Bridie Kibby: Leading the Way in Technology and Embracing the Language of Innovation

When Bridie Kibby started her professional career, she never imagined she would one day be leading the Global Network Team for one of the largest optical retailers in the world.

In fact, her heart was set on an opera singing career before life decided it had other plans. She graduated from university with degrees in Arts and Music, majoring in classical voice performance.

“Shortly after I graduated, I was in a car accident and sustained injuries that meant a career in singing was not going to be what I had anticipated. I could still sing but I was not confident that my body or my voice would be dependable enough for the physical rigour that such a vocation demands.”

So she pivoted – initially working in a finance contact centre role before moving into recruitment and HR which led her to Project Management. Managing a business readiness project for a large eWMS programme became her entry into technology.

“It was my first time overseeing a tech-focused initiative, and I was captivated by the meticulous processes used to create effective technology products. The technologists’ creativity fascinated me, even though I sometimes felt like they were speaking a different language.”

It was the language of technology that inspired Bridie to pursue a career in the field.

“I’ve always enjoyed learning foreign languages. When I was younger, I travelled quite a lot around Europe and my phrase book was my most prized possession. In every country I visited, I would listen closely to the accents and inflections and quickly learnt that the most important phrase to learn was “I’m sorry, I only speak a little bit of (insert language) but I will do my best.”

I approached technology with a similar mindset. I challenged myself to understand the ‘language’ of tech” and wasn’t afraid to ask for help.”

This also aligned with Bridie’s training as an opera singer.

“I loved learning arias in different languages and performing them for people who did not necessarily understand the language. If I performed well enough, the message would still make an impact.”

Bridie sees her role in technology leadership as something similar.

“It’s not my first language but, over the years I’ve become relatively fluent, and I enjoy translating for those who don’t necessarily understand but want to try.”

Bridie says joining Specsavers was a turning point in her career journey.

“When I started at Specsavers, I never imagined leading a global team responsible for the network – one of our most critical technology assets; but working at Specsavers has made the impossible possible. I attribute a lot of that to the culture here,” she says.

“Specsavers invests in their people, recognising both merit and potential. People here openly share skills and knowledge, creating endless learning opportunities. It’s an ideal environment for curious and inquisitive individuals to thrive.”

And while hard work, determination and passion have been key to Bridie’s success, she also recognises the value of the support and mentorship she has received at Specsavers as crucial to her professional growth.

My current mentor is someone I’ve known for several years and has profoundly influenced my professional development. They consistently challenge me to think and act more critically, while also providing full support of and confidence in my abilities,” she says.

“Our core values are intrinsically very similar, as are some of our behavioural traits, so we often find that we are tackling similar challenges; ones they’ve previously encountered and surmounted. Their guidance, rooted in trust and safety, enables me to confront these challenges authentically and with a clear sense of purpose.”

Bridie says as a woman in technology, one of the biggest challenges is often being the minority in an industry where most attendees at meetings and conferences are men.

“The biases in these settings can be hard to explain or quantify, as many are unconscious or fleeting, such as an assumption that I’ll take responsibility for meeting minutes regardless of my role or seniority. It’s a constant balancing act to decide what to accept, deflect, or correct. And when you’re the only woman in the room, standing up for yourself requires resilience,” she says.

“But at the same time, it’s widely accepted that teams with a diverse mix of individuals contribute varied viewpoints and experiences, often resulting in creative problem solving and innovative solutions.”

This is why it’s so important to Bridie, and to the wider Specsavers leadership team that the Specsavers technology division has a diverse mix of colleagues.

“We are approaching a critical crossroad where gender diversity and inclusion is not just beneficial or important; it’s essential,” she says.

And companies need to look no further than emerging technologies to see why diversity is going to be such an important component of their workforce.

“For example, as we enter this new technology era, the underrepresentation of women in technology teams poses a risk to the capabilities of AI,” says Bridie.

“Without further balance in teams contributing to the design of AI-centric technologies, emerging products and applications could perpetuate unconscious biases and, as such disproportionately influence or exclude consumers.”

Bridie encourages more women to continue to pursue careers in technology, and says Specsavers is a great place to start.

“My advice is to discover the facets of technology that ignite your passion and never stop seeking opportunities to expand your knowledge. Recognize the hurdles, but remember every challenge is a stepping-stone to a new opportunity.”

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