and direct' management style.
“I set high standards for the team, empower them and trust them to deliver by giving them the tools to execute. They make it happen.
“We work hard and play hard, making the best of every situation.”
It is, she says, a management style honed over the years through 'many' management courses and the on-the-job training of managing teams for many years.
“You learn through doing, but it helps to have training, mentors and a good HR team! The reality is you never stop learning.”
As to the management lessons she's learned along the way, Eyerman sums it up as: “Hire the best people you can, communicate clearly on what is expected, empower them and then get out of the way!”
With 'very active' nine-year old twins at home, Eyerman admits balance is a big thing, and a 'very supportive husband' who helps manage the load, helps.
“I travel a lot and managing balance is not something you can wish for. I have to plan it almost on a daily basis. I try to make time to plan family activities that we can all look forward to, which keeps us balanced.”
Having a job she enjoys also contributes to getting the mental balance right, she notes.
When it comes to technology's role in maintaining balance, Eyerman is direct. “Either you control the technology or it controls you.
“Put the phone down. Turn it off, look at your kids and be in the moment.”
Laughing, she adds “I probably sound like a Facebook post, but it's true.”
That said, she admits to wearing a fitness tracker, saying it has helped improve some life balance as she finds tracking steps, sleep and activity a motivation to move more 'which is never a bad thing!'.
Meanwhile, her passion for being 'part of something that makes things better' continues.
“The industry is going through a truly exciting time where change is constant and accelerating at an incredible pace.
“As an industry we can make a real difference to the future of New Zealand and it's exciting to be able to contribute to that.”