If you have your very own real ‘Humans at Work’ story, we’d absolutely love to hear about it. Whether it’s you, your team or someone you know. Everyone is welcome… it’s the mwah. way
Please send your story and a pic(s) to [email protected]
Account Manager, DEC PR - Sydney
“I guess, for me, passion bubbles over into what you do and you just want to put it out there.”
In the multi-dimensional world of PR, not only do its doyens have a high need to know…they also have a high need to show and tell! “It wasn’t always like that for me”, says Tammi. “I was actually a bit reserved at school!”
Tammi Ireland’s job as an Account Manager across both consumer and corporate clients means she can rock a mean acronym. “FMCG?” Fast Moving Consumer Goods (of course, why didn’t I think of that??) Listening to Tammi reel off what and who she’s responsible for in this highly competitive space, there is no hint of the self-confessed, shy school girl. “I guess, for me, passion bubbles over into what you do and you just want to put it out there. Working with DEC and with communication in general has really helped me come out of my shell.” (Out of her shell? Tammi has been with DEC PR five years now and is as comfortable working up tactical PR relations as she is taking a client to lunch!)
Tammi studied journalism but admits it was a toss-up for her between working as a journo or plunging into PR. “I just love to write and a bit of hot copy goes a long way with me…a journo gig came up first, so I took it.” “But if I had to give my younger self some advice I’d probably say that the journalism degree was superfluous. I’d happily exchange those three years’ study for three more years of on the job training and internship. You can’t get to the coalface fast enough!”
“I adore my job and my team. It’s a really supportive workplace that prides itself on not running its people into the ground. If we occasionally find there is some “overcapacity” then the whole team pitches in. In a pretty thankless industry, this company stands out by being very thankful for the work we do.”
Journal Canteen – Melbourne
“Food is a magnet for bringing people together and this kitchen is chock-full of food stories and traditions.”
“It’s an old cliché, but it’s true: I learned to cook at my grandmother’s knee”, says Anthony in a rare moment away from his bustling kitchen. “Ever since I can remember I’ve had an appreciation of food and as a young teenager decided to be a chef. I learned very quickly that while you didn’t have to know everything, passion and a strong work ethic were vital. You had to be willing to learn and to train yourself to be a reliable employee!”
At Canteen, Anthony proudly admits that his cuisine is closely based on what his Italian “nonna” used to make. “Simple, regional Italian food is what we’re about.” “We do a brisk lunch trade and so fresh food produced in a timely manner is key. I love it when a particular group of Italian businessmen come in. You know they’ve enjoyed the meal when they make the Italian “Ottimo!” (“Excellent!) sign to me. It takes me back to my roots and re-affirms why I love this job.”
“The management and ownership of the restaurant are another reason I enjoy my work so much. They’ve created an inviting and homey environment that brings out the creative best in my co-workers and myself. However, if there was one thing they could do that would make my job easier I’d probably just say that it can be a little too informal at times and that a bit more training in some roles wouldn’t go astray.”
It’s interesting that Anthony’s Italian kitchen boasts a melting pot of sous-chefs from around the globe. “There’s no doubt food is a magnet for bringing people together and this kitchen is chock-full food stories and traditions.”
Spray painter - L&M Smash Repairs, Seven Hills
“For me, this work is the most natural thing in the world.”
I read somewhere that the Greek name, “Anastasi” was associated with resurrection. A never more apt surname then for pocket rocket, Lara Anastasi – who re-sprays beaten up cars back to life.
“I’m coming up to my first anniversary here at L&M. No-one really makes a fuss of these things but you might get a ribbing from the guys with something like, “Oh really? You’ve lasted that long have ya?” “Actually, I’ve lasted 12 years as a spray painter (says a winking Lara) but this shop’s my favourite. I get so much satisfaction from my work. It comes down to being able to put your heart and your soul into it and not be a slave to throughput!” “My boss makes sure we have the best paint system available – and top quality paint allows us to do our best work.”
“Sure, I still stand out as the only female on the shop floor, but I’ve shown the men I can handle the work. It doesn’t stop them from asking from time to time if I need a hand with anything. But I see that as being gentlemanly rather than chauvinistic.”
“For me, this work is the most natural thing in the world. As a kid I hung around my pop in his shed, working with all kinds of tools. He kept trying to send me back up to the kitchen – but it never stuck.” “I remember one day on the job here when an owner came in to collect his WRX, Lara said. “The girl painted that!” came a shout out from my supervisor. The look of horror on the owner’s face forced him to follow up with …”Nah, I painted it mate.” (A lie…so much for breaking barriers.)
(I ask Lara two very important questions – what’s her favourite car colour and what’s her favourite car?)
“I’ve gotta say black – but it has to be GLOSS black. (She’s actually just resprayed her own – black – Holden V8.)
Lara aspires to own a Maserati – “A gorgeous car that just wraps around me and fits me like a glove” (kinda like it was sprayed on?)
Sheep and broad acre farmer - Bogan Gate, NSW
“One constant is the close sense of community, and we farmers work as a team.”
Mark must be an earth sign. He came back to the land after a successful career as a pilot to fulfil his destiny as a third generation farmer. ”What living on the land gives me that I didn’t get in the air is variety. No two days are the same here: whether it’s crop trials, animal husbandry or marketing and promotion, there’s never a dull moment. If you asked me what I love most about my work it would be making a contribution to society by producing food and looking after the environment.”
“And if you think diplomacy is reserved for career diplomats, think again. Out here it can be a tricky path to tiptoe around alternate political persuasions and the interests of large multi-nationals– you have to adapt.”
“But one constant is the close sense of community, and we farmers work as a team. A classic example was when my father passed away during a harvest season. Within 48 hours our neighbours turned up to finish the harvest for us so that we could deal with the funeral and our grief.”
