On International Women’s Day, remembering Cate. My work mum and my inspiration


As a 21-year-old graduate with a finance degree in hand, but looking to get into technology, I was lucky enough to meet an amazing woman by the name of Cate (Catherine) Clewett in 1997, who helped me start my career and led me to where I am today. Cate was inspiring. She studied science and pure maths at university – she was always the smartest person in the room.

Cate and her husband Gene owned and ran a tech company in Crows Nest, Sydney, called Hands-on Systems that they founded in 1985 – Gene was the front and Cate was the brains. In 1985 senior women in IT were extremely rare! Cate was an absolute trailblazer and the entire industry used to look up to her.

However, it was not Cate’s brilliance, or her status in the Sydney technology industry, but rather Cate’s humanity that made her inspiring. She was a self-declared introvert and the most humble person I have ever met. Cate always treated everyone equally – from the most junior in the room to the most senior customer. She was the epitome of servant leadership.

And ultimately – Cate’s courage, strength and fight was amazing. She was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at a young age. Multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and pain for years, and Cate never ever blamed, felt sorry for herself or changed her approach to life. Cate was like a commando in those days – she was always worried about everyone else, and never put herself first.

She continued to work against all advice because she didn’t want to leave her team overloaded.

I consider myself lucky in life to have met Cate. She mentored me, taught me, showed me, and guided me through the first 15 years of my career. She was my work mum. In her final hours, I got to see Cate and thank her for everything she had given me through life. In typical selfless fashion, she gave me one more gift. A bit of advice that I always repeat to my children and something I live by now: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, John. It doesn’t matter in the end.”

In memory of Cate Clewett, we started a Women in IT award for those amazing women who worked at Hands-on Systems who displayed the characteristics that Cate always displayed. Some of those women still work at KPMG.

I’m reminded of the inspiring Cate Clewett every time I bump into these amazing women in the corridors of KPMG.

KPMG acquired Hands on Systems in 2015. John has just been appointed our Chief Digital Officer.



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