Born in Australia, Ana Cammaroto moved to Athens as a young girl with her family where she spent most of her school years. She was adamant that she would spend her life studying philosophy, Greek literature and the arts. But when she came back to Sydney in year 10, her plans shifted.
Ana never thought of herself as technical but does remember that, growing up, she spent hours breaking down her dolls and portable radios and piecing them back together.
“I think there’s a misconception that you have to be technical to work in technology, so I never considered technology as my career pathway.”
When her physics teacher recognised her skillset in science and maths, he gently encouraged her to consider looking into STEM studies. He sent her to a school holiday scholarship to feed that growing curiosity.
“For me, that was my pivotal moment. He was the single, defining influence that changed the trajectory of my life.”
She played with the idea in her mind and considered whether she really could see herself in technology. She took a leap of faith and, in 1990, Ana enrolled herself in electrical engineering at UNSW. She was surprised to find how much she loved it.
“I fell in love with engineering and its mission of solving humanity’s biggest challenges. In some ways, it’s not far off from my original dreams of becoming a philosopher.”
Four years later, Ana was just one of a handful of girls to graduate the course.
“My spirit of breaking the bias really began then, battling my way to feel like I belonged, fighting my way to prove that a girl could do it. It wasn’t easy, but it made me even more determined.”
Since then, Ana has had her fair share of working in very male-dominated industries. She was integral to the team responsible for the early development of the control systems for the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, and worked as part of a large aluminium smelter in Queensland.
She later transitioned into the banking and finance industry, where she used her electrical engineering skillset to accelerate her career in senior technology roles. She’s now the CIO of Personal Banking and Digital at NAB.
“Looking back at my career, I pushed hard, but I should have pushed harder – or ‘the system’ should have made it easier. Conversations with management about the biases I experienced in salaries, promotions that I deserved, and being noticed above my male peers were difficult, and they should not have been,” Ana said.
Ana says breaking biases in the technology industry keeps her pushing forward now.
“It’s a tough gig in many tech industries and countries because women are dealing with it all; cultural biases, gender biases and unconscious biases. That’s why I take on such an active role to break it down for the young women that are coming up behind me.”
As part of her day job, Ana is supported by NAB to encourage more women into a career in tech, and believes it is one of the biggest challenges in the tech industry today, with just 20 per cent representation.
She pays it forward by advocating publicly for the cause, speaking at a number of public events to address the issue head-on and driving a range of initiatives within and outside of NAB.
“Just like breaking down toys as a little girl, I want to tear down this broken system, and piece it back together.”