Farm etiquette is preserved where possible and Mark reserves any swearing to the working dogs and the sheep. “Not that we want to upset our sheep, especially as we prepare them for market. Their final 72 hours are sacrosanct if we want to guarantee top quality meat” (Bring on the massage and essential oils…)
“One of our three daughters is showing an interest in the farm – even though it’s early days yet. Old habits die hard in the country and we’re told it’s a bit of bad luck that we don’t have a son to carry on the farm. But my wife, Fiona, has the final word on that – “you don’t need a d*** to run a farm.” (Enough said.)
Intern at TOGA Property Group - Australia
“I want my sisters to have the opportunities in life they didn’t have as a birth right…”
That it was ok to bring his sense of humour to work was something that caught Keaan by surprise when he started his professional internship with the TOGA Group. “At the start, I was trying so hard to be professional that I ended up cutting myself off a bit from my work mates. But it didn’t take me long to let my natural personality come through and I found that the best work place is one where you can be yourself and make friends with your co-workers.”
“I had been working with CareerTrackers since first year Uni on how to conduct myself in the corporate world. As they do with all indigenous students who are new to university and have no corporate experience, they provided me with skills, guidance and a kind of mentorship that helped me ease myself into the workforce.”
“I worked 1-2 week job rotations as part of my 13-month internship with TOGA, both in head office as well as at their hotels, and I’ve got to say that my favourite job in the hotels was the one that allowed me to interact one-on-one with people – and that was portering. To be able to quickly establish familiar and relaxed relationships was something I excelled at,” he recalls proudly. “It took me back to my first job actually – a lawn-mowing business when I was 14 – when how much work I got pretty much came down to how I managed my own personal brand, even though at that time I didn’t know that’s what it was called!” he laughs.
“For me, being myself at work means being proud of my indigenous culture. One of the most touching things I experienced during my internship with TOGA came about in the lead up to Australia Day that year,” Keaan discloses. “One of the senior managers came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said that he understood that the event wasn’t a day of celebration for me and that he wanted to acknowledge that. I thought that was such an honest and amazing demonstration of leadership and I was really touched by it,” he reflected.
“When I think about that 13 months with TOGA, my motivation at work was to break glass ceilings. My younger sisters look up to me and I wanted to push hard and far so that they wouldn’t feel held back when they had their turn in corporate life. Oh, and the other thing I’m passing onto my sisters is that it’s OK to be worse than someone else at something but that you have to take the opportunity to learn and improve – but definitely have fun while you’re doing it!”
Owner, Migo’s Industrie - Melbourne
“If you enjoy it like I do, every day is an opportunity to offer your customers something from the heart”.
Still at the helm at 73 years old, Migo is a testament to what passion for your work can do for its longevity. “I’ve been in hospitality since 1968, ever since arriving from Lebanon to Australia and what was true then is still true today – you have to have the ‘palate’ for this kind of work – you have to feel it. Qualifications alone are no passport.” From a culturally rich background, Migo learned on the job through his family’s businesses and today still holds a symbiotic relationship with his older brother, Raphael, 80, who until very recently cooked up a storm in the kitchen of this hole in the wall cafe. “We have an incredible working instinct. For me, listening out for Raff plating up a meal is like a mother listening out for her baby’s cry.”
“Sure, it can be challenging work – the hours are long and you’re brushing up against people from all walks of life – but if you enjoy it like I do every day is an opportunity to offer your customers something from the heart. For me that’s an honour.”
“It’s funny, but after all these years in this business I’d say the best compliment I’ve ever received happened only a few months ago. A couple who dine here regularly popped in again and, as usual, the woman ordered the seafood pasta. At the end of the meal her husband came up to me and told me they share everything in life (and he emphasised “everything”) but there’s only one thing she won’t share…and that was my seafood pasta!”
Suzette and Priest fashion - Dandenong
Suzette Perera and Cohen Williams
“We’re getting a taste of the fashion industry right now and working on the design career in time.”
We really are ships in the night! blurts Cohen. We met six years and three months ago (but who’s counting…) as sailors on the same ship and are still at sea for our main jobs, but these days we work on different boats and literally do pass each other day and night across Bass Straight!
“Suzette and Priest fashion is our second job”, says Suzette.” I came to Australia 13 years ago from Sri Lanka and I’ve admired and bought from this shop just about forever. When the owner retired, I jumped at the chance to take it over! (…and she has – shop, stock and prospects). Cohen and I gutted the shop and re-fitted it out so it has a whole new look now. Most of our customers love it and their feedback is awesome but there are still a few die-hards from the old days who are finding it a bit tough getting used to the change – but they still buy from us! For me, our fashion look is pitched just right – style at a reasonable price.
“What I love about it”, says Cohen, is that being in fashion design and retail is so different to our everyday seafaring lives (…I did notice the absence of nautical designs) and we get to interact with a different kind of customer for a change.” I actually came up with the name of Suzette and Priest. It’s going to be our fashion design label. We’re getting a taste of the fashion industry right now and working on the design career in time. The Priest bit of the name is Hebrew for Cohen, so I’m in there too. (…together – at last – on dry land)
Les Arts Florissants - Paris, France
“The French say – ‘en accord’’ – to be in agreement with oneself, Balanced, and I am ‘en accord’.”
When an Aussie ex-pat who’s lived in Paris for 20 years invites you to meet her at “… a little place I know along the Seine”…you know to get yourself there “tout suite.” Such was Jacqui’s invitation to talk to mwah. and we arrived to find a party on a barge moored in a bend of the river, in full summer swing.
