As we celebrate female talent on International Women’s Day this week, Essence's Benjamin Roberts speaks to Grace Kerrison, managing director, APAC of Pymetrics, about her journey of continuous transformation, innovation and leadership, and her beliefs and curiosity which remain constant in her path to success.
With International Women’s Day being celebrated this week, it’s the perfect opportunity to have the inspirational Grace Kerrison, managing director, APAC at Pymetrics, under the spotlight.
Grace has had a fascinating career spanning different markets and companies, yet it’s the same underlying beliefs and curiosity that remain the constants in her path to success. Spending her career working in cutting-edge technology, Grace has left her mark in several companies throughout Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Always looking forward, adding new strings to her bow, it’s not just about the destination but the journey along the way, on what she can constantly learn and skills she can continuously develop.
Grace’s story is one of relentless transformation, innovation and leadership. With Filipino heritage, Grace was raised in Canada and her professional career started in marketing at the Royal Bank of Canada’s Corporate Banking division. Marketing was her first love, yet chance presented itself as it was the early days of the Internet. Banks were quick to the race with their online presence, and at the same time, changing the way payment transactions were processed among businesses. The era of e-commerce began and Grace was catapulted into the world of technology.
Relocating to Auckland, New Zealand, Grace put into play the mindset that she would use consistently throughout her career. When looking at the next opportunity, it’s not just about what you have done, what you know and continuing along the same path. It’s about challenging yourself by doing a different type of role, so you not only progress upwards but gain breadth in your learnings too.
Keeping the continuity of working in leading-edge technology, Grace found herself in a variety of roles over the next stages of her career. From working at Advantage Group, Xtra (telecommunications) and Microsoft in New Zealand, to moving to Sydney, Australia to work at Cisco. At Cisco, she learned what partner channels was all about as the company disrupted the world of telephony, then boomeranging back to Microsoft as the market was rapidly changing into a new world, a mobile world focused on consumer movement.
Having leaders who believed in her, and the ability to instinctively see what transferable skills would be successful and the soft skills needed in new roles, always helped Grace progress and explore new opportunities. It’s these transferable skills that have equipped her well to lead through market disruptions or business transformation. From spearheading the cross-company early transition to the Cloud business while with Microsoft Australia to her stint as CMO, in changing their agency engagement to pilot the first outsourced digital marketing hub in Manila in the Philippines, and in her sales roles, having that marketing background helped her to see things through a differentiated lens. Upon being transferred with Microsoft to Singapore, Grace was able to keep innovating as Microsoft transitioned its channel to cloud-first, mobile-first partners.
And then opportunity knocked. After a large portion of her career spent working in large technology companies, Grace took a chance with LinkedIn as director of global clients.
This was an opportunity to implement the leadership skills learnt from a big company and impact LinkedIn’s fastest-growing regional hub culturally. With 74% of the company made up of millennials, it was representative of society today. Leading this demographic is fundamental to business success across industries. There’s a need to develop the ability to understand people’s motivations and inspirations. This is a driver to success, as is a diversity of thought. Having a diversity of thought is the secret sauce to business as it allows her to compete and innovate.
Being a female leader in the modern world enabled Grace to reflect on her own earlier experiences in the information technology and telecommunications industries where she was often the only woman in the room. There were learnings and key values that these experiences have instilled in her, such as understanding the importance of authenticity in leadership, being herself and creating an inclusive and diverse environment where people can be the best version of themselves.
At the beginning of 2018, Grace took upon her latest and most exciting challenge yet. Keeping in line with working in cutting-edge technology, Grace joined Pymetrics as their managing director for APAC. Pymetrics is a startup technology company that helps every person find their place in the right company in the right role this is done through neuroscience and gamified activities.
For Grace, the opportunity to move the needle on something that has been a longstanding issue was irresistible. Having gathered years of experience, it was a chance to put it all together with confidence and drive, to be able to impact and be part of shaping the company as the next unicorn. Already Pymetrics was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2018.
Since Grace joined Pymetrics in APAC, there has been a personnel growth of 3.5x, with physical imprint in Singapore and Australia, and the ability to serve Japan and India as well. A company that’s changing the way companies hire and also the way talent finds a home, it’s one that can make a positive impact on society through technology.
For Grace, being a leader is about using a platform to drive change through things she cares about. The wisdom to take on new challenges, in staying curious and agile enough to adapt continuously, are the keys thing we should learn from Grace - it’s not enough to look forward but also laterally so we can constantly grow and develop while making an impact.
Benjamin Roberts is vice president, talent management, APAC at Essence, a global data and measurement-driven media agency which is part of GroupM.