Ethel Ferraris has spent nearly 13 years in technology for Macquarie Asset Management, contributing to a truly integrated partnership where her team helps uncover opportunities for business growth. She reflects on the changes and developments over her time as a tech leader and the importance of continuous learning.
Ethel Ferraris first fell in love with tech while at high school in the Philippines.
“I discovered programming in the early ‘90s, when things were starting to get more innovative and engaging with computing,” Ethel says. “Coding is a bit like Lego because you get to put it together and build things, and I enjoyed creating games and applications.”
Ethel completed a Bachelor of Computer Science and worked in Manila for five years. Then, in 2006, she migrated to Australia with her family.
A year later she found an opportunity to join Macquarie, in the technology team that supported Macquarie Capital.
“I didn't have a financial background but I was impressed by the relationship, or partnership, that the tech team had with the business,” Ethel explains.
“The camaraderie of being in a small tech team also appealed to me.”
As a Software Developer, Ethel was responsible for providing support to analysts by fixing system issues, creating new models and generating reports. Within a year of starting at Macquarie she progressed into a Business Analyst role, where she found herself shift away from coding and move towards analysis and spending her time on requirements, goals and planning. This is when Ethel discovered that she had a real knack for the people side of things, and that she really enjoyed partnering with the business to understand their needs and make their visions a reality. At this point Ethel had also moved on to work in the technology team aligned to Macquarie Asset Management.
“Because I wanted to become more involved in project management I talked to my manager, who created a dual Business Analyst/Project Manager role for me,” Ethel says.
Ethel spent some time away from the office on maternity leave then returned part-time, working from home one day a week.
“It was before working from home was as common,” she says. “Macquarie has so much support for working parents and an emphasis on flexibility to create a work/life balance.”
The next evolution in Ethel’s career happened when the business analyst side of her role started to grow, and she moved towards delivery management. Then in 2018 she stepped up to the opportunity of being Platform and Delivery Manager for Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, part of Macquarie’s asset management business.
Having now spent more than 13 years with Macquarie, Ethel says she has seen the Macquarie Asset Management team continually evolve.
“It’s interesting to see how your work can get you involved in investments across a range of industries from farms to power plants and airports.”
“There’s always something new,” she explains. “I am always learning, and that’s important because as a computer programmer by heart, I need new puzzles to solve. But my team and the amazing people here also keep me interested and engaged.”
In her role as Platform and Delivery Manager, Ethel’s time is split between making sure current systems are working and managing new systems and integrations.
“From a tech perspective our aim is to keep the business in business and keep the systems running,” Ethel says. “On the delivery side, it’s about making sure new initiatives and projects provide the best value to the business; and companies that Macquarie acquires are seamlessly integrated into our platforms to further bolster their effectiveness.”
Ethel highlights that her technical background and learning mindset is crucial in bridging the business needs with the technical solutions.
“I continue to learn new technologies such as cloud computing capabilities, as this is vital in leading the platform team to create a robust, scalable and stable environment,” Ethel explains.
Ethel has helped the business move from a reliance on spreadsheets to embracing technology and aligning it with business goals. She has also seen tech itself move away from on-premise infrastructure and into the cloud.
“Having a learning mindset is crucial to ensure the right solutions are set out especially for major projects such as our recent cloud integration work,” she says. “This needed a strong understanding of infrastructure and being able to leverage cloud technology to its full capabilities to accommodate the applications migrating from on-premise.”
Ethel says that communication is a vital part of her role.
“We have to keep talking to the business to keep alignment,” Ethel explains. “At the end of the day it’s about humans, not systems, so we need to find common ground.”
Ethel partners with tech colleagues and business staff who are scattered across Macquarie’s offices from the UK and Europe to Asia and the US.
“Communication traditionally means being present at the same time,” Ethel says. “However, I don’t want the team regularly working long days, so we divide responsibilities and work flexible hours to allow collaboration with our colleagues in other time zones.”
Throughout the pandemic in 2020, she ran an integration in Germany from Sydney, over Zoom.
“Thanks to technology, open-plan offices, the cloud, and even COVID-19 lockdowns, collaboration across teams and regions has exploded,” says Ethel. “This style of working is going to evolve even further in the future.”
Having trained in Human-Centred Design, Ethel uses it to strategically lead her team.
“The key to innovating is making sure the answer doesn’t sit with just me,” says Ethel. “I ask questions and build a diverse team with the right mindset and give them the space and capacity to innovate.”
She has also received leadership training and says these soft skills allow her to adapt to a constantly changing organisation.
“The training opportunities at Macquarie have had a big impact on me,” Ethel says. “It has transformed me from a business analyst into someone who can lead a team, and has helped me personally as well as professionally.”
Her open-minded attitude to trying new things has also aided her career growth.
“It’s important to believe in yourself and have support from your manager and team, but you just need to do it,” she says. “Find out. Ask. Try it.”
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