Are you despairing of ever smashing through that metaphorical glass ceiling and rising to the top of your chosen profession? SheSaid has persuaded real-life women who are scaling the heights of seven very different fields to share their stories – and what they credit with their success.
The Retail Afficionado: Jennifer Jones, 38 (above)
Former Diesel Clothing managing director and founder/CEO of homewares company Have you met Miss Jones, a lifestyle-publication favourite
Tell us your potted career history: I witnessed first-hand the passion and love my parents had for their homewares business in the Philippines and I made it my personal goal to start my own business by the time I was 30. So just shy of my birthday I resigned from Diesel Clothing. First I tried my hand at selling almost anything and then, on my Dad’s suggestion, I went back to the Philippines to source a homewares collection.
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? The most confronting aspect of moving from a corporate career to your own business is the sheer amount of work you need to do yourself. I didn’t want to take out loans or get investors so I started with my savings and a fierce determination to succeed. While you do make sacrifices, especially financial, you know every aspect of your business and how to do things, and you have more time to do the things you love as you’re calling the shots.
What do you credit with your career success? I was told that when you start your own business everything you’ve done in the past, no matter how insignificant, plays a part in your success. This couldn’t be more true and all the roles I’ve had in the past have given me instinctive knowledge about starting my own company. We now release two full ranges a year of over 300 items and supply over 800 stores across Australia. Find something you truly love doing, then make it your job!
The Banker: Melanie Evans, 36
Head of home ownership for Australia’s second-largest lender, Westpac Group
Tell us your potted career history: I started in banking at 17 years old while studying my undergraduate degree. Having held senior product, marketing and P&L roles in banking, super and investments, it’s fair say I’ve grown up in a male-dominated environment!
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? I believe that those who achieve career success – as defined only by them – tend to be highly successful in life beyond their career too. So I’m very conscious of leading a happy and healthy life. I’ve never thought of anything as a sacrifice. I make explicit decisions on a daily basis about how I spend my time and I own those decisions. I’ve had very good role models in that regard. I make time to go for a run in the morning or at lunchtime, I prioritise family commitments, I make sure I eat well. I don’t hide the fact that I am spending time on myself because I think I am better person for it.
What do you credit with your career success? Understanding your business and most importantly your customers; hard work and tenacity; building solid relationships based on trust and respect; challenging convention and encouraging others to challenge your own thinking; always learning by seeking out people and experiences that will give you new perspectives; caring about people and developing those around you; enjoying yourself and being happy.
The Engineer: Sally Glen, 40
Australian director at Independent Project Analysis (IPA), the industry leader in the quantitative analysis of project management systems
Tell us your potted career history: I don’t recall really choosing engineering but growing up in the outback and being good at maths seemed good perquisites… and I happily went off to remote Tom Price for my first job. I’ve had three out of four good bosses, only two employers and interesting work. From starting in construction and project management, my work now involves governance and project economics, plus evaluating over 200 projects in the last decade (flying and airports are overrated!). Lots of public speaking, including teaching project professionals, is not where I thought engineering would take me.
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? We decided early on to have one of us home and it was an economic decision that I work. I have worried about how much I’ve been away from the girls (now five and seven) during their very young years. I think that has probably been harder on me than them and maybe it is giving them good role modelling for what is possible. The single income has postponed some plans but it has been of enormous comfort to me from many overseas locations that the kids had a parent at home.
What do you credit with your career success? I manage everything in large part because of my husband’s role as stay-at-home parent. I have an aptitude for process improvement and the puzzle solving that goes with operations management, and I have a scenario planning mindset to seeing off problems. Being more senior is isolating and I have to work on those likability issues that tend to be felt more by women. I credit my children for teaching me to be “present” and I have a small, core group of family and friends who help with my sanity from time to time. I also run.
The Journalist: Kate Mills, 40
Former editor of BRW magazine and founder of www.professionalmums.net, a platform for flexible work opportunities for women in law, accounting, engineering and management consulting
Tell us your potted career history: Nearly a lawyer, but then accidentally fell into journalism and instantly loved it. Started in legal journalism but spread into becoming a general business commentator and spent the last three years as first female editor of BRW.
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? As editor my life came down to my family (husband and two girls) and work so I have been through periods where you just don’t see friends and you have to keep an eye on your physical and mental health so you don’t burn out. Any sacrifices have been worth it though – I love what I do.
