Chatelle Lynch achieved her ambition to work in the United States by applying for as many internships as possible. Five kids and a couple of decades later, she’s the global head of HR at Intel Security working in Texas, and one of Australia’s leading female tech exports.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Lynch briefly while she’s currently visiting her home country to facilitate a change management program for the firm. She shared how she came to be leading a team of more than 8000 on the other side of the world, and why ‘quality time’ trumps quantity when it comes to managing a ‘hectic’ life at home.
Passionately, she also shared the importance of encouraging more women and girls into technology. Something she’s conscious of doing with her twin daughters, who are now three.
“It starts early and it’s about exposure,” she tells me. “I’m raising my daughters differently to how I’d been raising my sons because I now have more awareness of technology, I’m surrounded by engineers and can pick their brains. At home, Friday nights, we’ll sit together and create stuff.”
Lynch is also aiming to drive change from within, leading Intel’s Women in Security group which aims to mentor female employees and strengthen leadership skills.
After completing an exchange program at Colorado university, Lynch knew she wanted to work in corporate America. She applied for as many different internships as she could before landing one with Fluor Corporation in California.
“I was intrigued by the American culture. Getting married and having one promotion after the next, I was never able to leave and now I have a dream career,” she says. “They (Fluor) provided me with the internship. I was on a high potential program, 25,000 employees globally, they would rotate you into various fields. I had the opportunity to get exposure to all different types of HR.
In 2005, she followed her husband to Texas where he took up a new teaching and basketball coaching job, and Lynch started in a Compensation Analyst position with Intel Security (then McAfee).
Numerous promotions later along with a swag of children, Lynch’s now leading HR for the firm, and is currently overseeing the people component of Intel Security’s transition away from Intel, and rebrand as McAfee.
It’s a big job, and inevitably our conversation turns to that other big job going on at home, raising five kids. Lynch says she’s regularly asked by women how she makes it work, and she’s more than happy to share what she’s learnt, and advocate for the benefits of working flexibly.
She says that being surrounded by leaders in similar situations helps, and notes that her incoming new CEO Chris Young also has twin girls and understands what kind of additional stress having children at home can place on employees.
“I had my child at 30 and of course it was a big change,” she says, noting she has a 16 year-old step daughter who’s been with her since she was six months old, nine and eight year old boys, and the three-year old twins. “Now I mentor a lot of females who say ‘I feel like I’m going to go backwards’, and I try and be that role models and talk about why you need to pursue a positively flexible organisation, along with supportive leaders and managers.
“I get some many women asking my about how I make it work. I just show them that I’ve done this, there is no ‘right time’ to have kids, I didn’t know when the right time would be.
Lynch had around three months following each of her pregnancies. “Three months out with twins, it wasn’t enough,” she concedes. “Sleep deprivation will get to you when you’re running a meeting at midday, pumping and still breastfeeding at home. It definitely was a balance and thankfully I have a supportive husband who has taken the time off with the kids.”
She puts an emphasis being present with her children, saying that at home she likes to keep the mornings free for her children, along with the weekends, and get to as many evening sporting events as possible. She says she gets up a good hour before her kids to help them get ready for the day. “The morning is sacred time when everyone is fresh, the phone is away, it’s the time for being in the moment with them.
“It’s so busy and crazy, but I’d have it no other way, and thankfully I have a very supportive husband who’s taken time off to help with the kids.
Lynch is currently in Australia running transition roadshows across Intel Security’s local offices here. Spending more than half her time travelling, she says it’s essential that she’s able to visit and meet with as many of the company’s employees across the world as possible. She adds that Intel Security has a commitment to hiring 50% female employees, runs unconscious bias programs and regularly work with school to encourage girls to think about careers in tech. She adds that the tech sector in the US generally is working to hold each other accountable to diversity targets and goals.
Working her dream career, managing a massive team and travelling the world Lynch concedes she does miss Australia.
“I do hope to one day come back here and work and have my children experience the way I grew up. Travel around Australia, maybe even wear a school uniform,” she says.