Recently, I was invited to speak at an industry masterclass on culture and leadership, being asked to draw on my own experiences and share them with the audience.
While I’m happy to chat to others about their careers, I am not a great ad libber when it comes to talking about myself so in preparation for the event, I wrote down a few things about my own culture and leadership journey and what I’ve learnt along the way.
Job 1a – Answering the phone for my dad’s plumbing business
Lessons learnt: Taking down the right detail was important for making money. I also learnt not to mix business and family although the culture was great of course!
Job 1 – stacking shelves at Foodland
At 14, I got my first real job. It was half outside and in winter and I used to put socks on my hands because it was so cold stacking the shelves. My boss was grumpy, never really said much and I was scared of him.
Lessons learnt: Don’t work for someone like that again and don’t create a culture where staff don’t feel comfortable enough to communicate with you.
Job 2- COLES ‘check out chick’ and spruiker.
I wasn’t comfortable with the 2nd part of the job as it involved selling to customers over the loud-speaker but I had an encouraging boss that was willing to spend time teaching me what I needed to know.
Lessons learnt: Great lesson to think about giving your staff a gentle nudge to move out of their comfort zone to do things that they may not have done before. It’s also important that the workplace culture makes you feel safe being able to do something different.
Job 3 –University
Did I spend too much time at the uni bar? Hmm…maybe but I did end up with a degree and learnt to socialise as well.
Job 4 – Cancer laboratory summer scholarship (and started my Honours)
This is where I learnt about academia.
Lessons learnt: Relationships lead to support and even rehiring. Some of the leadership in academia was great as it was in that lab although in other labs the culture was so competitive that it turned me off pure academia. The culture was one of working 7 days a week non-stop or you were not seen as one of the team.
Job 5- Snake venom R&D
This was an industry commercialisation role where we did R&D around snake venom purification and the neurotoxins were sold on. I loved the actual role and the team I worked in were supportive, diverse in nature from nationality to role. I learnt so much from that environment.
Lessons learnt: Do your due diligence especially around the products market! Unfortunately, they had no market for their product, and I lost my job. Make sure there is a market need or pull for the product and not you just pushing it.
6th job – Sales to Adelaide scientists of scientific instrumentation.
Loved it. My boss was great, but I had not a lot of freedom. I think it was from trust issues he had with a previous staff member who had abused their time. Be careful not to tar all with the same brush, one staff member does not mean all will be like that. I ended up on really good terms with them in the end.
7th Job – Restaurant management and back packing across UK and Europe and Thailand. Bit like Uni- learnt to socialise.
8th Job – Laboratory Sales Melbourne – Life Sciences
This was through someone I know who I had worked with before. I did not formally interview for the role and ended up in Melbourne doing a job I had no real idea on what I was doing.
Lesson learnt: Make sure you always get interviewed for a role and you also interview others. 40% plus of candidates don’t work out because of miss matched expectations on both sides. As start-ups please interview thoroughly, get someone else to interview and please do references, I do believe what is not said is probably more important than what is.
9th Job – Recruitment
1998. The year google started. I had to pick up the phone and cold call, no email blasts. It was the old-fashioned phone and fax and mailing out thank you for applying letters. I took a significant salary cut thinking that was what I had to do. I did not talk enough about it to others, as really was naïve and had no real mentors and jumped at it. Ended up working in a not very good environment at all. There was 2 of us in the Melbourne office and we had to ring Sydney to let them know when we were going to the toilet. Also made us come in on Sundays? Really?? Yes and I took it. Burnt out. Be careful you don’t expect too much of your staff. That company has now been sold and thankfully the culture has been addressed.
10th job– Unemployed Employment Consultant – Salvation Army
Loved the work and really rewarding. Loved my manager and she was also a leader. The culture in the office was caring and supportive of us and also for those that we were trying to assist. Found out that I missed science though but also good to try something different. Many of the job trainings that I learnt then I use today in our mexec jobstrategyTM program.
11th jobs – Science recruitment
Combined the jobs with roles in Australia and the UK I learnt a lot and had mixed feelings on my leaders. I became a boss also and did not get any leadership training and in my first leadership role and I look back and I had become the micromanager. I think partly I was managing the way I was being managed. But that did not work for me. The recruitment part I loved though. Matching up candidates with clients and having an impact on people’s lives. What I learnt from there is what I use now. Making mistakes is ok, as long as you learn from them.
12th job – Being a Mum
Learnt a lot about leadership and how to manage insubordinates and those that don’t listen to you. Daughter now in VCE and 14-year-old boy. Agh…
13th job– mexec Director and Founder
I am now running my own business and I see it as a start-up. I started in 2011 doing a few CVs as I was actually asked to when a biotech was closing down, and I set up my ABN. I remember calling one of my mentors saying: “What do I charge?” I have now grown to 5 staff. I have had my ups and downs as someone like you have and will. But I love working for myself and building mexec. I have found what I want to do when I grow up.
I have to take time to lead. As the main recruiter I went to being the main recruiter and leading a team, and I was not doing enough of the leading. It takes time and I have step out of what I need to do day to day to spend time with my staff. Time is something that we now have a weekly meeting and even daily meetings are even better and it ensures that we are communicating and helping support each other. My lesson here is as you build your team make sure you can give them the time that they need so that they can do their jobs effectively to help you build your business but also the culture that is inclusive and what you aspire to.
So that’s me and my journey hopefully with some insights into what I am now and how I got here today.