“I arrived in Paris 20 years ago to work on my Master’s degree in music. I had very little practical French language and so I exchanged English lessons with a French girl. It was she who one day found a tiny ad for a production assistant job with Les Arts Florissants. I had heard Les Arts Florissants perform in Australia years before. I had an amazing reaction to that concert – and loved how they made music communicate. Music touches people so deeply and it did so for me. I never dreamed for one moment that I would end up with them.”
“I got the job and was lucky to evolve within the company and move up. It’s been 18 years now, the last five years in my current role. You’ve got to be passionate about what you do to get into a job like this – the whole group is passionate. Les Arts Florissants is like a family. We look out for one another and share core values.”
“I was Casting Director for a long time, assembling freelance musicians from all around the world for a particular repertoire. When it comes to transferring those core values to such an assembly everything is in the service of the music and it’s contagious. Culture and passion is our shared currency.”
“One of my prime motivators,” says Jacqui “is still the faces of the audience and how touched they are – and to hear the music – and to know that yes, I’m part of this because of what I can contribute.”
“I’m well aware that I work in a rarefied, absolutely amazing milieu of gilt and gold, of music, of spectacle and of opera houses. One way for me to live this ephemeral life – a life that provides me with so much cultural nourishment – is to keep in touch with the real world. My decision to sponsor a child in India and to choose to come up against everyday problems of schooling and health and questions of mere survival came out of being drawn to the need for the balance of all that.” “The French have a word for it – ‘en accord’’ – to be in agreement with oneself. Balanced. And I am ‘en accord’.”
Practice Manager | Brunswick Chiropractic - Brunswick
“It can be manic some days – but I love it!”
Sandra has been Practice Manager at the clinic for seven years but her “body of work” extends way beyond creating order out of chaos. “It’s true, I do a bit of everything here – and it can be manic some days – but I love it.” “I kind of fell into this job though. I was looking for something else to do alongside my work as a personal trainer and I just walked in here one day to say Hi. The chiropractor was having a particularly overwhelming day that day and he pretty much hired me on the spot! I did have to learn about practice management on the job but I was already very comfortable with people and a focus on the body. I could speak the language.”
“I see myself as a link between the practice and the community – everyone knows me. And while that makes for a very people friendly clinic, it seems I’ve also taken on the role of confidante for some clients. I guess if you’re comfortable talking about your body then you’re also comfortable sharing other personal stuff. So far, there’s nothing that’s been so shocking I couldn’t handle it but nothing connects you faster with someone than sharing intimate details!”
“I know I’m appreciated here and that makes work so worthwhile. For me, it’s the whole package: great hours, friendly atmosphere and no strict rules. I like to keep things flexible… (and obviously so does her boss.)
Florist - Pollon Flowers, Melbourne
“Our close team is like a family and that’s what makes a great workplace for me.”
So, what’s more important in a flower – the look or the scent? “It depends”, according to Gary as he characterises blooms as another might describe people. ”The tuberose? Smells sublime but can look raggedy over time. The freesia? Inconspicuous and destined for a corner but its scent is so irresistible it can’t help being noticed!”
Getting so up close and personal with his charges is just a part of Gary’s obsession with nature in all its forms and he’s woven himself into his career the same way he weaves the perfect stem into a blooming bouquet. “Working with flowers is something I’ve wanted to do since I was fifteen when I bought and gave flowers for the first time.” “The reaction to them was so heartfelt that I’ve spent the rest of my life re-creating that moment. Every new customer takes me back to that fateful day!”
Gary has been in the industry for 15 years – here and in the UK – and with Pollon for only the last six months. “Our close team is like a family (can we say, ‘genus familia’), and that’s what makes a great workplace for me. That, and the neo-gothic aesthetics of the adjacent cathedral – it sets off the flowers so beautifully.”
It’s hard to imagine any friction in this line of work, but Gary confides he prefers flowers to people. “With flowers, you can bend them to your will far more easily and they don’t answer back!” “Awkward moments do occur when last minute orders for a “quick $50 bouquet” rush through the door.” Rolling his eyes, Gary explains that there’s no such thing if you want to do justice to the bouquet. So how does he deal with that? “It’s easy really – I simply tell them how long it will take and from there, they can literally take it or leaf it.” Oh, Gary…
Incanto Coffee Shop - Sydney, NSW
Su, Amy & Evan
“This kind of business is frenetic, to avoid getting stressed out, you really need to be in sync with one another.”
Looking for a daily challenge? Try this. Be on deck – I mean actually be awake, be able to converse, be genuinely happy to be there and be firing on all cylinders – by 6:30am. A couple of bubbly, super smiley Korean ladies – Su and Amy – have taken up this challenge and are running the very friendly coffee mecca, Incanto Coffee Shop, in downtown Sydney.
It stands to reason that Su has stamped her personality on the coffee shop after 9 years at the helm. “I love it that some of my regular customers have been coming here as long as I’ve been here and of course it’s great to know them (and their order) by name,” she says.
But it’s a testament to Su’s ability to foster great teamwork that Amy – who’s only been here a year – and she are great team mates and good friends outside work too. “This kind of business is frenetic”, says Su. “We are open every day including the extra busy days over Easter and Christmas. To avoid getting stressed out you really need to have fun, work efficiently and to be in sync with one another. Amy and I really get along very well.”
Amy’s appreciating all the valuable hospitality experience she’s getting, plus making a good friend. “I’ve really learned so much from Su and the bonus is that we get along so well that during time off we love doing the same things together – restaurants, shopping and talking about men!!!” During this type of conversation Evan, who tells us his English is only slowly improving, knows well enough play the strong silent type.
“It’s the school of life here,” says Su. “And I believe we’ve just about heard and seen everything over the years.” “People ask for money and say all kinds of outrageous things but by now we can tell who’s genuine and who isn’t. Like one day when a gentle man who looked very hungry and kind was sad, so we brought him inside and gave him something to eat and drink, whilst some of our customers hugged him” Su said.
