#Reflections: Being Bold for Change – An Evening with Tracey Fellows

Reflections by Maxine Bazeley.

Last night I attended the CBRE offices in Melbourne for an International Women’s Day event organised by the YAICC. This group of young professionals had gathered to hear insights from the CEO of REA Group, Tracey Fellows. The interview led by YAICC’s Jodi Weinberg, began with some quick preference questions designed to get right to the important things, such as Melbourne over Sydney, Australia over Canada and Hilary over Trump. With politics out of the way, the conversation delved into Tracey’s career path, balancing family and executive life as well as sage advice for aspiring women leaders and those seeking to support them.

Tracey’s first job as a graduate was at IBM and their yearlong internship program instilled strong values around servicing the customer, this has remained a thread for Tracey throughout her career. She admits she hasn’t been very clear on her career path, and doesn’t advise not having a 1, 2 or 3 year plan but has always operated with the belief that doing an exceptional job would get her noticed and lead to the next opportunity. This way of working has certainly served her well with progression to Senior roles within IBM and then Dell before joining Microsoft as a Product Lead then becoming a Director.

Despite this Tracey still suffers occasionally from a lack of confidence. She said ‘No’ at first when she was offered the top job with Microsoft in Australia. Why? Because she was listening to her own insecurities telling her she couldn’t do the job. Luckily, Tracey was given the weekend to think about it and after unpacking her reasons, realised she was basing her decision on blocks she was creating herself. Her advice in situations where someone else believes you can do something, is to take their word over doubting yourself.

After taking the job she was assigned a mentor, the Microsoft country head of Italy, who gave her the best advice anyone could. Umberto Paolucci said over the phone – ‘It’s all about love’. This conversation taught Tracey that allowing people to ‘know what’s in your heart’ will lead them to follow you. She still maintains that business is from the heart and leading from this space is what got her through one of her more challenging leadership roles at Australia Post. Tracey says maintaining a strong culture is most difficult when you’re shrinking. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ she says, and straight away humbly qualifies that she’s likely quoting someone else.

For Tracey, culture is the most important thing and when hiring she evaluates whether the person is going to detract from the culture more than add to it. She admits she has an aversion to ego so can be quite sensitive to it and has learnt the hard way to trust her instincts in the hiring process. ‘Hiring people is the most important thing you do as a leader’ Tracey says and understandably the 4 stage interview process at REA is thorough.

The same goes for doing business with other companies. When selecting suppliers, Tracey looks for cultural alignment too. This is how she came to the final decision in signing the recent home loan agreement with NAB. It came right down to the people they would be working with. “Everything in business is as simple as the people’ Tracey says, stating that we spend too much time at work to be at battle while we’re there.

On work life balance, it’s about limiting contact to during the week. Tracey is strict about keeping her personal time and mostly sticks to the rule of not checking work messages on the weekends and holidays. This would be difficult for someone who is so clearly energised by her work. Her excitement is glaringly obvious when she talks through her Friday appointments as an example of how a work day might be. Within it she has 1:1s, informal client and internal meetings but is most looking forward to hearing the pitches from the REA Hack day.

One of Tracey’s regrets is where her biggest piece of advice comes from. She wishes she had the strength to speak up more when she was the only woman in the room. She advised the best way anyone can help in this situation is scan the room for who isn’t being heard, and give them a chance to voice their opinion. This goes for promotions too where people who don’t ask for them are often overlooked. Women have been more likely not to mention their ambitions and hope their dedication and work attract the reward of progression. Tracey says regularly checking in with people around their goals can help uncover an aspiring executive and perhaps a future CEO.

International Women’s Day is on March 8th and the 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange.

For information about events in your area and how to be part of the change, check out the International Women’s Day website.


#Blog: The SDGs and You.

The run into Christmas seems to be getting busier by the year and the phrase “limping to the finish line” rang true with a majority of people we were chatting to in 2016’s final weeks. We were no different at Talent Nation and it was a welcome relief when 5:30pm on December 23rd came around and we were able to ‘down tools’ for the year.

January has become the month of reflection for many people as the year does not seem to start in earnest until after Australia Day. Over the break, as I reflected on the year that was 2016, I reviewed my notes from the Sustainable Development Goals Australia 2016 Conference (SDGA16) and the Banksia Awards. In doing so I was reinspired by the stories told and the purposeful and positive work that people were undertaking around the globe.

However, one of the biggest challenges that arose was that people were struggling to identify what they could do with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as individuals. While we applauded the Banksia Award winners and the representative speakers from the organisations who had embedded the SDG’s into their business plans, it was still difficult to distinguish what someone could do on a personal level.

