An Interview with a Lead Consultant for a multinational software solutions company

A/N My interviewee this week is someone who used to be in the study next to me at Rishworth School.  I know you’ll enjoy this interview with an amazing woman who’s forged her own path and has some great tips to share!

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.

When I left school, I just wanted to be financially independent. My real dream was to do Interior Design, but I figured there wasn’t a serious living to be made from that (tell that to Kelly Hoppen!) and I didn’t want to study any longer anyway.

Not really knowing what I wanted to do, I visited a job agency and landed a job as a trainee sales ledger clerk at Wimpy International the same day. Rapid progression in accounting related jobs led me to study for accountancy exams, and I worked in that field for many years.

In those days it was the accountants who were exploring computerised options and I was probably one of the first people to use a spreadsheet on a PC. As I played around with spreadsheets and then became involved in projects to automate processes, I found myself enjoying that side of things so much more. As I was working for a big company it was easy to make the transition into IT and I became a Business Analyst, defining system requirements, designing solutions & processes and sometimes managing projects. I had found my niche, and although I have moved between business and IT roles over the years, and even taken a break to study Interior Design and work in that field (still requirements analysis, design and project management!), I know that what I really am is a Business Analyst.

Today I feel that I have my dream job as a consultant working for a multinational software solutions company visiting clients across Europe & South Africa to run requirement gathering workshops.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?

To be a good business analyst you must of course have an analytical mind. You have to be able to quickly understand processes, document them and critique them … always looking for better ways of doing things.

An empathy with people at all levels is important as you have to gain their trust and listen to what they have to tell you. It’s not a technical role – more of an interface between business people and technical people. Can be very social at times, and very isolated when you have to shut yourself away and document findings and recommendations. You need initiative and the ability to get on with it!

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?

My current role involves me mainly with Financial institutions where I work with systems to make business decisions, but a key facet of a good business analyst is the ability to walk into any part of any business and quickly grasp the fundamentals of the relevant processes in place there. Essentially, it’s about business, but that covers a multitude of things, and in this age of technology the solutions called for may be very different to those used previously.

What can be challenging about your profession?

I think the most challenging aspect is trying to win over people who are set in their ways to new and better processes. Businesses are always looking for efficiency and improvement, but you often find someone whose authority comes from their specialist knowledge of what they do and they can be very defensive when you try to find out the detail or suggest alternative approaches.

What do you most like about your profession?

I particularly like the project related aspect. Each project has a start and an end and even thought you might be working on several at once that overlap, there is always a sense of making a difference and moving on to the next challenge. My worst nightmare is routine – as an accountant, I could tell exactly what I’d be doing on day x of each month. I hated that.

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?

My most nerve-wracking moment was many years ago when I had to make a presentation to hall full of around 100 people who I didn’t know. I’ve always been comfortable presenting to small familiar groups where you get some interaction. But to stand on a stage and not even be able to see the audience out there, let alone gauge their reaction is quite something. It’s something I volunteered to do because I knew it would be hard – something about facing your fears and all that!

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?

To me, the most important thing is to do something you really enjoy. Follow your heart.

Careers advisors try to push people into what they seem like they’d be good at, but if their heart’s not in it, they aren’t going to do well. Something that doesn’t come easy, but if you have a passion it is far more likely to be a success in the long run.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

It takes time to build skills and move up the career ladder – don’t be impatient. Don’t do yourself down, but don’t be over-confident either.

I thought I knew it all at 25 and I look back now and see that all those people that told me how important experience is were absolutely right. And most importantly – be yourself. Find a role that fits who you are. Don’t try and be someone else. Be proud of who you are.

Rose Lores
Rose Lores – also an avid powerboat racer!

Interview with a Leadership and Management Development Consultant

A/N – this weeks interviewee is another strong woman who loves her job.

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.
I started off working as a cashier in a bank when I first left school. I knew I wanted to be a teacher or work in a bank. I was good at maths at school and thought that would come in useful in banking. I wanted to be independent, so further studying did not appeal to me. I loved working with others and banking gave me a variety of career opportunities.

I worked my way around the different jobs available to me in the branch (that’s what everyone did in those days) and soon wanted to become a manager. I got my first management job, and boy was it a wake up!!

Managing people can be really challenging. I worked in many different ‘head of department’ roles within an office environment and then decided to go back into the branch and manage the counter and sales staff. This brought about new challenges; encouraging others to sell banking products to customers whilst working with lots of cash and being expected to balance to the penny at the end of every day. We asked a lot of our staff.