Where do the two women see themselves in 10 years? “I’ll still be managing this coffee shop or another, or running a business”, said Su. Amy interjects, “And Su will be married!! And I will be in a coffee shop opposite Su in competition!!” (And chances are they’ll still be talking about restaurants, shopping and men.)
Multicultural and Community Banking - Sydney, NSW
“I enjoy making a tangible difference to people’s lives.”
Malini is the vital hub between a bottom up and top down approach to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “I do have a brief, but it’s who I am anyway, so to say that I’m working on (Malini puts on her corporate face) ‘improving authentic and meaningful engagement with communities at grass level and forming key strategic partnerships at a corporate and government level’ is second nature to me.” “My day job is my passion – diversity and inclusion.”
“You know, people are slowly coming to realise the true benefit of inclusion in the workplace. It’s not enough to pay lip service to gender and cultural diversity. Having the numbers serves no purpose unless you also include their points of view in the conversation. It’s the only way towards better thought leadership, better decision making and better risk mitigation.”
“I was paid an unexpected compliment recently by a group of Muslim women employees who had felt they weren’t being supported or included in the workplace – in short, they could not bring their whole selves to work. In consultation with them I had managed the introduction of a hijab corporate uniform. Their compliment to me was a thank you for listening.” “I really didn’t think I’d done much, but I could see then that it often doesn’t take much for people to feel valued.”
“My first job ever was at McDonalds – I was 14 years and 9 months old. However, my first “real” job was in investment banking. The upside of that was trips to New York…the down side was regularly working until 3:00am. Now, I have a better balance and enjoy making a tangible difference to people’s lives (…a theme also adopted in Malini’s private life through her leadership and active support of several charitable organisations…)
“Looking back, the best advice I could ever give a younger me is take more risks and make sure you do something you’re passionate about. And don’t be afraid of mistakes! You need them to help figure out what you don’t like or how you don’t want to be!”
Heavy Vehicle Mechanic, The Tractor Shop - Glossodia NSW
“I’d really like to advance opportunities for women, to help as many people as I can. That would be great.”
I grew up on a farm and was always helping my dad with maintenance and farm work. I raced bikes for a bit and wanted to do motorcycle mechanics but they said there was not enough money here. I did work experience at Cummins South Pacific, an engine manufacturer and loved it so I applied for an apprenticeship. That was five years ago. Now I work for the Tractor Shop, I’m a maintenance technician. I like the nature of the work. The problems are usually very visual. You can see an end result when you fix them. You have a truck that comes in and it’s running really badly and you can see its running cleanly. I can’t imagine sitting at a desk or driving around.
When I started my new job I was the first female to work in the workshop, so in the workshop bathroom they didn’t have a bin. I had to say to the boss, if I’m going to work here you need to put in a bin.The boss is married and has a daughter but said to me later ‘so why do you even need a bin?’ (Awks). Work has its bad days but I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. If the good days outweigh the bad days then its a good job. Everything gets hard and the more you work through that, the better it can get. One day I’d really like to do some stuff in advancing opportunities for women, to help
as many people as I can. That would be great.”
Volunteer - World’ s Greatest Shave - Melbourne 3000
“I am having fun.”
Chloe has been rattling her tin on and off for a couple of hours at this busy intersection. “I have had some coin donations so far but there seem to be mainly business people around here and they seem too busy to stop.” (I can only hope that the reason they’re not stopping is that they’re in serious caffeine debt and it’s mid-morning…)
“I do know they’ve noticed me because when I shake my tin they’re startled and look around to see where the noise is coming from!” But Chloe isn’t put off by a less than enthusiastic response to The World’s Greatest Shave fundraising for blood cancer. “I’ve got plenty of time to stand here. I’m on uni break and was asked by a friend to help out. I wish I could inject a bit more enthusiasm into this job but we were told not to spruik. The other piece of advice we were given was to ‘go out and have fun!’ Perhaps if I’d shaved or coloured my own hair today I might have attracted some more attention!” (Chloe HAS coloured her hair for the cause before.)
Chloe is trying to be philosophical about it.
Anyway, I am having fun. This is actually the perfect job for someone like me. I’m a keen observer of human nature and I’d like to get into travel photojournalism. My dream is to be published in National Geographic. (So if you ever see a photo of a blurred image of a shaking donation tin, in sharp contrast to the juxtaposition of a busy city intersection and a platoon of pedestrians making a bee-line for coffee, that’s Chloe’s shot…)
Service Centre Manager - Cairns, QLD
“Don’t let anyone dismiss you because of your youth.
“In Romania, where I was born, our culture really looks up to and respects our elders. So there’s no way I would EVER have felt entitled to tell anyone older than myself what to do!” (…fast forward a few years – after her family’s immigration to Australia – and at only 18 years old Lacri was appointed the first female supervisor at a leading ASX listed, global Supply Chain/Logistics business) “What I’ve learned is don’t let anyone dismiss you because of your youth.”
“I’ve been with the business for six years now and I’ve gone from being their first female supervisor to their first female site leader. Being a woman in a male-oriented workplace can have its awkward moments”, Lacri admits. “Once, I was running a toolbox talk for employee buy-in to trial the washing of gloves.” “So here I was, standing in front of 30 men, trying to convince them to wash their gloves in order to kill fungus and ‘organisms.’ But I said ‘orgasms’ instead!” (…traps for young players, when English is their second language).
“But then, on the flip side, being a woman can make it safer for men to express their feelings.” “When I left my old worksite to take a promotion to my current job, my biggest problem worker gave me a gift card to say thank you for everything. He said I’d really made a positive impact and that he was thankful for my support. It felt special because you don’t always know what impact you have on people’s lives.”
