From psychology and criminal intelligence to developing a computer model to predict movie blockbusters, entrepreneur Pat Reed has led a rich and varied career.
While this isn’t a typical path, Reed told create that being adaptable and open to opportunities was key to her success.
Reed started out as a behavioural psychologist in the mental health sector, then worked in criminal investigation and justice for several years before the Walt Disney Company tapped her for a role in the entertainment industry.
Moving from the hard scientific skills Reed used in criminal intelligence and law enforcement to the movie business required a “real flip” in the way she was thinking and approaching her career. But turning down the offer was not an option.
“It’s pretty hard to get a job at the Walt Disney Company. For them to come and recruit you for a particular technical skill set – it’s pretty hard to resist,” Reed said.
As it turned out, the sense of adventure and self-confidence Reed tapped into to embrace an unknown industry served her well in the entertainment world. She quickly climbed the ladder from software engineer to head of the studio’s technology department.
“That confidence helped me advance quite rapidly,” she said.
Embracing ‘impossible’ challenges
Reed was lured away from Disney by Universal Studios, who presented her with the “impossible challenge” of creating a data model to accurately predict the eight-year returns of upcoming feature films. The goal was to help studio executives make rapid decisions about which movies would go ahead.
At the same time, Reed worked on a way of automating the rules used to decide the size of paychecks offered to movie talent.
“These were both systems that had defied automation before because of the complexity of the rules,” Reed explained.
Reed said people skills were also key to her career advancement.
“As you are moving up from a line engineering role to more of a management and then a leadership role, it’s all about effectively creating an environment where everyone can reach their full potential,” she explained.
She added that in the years to come, leaders in the engineering profession, as well as other sectors, will need to focus on building their interpersonal skills alongside the technical ones.
“[Technical skills] are easy to learn compared to navigating the relationships, recruiting and talent management that is crucial for thriving in the future,” she said.
After rising to the challenges presented by the entertainment industry, Reed moved on to launch Sega GameWorks sites in Kuwait and Long Beach, and become a senior IT director and global portfolio manager at clothing retailer the Gap, before founding her own business agility consultancy.
Reed now shares her knowledge of how to succeed in a rapidly changing world with international clients including the Australian Federal Government, BankWest and energy company Synergy. She will share more of her insights as the keynote speaker at this year’s WA Leaders Conference on 28 May, which has the theme of ‘Sustainable Leadership’.
In an increasingly complex work and project environment, Reed said it is important for engineers and leaders to focus their attention and time on learning, becoming aware of emerging trends and staying ahead of the game.
“Don’t waste energy on fear. Embrace the future and step into challenges,” she said.
Pat Reed will be the keynote speaker at this year’s WA Leaders Conference. To learn more and to register, click here.