Day of STEM recently interviewed Sonia Haque, Consulting Technology Director at Deloitte Australia, to learn more about her career and background. Sonia is featured on the Day of STEM platform as an industry mentor as part of the Women in STEM program which is available to students now. Read the Q&A interview below to learn more and check out Sonia’s profile on the Day of STEM platform.
What sparked your initial interest in STEM?
Sonia: My father had a profound influence on me from a young age. He was an engineer and an early adopter of technologies, some successful and others not as much. I was the only child at school who had a photocopier at home, as well as a facsimile machine. We also were one of the first to own the first brick-sized mobile phones. I would love poring over the instruction manuals and trying to test out the features.
How did you get your start in a STEM career?
Sonia: At the University of Portsmouth I studied Business Information Technology. In our third year, the course focused on gaining practical industry experience. I took on an internship at John Wiley & Sons in an IT support role. I was thrown in the deep end and it was either sink or swim. While it was a challenge, it helped solidify my interest in technology and the view that grit and determination are critical success factors for a career in IT and STEM.
Can you point to any moment as a breakthrough for your career?
Sonia: My first job was through CSC’s (Computer Science Corporation) six-month graduate scheme for IT students. After working in the entry-level position for some time and finding that I was unhappy with the work, I decided to make a risky move. I approached the Vice-President managing the division I worked in and requested a meeting. I told them that I wasn’t getting the right opportunities and that I wanted to move into a client-facing role. To my surprise, they were very receptive to the suggestion and the risk turned into a reward.
Can you describe any challenges that you’ve faced during your career?
Sonia: Problem solving. The foundation of my career is to support clients to solve their IT challenges. Every day it’s our job to problem solve. Realising that one of your core capabilities is problem solving can be a challenge for some who are new to the field. When you get further along in the career, it will also be a challenge to communicate effectively about IT issues to your customer. Sometimes, these conversations are difficult and it can be hard for the customer to hear. Your job is to devise solutions and communicate effectively which is not easy.
How have mentors influenced you throughout your career?
Sonia: I’ve been lucky to have several mentors throughout my career, both formal and informal. The best option is to have a network of mentors that possess a wide-range of unique perspectives and experiences. When you’re facing a decision, or turning point, reach out and consult with a variety of mentors and balance each view point carefully. It’s ultimately your decision and you’ll need to take accountability for the direction you take.
How have you mentored others throughout your career?
Sonia: One of the most memorable mentoring experiences that I’ve had was through an organisation called Catch 22 in the United Kingdom. This was a volunteer experience where we worked with underprivileged young people to give advice and up-skilling and training. I continue to be a mentor at Deloitte today and stick to a few principles. I don’t tell people I mentor exactly what to do, but rather I provide a set of options based on my experience and learnings. I keep an open-door policy and encourage regular communications and time to catch-up.
As a Consulting Technology Director at Deloitte Australia, what excites you the most about your career?
Sonia: It’s about knowing the difference we can make for our customers. Being able to properly diagnose an IT issue, outlining a strategy to resolve it, and then executing that strategy. I also enjoy working with a cross-section of companies who all face unique challenges. Each day has the potential to be something new.
What are the most important skills for people working in STEM roles?
Sonia: I think it’s important for the next-generation of students considering STEM careers to focus on developing their soft skills. As I mentioned earlier in this interview and in my mentor profile, I really believe in the power of grit and determination. These skills have served me well throughout my career. Problem solving and effective communication are also critical.
Do you have any advice for students following your mentor journey?
Sonia: Follow your heart and find something you enjoy. Take a look at things from different angles and try to absorb and understand perspectives that are different from your own.
About Deloitte Australia:
As one of Australia’s leading professional services firms, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and its affiliates provide audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services through approximately 7,000 professionals across the country.
We are proud to be recognised as having the Best Graduate Development Program in the 2016 Australian HR Awards as well as being awarded the AFR/GradConnection’s Most Popular Graduate Employer for the second year running in 2017.
We have 1,000 Graduate and Intern positions available each year, over half of which need a STEM background. To understand the different types of programs and teams we have on offer, students can undertake our Find Your Fit assessment. Our Find your Fit assessment is part of Your Future @ Deloitte website where you’ll also find more information from interview tips, what life at Deloitte is like, insights into our recruitment process and information for international students. Be sure to also check out the diversity and inclusion initiatives that Deloitte Australia takes part in: http://yourfuture.deloitte.com.au
For more information, please visit Deloitte’s web site at www.deloitte.com.au.
About Sonia Haque:
Sonia is a highly experienced senior leader who specialises in Strategy & Transformation, supporting clients in transforming their businesses; enabling them to create strategic value from technology and drive operational excellence between business and IT.
Working in complex environments across a wide range of industries Sonia has a proven track record in driving change and improving the effectiveness of technology through her experience in Business / Digital / IT transformation, next-generation operating models and organisation design, process improvement and optimisation, cost reduction, IT/business organisation alignment and governance, IT/information strategy development, sourcing, outsourcing transition, change management and use of industry best practice methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma and ITIL.
With extensive global Board and CxO experience, having previously worked in the UK, US, Canada and across Western Europe, Sonia understands the challenges mobilising change. She excels at managing complex sets of senior stakeholders, as well as communicating opportunities and benefits to gain traction supporting the implementation of necessary change – proven through her record of driving successful outcomes.