“I’d say I definitely have different interests from my male team”, Lacri confesses. (…her own go-to topics revolve around family.) “I’m not interested in sports and so I do struggle sometimes to integrate with the guys. But I make sure I read the back page of the paper to see who won what, so that at least I can casually drop that into conversation!” “Even when it’s not the morning after a big game I still spend the first hour on the floor talking to the guys so I can understand first hand what’s going on.”
“One of the things I definitely strive for in the workplace is respect.” “In a leadership position you don’t have to be best friends with your team but you do have to challenge yourself and help build each other.”
“I’ve always wanted to do something I enjoy that has an impact – work has to mean something.” (…money has never been Lacri’s driver.) “What motivates me is being valued.”
“I work to make memories, rather than to accumulate stuff”, she muses. “I want to afford to be able to tick off my personal bucket list, to have a family, to travel.”
(Oh, and while on the topic of bucket lists, Lacri has one or two workplace items that need to be ticked off too.) “Top of my list would be for my company to understand that when I’m working in a remote location, everyone I work with reports directly to me. So please, please, reduce the chain of command and stop the double handling!” (…fair enough too – Lacri does work for a logistics company after all.)
Architect and Access Consultant | FS Architects | Sydney Access Consultants | Sydney
“Disability access to brothels is an expanding niche.”
“We are an aging population and it is inevitable that at some point we will all become unstable underfoot”, says Gary. (…a sobering thought and a great leveller…) “So, our entire built environment should be accessible, regardless of ability”, he says. Gary’s including all of us here: the able, the disabled, the very tall, the very small, our indigenous communities, our oldest members of the community and our very youngest. “People just don’t talk enough about this stuff”, he says.
As an architect in his own practice since 1993, and now specialising in access to our built environment, Gary is at the forefront of this movement that started a mere twenty years ago to cater for people in wheelchairs. “Now, what we’re doing is promoting participation in everyday life for people living with any disadvantage,” he says.
Gary looks at the existing built environment through an unwavering filter for re-purposing. His philosophy is clear: accessibility is a pre-requisite for social inclusion, equal opportunity and diversity. “For instance, if you’re a person who has a cognitive difficulty, it’s vital that you provide a clearly distinguishable entry to a home.” “And, if you’re in a wheelchair, of course you’re going to need a wider door.”
Gary loves his work and is motivated by projects that have a social conscience. “I’d work for nothing really – and have done so before!” A young wheelchair client of mine, Jake, wrote to thank me, telling me how much his modified home gave him a whole new sense of independence. That was gold – and that’s why I do what I do.”
“Culture, too, plays a role in access,” says Gary. “In indigenous communities, young kids are independent early. They don’t want to hang around mum’s legs: they’ve got a bold interest to get in amongst it and so they’ll venture into the local street and play from house to house. So, these houses need verandas on them facing the street so family members can sit and watch these little kids on their adventures, to keep them safe.”
“And it’s not just housing design that needs a rev up,” Gary reminds us. “I was once asked to audit a community running track for accessibility for people with a disability and for the elderly. I discovered that the track was heavily used between 5 and 6 am – it’s still dark at that time and yet there was no lighting!” he shrugs. “These accessibility fixes are pretty intuitive once you start looking for them.”
Gary’s quest for improved accessibility is definitely wide-ranging. “I’m becoming quite the expert in premises that “provide services”, he winks. “Improving access to brothels for clients with disabilities is an expanding niche.” “For a start, you’ve got to make it safe for wheelchairs to access the laneways where many of them are located and you’ve got to widen those doors so they can actually get in.” “Then, my proposition comes as a real mind shift for these businesses: it’s to have one big room on the ground floor complete with a hoist and a swing to accommodate both disability and the elderly (…not necessarily at the same time…) that can double up as a group room!” “They’re seeing the possibilities of those props as a whole new fantasy world for the rest of their able-bodied clients!” (…talk about reverse equal opportunity!…)
Store Manager, Aesop - Melbourne
“They told me they selected me because I’m a good communicator and a genuine person – like everyone at Aesop. I felt right at home!”
Three months in and Felicity has already gelled with this international cosmetics company. “I still have vivid memories of the extensive interview process – I had to meet with local, regional and national Aesop managers. At every level they were assessing me for cultural fit and how I could do my best work with a team. At the end of this ordeal they told me they selected me because I’m a good communicator and a genuine person – like everyone at Aesop.” “I felt right at home!” she beamed.
We’re speaking with Felicity in her architecturally-designed store that began life as a temporary trading space. “You know that thing about office temps who are employed for years? Well, it’s the same here. We decorated this space with cardboard architecture as a way of aligning ourselves with what we expected would be the temporary nature of the store. Four years later we’re still here but the cardboard still works as a homage to that fundamental association with trading – the ubiquitous cardboard box!”
From what Felicity says, it seems sometimes people can get the wrong impression about her Aesop store. “Because we’re a design space we look exclusive and this can make people hesitate to come in. But believe me, we’re far from it!” “My job is to make everyone who walks through our door feel at ease.” So, what about
customer satisfaction? “We know not to expect compliments or positive feedback from customers – but everyone walks a little taller when it does happen.”
“Yes, I work for a cosmetics company but the best advice I’ve received while working here has not been about creating strategies to maximise sales or how to pressure sell. Instead it’s been about being genuine and making people comfortable. We invite customers in for an experience – sales take care of themselves.”
IT Consultant - SMS Management & Technology Melbourne
“I’m a very social person, and I really enjoy collaborating.”
What does compulsory national service in the South African Navy have in common with the peripatetic life of an IT consultant? “That 11-months national service as a young man was a rude awakening into every possible personality and character. I couldn’t have had a better foundation for consulting!”