It was whilst I was managing a large team of people that the penny dropped with me that I wanted to know/find out what made people want to work hard for their boss – as that was the key to my success – no longer doing the work myself but motivating and encouraging others to play their part. I had had many different managers over my years and knew what I liked and disliked, but I didn’t know what ‘experts’ in the field thought.

I decided that I wanted to explore training; something I’d dipped my toe into a few years before. So I took a bit of a backwards step salary wise and bit the bullet. I started off training people how to sell at first and I enjoyed that as I still had contact with lots of people. I had an opportunity to work with managers too, and that side of the job really peaked my interest as it was more about psychology and how people ‘tick’. I got an opportunity to become a Leadership and Management Development trainer which is what I still do today – that was about 15 years ago. I haven’t looked back since. I now build managers capability, helping them to be good managers and leaders.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
What makes someone good in my field is
1. A positive attitude – not everyone who comes to a workshop will buy into what you are saying.
2. An ability to facilitate a meeting rather than talk at people – so ask lots of questions and get delegates to join in debates etc.
3. Being able to travel and stay away from home for a big hunk of the week. Usually training teams are based in a head office and sometimes it’s cheaper for you to travel to various locations rather than everyone travelling to you.
4. Understanding human behaviour – why people might react in a certain way. You never know what is going on for any person at any point in time and so, when you create an open and honest atmosphere in a workshop, sometimes you get negativity. Managing this negativity is sometimes challenging as you don’t want one person’s negativity to ruin everyone else’s experience of the day.

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
I left the bank I worked for about three years ago after being made redundant. I now work for a small training company and we operate in the public, private and third sector. Training managers how to get the best from others generally are universal skills; it’s mostly about psychology. I love, love, love getting to know my clients and their businesses so that I can tailor my messages to business specific examples.

What can be challenging about your profession?
1. you never know what a person might ask and so you need to have quite a few tools in your kit bag to be able to pull upon them.
2. Working away from home a lot; sometimes means having to set off Sunday evening and not finishing until late Friday evening. It is not a 9-5 job. Staying in a hotel sounds exciting when you don’t do it; when you do, I can assure you it really isn’t.
3. I am very much a people person and so I miss having people I can talk to about my job as we all work quite independently. You have to be utterly professional when you are delivering a workshop and so can’t say “yes I am having a bad day too.”
4. Training adults is not like training children, you have to make sure that they feel their time has been well spent and sometimes that means changing the content and/or style of your workshop on the hoof.
5. You will not always get appreciated for what you do and, because you often work on your own, you have to be able to evaluate your own work and decide if it was a good day and you did the best you possibly can.

What do you most like about your profession?
What I like most is that what I train people on actually works! I can honestly say that every method or theory I share with others, I will have tried out for myself. (It helps to have management experience you can pull on yourself). I am passionate about supporting others and go the extra mile to be there for anyone after a workshop to discuss how they might have applied something. I do get the occasional thank you which always makes me feel valued and appreciated. Because I often get into people’s psyche, I have made amazing friendships. There’s a mutual respect and trust which builds with people opening up to you.

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
As I meet so many different people, I sometimes get their names wrong which I absolutely hate.

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
I am often nervous. Every workshop or presentation I do I get nervous before. What I have realised is that the moment that nervousness goes, it’s time to look for another job. Nerves work for me and heighten my energy and attention.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
You have to genuinely want to help others and also be quite assertive. It’s an unusual mix really. I’d get some management experience as that gives you credibility, and study with a professional body like CIPD as this keeps you up to date with the latest thinking within our profession.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
If you want to build your management and leadership skills, we offer open workshops at our premises in Halifax. You can also study for a qualification at the same time.

Jill Cannon
Jill Cannon of Aspire Development

Jill Cannon is a Leadership and Management Development Consultant working with business partners to design, deliver and evaluate management and leadership development solutions.

Jill can be contacted at Aspire Development, Suite 2.15 Holmfield Mills Holdsworth Road Halifax HX3 6SN Aspiredevelopment.co.uk

Phone 07702 189436

Interview with a Mediator & Conciliator

A/N – I first met our inspirational interviewee when I took on the role of CEO at Lifeline Top End. 

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.
I had a good education in the UK and a mother who believed her daughters were entitled to be educated as well as her son. I did an honours maths degree Imperial College, London and went straight into secondary school maths teaching in 1957.

Sex without marriage in those days was a dicey option so I married in 1958 and between 1963 and 1967 had three children. Five years home as a full time mother drove me nuts so I was fortunate to be able to return to teaching part-time at an exclusive girls boarding school with a crêche!

