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Sonja Bernhardt OAM, CEO and Director of multi award winning ThoughtWare, on business, success, and women in the IT industry

Part 4 of the ChangeMaker Interview Series - Empower Change

Sonja Bernhardt OAM, CEO and Director of multi award winning ThoughtWare, serial technology entrepreneur, role model, mentor, and arguably Australia’s highest profile woman in IT. Sonja is a leading ChangeMaker in her field.

Sonja is extremely passionate about what she does and how she does it, as well as the talent and skills of people in the IT industry, so much so that she does a lot of volunteer work in this area. When we asked Sonja what her personal motivation to starting each day was, she said quite simply happiness.

 

"My motivation and end goal is to be happy about WHAT I do, and HOW I do it."

 

Sonja's tips on maintaining happiness when things don't go smoothly:

  • Understand the reality
  • Accept the reality
  • Pick yourself up and move on
  • Learn the lesson without spending too much time on it

 

In order to keep Sonja's performance improving, every day in her morning shower, Sonja thinks through her morning schedule so that when she hits her work desk, she has it clear and sorted. Sonja also has a lot of filters on her email system, so it's easy to identify at a glance which ones are the important ones.

 

Where does the passion come from?

"Philosophy. I've taken a lot of time to understand who I am, what drives me, and even what other people perceive of me and why. This helps me be comfortable with who I am, and also understand other people, giving me good balance in effect."

 

What is the main trait responsible for your success?

"Resilience. Particularly in business. The ability to just keep going - bounce back. Overnight success stories don't motivate or inspire me in any way. I question the validity of those stories.

The reality of life in whatever you do is it takes a struggle, you have to be innovative and creative to come up with new ways to do things, or you get knocked down."

 

"Other peoples opinions hold you back from success. Don't listen to the nay-sayers - believe in yourself."

 

Two important things Sonja suggests to keep in mind if you want to be successful:

  1. Keep an eye on your expenditures and know and understand your bottom line.
  2. Know the skill and talent of the people around you in your business.

 

Sonja's highest achievements:

Work - "To be in a position where I can offer work to people that suits what they are looking for. That I am able to offer roles to people without the stresses that I had."

Public - "Receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia. That was fantastic, I can't go past that one."

Personal - "I'm really happy with my family life, and I'm in a delightfully happy marriage."

 

The main lessons Sonja has learnt in business:

  • A deal is not a deal until the money is in the bank!
  • You don't have to do it all yourself.

 

Sonja says the main attribute of good delegating is focused around the people - what you think of them, and how you treat them.

"It's about the individual - each has something unique to contribute. People want to learn, grow, be creative and use their brain."

 

"Don't over-prescribe. I never over-prescribe. I give a broad outline or general outcome of what is wanted, and tell them to work out how we get there."

 

What would you do differently if you could start over?

"I would've started earlier, and I would've been much more focused. I've chased so many rabbit holes. I would make sure I really understand what my focused end goal for the business is and avoid as much as possible side-line rabbit holes."

 

Want to find out more, including Sonja’s top tips on how to improve your business?

Click here to watch the full inspiring interview with Sonja Bernhardt OAM, or click on the video below.

What did you think about Part 4 of our ChangeMaker Interview Series? We would love to hear your feedback on our FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn!

Stay tuned for our next ChangeMaker Interview with Craig Cameron, CEO of CIT.

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