After ten years with SMS, Mike has certainly built a successful and varied career on that foundation. “Through my various engagements, I get exposure to a wide range of people, companies and industries – that motivates me because it’s important to me to stay in touch with industry and the commercial world.” (It’d be fair to say that Mike has a high need to know.)
“I’m a very social person too, and I really enjoy collaborating with a dynamic team, whether it’s with my SMS colleagues on an in-house project or with my assigned client team.” “In this business you have to form relationships quickly, and feeling comfortable with your clients is important, especially when it comes to going off-site for team building exercises. If I had to pick out a couple of highlight activities from these things I’d go for digging holes and tree-planting at one end of the spectrum and poetry improvisation at the other!”
“Back in the office, a good workplace for me is an efficient and productive one that prizes expertise. What can be frustrating at times is working with people with inadequate subject matter knowledge. But then, I’m a person who’s happy on the bleeding edge so I do push it out there a bit. I think fast and I move fast. That’s what got me through that poetry gig!”
Owner of Sultan’ s Handcrafts - Dandenong
“We all know each other and help each other out.
“I’m not selling the handmade carpets I used to sell back home in Afghanistan but I’m proud that 95% of my textiles here are still hand-made. People come from everywhere to buy my silk and wool pashminas, whether they’re Aussie regulars, European tourists or people from India who’ve settled locally. I lived in India for four years and we still live side by side here in Dandenong. The best compliment they can pay me is that they recognise the quality. I import many of my textiles directly because I know this business intimately – you’re not going to find the same standard in department stores in the city.”
“I do miss the carpets, but the Aussie lifestyle doesn’t support them – I just wouldn’t have enough customers. And it’s very expensive to import and store them, waiting for the right buyer.” (I’m right here, Sultan!!!)
“I’ve been at the market now for 14 years and it suits me. I’m my own boss and make my own decisions. The bustle of the market feeds me too. I love the pace and colour and the community we have here. We all know each other and help each
other out even if it’s with a coffee or tea run. Most of us here are the same – we’re independent but we’re not alone. Our section of the market here is called ‘The Bazaar’– so it’s still an authentic touch of home.”
Massage therapist and Soigneur, Orica Scott Professional Cycling Team - Melbourne Australia
This is Danny Clarke…. (Standing, not on a bike)
“If you’re having a bad day you’ve got to step back and look at the big picture to remind yourself why you’re there.”
We can only guess how many days like this Danny had throughout his multi-year career as massage therapist and soigneur with the world-beating Orica Scott cycling team – standing in the freezing rain in the Pyrenees mountain range in France, waiting to hand water bottles to a bunch of racing professional cyclists.
“It certainly wasn’t the money that kept me there – what motivated me more than anything was the awesome opportunity to work with professional athletes at the top of their game,” says Danny. “So when I was having a bad day I had to take a step back and look at the big picture to remind myself why I was there!”
Danny wasn’t only handing out bidons to cyclists – he also worked as team masseur for both Cycling Australia and the Orica outfit.“WhenI finished my bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science I didn’t envision this kind of work to be honest, but I did want to think outside the box and was adamant not to follow the norm and be a PE teacher,”he said . “I started this campaign when I was still an undergraduate and I’d recommend every student do what I did and put yourself out there during your studies and take as many opportunities on board as possible,”he insists. “Learn as much as you can as a student while people are still accepting of you! For me that meant spending time in rehab and soft tissue clinics with the AIS and VIS.”
Max-ing out opportunities didn’t just start at Uni for Danny. “My first job post high-school was in a restaurant kitchen where I cooked for three years under the watchful eyes of the chefs,” he divulges. “What I learned about nutrition ended up being another string to my bow when it came to looking after the diet of professional athletes.”
Danny is working on his Australia representative uniform collection, having supported Aussie cyclists at both the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. “Both were fantastic experiences all up and I wouldn’t trade them for anything, despite my enduring memories of the cold weather in Glasgow and the sub-optimal plumbing at the athletes ’ village in Rio !”
“My experience of the professional cycling workplace has meant living and working in very close quarters with a bunch of people of up to 12 nationalities,” says Danny. “ Getting along with everybody and making a workable environment is the #1 objective,” he reminds us. “You’ve got to be patient, accepting of different ideas, be cooperative, and show and earn respect.”
“I really appreciate getting good feedback on my soft tissue work. A good athlete appreciates the work you’ve done to help them recover from or prepare for an event. It’s very rewarding knowing you’ve contributed to that.”
Not only does Danny negotiate a range of personalities but also has to learn to communicate effectively without needing to be a linguist. “Luckily for me,” he sighs, “English was the preferred language of the team, with Spanish coming a close second.
But at any time I could find myself needing to buy supplies for the travelling team from any number of stores in any number of countries – Google images was my constant companion. Need to buy egg beaters for the kitchen? No problem.
Customer Service Officer | Public Transport - Victoria
“We look after each other and share the odd joke.”
“I’m still front of house!”says Wesley, from the breezeway ticket barrier of a Melbourne metro railway station. I’ve always been a meet and greet kind of person so this job is like an extension of my hospitality career back in India. I worked in front of house reception for a hotel for 28 years. At the station it’s not that different – it’s as if every passenger is arriving at the same huge function – only, one by one!”
“I’ve been doing this job now for 11 years. Lots of things keep me here. I love saying hello and meeting different people and also I work with a great team. We look after each other and share the odd joke. That’s very important for us all because there are some down sides to the job – it’s cold being outside in Winter and railway security could be improved.’’ “But, people are people wherever you go so I consider I’ve been in hospitality more than my 28 years in India – I’m still doing it today!”
Sculptor and Floor Manager | Meridian Sculpture - Fitzroy
“The greatest compliment a client could pay me would be that they couldn’t distinguish my work from that of his “master” casters.”
