Achieving work/life balance – and how we get there - continues to be a topic of conversation for many, particularly as we move further into the COVID-19 recovery era. Mentors, and those who have gone before us, can provide valuable sources of insight and reason. They’ve often lived through similar experiences, paving the way for the next generation.
In late 2022, Katharine Tapley, ANZ’s head of Sustainable Finance, moderated a panel discussion on these themes at the Carbon Market Institute’s annual Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit in Sydney with experts in this field. They were:
• Heather Campbell, CEO Bush Heritage
• Mary Stewart, CEO Energetics
• Kerry Schott, Chair Net Zero Emissions & Clean Economy Board NSW Government
Below is part two of an edited version of that discussion. You can click here to read part one.
KT: We've heard about your accidental pathways, ambling pathways, making an impact, and staying the course. To me this informs your incredible backgrounds moving from public sector, to private sector to not-for-profit groups.
I'm really interested to understand how and why that's happened, and if those were deliberate decisions or accidental decisions in the moment?
KS: I've actually never felt it was difficult to change from the public sector to the private sector and vice versa. I think the differences between them are sometimes overstated.
There are differences in the way things are done but in the work I do, which often tends to be very transactional, there's not much difference between being an investment banker and doing a deal. It’s very nice because you start it, you finish it and you close the file.
There are things in the public sector where you're working on a particular policy and you do that work and then it's finished, it's legislated or it's put away. It's quite similar.
HC: I like working across all sectors. I did have a little sojourn into retail property, and I found that the scariest because I prefer wearing steel caps and jeans. But it's about the challenge and every sector has different challenges. Some people say, 'Oh, you're not for profit, you're working for purpose'. Well, a lot of corporates are for purpose as well.
MS: I made a deliberate decision to leave academia. It took me a year to get an interview, so I was unemployed for the year. But I never regretted it because I just learned stuff. That's the thing - as you take these decisions, make sure that you're learning something through them.
Never regret the decision you take – because you’ve made it - always carry on moving forward.
KT: Can we touch on the role of people you've met along the way, mentors who guide you, and the people that attract you to roles? How much do individuals factor into your decision to join an organisation?
MS: I am an absolute believer in mentoring programmes, whether they are structured programs or choosing your own mentor. Mentoring is very important, both peer mentoring and being mentored by seniors.
Those are the people you should be looking for, people who will help you as you work your way through - whether you have a determined career path or just want to better understand the decisions you're trying to make.
Your mentors might be very surprising. The people who've made me think differently about what I'm doing haven't necessarily been my seniors; they've been my equals or completely different.
Look for your mentors, and those who help you think about your career decisions as you move forward.
KT: I'm really interested to understand whether you think resilience is an important attribute to build a career, and a life?
KS: I think resilience is important, but I actually think the young generation has got more resilience than I've ever had. I think the experience of people over the last three years or so has just been astonishing to watch. And I've got great respect for that.
I've got resilience in the sense of keeping going at something as long as I think I'm going to get there. I do think it's important to recognise when you're not going to be able to have an impact or achieve what you set out to, and then to stop doing it. Do something else or try something else.
KT: We've spoken previously about the concept of work life balance, and how important it is. How does this work for you in your lives?
MS: I’m lucky because I’m at a point in my career where I can set my own work life boundaries. I choose not to work on a Tuesday, so I have time to do life admin.
What I would say to people is: choose companies that let you do that for yourself as much as possible. It's your market. Make the rules for yourself now because they'll stick with you going forward.
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