Victoria Kluth Managing Director Araza founded the company in 2013 after leaving her corporate career behind. Araza is an IT consulting, technology and systems integration organisation specialising in cloud computing, security, robotics, and digital transformational solutions. The company’s growth trajectory from just two employees and one client in 2013 to an award winning, technology consultancy to ASX200 companies, now employing over 250 people and turning over $30m per annum has been astonishing.
Victoria is a passionate advocate of gender equality and has embedded a culture at Araza of supporting diversity, with the company achieving 50% female workforce and gender balanced leadership. She started Araza Women Presents to provide a forum for successful women to share their leadership journey, and open a dialogue to make workplaces better for all.
Victoria was recognised as a 2016 Finalist Telstra Businesswomen’s Awards and Winner 2017 Business Leader of the Year Optus MyBusiness Awards. In 2017 Araza was a winner of the Westpac Business of Tomorrow and was listed on the CRN and Deloitte Fast50 lists in both 2017 and 2016.
Tell us about how you grew Araza to be a $30 million business employing over 250 people in under 5 years?
There are so many factors that go into the rapid growth of the organisation. We are not different than many other companies and our competitors. We strive for streamlined and agile operations. We embrace new technologies. We have a well managed and controlled risk profile that we follow in our growth strategy. All of that is true and we are a well managed company. But the fun answer is that I have always seen growth as AWESOME and have no fear about a fast paced company.
I also have confidence that I can succeed in a quick growth environment. In the first month of operation, I stole a quote which was “Why not us?” I still have this phrase on the wall of our conference room. I felt like we could compete against the biggest international competitors and I still feel that way.
After over two decades working in the IT industry, what do you believe the future trends affecting work are?
I would never try and determine trends in technology. It is changing so fast. The one thing I do know is that static doesn’t work. Araza has already reinvented itself at least three times over and we have only been in business for four years! It is really important for Araza to stay agile and be willing to adapt to new trends and new ways of working. When I started Araza I never thought we would be working on robotics projects but after only a few years, we were implementing robotics at a very large bank.
Now my twelve year old niece is learning robotics languages and is not impressed with our work at all. (I think there may have been an eye roll included in her discussion on the topic.) I am a little obsessed with the Internet of Things (IoT) and how IoT is going to change things more quickly than we can imagine. We are doing some interesting things with networks and data in IoT. But next year, we will need to be learning about different technologies. My five year plan is…I have no idea.
How did you deliberately shape Araza’s employment culture to be gender equal from the inception of your business?
Araza was at eleven people when we realised we were half women with a woman Managing Director. This was a powerful realisation. As a technology company we hired the best people we could and half were women. I called my business partner and said, “As of today, we are a gender equitable organisation!” We knew that we were taking the bias out of our hiring because of the numbers so we did not need quotas. Our numbers have always supported our actions.
The most important thing we do in order to be deliberate with our culture, is that we live our values; be great and be grateful! We support diversity and diverse teams. We do not talk about it. We literally live it everyday.
- Hire the best person for every role.
- We are open and honest about every person’s strengths.
- We have more women leaders (6 to 4) and I think this naturally draws more female applicants to our process.
- We have community programs like Araza Women Presents, which define our culture to our client and our competitors.
We recently did our numbers for the WGEA and we were 49% women. This includes leadership, technical analysts, coders and technical testers. It really brings me joy.
You are a champion of women in leadership. Tell us about your mission with Araza Women.
After Araza was a year in, I realised we needed to do something to show that Araza had the answer regarding hiring. But, no one listens to small companies. I decided a great way to get the Araza message out was to share women’s power stories with our team, our clients and the greater community. I came up with the idea of one person coming to share her story with a big Q&A at the end. I thought we would get 30 or 40 people. We consistently attract about 200 to our AWP events.
We have invited international headliners like tennis star Martina Navratilova and rapper Cheryl James of Salt n Pepa. (That was a fun morning!). We also have women who make Australia proud like Nicola Scott who is a global star illustrator in the world of DC Comics. The feedback on AWP is that it is empowering and that is awesome.
But, my personal mission is gender parity which is why I have started an organisation called 2186. This company champions women in leadership and equality. It allows me to be a bit more political. I can name and shame organisations that are not doing the right things. This is one of the reasons I love Femeconomy because I believe change happens where money happens. We need to support companies that are doing the right things for women.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Losing weight. Grrrr…
Professionally, we are a small company among giants. I compete with the biggest companies in the world. The ever present challenge is that there is always someone who can do what we do better, cheaper.
What are you most proud of?
The day my company became 50% women, I cried out of pride and an enormous sense of achievement.
Not using quotas was the key to our achievement. Araza needs to have top-notch consultants, so a quota system could degenerate the quality of our choices. My method was that since 50% of the world is women, if we interview a great mix of people and always choose the best candidate, we should end up with about 50% women.
Without quotas, it is difficult to stay at 50%. Almost immediately we were at 42%. I reviewed statistics every eight to ten weeks, and we were always between 42% and 48% women. It was tempting, at times, to tell recruitment to hire a few women. At 48% I thought, Come on, let’s just get there! But that would have gone against all of my beliefs. I don’t show recruitment statistics, so they just keep hiring qualified people. Imagine my surprise and happiness the day I compiled our statistics and Araza was exactly 50% women. What an amazing triumph!
I learned making business decisions based on doing the right thing is as important as financial decisions.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Be your authentic self.
I was in business for 24 years before I realised that I wasn’t being true. I was acting how the big companies wanted me to act. I was doing what they wanted me to do. It wasn’t until I started Araza and did things my way that I realised that my previous actions didn’t really represent the true me. Now I wear pretty dresses instead of dark suits. I laugh more in meetings and professional situations. I won’t take clients that I think are not ethical. I didn’t know what my authentic self was, but when I found her…I grew one of the fastest growing companies in Australia for three years in a row.