It is difficult to know where to start. We do need guidance and foundations in place around us so that our efforts have direction, and don’t get lost in the jumble. Yet in saying that, we can’t just sit around and wait for them to be built around us.

The following points are taken from the final session at the conference and I felt they summed up how we are sitting in both of these areas.

What we need from others:

  • The underlying ethical foundation and the movement of the narrative (to communicate in a way that is powerful)
  • Leadership and frameworks from the Government
  • Tools and information to make it easier for people to do the right thing
  • Monitoring, reporting and data; and accountability
  • Our actions enabled through policies and the private sector through climate finance
  • Need for partnerships, connectivity and alliances

What we can do ourselves:

  • Map what we can personally do with the influence already in place
  • Use the Sustainable Development Goals to guide personal decision making
  • Think long- term; even when there may be a quick fix and it may seem it is not in your best interest to do so
  • Be prepared to give some things up
  • Don’t be afraid to start small

Further details on the Sustainable Development Goals can be found here.

The thing that most resonated with me was the closing remark from Professor David Griggs (Monash Sustainable Development Institute) – ‘if we fail on any one goal we fail on them all’. This highlighted the absolute interconnectedness of the goals.

The list above is clearly a small sample; I would be interested to hear of any other actions people are taking to support the goals.

Richard Evans, Talent Nation.

Market pulse: Talent Nation reveals the sustainable job hot spots

Property infrastructure, energy and social enterprises are hot spots in sustainability, according to sustainable, environmental and energy recruitment specialist Richard Evans.

Evans, who is managing director of Talent Nation and chair of the Banksia Foundation, says the consultancies are currently very busy.

“They have been recruiting pretty heavily over the last six to 12 months and it’s still growing,” he says.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of activity around property infrastructure. The energy companies are busy at the moment because they are looking at disruption and how do they transform themselves, and then there’s lots of start-ups, social enterprises.”

Talent Nation splits its time between recruiting for the large corporates and not-for-profits or social enterprises.

“The thing with sustainability is there’s always pockets of activity, so you go through various waves where some areas are really busy and others are quieter.”

Evans says Sydney’s infrastructure boom is starting to flow through into Victoria with a number of major road and rail projects in the design or feasibility stage.

“Once they are awarded they will flow onto more work there.

“The Victorian government has flicked the switch on a number of different areas, so they’re looking at climate change, they’re looking at infrastructure projects, they’re looking at a raft of different areas all at once, and that’s meant that the consultants have been really busy.”

Alternative models of employment emerging

Some sectors have enjoyed mammoth growth – one engineering firm growing by 400 per cent – and it’s not uncommon.

However, employers are mindful that these things go in waves.

“A lot of them are looking at alternative models as well – so how do they engage with people. Do they bring them on as sub-contractors? Or as associates? Or permanent employees? And what does that mean if there is a downturn? Because from a morale perspective it’s never great to bring people on to then let them go. People still haven’t forgotten the GFC.”

Evans says employers are considering alternative models to enable them to flex up and down.

“I think these days people are less concerned with a job for life. So they [workers] are open to looking at alternative arrangements or engagement models.”

Resilience is a hot issue

Climate change resilience is on the agenda, particularly in Melbourne.

“Certainly the appointment of the CROs [chief resilience officers] in Melbourne and Sydney have really put it on the radar.”

According to Evans, the City of Melbourne’s chief resilience officer Toby Kent has done a good job of encouraging action on resilience.

“He’s done a really good job of bringing the local councils together to try to get a single view of what to do around this,” he says.

WA and Queensland recovering

Talent Nation focuses on the job market predominantly in Melbourne and Sydney.

“We do some work in Brisbane but the market in Brisbane and WA has been particularly quiet for the last couple of years within the space,” Evans says.

“The fall-off in resources did a lot of damage to those markets so it’s been predominantly NSW and Victoria where our focus is. But we are seeing a bit more activity – there’s more positive noises coming out of WA and also Queensland as well.”

Near enough isn’t good enough

While in the past a company would hire a candidate who fulfils most of their requirements, many companies will now hold off hiring until they find the perfect recruit.

“These days, people don’t want to make the wrong hire, which is fair enough,” Evans says. “And so they’d rather wait to get the perfect person than find someone who is 70 per cent there.”

This may be because workers are changing jobs more regularly.

“People don’t stick around in roles for as long as they used to and people are open to moving every couple of years,” Evans says. “So if you bring someone on board, and it’s going to take you 12 to 18 months to bring them up to speed, you are going to be understandably a little apprehensive about bringing them on and training them up and then potentially losing them.”

Source: The Fifth Estate