- Author: Richard McBride | Editor CFO Magazine A/NZ
- Posted: September 14, 2023
Mary Stojcevski, CFO, Dicker Data
CFO Magazine Editor, Richard McBride, had the opportunity to sit down with one of Australia’s most successful CFOs; Mary Stojcevski.
Mary is CFO & Executive Director, Dicker Data (ASX:DDR), Australia’s largest IT distributor, with over 800 staff and over $3 Billion in sales. In this Q&A, we delve into the remarkable growth story and how Dicker Data attributes its success to a steadfast commitment to gender equality and empowerment. With a history rooted in working mothers and a current board boasting a female-dominated presence of five women alongside three male directors, Dicker Data is breaking barriers in a traditionally male-heavy industry. Discover how this 44-year-old company has long championed flexible working arrangements and is leading the way towards a more equitable and inclusive future in the tech sector and how ESG is now the next big focus for this progress CFO and business.
RM – Thank you for joining us Mary. To set the scene can you provide some background on the size, scale, and growth of Dicker Data?
MS – Dicker Data (ASX:DDR) is an Australian-owned and operated, value-added technology hardware, software and cloud, access, control and surveillance distributor with over 45 years of experience.
Since listing on the ASX in 2011, Dicker Data has grown into the largest technology distributor in Australia. Representing more than 80 tier 1 global technology vendors and servicing more than 10,200 resellers across ANZ, the Company continues to grow at double-digit pace despite challenging market conditions, all whilst maintaining a 100 percent dividend policy.
RM – Can you tell us about your ‘path to CFO’. Did you always have CFO ambitions & What have been some of your proudest achievements as your time as CFO?
MS – I started working at Dicker Data part-time as financial controller in 1999. At the time I had no idea I was entering the exciting and fast-growing sector that IT would become – I had left a corporate city job to work close to home, giving me flexibility for school pick-ups and drop-offs for my children. After nearly 24 years, I’ve stayed with the same company, experiencing its growth through new eras of technology.
Financial Controller was a newly created role at Dicker Data, and I was fortunate to have a lot of autonomy in the role and make it my own. I was then offered the CFO role in 2010, just before the company became public and ASX-listed. There are so many achievements to be proud of and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow as the company has grown. Every five years it feels like I’m working for a new company, with so many milestones achieved in a short period of time. When I first started there were 15 people (all women), with approximately $100 million turnover. We now have over 800 people across ANZ and over $3 billion in sales.
RM – Who has supported your career the most and how important is your network, especially for women in finance?
MS – I have been fortunate to grow in a supportive environment at Dicker Data, where I’ve spent most of my career. The company has a steadfast commitment to gender equality and open practices that empower women to thrive and excel – our board currently comprises four women and three men. Being surrounded by women at Dicker Data, I’ve felt supported and empowered to grow in my career. I believe having a network of strong female mentors, inside and outside of the business you work in, is incredibly important. In my own network, I collaborate with women such as Fiona Brown, Dicker Data Co-Founder, and we have many females in senior leadership roles at Dicker Data and support and uplift each other regularly.
Both David Dicker and Fiona Brown (founders of Dicker Data) have been strong supporters of my career providing the opportunity for a career I otherwise would not have pursued and continually pushing me out of my comfort zone with the drive to keep growing the business. Also having strong male advocates is important for female leaders to thrive and I am fortunate to have that support and work alongside exceptional executive leaders like Vlad Mitnovetski and Ian Welch.
RM – It’s well documented that the number of female CFOs in Australia (AXS300 and wider) is low – What can be done to improve this?
MS – Gender diversity is crucial to any workplace and it’s more important than ever to break industry stereotypes for women to pursue careers in finance, IT, and the broader STEM sector, and to strive for C-suite roles. I believe:
- Training programs to upskill women in STEM or general leadership and IT skills are key to driving effective career mapping opportunities and promote the role of women across these sectors
- Gender equality is directly linked to workplace culture and business strategy. An inclusive, diverse, and well-structured corporate environment determines operational success in business
- A performance-based culture validates opportunities and promotion by individual merit, helping build an ecosystem of collective achievement, regardless of gender
- Workplace flexibility – such as flexible work hours, casual or part-time and remote working – is an important equaliser and based solely on trust between employees and employers to ensure that the objectives of both are met.
- Hiring and recruitment policies will help leaders be more conscious of diversity numbers
- Taking part in broader industry movements will encourage not only male leaders to step up beside women, but also encourages women to the lead action that advances equality, drives commitment to diversity and inclusion to the broader industry
RM – What advice would you extend to women in Australia with CFO or CEO ambitions?
MS – I believe women who desire a leadership role should seek out people who are already succeeding in those roles and forge connections with them. Building a network of supportive advocates and mentors who you can turn to for advice and share your experiences and ambitions can provide a wealth of knowledge for them to succeed and fulfil their goals.
RM As a CFO, where are you looking to most add value / invest over the next 12 months?
