Wednesday 8 March was an eventful day. It was International Women’s Day, and my Grandmother’s funeral. The timing was impeccable - a fitting tribute to a woman who had been my inspiration since childhood.
A woman who battled through the male dominated British Civil Service to build a successful career that saw her rise to the position of Principal, travel internationally, and be one of the first women to dare to wear a pair of trousers in her workplace! A formidable woman, who at the age of 95 could still do the Times crossword in less than 10 minutes, and a trail blazer, who forged a path for other women to follow.
It was also around this time that I was asked to be part of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA marketing campaign, which is based on the concept that you can achieve your ‘future anything’ armed with a Sydney MBA. This seemingly simple request led me on a journey of self-reflection, where I questioned every career decision to date and tried to imagine what my ‘future anything’ might be. I found the process surprisingly challenging and several months later – and thanks in part to my MBA studies – I have figured out why.
Since starting my MBA earlier this year I have had the privilege to work with some truly amazing people from a mix of backgrounds, industries and with varying skill sets. We learn from each other, we challenge each other and I have realised I want to work with people like this every day. As part of the recent Strategies for Growth Unit, we were learning about start-ups. As we watched a documentary about Makerbot1, a 3D printing start up, I felt a sense of excitement - and a sense of jealousy - I could never do anything like that.
I tried to put these feelings aside as I went back to work - but something had shifted. I was missing the level of engagement that my MBA peers provided; I was lacking the sense of risk, of urgency, of innovation; the excitement of the world that I had glimpsed in the movie. It got me thinking - why am I assuming that my career can’t provide these things for me?
I have always been very focused on my career and I consider that each move has been strategic. I have not known where I wanted to go exactly, but have been on a journey to climb the corporate ladder, confident that I would not stop until I was safely at the top. With a fantastic education behind me, and the support of my partner, friends and family, I have the opportunity to do almost anything. I feel very lucky and very grateful. But a couple of years ago things started to change. I found myself going for the easier option, the safer route. Maybe I should work closer to home, maybe it doesn’t matter if there isn’t the career path, maybe I should be focusing on other things? Conscious of my age and situation; early 30’s, female, newly married, I had subconsciously started to step back.
Despite my support of other women in the workplace, helping them grow, flourish and realise that they can have a career and a life, I was not heeding my own advice and that of UN Women NC Australia. I was not being true to myself, my desires or my aspirations. Finally having come to this realisation, I reread my Grandmother’s Eulogy, and gathering inspiration from the Be Bold for Change UN Women campaign, I put doubt aside and set off on a path towards my authentic future self.
I am delighted to announce that I am shortly due to start a new job in a completely new industry and in an environment that both scares me and excites me in equal measure. The role is bound to come with more challenges in terms of balancing work with having a family, but thanks to the MBA and the UN Women NC Australia, I am confident in following my dreams and being true to myself. My future really is “anything”!
I am sure my Grandmother would be proud.
I would encourage everyone to take stock once in a while and compare what you are doing to what you would do if you believed you could do anything. Oh – and watch the Makerbot movie!
In loving memory of Phyllis Noel-Finch, 25 April 1919 – 11 February 2017.