Being a farm girl is all part of Angela Coble’s charm. In fact, growing up in a farming family in rural NSW – experiencing working life on the farm – has taught her a few things about the power of hard work and teamwork. 

Certainly, it’s this sense of teamwork that flows through her career, a busy one that has seen her take on many leadership and executive roles across various industries including healthcare, utilities, finance and agriculture.

Stories Ink caught up with Coble to discuss her exciting journey into cyber security at Johnson & Johnson, her thoughts on leadership and some of her interests in life – and even her unexpected love for luxury cars.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

Archaeologist; lawyer.

What were some of your first and most memorable jobs?

Selling sports shoes; working at K-Mart and packing shelves at Coles. All gave me perspective.

How did your path take you into your current role: Director Business Technology (CIO) at Johnson & Johnson Medical?

It was quite bizarre really! I had been involved in technology projects for a while in my operations roles in agriculture, finance and then utilities. When I came to J&J, I started in a compliance area and ended up jumping in to lead a new technology system introduction into our organisation. That then led to really digging into security, with the local IT Director offering me a few expanded roles. A chance meeting with the new Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for J&J, who saw something in me that she needed, had me stepping into leading security for APAC. 

Being a person who always walks in other shoes, I decided to go after the leading qualification at the time – Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). After obtaining that very strict and highly valued qualification, the role of Director of Technology became available – and here I am seven years later.

Can you highlight your main responsibilities in that role? 

To profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity by supporting technological advancements and supporting our people and organisation to do what they do best. First and foremost, I’m a business leader who just happens to know technology. That gives me opportunity and access to ensure our technology is a balance of suitability, stability and disruption.

In your current role as a business technology leader, what motivates you, and what are your keys to being a good leader?

People and purpose. It’s really that simple. It’s not lost on me the legacy that I create or the messages I send through my actions as a leader in technology or any other executive role that I’ve held. For the people around me, I’m an example, and that comes with a responsibility to be myself, to lift others and hold myself accountable to making a difference. Being a good leader is about all those things – people; accountability; authenticity; energy; optimism; realism; and creating moments that matter and environments where others can thrive, not just survive.

I’m motivated by my family every day to be the best I can be – to be grateful for everything; to make a difference around me, no matter how small; know that I have learned something new; and been resilient – just really grow as a person. What a life well lived!

What’s the term leadership mean to you – and what type of leader are you?

Leadership is a privilege not a title and it can happen no matter where you are in your career. Be the leader you want to be led by, and serve your people so they are inspired. I’m very much a servant leader balanced with entrepreneurial and transformational traits.

What are some of your big milestones/achievements in your career so far?

The biggest has to be changing up my career from Commercial Operations to Cyber Security.

What are your main lessons learned during your career thus far?

There is no wrong or right answer – just a subjective response to a situation based on a personal experience or perspective. My advice is to learn widely, explore, debate with others, and be curious so that you grow and evolve.

Want technology trends/market shifts have you seen in your time as a tech leader?

There have been so many – remember I started in commercial operations, so I saw the onset of Internet banking (yep – I helped with that!); of intranets and knowledge management; of connected services to allow people to work in the ways that suit them and produce quality outcomes for our organisations. 

The best tech trend I see is the democratisation of technology (or is it a vision I hold? – not sure). We need everyone to upskill and reskill. The biggest tech trend I see is not about devices or apps, but people rebalancing their own ‘software.’ Developing new skills and embracing the uncomfortable.

Given you’ve had experience in many areas – from design thinking to digital transformation to organisational change – what field of study most excites you?

Rebalancing for future growth – so transformation for success and not because it’s a buzz word. 

How would you describe yourself?

Optimist; realist; curious; organised; hyperactive; and caring.

What’s a fun fact or something people don’t know about you?

I love cars – and not just any car – AC Cobra; Lamborghini; they are just a beautiful example of technology and function providing experiences and joy.

Education is a key part of your life, having completed your University Degree at USQ. Today, you’re extending your studies by undertaking a Doctorate by Research. Why is this so important to you? 

My Doctoral research is a bit of a trifecta for me – part solving an anomaly with data; part pushing me to achieve and grow; part giving back to my country, my peers and lifting others. My continuous pursuit of learning is driven from my natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. 

Everything changes so fast – in business and in life – that the only constant is your ability to adjust, absorb and adapt. In my opinion, our agility cannot be achieved without the growth mindset behind the pursuit of learning. My family needs that of me, my organisations need that of me, I need that of me. Even as I complete my research, I am picking up practical qualifications – last year during the height of COVID it was my Agile SAFE 5 and earlier this year, a Digital Transformation Certification through MIT.

Have you ever suffered from imposter syndrome, which is a key theme that plagues many women and men?

I can’t recall ever feeling this way. I just figured what’s the worst thing that can happen – even when I stepped into the Cyber role with no qualifications, I just accepted that I was in this continuous learning loop and was never going to be the most qualified or even experienced, but I still had a voice and value to bring.

As a female role model, and champion of diversity, what advice can you offer?

I didn’t start on this journey to be a role model to anyone. I just set out to be true to myself and leave others more energised then they were before from my actions and words.

No one is perfect! And that very much includes me! I have good days and great days, and days that provide me a lesson I may not have otherwise come across if I didn’t have something to overcome. But I am always grateful…for every day and every moment.

What are your top priorities for the next 12 months?

Health and well-being of myself, my family and my work family.

Looking back on your career, is there anything you’d change?

Not a thing – every challenge is an opportunity; every moment is a reflection.

What do you do outside the world of technology?

Read and currently working on my Doctorate.

Mentoring is a big passion of yours. Why do you mentor – and what’s your main advice on this front?

To support those that need some lived experience and help them see from the outside in. I send the ladder down as many times as I can.

Do you know of a worthy ‘Close-Up’ contender? Get in touch with Jennifer at jennifer@storiesink.com.au to get the story captured.