Executive Woman: Climbing the ladder with Kate Vale

When it comes to tech, digital and search, Kate Vale is a bit of a superstar. From Google’s first employee in the region heading up sales and operations, to boss lady of the world’s largest and fastest growing music service, Spotify Australia and New Zealand, Kate is doing what she loves – leading a tech startup.

I chat to her about what she has learnt so far, climbing the corporate ladder in high heels and keeping it real with family life.

What was your first job?
I landed a job in human resources at a law firm in Melbourne right out of university.  I stayed there for a few years but realised HR wasn’t for me.

How did you get into tech?
I applied for a job in sales at recruitment advertising agency TMP Worldwide, I got the job and ended up working on the launch of monster.com in Australia.  I fell in love with digital and the rest is history – I worked in various roles at OzEmail, LookSmart, Google and now Spotify.

Did you have a mentor?
To be honest I’m not big on mentors.  I have a lot of women that I look up to and who inspire me at various moments in time.  I like reading about them and following them across social channels.  ie. Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama

Describe your first boardroom experience.
I don’t really recall my first experience to be honest!  We had a big boardroom in my first job as it was a medium sized law firm.  I do recall many presentations in that room and I remember it was NEVER easy presenting to lawyers.

What has been your most proud achievement to date:

  • in business?  Launching Spotify in Australia and New Zealand in May last year.  It’s such an amazing technology and a new way for music lovers to consume music.  I love it when people tell me how much Spotify has changed their life.
  • in life?  Having children.  They bring so much happiness to my life!

What drives you?
Passion for what I do.

What have you sacrificed along the way and was it worth it?
I think time with my children to some extent but I am fixing it!

Describe a typical day.
We are generally up and awake by around 6.30.  On Mondays and Tuesdays I need to get the kids to kindy so I have to get them ready, pack their lunch etc.  My drive to work is usually pretty tedious as I live on the northern  beaches.  Thank god for bluetooth so I can listen to soothing music! When I arrive at work I generally grab a coffee to get me kickstarted.  Every day is different and filled with many challenges and tasks.  I attend client meetings, meet with folks at the labels, have one on one meetings with my team members, deal with my crazy and loud staff, conduct press interviews (sometimes even TV!), meet with all sorts of interesting people in the industry, respond to a crazy number of emails, keep my manager in the US across what’s going on in the business, jump on calls to people in HQ in Stockholm….the list goes on….

Being a mum, how do you keep everyone happy?
It ain’t easy!  My kids are happy.  They have a great kindy to attend with wonderful teachers, they have a nanny who entertains them (without her life would be very hard), they have hard working parents who love them and they are always laughing and enjoying life.  We make sure we have fun time together as a family every weekend.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
Hire great people and people you trust.

What does it take to lead a company?
You need to be incredibly passionate about what you do.
You need to be seen and you need to listen.
You need to react quickly.

What’s the one advice you didn’t get that you would give to women who want the top job?
Be patient!  Great careers take time to build.

If you were to do it all over again, what would you change? Why?
Nothing.  I don’t regret anything.

What’s your stance on clocking off at 5.30pm?
I do it!  I have young children and I want to spend time with them before they go to bed.  I usually pull out the laptop after they have gone to bed and finish off the days work.

Is there truth to the old adage that “nice girls don’t get the corner office”?
It’s a silly old adage!

Why do you think there is still not enough women in top jobs?
I think it’s tough for women who want a family life and a great job.  I wish more companies would support this and I think we would see more women at the top.

In your view, how will the future workplace operate and what will it look like?
I think we will see less people in office space.  With technology where it is now people will be working from home in the hours that suit them.

About Kate Vale

As Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, Kate Vale heads up all aspects of the business at Spotify for the region, managing a team of twelve (and growing) in Sydney.

With a strong head for business and unique flair for digital & search, Kate has enjoyed a hugely distinguished career spanning fourteen years in some of the most prestigious digital environments in the world.


Robelen Bajar


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