Congratulations Lurline Archay OAM

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Congratulations Lurline Archay OAM

Lurline Archay invested with Order of Australia

Accompanied by her family, Ms Archay (Lurline) has proudly accepted the Medal of the Order of Australia (General Division) for service to information technology from Professor Margaret Gardner AC, Governor of Victoria.

Lurline’s extraordinary career – in the heavily male-dominated IT industry – spanned more than 60 years. Rising through the industry to senior technology roles with global corporate giants of the time, she ultimately founded Park Lane Information Technology, which she led until her retirement in 2020.

It was in her very first job as a trainee at insurer T & G Mutual Life Assurance Society in the mid-1950s that Lurline first encountered computer technology. She astutely recognised the transformative role that information technology was about to have on the world and made a decision there and then to make a career out of it. “It was becoming very clear that information technology was about to fundamentally change the business landscape and I wanted to be part of it”, Lurline recalls.

What transpired was a career spanning more than sixty years, during which Lurline broke through industry-, commerce- and gender-related barriers, and established Park Lane Information Technology.

In the late 1960s, while raising three young children, Lurline joined tech giant IBM as a Systems Analyst in training. Despite the credibility and job security that came with a firm of this size, Lurline soon recognised that it would never satiate her appetite for working hands-on with the emerging technologies of the time, and decided to make a change. She spent the next decade in various programming and supervisory roles.

In 1976, following a challenging application and selection process – a story in its own right – Lurline accepted the newly created position of IT manager at Thorn Australia, a subsidiary of the multi-national Thorn Electrical Industries. Her remit was to provide the computer processing services for the group’s multiple local divisions across Australia.

She oversaw the establishment of Thorn Computer Centre (TCC), a greenfields site in Camberwell, Melbourne, where she employed and led a team of system analysts, programmers and operators to run a 24×7 operation that supported all the subsidiaries.

Once TCC was up and running, Lurline was tasked with the design and development of a real time, online inventory and sales system for one of those subsidiaries, Thorn Lighting Industries (TLI). Pre-dating the public internet, this was an incredibly complex project for its time but Lurline met it head-on and, with the support of her team of dedicated and talented technologists, delivered a successful outcome.

This system had an immediate impact on sales, client outcomes and the profitability of TLI and earned Lurline a reputation for delivering the undeliverable. Industry leaders started watching with interest.

But change was afoot at Thorn Australia’s parent company. Thorn EMI (as Thorn Electrical Industries was now known) was procured by a Japanese company, who divested the Australian holdings. It was this multinational business transaction that opened the door to the founding of Park Lane Information Technology.

“They sold off all the various companies”, Lurline explains. “The only problem was, all of these organisations were running on systems that we had implemented and operated, and they didn’t have the expertise in-house to take over. In fact, we didn’t know of anyone else who could”. Recognising the significance of the opportunity, Lurline proposed that she would buy out Thorn EMI Information Services (as TCC was then known) and offer to manage the IT of all the companies through a new organisation.

It took just a two-hour delay in ANSETT’s Golden Wings Lounge at Melbourne Airport for Lurline to convince the CEOs of Thorn EMI UK and Thorn EMI Australia of the merit in her proposal. In 1986 Park Lane Information Technology Pty Ltd (Park Lane) was born.

Under Lurline’s leadership, and with the skills, expertise and delivery capabilities of her loyal and long-serving team members, including Paul Cuthbert, Jim Douglas and Andrew McPherson, Park Lane grew. Growth came from expanding into software development and by absorbing her husband Tom’s consultancy business.

Always at the forefront of the promise in emerging technologies, Lurline then moved Park Lane into the Relational Database space, developing and selling Oracle-based Park Lane Business Applications. These were sold around the world reaching as far as the UK, France, Bahrain, Taiwan and Philippines, via a dealer network.

Lurline’s son Wayne was part of the original development and implementation team for Park Lane Applications software, and managed its support and implementation for many years. As Park Lane downsized its hardware footprint, from Mainframe, to Minicomputer, to Microcomputer, he took over operational control for all hardware and network requirements. Ultimately, it was all migrated to the Cloud.

While building the business, Lurline also helped establish, and was the first President of the Asia Pacific Oracle Users Group. Her daughter, Bambi, during her time as CEO of Park Lane, was for many years the Asia Pacific representative to the International Oracle User Council.

Having built a thriving company whose solutions have reliably and consistently supported leading organisations for decades, Lurline took her time to find Melissa and Ben Wortley, the best possible new leadership to nurture Park Lane’s future, ultimately stepping away from day-to-day activities in 2020.

We asked Lurline what she thought the secret to her success had been. Her first response was simple: “great people”! Specifically surrounding herself with talented, capable and hardworking people. Most of her family members (husband, Tom, children Bambi, Wayne and Tony, and granddaughter Hayley) worked in the business, a key ingredient to the success of the company, Lurline believes.

When pressed further though, Lurline concedes that the key attributes that supported her career were her ability to make and stand by informed decisions, a practical approach to problems and trust in her people.

Mentee and now friend of almost 50 years, Dawn Davis, was delighted to learn of Lurline’s Award. “Lurline is a leader in her field and has provided a strong example of a woman breaking new ground in a field of work dominated by men. She is also a compassionate person, highly ethical and a wonderful friend and mentor”.

Deirdre Diamante, Co Founder and Director, TechDiversity Foundation, recently reflected on Lurline’s success. “I think her tenacity is one of her greatest strengths, and ability to ride change”, she says. “Lurline has worked in an industry where change is accepted, the norm. For her to succeed she has had to embrace that change while also being tenacious”. Deirdre goes on to say, “She has broken all the barriers: gender, having children, age, technology, to show what determination and intelligence can achieve. She showed incredible foresight in her chosen career almost 60 years ago and is an inspiration to so many women”.

Lurline at Government House with her daughter, Bambi Price (Information Technology Consultant and Co-Founder War on Wasted Talent), her son, Wayne Coombs (Information Technology Consultant), and granddaughters, Dr Hayley Singer PHD (Creative Writing Lecturer University of Melbourne) and Dr Amanda Singer (Chiropractic).
13 September 2023, Government House, Melbourne