Women in Tech

Women in Tech: Kylie Derbyshire, Director of Research and Development at AusDiagnostics

Welcome to another edition of Women in Tech where we showcase inspiring women who are breaking barriers and shaping the future of the tech industry. Today, we’re super excited to be chatting with Kylie Derbyshire, the Director of Research and Development at AusDiagnostics.

From nurturing her childhood curiosity about dinosaurs and outer space into a thriving career in biotechnology, to leading critical production and quality control processes at AusDiagnostics, Kylie’s journey is a testament to the power of resilience, continuous learning, and embracing change.

She’s not just a tech leader but a true advocate for women in STEM, passionately dedicated to creating an inclusive culture and supporting personal growth within her team. So, let’s dive in and get to know Kylie better, her experiences, perspectives, and nuggets of wisdom she’s gained from her illustrious career.

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Hey Kylie, great to have you here today. Your journey to becoming the Director of Research and Development at AusDiagnostics is quite inspiring. Can you share some personal anecdotes or turning points in your career that you believe helped shape your success in the tech industry? 

Working with AusDiagnostics since 2008 has given me the opportunity to have direct experience in most areas of the business and this has given me the ability to see how the all the small parts come together to achieve the ‘big picture’.

A particular turning point was coming back to R&D after having spent time in the manufacturing and quality control sphere – the impact of having a quality product speaks for itself, but the importance of having quality processes behind the product was definitely eye opening, everything from recruitment to logistics has a vital part to play! 

Driving changes in culture and processes can be very difficult but key to making these changes is ensuring our people understand the overall vision, why change is required, and see the overall benefits of change.

Developing adaptable communications skills was extremely important – my role involves working across multiple departments in the company and so being able to adapt to how different parts of the business (and people) need to communicate has been essential.

As a woman who has broken barriers and taken on significant roles within AusDiagnostics, what are some valuable lessons you’ve learned about representation and leadership in the tech industry? How can organizations create more opportunities for women to thrive in this space?

In the past emotional intelligence and empathy were seen as weaknesses of women in the workplace and I think it’s wonderful that companies are starting to realise that these qualities are vital strengths in leaders.

Unfortunately, women still have to battle against the perception that having vision and the drive to achieve are negative attributes – it is essential the companies develop supportive and inclusive cultures that nurture women and ensure that leadership qualities are not repressed, and that all staff feel comfortable to innovate and challenge convention. Well-being of our staff is core to our policies.

Your background in Biotechnology from the University of Newcastle has undoubtedly played a role in your career path. What inspired you to pursue this field, and were there any female role models in STEM that motivated you along the way? 

I have always had an interest in natural science and technology. Growing up, I was fascinated by dinosaurs and outer space! As a child I was always asking “but how?… but why?” and that I still ask that question every day – for everything from molecular biology challenges, all the way through to challenging processes and conventions in the workplace and beyond. A day I’ve learnt something new, is a day well spent.

Mentorship is an important aspect of your work at AusDiagnostics. Can you share some stories of how your guidance has empowered other women in the company and the impact it has had on their professional development?

Guiding staff on developing their critical thinking skills and challenging conventional thinking – “why should we always do it this way?”

Mindfulness, empathy, and looking after themselves. Ensuring that they set healthy work-life boundaries for themselves and for staff they oversee.

Bringing staff back to look at the ‘big picture’ and remind them that what we do every day has a real impact on our customers and patients.

Building relationships where staff feel safe to voice their opinions.

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Throughout your 15 years of scientific expertise and experience in the medical diagnostics industry, how have you seen the landscape change for women in STEM? What do you think can be done to further improve gender diversity in this field?

Whilst opportunities for women have certainly opened up, there is still plenty companies can do to improve gender diversity in STEM. 

Starting early, at schooling and university enrolment – get women engaged in STEM (particularly engineering and IT) by presenting inspiring academic and industry stories to showcase what is possible, and how STEM helps improve the quality of life of individuals and society at large. 

Another challenge here is how companies get graduates into STEM jobs and keep them there. Companies should offer

  • Graduate programs like ours
  • Companies offering support by way of flexible working policies, supportive maternity leave/return to work policies 
  • Connection to vision; Highlighting how our work connects to the health and well-being of people is important to ensure women remain engaged and motivated.

Your leadership has been instrumental in establishing critical production and quality control processes at AusDiagnostics. How have your experiences as a woman in tech influenced your approach to fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment for all?

At AusDiagnostics we foster a culture built on respect. All staff, regardless of background, have a right to feel respected and have their voices heard in the workplace. 

As someone who has navigated the challenges of translating products from research into manufacturing, what advice do you give to women entering the tech industry on developing resilience and adapting to the ever-evolving world of technology?

Always be listening, always be curious, and never turn down an opportunity to learn something new or listen to a new point of view.

Challenge convention and apply an innovation mindset – just because it’s been done that way in the past does not mean it has to be done that way in the future.

Building connections is essential in the tech industry. Can you share any personal experiences where networking or mentorship has had a significant impact on your career, and how you believe this can benefit other women in tech?

Right here at AusDiagnostics I am so lucky to be inspired by amazing women every day. We have several women in key leadership positions (such as COO Nicole McKeown) and they all advocate for and support other women.

Balancing personal and professional life is often a challenge for women in leadership roles. Can you share some insights into how you’ve managed to find harmony between these two aspects of your life while leading at AusDiagnostics?

A few years ago I was given the opportunity to complete a training course in mindful leadership, which gave amazing insights into team leadership, but also included valuable lessons on the importance of being kind to yourself. It’s so important to listen to what your body is communicating when under stress or fatigue. Taking care of yourself is mandatory for being able to lead a team with maturity and empathy.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.