From fluting to flonking and shucking to scrimming, Evan’s self-reinvention from chef to sculptor has replaced one industry’s peculiar vocabulary with another.“I went as far as I could as a chef but with its average 50-hour week I was missing out on so much else in life that I decided to switch careers.” “I graduated in Fine Arts as a mature age student, fell in love with bronze, and have been at Meridian for nearly five years now.” “We work with artists as well as the general public and can cast anything from an existing mould, a sketch or even from an idea. ” (And Evan doesn’t even flinch when he talks about commissions for giant phalluses..)
“Working in our small team here, I’m the new boy here and am really a jack- of -all- trades. I’m working alongside artisans who’ve been here for more than 30 years, the ones who actually converted the old ice-cream factory into the foundry we have today.” When asked if, in this timeless art form, there are any similarities between historical and contemporary methods, Evan admits with pride that the greatest compliment a client could pay him would be that they couldn’t distinguish his work from that of his “master” casters, many years his senior. “That’s truly a reference to the centuries-old traditions of an acolyte working alongside and learning from a master like Cellini or Michelangelo.”
When asked if he’s made a pilgrimage to Italy to admire its bronze statuary, Evan comes straight back with an adoring sigh. “The most beautiful bronze casting I have ever seen is the’ Perseus with the head of Medusa’ by Benvenuto Cellini, in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. (Coincidentally, like Evan himself, his idol Cellini also switched careers to eventually settle on sculpture. Looks like Evan’s own personal die has been cast…)
Receptionist - Jellis Craig Real Estate | BrunswickAlicia Murphy
“I reckon I can handle just about anything in this business – I just love real estate.”
Real estate is a passionate business. Whether it be the passionate rush of the sale, a passion for renovation or emotions running high across the reception counter. Ask Alicia what it’s like having to calm an angry client who’s been waiting months for house repairs (as she did for a previous agent) and it’s a surprising, “I just let it flow – I can take a verbal punch.” Tough talk for a diminutive 18 year old, full of character.“ I reckon I can handle just about anything in this business – I just love real estate.”
Having extricated herself from a previous employer because of disrespect in the workplace, Alicia dusted herself off and got back on the horse.“My motivation for hanging in there was that I wanted to learn more and more. At Jellis Craig I’ve found a company that is professional, organised, welcoming and inclusive, and we help each other out as much as we can.”
Alicia is already qualified as an agent’s representative, has her sights set on the Sales area and dreams of being a licensed real estate franchisee one day. She’s even ‘living’ the industry. “Mum and I are already renovating houses and on-selling them. I watch the renovation shows on TV when I can and sometimes I reckon I could even give the contestants some tips”, she winks. Seems Alicia is in the right place at the right time. What do they say in the industry? Position, position, position?
Intern at mwah. - Sydney, Australia
“I’m proud to call myself a feminist…
Georg (yes that’s the correct spelling) has experienced a lot of personal change during his time at Sydney Uni (where he is studying a B. Comm. majoring in Human ResourcesManagement.) And it has confirmed a work/life path that couldn’t be more juxtaposed to the dream job that was his focus as a teenager.
“I landed my first job at 16 with a fashion PR agency and at that time I could see so clearly my future with Dior and all the big fashion lines, not to mention all the fun stuff – hanging out with Lady Gaga and fully ensconcing myself in the event and party scene. Back then, my role model was Samantha Jones from Sex and the City! ”
But a significant life event brought on serious self-reflection and Georg did an about-face, turning away from an industry all about prestige and power, towards a life that held more meaning for him.
“I realised that the fashion industry was selling things that didn’t necessarily make people happy. There’s a point when you realise that it’s all pretty superficial and you need something more to get up in the morning for,” Georg muses. “Now, my motivation is meeting and helping people.” he says. “For me, it’s all about the human side of work.
“But even though I took on my Uni degree of choice, I still didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with it – I majored in HR but had zero experience in it!! I feel incredibly lucky that my mentor at Sydney Uni, Marian Baird, helped me along this path. In an act of faith and kindness she encouraged my writing and presentation skills. She also offered me a job organising the Equal Payday Ball at the Uni, which was not only a huge step up in responsibility but ended up turning me from a gender pay gap sceptic into a proud feminist!”
“I’ve only been with mwah. a few weeks but the work environment is everything I admire and want: to work in a small friendly team, to help each other out and to work without a rigid structure,” Georg confirms. “I once did an internship in Washington DC on Capitol Hill and that experience was very valuable in teaching me what I didn’t want!“Super professional, sure, but no friendships at work – that’s just not me,” he confesses.
Georg has shown remarkable resilience and determination in achieving his study goal. “I’m 23 now, so it’s taken me a while to get to where I want to be – and I’m really only starting. But some advice I’d offer in hindsight to a younger me is that your grades in HSC don’t define you nor dictate your future. Mine weren’t super high, so I had to take alternate pathways to get into this degree.”
(Perhaps another pearl of wisdom from Georg could be that learning and discovery aren’t just reserved for the classroom…)
Norman J Salon - Sydney
“This has to be the #1 job in society– but you’ve got to love people.”
(I asked Norman what the“J” stood for and in true showbiz style he replied, “John”, but that “J” has more pizzazz!”. Can’t argue with that…)
A Sydney hairdresser for 33 years, Norman’s motivation to start out in this industry is as clear as ever. “I wanted a trade where I could run my own show. I wanted to work for myself and move beyond the family pressure to follow them into the hospitality business.” (Incredibly, after six months of trade school, he achieved his goal….and the rest is history)
“This has to be the #1 job in society – but you’ve got to love people and being with them. Sure, there’s a bit of the father confessor role that goes with the job but I’m happy for clients to save themselves the cost of a psychiatrist and come to me instead! We talk, we laugh, I make them a coffee or they sip champagne and their troubles disappear. I’m in this business for the love of it – I’m certainly not in it for the money!”