What do you credit with your career success? Hard work and some luck. Early in my career I met an editor at a party who gave me my first big break – she overheard me making a group of lawyers laugh and thought I would be good value! I am like a lot of women who are the quiet hardworking ones that get things: we need to make more noise though about our achievements – that is one reason more men get ahead. My new motto: hear me roar!
The Lawyer: Anna Elliot, 38
Senior associate and leader of the Sydney labour and employment team at global top-20 law firm, Squire Sanders
Tell us your potted career history: I trained as a lawyer at Hammonds (now Squire Sanders) in the UK. After five years, I moved to Sydney with the intention of staying for six-12 months and returning to my role in London. After a brief career change honing some invaluable business development skills at KPMG, I met my husband and realised I was staying. So I re-qualified and continued my career in employment law in commercial firms here. Seven years later, I received a fantastic opportunity to re-join Squire Sanders to set up the labour and employment team in Sydney, when its newest Australian office opened in November 2012.
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? Yes. Although moving to Sydney was the right decision for my personal life, it set my career back about five years and I am still catching up with my former UK peers. I also took less time off for maternity leave, and had less time at home once I returned to work, than I would have liked. I absolutely love being a mother and I am also passionate about my career – I have been very fortunate to have a husband and employers who are supportive of both.
What do you credit with your career success? Being hard working, committed and driven. Also maintaining relationships and never burning my bridges, which was a key factor in being approached for my current role.
The Property Manager: Kate Brown, 36
Group director, sustainability for global property company Grosvenor, run for the Duke of Westminster
Tell us your potted career history: Completed a Masters degree in Art History and found my first job in property as a graduate asset manager in London, moving into development soon after. Once professionally qualified, I was posted to Sydney as a development manager, taking on the new (international – across our 19 offices) role of group director, sustainability five years ago.
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? The first three years of full-time working while undertaking a post-grad course – four nights a week, four hours a night just for the lectures and coursework on top – was very tough. I kissed goodbye to ANY social life! Now with a young family and an international role, the sacrifice is different: time away from home.
What do you credit with your career success? Never being afraid to ask the question; for a new challenge. People only know what you want if you tell them. So many people are dissatisfied… don’t die wondering! There was a need for my role but it didn’t exist. I asked the question and after some discussion it was created. Also being prepared to feel scarily out of my depth. Being a group director aged 30 was a little daunting – I made plenty of mistakes, but had to learn quickly.
The Television Careerist: Sarah Stinson, 33
Executive producer, Channel 7’s The Morning Show and Daily Edition
Tell us your potted career history: I started in the newsroom at Channel 9 in 1998. I was meant to do a week-long internship; I ended up staying for 8 months, simply by creating new jobs for myself. From there I went to the Today Show as production assistant and after two years, to my dream job at A Current Affair, starting as a researcher before moving up to senior producer. I then went to Today Tonight (Channel 7) as a producer and was promoted to chief of staff, where I really cut my teeth in management. This paved the way three years ago for my progression to executive producer of The Morning Show, and more recently the Daily Edition.
Have you had to make personal sacrifices? On the face of it, yes – I’ve been called back from holidays for every form of natural disaster. In my early 20s I spent more time in a dark edit suite than a dark nightclub (in retrospect, this may have been a good thing). I’ve spent pretty much every Sunday morning for the past 15 years chasing stories when I should be sleeping in. But this is a lifestyle, not a job, so I wouldn’t necessarily call them sacrifices, but rather a relatively small price to pay for long-term gain.
What do you credit with your career success? I have always been resourceful and incredibly determined. If someone tells me something can’t be done I see it as a challenge – an invitation to make it happen. I love recognising talent in other people and helping them to play to their strengths. More than most industries television is a team sport – it’s a constant relay. We all rely on each other to get the best product to air each day. And the two vital ingredients for any successful career: gusto and gumption.
Which women inspire you? We’d love to know your female role models and who you look up to!
Nicole is the founder of TheMoneyMentorWay.com and developer of the 12-Step Prosperity Plan, an achievable and even enjoyable blueprint to take Aussies from worry to wealthy. Nicole’s writing has earned her top personal finance awards in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Her career credits include founding and editing The Australian Financial Review’s Smart Investor magazine, and reporting and editing for the magazine arm of the UK’s Financial Times. Author, qualified financial adviser and Fairfax’s Money Matters columnist for the last decade, Nicole is a regular on television and radio. She talks money without the mumbo jumbo. Follow her on Twitter at @NicolePedMcK.