My husband successfully applied for a job in Darwin in 1970 and migrated in September. The children and I followed in December (I had to give a term’s notice) and actually arrived on 1/1/71. Over the 18 1/2 years from July 1962 to December 1980 I was out of full-time work but involved in many things, including occasional teaching and studying for a Diploma in Secondary Education.

I spent 3 years with AMP discovering that I was better at teaching than at selling (but saving myself from 24 hours a day immersed in teenagers!) then returned to teaching.

By the end of 1982 my husband and I had separated and he subsequently re-married. I spent 1984 to mid-1989 in secondary schools, always teaching maths, of course! I was then fortunate to be accepted to the staff of the maths section of ITAFE, under the umbrella of the then NTU (now CDU) in mid-1989 and I remained there until January 2005.

From 1993 to 1996 I had completed a Master of Science (Science Education) [really maths education, but there was no separate category!] by thesis through Curtin University of Technology. During my last semester as a maths lecturer in 2004 I commenced studying law, continuing as a full-time student through 2005 until the end of 2007. I also undertook the LEADR Mediation Training Course in 2006 and during 2007 completed all the theory involved in the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice as well as the last 5 units in the law course.

Once I had completed the placement component of the GDLP, I was admitted as a Barrister & Solicitor at the Supreme Court of the NT in February 2008. I practiced as a lawyer, mainly in the criminal law area, until the end of June 2012 and retained my practising certificate until the end of June 2015 so that I could continue to provide occasional free legal advice at the sessions conducted by the Darwin Community Legal Service. Since 2012 I have been engaged in conducting occasional mediations through the Community Justice Centre and in August 2015 I completed a Conciliator Masterclass for the Anti-Discrimination Commission, again conducted by LEADR.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
My upbringing and the nature of the education which I was privileged to have (all free in those days!) left me with an unwritten obligation to put back into society. I was brought up as a Christian and have no problem accepting the ethical standards, it expects, but have too much of the scientist in my nature to accept blind faith. So I am an ethical agnostic and, as the Dalai Lama says, recognise that I am here to help others – as well as enjoying my own life!

I realise that I have had privileges not shared by all and have skills which I can use to help others. My motivation to study law – which built up over a 30 year period! – was driven by the many examples I encountered of people whose lives were damaged or destroyed because they could not afford legal advice.

Mediation requires the facilitation of a discussion between two parties in dispute in the hope of their arriving at a solution they can both live with. Mediations conducted through the Community Justice Centre (CJC) are free so the parties do not incur costs and can avoid the adversarial approach taken by lawyers.

Win-win beats win-lose hands down! Whether I am good in my chosen field is for others to say. I know I try to do my best to help others when possible.

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
Over time I have been involved in a voluntary/honorary capacity in many organisations. Since coming to Australia I have been in various roles and representative capacities with the boards and committees of the Parap Pre-School Association, the NT Pre-School Association, the Inaugural Council of the Family Planning Association of the NT (including its Education Sub-Committee), The Housing Commission, the Mathematics Teachers Association of the NT, the CDU Law Students Society, Undergraduate Member of the CDU Council, Life Education NT, Lifeline Top End, Darwin Community Legal Service and the Environmental Defenders Office.

I am currently on the Human Research Ethics Committee of CDU and, some years ago represented the School of Technology on one of the NTU Ethics Committees. I guess all that adds up to feeling that I want to be involved and help with important decision making without necessarily having to carry the entire weight of an organisation on my own shoulders!

What can be challenging about your profession?
It is hard to now define my profession! I still take a strong interest in maths education and am appalled by the fact that the desperate need for maths teachers in 1957 shows no sign (in 2015) of having been in any way ameliorated by subsequent actions.

I personally feel that education needs a complete overhaul and teachers should not be regarded as surrogate parents! Parents need to learn how to socialise their own children (and I know from experience that is more easily said than done!) Bureaucrats with no recent classroom experience are not in a position to tell teachers how to do their jobs.

As far as the law is concerned, I am far happier with alternative dispute resolution methods. Law and justice are too often poles apart and enforced solutions are less palatable than ones reached from some degree of consensus.

More so today than at any time in my life, I want to change the world. Governments are making life harder not better for the majority of the population and the gap between the privileged and the desperate has become massive. Through Facebook and Twitter I am discovering how vast is the apathy of an alarmingly large proportion of the population who seem locked into the consumerism and ‘I’m all right” modus operandi. I will not despair, but it is a challenge!

What do you most like about your profession?
I think the most satisfying thing in my life these days are having the parties to a mediation shake hands, smile at each other and walk out putting their dispute behind them!