Like all areas of business, finance functions also need to be part of the digital transformation journey and now that we have bedded down three recent acquisitions, the key focus area is to streamline our internal management reporting. As part of this project, we are looking to implement a more digital approach to our financial reporting and to improve reporting efficiency. We have been working on this for the last 12 months and I see that this will be an evolving area of investment in the coming year.
RM – There is still much discussion around flexibility in the workforce – What arrangements do you have in place with flexible working? What works best for you and your finance (and wider) teams?
Fortunately, Dicker Data has a significant proportion of female employees – our gender ratio is 58 per cent male and 42 per cent female – an incredible feat considering our male-dominated industry. The company was founded on working women and because of this, flexibility is at its core and flexible working arrangements were in place well before COVID. Since starting my career at Dicker Data, I had, and continue to have, unique access to a structure and work hours that suit my availability and personal commitments. My team and the wider team at the company have access to the same flexible arrangements and each person’s needs and desire for flexibility is supported. Since COVID, Dicker Data has also introduced a more formal Hybrid Work Policy that supports flexible work for all roles that can be performed remotely.
RM – There has been an increasing discussion around the Four-day week – encouraging a better work life balance – Is this a concept you are aware of any exploring?
MS – Work Life balance is important and having a flexible work policy should largely help staff manage personal commitments, so I don’t think a mandated 4 day week would be a solution in providing this. A ‘work anywhere’ approach is probably more appropriate to ensure that business demands and commitments are met and the business objectives are being achieved, whilst ensuring the wellbeing of staff is also supported.
RM – ESG is now front and centre CFOs with ESG initiatives and reporting gaining momentum – Is sustainability and the wider ESG agenda becoming part of the CFO remit? Can you share some of the ways Dicker Data are driving the sustainability agenda?
MS – ESG will be an important part for CFOs and executive management teams generally with the recent introduction of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) first reporting standards in terms of sustainability disclosures. The introduction of these standards will put a new focus on corporate reporting in respect of sustainability and ESG outcomes in what to date has been a more fragmented and inconsistent approach to informing stakeholders of ESG initiatives.
ESG is certainly part of my remit as a CFO and is an important focus for Dicker Data. Our Co-Founder Fiona Brown played a big role in the Dicker Data Kurnell $75 million warehouse expansion, ensuring it was built on sustainable practices. The warehouse was converted from an abandoned pharmaceutical facility, a two-year project that considered waste reduction and improved biodiversity throughout the process. Since opening the facility, we’ve continued to invest in sustainable initiatives to minimise our impact.
Some of the sustainable features of the facility:
• Nearly 1600 solar panels
• Rapid EV chargers on site, free for staff use
• 130,000-plus trees, grass and shrubs planted on site
• Water retention basins to capture and reuse rainwater
• Repurposed construction waste to enhance the landscape design, avoiding landfill
• Increase in wildlife surrounding the facility
Dicker Data also partners with the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife and the Ocean Impact Organisation.
Sustainability is also considered throughout our operations and in the technology we offer. For example, offering laptops and other products that have components made from recycled ocean plastic. We are also a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and, in FY22, transitioned from using brand new boxes for 100% of outbound shipments to just 50%. Dicker Data also reduced single-use plastics across the business, moving to more recycled materials.
RM – For anyone looking to make their next career move in finance – What advice / further education or (professional development) or top tips can you extend in securing the top CFO roles in Australia?
- MS – Build a network of people who can mentor and support them in their ambitions to secure a top leadership role.
- Show initiative and put their hand up to do more beyond their job description – being open to challenges is the best way to learn and grow into any leadership role
- Upskill wherever possible by seeking informal and professional training, including learning new technologies and programs that can improve ways of working
RM – As technology continues to reshape finance and Ai / ChatGPT hit the headlines this year, what is your vision for finance teams of the future?
MS – Like any advancements in technology, the aim and vision would be that technology is going to assist finance teams to have more productive outcomes where more time is available to analyse and use financial data to make decisions and reduce time taken to process data. Hopefully, critical thinking is still retained, and decision making isn’t entirely deferred to AI models.
RM – Thank you for your time and CFO insights Mary, one final question; In an age of rapid technological advances, what advice do you have for finance leaders and CFOs looking to ‘future-proof’ their roles?
I think it is important to remember that AI and other technologies don’t generate new, original thoughts and ideas. It’s also key to remember that AI is not here to replace jobs or roles, it’s to enhance them. Humans must ensure they are upskilling and building their knowledge where possible, being on the front foot of challenges and issues, and contributing ideas and solutions from their own perspective can prove indispensable. In business, people buy people and by broadening their network and building a strong rapport with customers, partners and employees can also render them irreplaceable. Leaders can also consider how AI and other technologies can be used to enhance their ways of working, ensuring the two work together, rather than one replacing the other. It’s important AI doesn’t just get implemented for the sake of jumping on the new trend, but to really be critically analysed and assessed for the specific need – case by case. That will determine the success of its implementation.