Cheryl Bailey is on a mission to leave her mark on Australia. A descendant of the Muruwari people of north western New South Wales, Bailey took an interest in something not many do at such a young age: Information technology.
In 2019 she founded Indigenous Technology, an Indigenous-owned technology company. It provides technology services for Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses across Australia.
It's Bailey's goal to empower people through technology.
"As a young child, I always wanted to do something great and inspire others," Bailey said, speaking to ZDNet. "Creating this company and having this legacy continue on with Indigenous Technology, I hope to leave a stamp on the world by creating this business and giving others opportunities, which I didn't have when I was younger."
Having gained a Microsoft professional certification, Bailey took her knowledge of the Redmond giant's products to shape Indigenous Technology, which is a Microsoft partner providing cloud connectivity services, IT project management, and recruitment for Indigenous peoples.
But it was also her time at airline giant Qantas -- a post she had for over 12 years, eight in IT -- that gave Bailey the motivation to help give others the opportunity and IT skills. While there were a number of Indigenous employees working across other areas at Qantas, Bailey was the only Indigenous person working in the technology space.
"I was quite surprised to hear that I was the only Indigenous person -- not just Indigenous female -- working in IT, and with the struggle that I had when I first went into IT eight years ago, that it was a challenge, I thought, 'Okay, I have to keep going, I can't fail on this'," she said.
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At Qantas, Bailey was tasked with a project to migrate 3,000 devices for safety, the integrated operating centre, and flight operations from XP to Windows 7. She said this inspired her to learn more about technology.
"Once I realised I migrated the 3,000 devices and loved it, I thought, 'Oh wow, I actually am enjoying this', and that's what made me want to learn more about IT," she explained. "I had a win … and wanted to get into more projects."
After winning a Qantas annual service award for the project and receiving praise from her peers -- as well as other women from the business approaching her for advice -- Bailey looked into developing more IT and business management skills.
Bailey approached the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to further her studies in 2014 -- at that time she was the only Indigenous female to get into postgraduate study of technology and business management.
Despite possessing the skills and experience, as well as passion, Bailey was still launching a startup in Australia, which isn't without its own difficulties.
See also: Launching and building a startup: A founder's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
"During the startup phase, I created a business plan covering the key elements to start a business, which included market research, finances, products and services, risk, intellectual property, marketing, competitors, and legal to name a few," she explained.
"I then presented my business plan to Indigenous Business Australia to ensure I was on the right track before launching Indigenous Technology."
With the support of Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), Bailey said she was introduced to business startup programs provided by the likes of the Australian government.
Her vision for Indigenous Technology was to provide technology for other Indigenous businesses, but it's grown to help with the delivery of technology-based Reconciliation Action Plan initiatives for government, corporates, the education sector, as well as retail organisations.
"My goal is to grow this company, to be around five to 10 years' time, that's the start, that's my prime goal at the moment, but setting it up to provide the services across Australia," she told ZDNet.
She also has the goal of employing a majority Indigenous Australians and has partnered with the likes of Indigenous Workforce Consulting to make that a reality.
"Recruiting Indigenous people into the company, mentoring them, and helping them to learn, grow, and develop -- inspiring technology enthusiasts," she said.
Bailey doesn't just want to build a thriving business, she wants to be a leading figure within the Indigenous Technology community and help create pathways for Indigenous people in the technology sector.
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