In my twenties I had no career plans to be in a management position. I really had no idea of what I wanted and where I would end up. I fumbled my way through jobs with very little career pathways. I had started a Bachelor of Arts at UWA after leaving year 12 but it was a choice I made that lacked conviction from the start.
I was a natural leader and always had been growing up. I was the captain of my netball team and was a school councillor at high school. At the time, I most certainly would not have defined myself as a leader, and pretty sure no one else around me would have seen me as one either. I lacked confidence and was shy, but internally I would regularly resolve problems or seek answers to things that did not make sense. I guess it was, and always has been, that my experience of life is a steady (even unrelenting) curiosity. A curiosity to be better, to fix, to finish and to explore new ideas.
At the age of twenty I was a bossy, go-getter executive assistant (EA) in the real estate industry for a tough as nails agent called Kim. My team had elevated to number three in the state. I was the first to work and the last to leave. I loved all things work and I knew I was good at it. I quickly deferred my Bachelor of Arts degree and focused on my new job.
Two years later, I ventured out of the big smoke to down south – Margaret River. I just had my first serious life revelation. It was time for a work and life hiatus. I had worked in that job with no break, and real estate took up most of my weekends. Reflecting on it now, I probably and subconsciously realised, that I was lacking in a social and personal identity, but at the time I labelled it as burn out with very little personal gains. I had become all things work, and my social life was no more than squeezing nights in at the local pub. All depth was lost, and so it was time to get back to my roots and smell the fresh country air again.
I remember leaving Perth to where my new home in Margaret River would be. My car packed to the rafters and I was sobbing as I headed down the freeway thinking…what the hell am I doing?
I secured a similar EA role at a local real estate agency. There was no comparison to the level I had worked to in Perth, but the change was refreshing, and a personal life began. I quickly moved to another real estate agency, and my skills improved, and my leadership qualities started to flourish again.
By my mid-twenties I had a niggling feeling that I could not shake. It was my unfinished degree. A degree that I had no interest in. So, I re-imagined what I could be, what did I want, and for whatever reason, I bravely did not let reality get in the way, meaning geography or relationships.
I had spent some time travelling with my partner – Shane (now husband) and loved it. I wanted to mix corporate with international. Draw on my current skill sets and find a degree I could transfer too without any difficulty. So, I took on an International Relations degree at Curtin. Moved my credits from UWA over so I could do both the degree I wanted and remote learning of which UWA did not allow. The idea was, I would put myself on a path towards working for border security or DFAT or even government. Whilst it all sounded very dreamy from Margaret River, I truly was infatuated with the concept and dove straight into it.
It was in my late-twenties, half-way through my first year back at university that I fell pregnant (planned!) and my unit at the time was ‘introduction to counter terrorism’. Picking bedroom colours, browsing umpteen baby clothes stores and baby books turned out to be an odd mix with terrorism and facing confronting images of death. So, I chose to skip the unit, focus on baby, and get straight back into the next semester once the baby business was done. This is where I believe my tendency for curiosity and natural leadership shone through. With a new baby, I still sat at my desk, studying, writing essay after essay. I most certainly mixed in mothers’ group, endless walks around the suburb and mat time, but my mind was continually conflicted. Study and being mum was both a physical and emotional challenge. I persevered and even though there was plenty of sacrifice and difficult days, I loved my education and it did ultimately deliver.
It took me five years to complete my degree from home, and a further two years at post-grad. But it was the additional steps I took during the degree as a regional woman that elevated me from study mum, part-time worker and then to CEO by the age of 37.