Kim Watson, WiPro Solutions Canada

WOMEN IN TECH: Q&A With Kim Watson, President and Managing Director, Wipro Solutions Canada Ltd.

The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Kim Watson, President and Managing Director, Wipro Solutions Canada Ltd., a technology services and consulting company focused on building innovative solutions that address clients’ most complex digital transformation needs.

Name: Kim Watson

Job Title & Company: President and Managing Director, Wipro Solutions Canada Limited  

Years in the Industry: 30 Years

The Quote That Most Inspires You: If you can dream it, you can do it.” (– Walt Disney)

What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?

I fell into a career in technology completely by chance. I started taking business in university and transferred to Carleton University and took up Criminology along with my business courses. I took a course on SPSS (statistical analysis) and fell in love with solving problems using software.

From here, my curiosity was piqued. When I interviewed with IBM for a student position, I was hooked.

Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?

Yes. I entered the technology field very young and while capable, I lacked confidence in being heard. I had to work hard to build the confidence to be heard. It wasn’t easy. My ideas were stolen; credit was taken, and I was passed over for promotions whereas my male colleagues were promoted.  

What changed for me was when a leader supported me in hiring a coach for me. This coach was a game changer. She challenged me and supported me with visualization techniques. As she said, I already knew what I was walking into so rather than be surprised, build a plan to confront it.

What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?

This is probably a question better for my teams, clients, and colleagues! I approach every problem with energy and passion – often too raw perhaps and not polished.  I think this mentality has supported my journey. 

Raised from very humble beginnings and working from a very young age, I always felt and still do today that I need to work harder than anyone else. I don’t expect others to work as hard as me, but I expect that I will give 200 per cent at all times.

Kim Watson, WiPro Solutions Canada

Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?

There are two key areas: 1) We need to make it easier for girls to succeed in technology at school and 2) As an industry, we need to give more female leaders a seat at the table, and ensure their voices are being heard.

School was challenging for girls in my day with all that ‘we were supposed to be.’ Today, with social, I think it is even harder. We need to invest in more coaches and provide more internship opportunities to give young women a platform to learn in a safe environment. 

When I was in mid-management in technology, sales were made at the martini lunches and on the golf courses. Knowing that I had a child to get home to and the work from the day still had to be done, I felt that more men could participate in these activities and therefore would often be promoted for it. I recall when it became ‘topical’ to promote women. Top talent women were invited to women only corporate events to teach us how to golf and socialize after. However, reflecting on this now, I wonder why teaching us to do what men were successful doing was good for female development.

In the corporate world, companies should start by asking themselves what the barriers are to female leadership, and what can we do differently to remove those barriers and provide equitable access to female leadership. We need to recognize that increasing women’s access to leadership roles can lead to better business outcomes.

According to a McKinsey and Company report, companies that demonstrate higher levels of gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity are more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. We also need to ensure that we are tracking representation and hiring outcomes internally, to ensure there is accountability for the hiring and promotion decisions that are being made.

If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?

Challenging yet ultimately, it has been rewarding.

Are there women in the tech industry who inspire you?

Ginni Rometty. While she is one of the toughest leaders I’ve ever worked for, her work ethic is second to none. Even as CEO, Chairman, and President of IBM, she prepared more for any client meeting than anyone else I knew. I learned so much from her in the one year that I was her as vice president of client advocacy and take these learnings into every single day here at Wipro.

What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?

This is a tough one as I think the myths changed over the length of my career. In the early days, I believe most saw women as secretaries and later on, I think that some saw women as confrontational as we came into our own. 

I do remember one event: I had sold a very large deal to a new logo company, and I was asked to tell the story of how the new logo came to be at the president’s townhall. I told the story and afterwards, my male manager told me that I should have recognized him for the win. Honestly, he had nothing to do with it.  It is uncomfortable to others when women take credit for their own work.

What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?

I think that for all industries, women need more flexibility in the workplace. I was the primary caregiver for my son and in those days, I had to travel an hour by car to get to work. Important meetings generally started at 8:30 a.m. and the stress I felt getting my son to school and being at work on time was insanity when I look back.  In those days, I would never ask my boss to move the meeting to 9:30 a.m. 

Women also go through so many physiological changes that impact how we show up: pregnancy, menstruation, menopause. These happen and can’t be ignored.

Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?

Yes, throughout my career journey I have seen real progress in the opportunities given to female talent. But we still have a long way to go in ensuring that there is equitable access to female talent and that they are given equal opportunity to advance their careers and have a seat at the decision-making table.

That’s why I am passionate about championing and mentoring other female leaders, because I know how much impact this had on my own personal and professional development and the difference it can make. I’m committed to passing on my collective knowledge, skills, and experiences to the next generation.