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
I had a matter before the Master in the Supreme Court. Because those at the bench have a microphone which enables recording of all that they say for the benefit of the transcript, I suspect they do not appreciate that they often do not speak loudly enough to be heard in the body of the Court. On this particular occasion, as I could not hear what the Master had said I asked him to repeat it. I got a curt “Are you deaf Ms Jacob?” to which I probably replied “yes” since it would have been inappropriate to suggest the fault was not mine.

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
My most embarrassing experience was when – as a very inexperienced lawyer – I took on a matter that had previously been handled by a lawyer in a different practice who was not free to continue with the client. I did not know enough about Court procedure and the complications which arose left me with nightmares. I knew I had not helped the client and was entirely mortified.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
Train and practice as a mediator BEFORE you study law. You do not need to be a lawyer in order to mediate but the skills you develop as a mediator can be invaluable to a lawyer. The adversarial nature of the Court (and politics) is destructive and learning to help people talk to each other is more rewarding than fighting counsel for the other party! Incidentally – mediation has an approximately 80% success rate!

Is there anything else you would like to share? I think we all have a great many different personalities and which one we exhibit depends on the company and the circumstances. You may bring out the best in someone whereas I might bring out the worst. (I think our recently deposed PM brought out the worst in me and we have not even met!).

I am deeply concerned about the damage that extremism in religion is doing to the world. In my opinion, power corrupts and this can be seen in both religion and politics. Religion should help everyone to live as nearly as possible in harmony – accepting that some people’s brains are not appropriately wired for this goal – and if it causes wars and worse, how can you believe it is the right way to think?

For me, if I am remembered for a short while by a few people after I die, then I will have a life after death. It may not be for eternity, yet if my ashes return to the ground, then even eternity might be an option!

Rosemary Jacob & Michelle Hanton
Michelle Hanton and Rosemary Jacob

Rosemary Jacob (nee Melville) is today a practising Mediator and Conciliator available in Darwin, NT, Australia, through the Community Justice Centre, to undertake mediation and conciliation.

My European interlude is coming to a close

Whilst I have enjoyed every moment of being in Europe and have loved teaching, mentoring and coaching, it is time to return to Australia – at least for a while.

I have cherished being in my little apartment and not having to worry about anything except myself and meeting a few deadlines. Well, OK, more than a few! I’ll admit that I haven’t entirely squirreled myself away in beautiful Ecija; I have kept up with clients and projects and taken on new ventures further afield thanks to modern communications, but I have made the most of my idyll here and been very present to the charms of a different culture and life experience, including the cold winter! I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those here who have been part of this wonderful sojourn for me. As usual, it is the people who make the experience special.

San Juan, EcijaI’ve needed these months alone to renew. To focus on what is important to me. The past 3 years have passed in a blur where I hardly had a moment to myself so it has been a real luxury to just be able to run my own timetable. I thoroughly enjoyed coming home to a quiet apartment, to spending weekends exploring local sites, or sometimes venturing further afield to Seville, Granada, Cordoba or Malaga. I had no one to worry about except myself. It might sound selfish, but actually it’s been more of a lifesaver than anything else and once again, it has given me an additional opportunity to develop and grow as an individual which provides additional experiential tools that I am able to bring to my work.

Sasha's graduation day - Batchelor of Journalism
Sasha’s graduation day – Batchelor of Journalism from Bond University

During this time in Europe I have been able to consider what it is that I really need in life to feel content. When my husband of 30 years decided to leave, and I bought him out of the house, it was a massive struggle to stay afloat financially, but I’ve managed. I only bought the house so my kids had a home base. I had a 5 year plan, of which the largest part was to see Sasha (who was then 16) successfully finish school and then university. Once Sasha graduated, I was in a position to pursue the next stage of my plan, which was to base myself in Europe for a year.

Whilst here, living a simple Spanish lifestyle, without the trappings that go with having a family home, I’ve come to the conclusion that, on a personal level, I actually need very little to live on. I can be happy in the moment as long as I know that my family is cared for and safe. It’ll be five years this August since Steve and I split up. It’s been tough for me, but at the same time liberating and life affirming as I know we (Wayne, Sasha and I) can manage on our own. Together we look after the house, each other and our dogs. We’ve become a closer family unit even if it meant a bit of a struggle at times. I feel that the kids and I have bonded more closely, and it’s also been a defining moment for both of them as they have stepped up to take more responsibilities. We have jointly made decisions about our future directions and I am extremely proud of the two beautiful people that they are.

It is now time to sit down and decide what the next step will be. What do I really want to do?
Michelle

Action Plans

The New Year is a time when people often make resolutions that are not kept so rather than make resolutions I find that this a fabulous time to have a personal planning session with myself.

