Women in Innovation: Amy Ormrod

"I am aiming to shake up the cyber industry in Australia."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Amy Ormrod, General Manager of Cyber Consulting at Terra Schwartz.

What are you working on?

I am a General Manager and a member of the Executive Leadership Team at Terra Schwartz. Terra Schwartz is a wholly Australian owned consulting and professional services firm. I lead the cyber-security consulting team, Terra Schwartz Cyber. I work with Defence and National Security clients, as well as industry and academia.

My role as GM is varied as I oversee our sovereign in-house cyber-security platform (tsX), manage threat risk assessments, cyber threat intelligence, open source intelligence, wargaming, and the building of a cyber satellite testbed; to name but a few. With the support of my team, I am also responsible for business development and sales activities, learning and development, media, recruitment, advertising, merchandising and communications. As an Executive of a small-to-medium enterprise, I relish the opportunity to wear multiple hats, as no two days are ever the same.

Why is innovation important to you?

Historically, some of the biggest advancements, discoveries and innovations have been made during adverse times and have been focused on solving real-world problems. Innovation is important to me as it provides the opportunity for continuous learning and creativity, but with an impact. I am passionate about innovation to solve wicked real-world problems and this translates into what you see in the way we engage with our clients and the opportunities we are taking to the market. Innovation is not just about chasing existing opportunities but also looking at what is likely in the near future and going after that and anticipating future demands. In technology and particularly the cyber domain, this is inherently more difficult, as we are forever attempting to stay ahead of the trends, new technology and the adversary. This is an ongoing challenge, and it comes with risk and hard work; I believe anyone who thinks innovation is without risk and lots of effort is not really innovating at all. From a company perspective, innovation allows us to foster a competitive advantage, and build and deliver better products/services for our clients.

What drives you to make a difference?

I am naturally a driven person. I enjoy the convergence of people and technology to solve problems; to me, making a difference means having an impact on something in the real world, even if it is at a small scale. I do not really enjoy academic work, although it is important, I am a pragmatist so to me making a difference is about being involved in other peoples’ lives and work. In that light, there is a lot more to cyber and security than simply applying controls. Contextualising and prioritising is difficult but I believe that is where we make an impact, by applying expertise to solve challenging problems in specific environments. My team and I are focused on genuinely making a difference to Australia and the cyber industry, predominantly in the Defence and National Security domain. I am aiming to shake up the cyber industry in Australia, by focusing on capability offerings through sovereign cyber-security tools and platforms.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

Back yourself. Unfortunately, people are quick to judge a book by its cover and there is a tendency for the fail fast mentality that I have experienced overseas to be lost here in Australia. I believe Australia is wedged between a belief in unicorns that can solve all the problems on their own; and the tall poppy syndrome that seeks to undermine people who want to make a difference. As a woman and an entrepreneur, you have to be ready for both criticisms and live with the fact that you can never make everyone happy. However, you can make a difference and if you can find the right people to surround yourself with, build an effective team, and solve challenging problems then you really can make a difference in the world.

I believe the trick is to find people with complementary skills to yourself; but who think differently. Group think is the enemy of innovation, although you still need people who support you and believe in your vision. It’s a balance, like most things in life.

What are you proud of right now?

I am immensely proud of my team. From my perspective, cyber and innovation is a team sport, the sum of the whole capability is greater than the individual parts. My team was recently awarded a Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grant from Defence. The grant will enable the development of our Australian cyber-security system, which creates an understanding of risk and resilience for digitally enabled networks and platforms. This is a massive coup for my team – the majority of whom have just celebrated their 6-month work anniversary with Terra Schwartz. I’m also proud of how my team has bonded and worked on multiple engagements at the same time with great success and very positive client feedback. They are a great team of professionals!

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