My first ‘leadership pathway’ turning point was when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree and made a connection with one of my lecturer’s – Anne. At the time I did not know this connection would set me on a leadership path, but looking back at it, it was clearly a contributing factor to where I am now.
I was immediately drawn to Anne. Not only for what she had going on professionally (which was overwhelmingly cool), but also her charisma and how she inspired anyone to be anything. For a regional woman, this message really resonated. I recall her saying to me once ‘Kendall I have a global career. Perth is where I work – only some of the time. If I can do it. You can do it from Margaret River’..
I never met Anne face to face whilst I was studying, we would only communicate via email and phone. I would seek her advice on essays from time to time even when she was not teaching me that semester. I believe I stood out to her – I was the girl from Margaret River who had a keen interest in counter terrorism.
Anne unknowingly encouraged me to consider new ideas and possibilities, and with that came the opportunity to explore an emerging field of research – counter terrorism. A subject I was both clueless about and geographically and politically removed from. This direction made very little sense to my family and friends, but Shane continued to support me all the way.
There were days where I would shake my head and ask why I am doing this. I would worry about up-skilling in a field where there were no jobs in my region, let alone the state or spending thousands of dollars on a degree that could amount to nothing. I was most certainly questioning my initial bravery. None of it was making sense. I was feeling irresponsible about lost time to my family and me, but I was so far in, that the only way out was to keep going.
My next leadership pathway step was writing opinion pieces for reputable online platforms, such as the AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS. As my knowledge of world affairs improved, I sought alternative writing outlets from the mundane conservative essays that were expected in my undergrad. It was here where I selected TOPICS that personally resonated and I was able to capture the mood of the time and present some compelling arguments. Suddenly, the girl from Margaret River was a published author for a journal based in Victoria and I was getting noticed.
From here my network started to grow. I was connecting with international experts, politicians, and others online. Even at this point, I was still entirely removed from the face to face professional networking because of my regional location. My networking was no more than creating a profile online and feeding it, but surprisingly this still worked.
I then completed my undergrad (moved up to do postgrad in Security Studies), and Anne encouraged me to apply for an internship for her countering violent extremism research unit. I was successful and for the next 12 months I worked for free. It was so exciting, demanding and I loved it.
Anne then left the education sector and went into politics. The research team carried on, and I finally got to a paid part-time position. I then applied to conduct my own research, but this time it was about youth and politics in the Trump era. It was fascinating and my interest in politics grew.
I then decided to step into state politics by becoming a member of a political party. I thought developing an understanding of grassroots politics would assist my research. Soon after, a part-time job came up to assist a WA political party to get more women into grassroots politics. It was a perfect fit for me. I made a stunning case that this job was ideally suited to a regional woman and I was successful.
This job was one of my most challenging, and by far, most rewarding jobs I had stepped into at that stage of my career. It was tough to manage a job where the rest of the staff were based in the city, but I persevered and imparted by own way onto the job. I learnt incredible processes and insights from my line manager – Ellie, and she encouraged me all the way. Below is a photo of when I did a Q&A for women on politics, resource sector and leadership. To the left is Ellie, me, Anne and two other women who were on the panel.
What started as a career in international relations was taking a new pathway to gender equality in politics. This job opened doors elsewhere and created new connections, even within my hometown where I met the CEO of the RRR Network of WA – Jackie. Jackie was looking for a part-time policy and research officer. My background in research and my understanding of politics allowed me to step into this role seamlessly. I was now working two part-time jobs. This was complicated and tiresome but again I persevered, and the learning and experience was tenfold. Such as presenting my Regional Voices Report to Minister Simone McGurk and having dinner with Julia Gillard and 14 other women.
The CEO position at the RRR Network was becoming available in the months ahead and I started to plan for it. Deeply consider how I would manage it, what were its opportunities and build my connections around this role. I wrote numerous business plans for the job even when the position was not even available! I had become so passionate about the organisation that I lived and breathed RRR Network for the months leading up to the position becoming vacant, and when the position did, I was ready to go.
And that was my pathway. To summarise, it was building key connections and relationships. For me it was Kim, Shane, Anne, Ellie, and Jackie. I thank them all for contributing to my professional development in their own ways. Next, it was being brave about possibilities and exploring those ideas, and not allowing my regional location to limit them. This included not only my course selection, but my willingness to dip my toe into the impossible (counter terrorism). Education was pivotal to my leadership outcome. It opened doors that would have normally stayed closed. By creating a pathway, it created opportunities. Not necessarily the ones intended from the outset but most certainly a unique pathway driven via education and exploring opportunity. It was also pursuing additional opportunities such as writing online articles and building a professional network.
Last of all, it was being authentic but with a dash of timely bravery, patience, perseverance and staying strong that the regions are no barrier.