The rigour of Norman J’s four years of theatrical training during the heady ‘80s is evident–for him, the show must go on! He laments the upsurge of political correctness and has decided that young hairdressers today are too thin-skinned and sensitive.
“You’ve got to be able to deal with the odd negative person sitting in the chair. You’ve got to listen and you’ve got to give them what they want. Then you’ve got a client for life.”
“Looking back, ironically my only regret has been getting into business too soon. I was 20 years old and truth be told, I was trying to impress a young woman at the time! I would have loved to travel and explore more. ” (But Norman J, travel is only one kind of journey…)
Dental Nurse- Dental Group, Brunswick
“It was an awkward moment but at the same time very caring. One of my clients brought me in a box of chocolates to say thank you. Now, chocolate and dentistry are not what you’d call a natural fit but I couldn’t refuse. Her gesture was well – meant – plus I love chocolate!!”
“My career’s taken me all over the place – in permanent positions as well as temping – but even after 16 years I still enjoy what attracted me in the first place– caring for people and being involved in their lives.”
“I especially love the kids: they make work fun and they really take you by surprise sometimes. One of our little boys has a fabulous imagination and was telling me all about the tooth fairy’s house (made of teeth, of course) and how she had hair like Tinkerbell.” (And we thought the fish tank was what distracted children at the dentist…!) Melissa has some tips for her younger self starting out.
“I’d say for sure try out a few different places initially, but stay at one job a bit longer – settle sooner. The continuity is great for your professional skills and you also get a chance to bond with the people you work with. Work’s pretty full-on here and sometimes I feel like I spend more time at work than at home it’s like a second relationship! My motto is try and make work fun, because you take your mood home with you!”
Clinical Myotherapist - IvanhoeJason Nass
“That they place their trust in me is something I’m really proud of.”
“Fair to say I was gutted when I didn’t get to be a pilot.” (Very tall, even seated, it’s clear that to be a pilot Jason would need to have the roof perpetually open. A real OH&S downer…) Still, growing up in the 80’s, there were other options. It was the decade of pharmaceutical research, and because chemistry always excited me I thought of science instead.” (OK… yes… but still no banana.) “In the end, what it really came down to was that I just wanted to use my hands.” Enter, myotherapy.
Early on, I worked in pre-natal. Talking to pregnant woman about…err…”birth canals” and breast-feeding was as far from my own life experience as I could get! I’m sure I was too reserved at the start, thinking that’s how a professional should act. If I could give my younger self some advice it would be that working as a professional doesn’t mean leaving 80% of your personality at the door. It’s OK to be yourself.
My clients tell me I have honest eyes, and that’s such a complement. That they place their trust in me is something I’m really proud of – that, and the fact that I can offer them a safe landing.” Waddyaknow? I think the pilot got his gig.
Organic grocer - First Harvest Organics, Melbourne
“I started work at 16. My first job was butchering chickens. While I wouldn’t say that job necessarily turned me into the vegan I am today, let’s just say that feathers and wrinkly feet do nothing for me now.”
Fast forward nine productive years. “I’ve done a lot of research into food, health and physical training and I’d probably put my shift to veganism and my leap into owning my own organic business down to all of that.
I’m a gymnast and I also practise Brazilian jujitsu, and what I love about my job is the feedback I get from customers who are also focused on their own health and training. It’s great to swap ideas and experience. For me, the social side of things and having friendly customers beats the money any day. Oh, and the social side of things also extends to my great staff. Well, we’re in this together and we’re good to each other. Birthdays and house parties are huge!!! “
Ice cream artiste | Fairy Hills Gourmet Ice cream
“I’m pretty much surrounded by joy.”
I’ve worked in ice-cream for 17 years… (and boy am I….”insert punchline here”…). But seriously, (wait, how can you be serious AND make ice-cream??) I did a stint in the police force before leaving to follow my brothers into the ice cream business. (puts a new slant on “Freeze!” …), but this has been my own venture for the past four years. Did I tell you I’m highly competitive by nature? I’m self-taught and have honed my skills through personal experience – put it this way, I don’t hold back when it comes to experimenting with new flavour combo’s – and anyway, my kids have a vested interested in the failures!
I owe a lot to my customers too – they give me some of my best ideas – they inspire me! My favourite at the moment is my “ode to the Amalfi coast” – lemon, honey & rosemary. And I use the rosemary from my own backyard! Then there’s lime & ginger: I originally created it on commission from a local Thai restaurant and it’s become a fave here at the ice creamery. In my world I’m pretty much surrounded by joy, and the best reward for me – still – after all these years – is the “ooh” and “aah” of the perfect flavour.
Docasa Café - Melbourne, Australia
“It’s all about the ambience, that’s what makes a good workplace for us.“
“Have you had a good look at the wall tiles?” asks Warren. (Well, yes, they’re beautiful and in pristine condition in this café of only nine months.) “Could have been a tiler like my father – did the apprenticeship.”
“Anyway, I ended up in the corporate world and when I retired I got together with my Italian son-in-law and together we created our café. It was 90% him and 10% me, but we were 50/50 on how we wanted to feel about it. It’s all about the ambience – that’s what makes a good workplace for us. That, plus good coffee, amazing food and great staff!
I spend quite a bit of my 45-minute drive to work pondering what the day will bring – whether our new venture will be busy – and also planning the co-ordination of our front and back of house staff– harmony is key! The return 45-minute trip I spend reflecting on the day that’s been and thanking our lucky stars – yet again – that the best advertising we could possibly have had is free and is right outside our door: the traffic light intersection that forces people to stop and stare at us. Position, position, position! Buon appetito!”