From being part of a startup in Israel to working in a senior technology position at Telstra, our Director of Innovation, Ayala Domani, has an interesting career.
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We caught up with Ayala to have a chat about the lessons she’s learnt along the way and what advice she has for aspiring tech leaders.
Can you start by telling us about your leadership role in Telstra?
I have the privilege of leading the Innovation team in Telstra’s Chief Technology Office. It’s a diverse team of people which includes entrepreneurs, developers, designers, growth hackers and more, that help the business accelerate new growth opportunities and drive engagement and collaboration with our ecosystem partners and customers.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career background?
I started my career in Israel working for number of tech startups before moving to Australia and joining Telstra. While still in university doing my Economics & Communications degree I took a part time job in a startup as a software tester and from there progressed to a number of technical and customer facing roles. At Telstra, I took on a variety of roles including product development, partnership management and product marketing.
How was it like to move from a start-up to a large corporate?
Moving from the fast moving, dynamic Israeli startup environment to corporate Australia was a huge cultural change. I remember initially being frustrated with the way we took products and services to market. I couldn’t understand why it had to take so long and be checked by so many people along the way. It only really hit me after a while, after I saw the products and services that I worked on out in the market and was blown away by the scale and impact they had. It was nothing like I had seen in the startup world.
As a large organisation we obviously need to get things right before we scale them but we’re also working on getting better at the early exploration, validation and incubation phases, and doing it faster and in a more entrepreneurial and customer-centric way.
That’s in part what my team is driving now and I love being part of it as it really brings together the entrepreneurial mindset and approach with the reach, impact and scale of a large organisation.
Were there any challenges along the way?
Yes of course, I’m sure everyone has challenges along their career and I think how you respond to those challenges really matters.
A few years ago I came to a crossroad in my career. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next and nothing seemed like the right next step at the time so I decided to take a career break to explore, experiment and reflect.
There is a saying ‘when you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you’. In hindsight, that’s what happened to me. I started chasing the wrong things and it didn’t make me happy so I had to pause and rethink.
During my break I worked with a small business, did some consulting work with a company that runs leadership development programs, mentored and most importantly invested time in developing myself and figuring out what matters most to me.
Ironically, taking a career break was the best thing I could have done for my career and it certainly opened up the opportunity for the right things to catch me.
What advice would you give to people who want to be a leader in the technology space?
- Look for role models and inspiration in all places not just up the line. As an example, there are people in my team and in my family that inspire me and teach me more than anyone else that might have an official leadership title. (If anything, raising three strong willed girls is teaching me a lot and stretching me in all sorts of directions…)
- Don’t consider yourself an expert. Rather, adopt a continuous learning mindset and curiosity. You don’t need to know everything to be a good leader but you do need to know how to ask good questions.
- ‘Starve your ego, feed your soul’ – I found this advice particularly useful in situations where there is doubt or a crossroad ahead. When you face those situations, take an honest look inside, listen to your intuition and think whether your decision is feeding your ego or your soul and that will give you a good guidance for making the right decisions for yourself.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t be too afraid to fail. Have more fun, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
Looking for your next career step? Explore technology careers at Telstra.