Ada Lovelace Day – Rachel Dixon

With apparently thousands of others, I recently made the following pledge:

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

I’d like to open with a hat-tip to Suw Charman-Anderson for actually doing something about the Women In Technology (or lack there-of) issue. Well done Suw. May we all be as constructive and proactive as you have been with this initiative.

The woman in technology I’d like to pay tribute to today is Rachel Dixon, who I was fortunate enough to work with several years ago, and who today, I consider to be a friend and mentor. It says something about Rachel that the only options I have to link to her are a LinkedIn profile and a holding page for her consulting company. Rachel, you see, is mostly too busy making other people look good (or, more to the point make smart decisions) to have time with self-promotion.

I first met Rachel when she joined the interactive agency I was working at as the Managing Director. Rachel is brings what I think is a truly magical mix of experience and insight to discussion about technology in business or the public sector – she has a strong understanding of technology (current and potential future), respect for and engagement with creativity and design and strong business sensibilities.

After a brief dabble with architecture, much of Rachel’s work was as a Producer in the film industry. In more recent years, many an interactive employee has been given the title ‘producer’ but I think that, particularly from the  business side of things, interactive producers could learn a lot from our film counterparts and the tricky path they walk between the competing demands of the creative genius and the investors.

Rachel has since extended her reach into technology, particularly web based technology and, although she may not be a ‘rock star’ on the interactive scene, her influence extends far beyond the bounds that many of more public players. Rachel is, I think, the only woman I know who declines dinner invitations because she has board meetings to attend. I probably should have interviewed her in advance of writing this post, but off hand I know that she has been a board member of AIMIA (the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) and Choice (the consumer advocate) for some time – I’m sure there are many others among this. She’s always involved in one committee or another either advising or lobbying the Australian Federal Government to act sensibly with regards to the internet (and goodness knows they need it!). Rachel is acting at a level that many of us only aspire to and others of us know we’ll never quite be up to!

For myself, I have long since abandoned any hope of achieving such a broadranging expertise myself, but it has been inspirational to have been in such close quarters with someone who can really hold their own in each of these three quite different arenas.

It is hard for me to quantify what it is that I have learned from working with and knowing Rachel. In some ways, some of insights she has given me are tiny little, almost-self-obvious nuggets. One that I think about probably at least once a week is to think about the medium I’m using to communicate – don’t default to email. Don’t underestimate the power of the telephone, or better still, meeting in person.

For better or worse, it was through Rachel that I first found myself speaking at a conference – doing an appalling job of trying to squeeze 30 minutes of content into 10 minutes on a panel, but also meeting some incredible people and (obviously) getting a little hooked on the experience.

On the grander scale though, Rachel’s confidence in herself and those around her, and her willingness to engage in such a comprehensive way with the challenges she takes on for herself, and perhaps even her inability to say ‘no’, has been and continues to be an inspiration. So, from me and from the others that I know you’ve similarly touched, thank you! I sincerely hope we have the opportunity to work together again in the future.

ALSO: if I were going to