No Barriers, No Limits

By Nicole Madigan

A youthful naivety meant Dicker Data CFO and Executive Director, Mary Stojcevski, did not perceive any barriers preventing women from taking on senior finance positions when she first started out – not that it would have stopped her.

“It may have been a male dominated industry, but it certainly was not on my radar and wouldn’t have deterred me,” says Stojcevski.

“It wasn’t until more recent years where this issue has been discussed more widely, and numbers clearly still indicate a gap in representation, as well as a gap in pay equality, that it has been more forefront of mind.”

Having started her family at a young age – her eldest son attended her university graduation – Stojcevski has been juggling career and motherhood since day one. “My experience is that trying to juggle a career and family is a case of give and take – it can’t just be one sided,” says the mother of four. “A strong work ethic where your managers can rely on you to ensure the business requirements are able to be met, allows trust to build, and with trust comes the ability to expect flexibility to manage both family and work.”

After graduating, Stojcevski took on a range of financial roles, first part time then full time, before commencing a Masters Degree, majoring in Tax. “Trying to juggle full-time work in the city and studying, whilst raising a young family was challenging (so) I moved to Dicker Data to work part-time as the Financial Controller. “Dicker Data was located close to home and afforded me the flexibility to be able to drop off and pick up my children from school, which was the main motivator to shift from a corporate city job back to my local area.”

Stojcevski has now been with Dicker Data almost 21 years, ten of those as CFO and Executive Director, roles she was offered when the company went public in 2010. Dicker Data is the largest commercial technology hardware, software and cloud distributor in Australia and New Zealand.

Employing more than 500 people, the Dicker Data board currently comprises three female and four male directors, equivalent to a 45 per cent female board representation – significant given the tech-industry is notoriously male-dominated. Across the company, 43 per cent of employees are women.

They’ve come a long way – when Stojcevski first started with the company in 1999, there were just 15 women, and with Human Resources within her remit, she has been instrumental in changing the direction.

“I do think the tech industry is doing a good job to address gender equality, although the numbers do indicate more can be done in this regard,” she says.

“One industry that really stands out for me as being significantly underrepresented by women is the stock broking / fund managers industry.

“Speaking to many investors, brokers and fund managers in my role as part of our investor roadshows, it is very rare to have any meetings with a woman.”

Dicker Data is currently in a strong financial position, having consistently grown above industry rates, by either targeting new vendor additions in higher growth segments or successfully being able to increase its share with existing vendors.

“Our working capital funding model is a securitized, asset backed facility that has been able to grow as the business and debtor books grow, and now with the recent capital raise, we are well set for future growth,” she says.

This year, the company reached a milestone of $1 b sales for the first half of the year, with a current overall target of $2 b. But while the organization has gone from strength to strength in recent years, it has not been without its challenges. Cashflow whilst growing and managing our investment in working capital as a private company was challenging,” says Stojcevski. “Getting the required trading limits with vendors as a private entity was certainly harder.

“We were competing with global multinational distributors that had deeper pockets and global vendors with more rigid credit policies so balancing our working capital flows was important and challenging.” To manage cashflow, Dicker Data converted to a public company, which opened up the capital markets as a source of funding. “Even though we did not raise any capital until 2015, the ability to do so in a listed public company structure facilitated our discussions with funders and our vendors for working capital facilities and trade lines.”

The tech industry was one of the fortunate beneficiaries during COVID-19 with the digitisation of businesses and the move to remote working.

“We have had our biggest half year hitting just over $1b revenue for the six months with some of that growth attributed to the COVID-19 driven ‘work from home’ phenomenon.”

The biggest challenge for our business was to provide redundancy for our warehouse operations as this role could not be done from home.

Despite feeling as though her professional goals materialised before she herself even developed them, Stojcevski now has her sights set on having Dicker Data included in the ASX indexes.

“I never thought I would be a CFO and Director of an ASX listed company with a market cap in excess of $1b, so professionally I feel I have reached a goal I didn’t even have,” says Stojcevski. “Looking forward, I do still see more opportunities with Dicker Data as we enter a new phase of growth. “It would be amazing to see the company included in the ASX indexes and possibly if the opportunity arose to expand the Company beyond ANZ region.”

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist, having written for numerous high profile publications including AFR, The CEO Magazine, The Courier Mail, The Australian, Sunday Life, The Sunday Mail, as well as online publications, such as news.com.au,Domain, smh.com.aubrisbanetimes.com.au, among others.