I use this as a time to clean out and sort out in both the physical and also mental sense. It’s wheConfined by the walls that you buildn I consider and plan my options and directions for the next 12 months. A big part of the planning process is to review my Action Plan ( I am currently in year 3.5 of my current 5 year plan).

Yesterday was my review day and it’s always interesting to pull out my blue note book (which I started in August 2010) and check to see how I am tracking. The purpose is twofold:

1) I can check off what has been achieved – which is always motivational for me as I usually find I’m able to tick off quite a few items. I do love to be able to physically tick off an item in a lovely coloured pen! Yes, I am old fashioned it’s a nice hard copy. It’s personal choice but I do find this so much more solid and satisfying than an electronic document.

2) I review where I am and tweak the plan as necessary. Being willing to tweak and make adjustments is absolutely necessary on any Action Plan since circumstances change which influence how I might need to proceed. If I didn’t tweak and adjust then it would not be a living document and therefore quite worthless.

As part of my review for the year I also take the time to look over and update my resume because I never know what’s around the corner and it’s always good to be prepared for opportunities.

What does yours look like and do you need a hand polishing? I’ll be happy to send you my tip sheet for making sure a resume stands out from the crowd.

Michelle

Changing our lives

Have you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) thought you would like to change your life in some way, shape or form? I know lots of people have but feel they can’t do anything for one reason or another. Family, kids, parents, finances, pets and a myriad of other thing are usually cited as the reasons for being unable to change. People depend on you, you can’t afford it and so on the reasons go. Many of the reasons are very valid but there is always something that can done to effect some type of change towards goals and ambitions.

I want you to think for a moment about how we all began life. As a baby we came into the world and faced enormous challenges. We needed to grow up – and if you think about it, growing up is a series of changes that take place with the biggest changes being in our early years. We start with small steps, milk and then onto solid food with the consistency getting firmer as we move through the learning to eat phase.

At the same time we learn to become more in control of our bodies. In the beginning we need our heads to be supported, to be picked up and carried everywhere. Then one day we learn we can roll over. Amazing! We can turn over all by ourselves. We might not be able to turn back, so we get frustrated and cry for help at which point some adult comes along and helps us.

Think about how a child learns to walk, first they crawl, pull themselves up on furniture for support, wobble about fall on their bums occasionally and finally, one day, they just let go and wobble off on shaky legs.

Well it’s the same concept if you want to make changes within your life, one step at a time and gradually the confidence builds and off ynewstartou go!

It may be that your 2015 ambitions are firmly embedded in your mind but you aren’t sure of how to go about making those changes or you might still be thinking about what direction you want to head in. This is where the support of a mentor, life coach, advisor or whatever name you want to give such people can be very helpful. The key is to make sure that whoever you choose is a good fit for what you want to achieve as it is definitely not a case of one size fits all.

How do you know if they’re the right person? Check out their track record and find out whether they just talk the talk or whether they have life experience? Ask questions and if you’re not happy with the answers keep looking.

I am selective about who I choose to work with and my clients always appreciate a 100% confidential environment, although I know some people prefer to work as part of bigger groups where there is less cofidentiality control and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It comes down to personal choices and what works best for each individual. For me a decision is always based on whether I feel I can help someone to achieve their goals and if they feel comfortable to be open with me and most importantly if I will be happy working with them. If not, then I recommend others (often within my network) as after all this is very much all about personalities and ensuring the approropriate fit in order to create the right environment to achieve best outcomes.

If you’d like to explore options on how the team at Dragon Sisters, or myself personally,  may be able to help maximise your potential and achieve your ambitions, be they personal or professional, contact us now and plan to make 2015 the start of effecting positive changes for yourself.

Michelle

PS I’d also love to hear you share any ways you have chosen to effect changes in your life.

Opportunities

My teaching load is lighter for December which gives me space to be taking on a couple more individual business clients. I’m open to clients from anywhere in the world as long as their work interests me and I feel that I can be helpful tEveryone is my teachero their business or cause. Anyone interested in discussing opportunities is welcome to contact me on michellehanton@gmail.com

Why is the load lighter? Well, two of my classes finished up on Friday as they head to their English exams tomorrow. These are external exams with examiners coming from Trinity College in the UK. It’ll be strange not to see them every day after having spent the last 2 months together. We enjoyed a great last day together including celebrating a birthday at morning tea and then lunch after the final class.

I find it so rewarding working with motivated students and clients alike. The pleasure I experience as a result of their success is really hard to describe and I guess the most recent public success was Katrina Fong Lim’s election night victory but all successes bring me the same pleasure which is why I so love being able to choose clients that align with my values and best of all I also learn from all these wonderful experiences. Life is indeed wonderful.

Michelle