When I was fresh into the corporate world as an accounting graduate I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Of course. Until I started working in the business world, and discovered it’s not what you know but who you know. Of course. Getting a job in the 90’s – despite being in the thick of a recession we (apparently) had to have – was the easy bit. Learning how to navigate the world of banking was another story. Women managers were still a rarity, especially those who dared to have a life AND a career. In these early days of my career, everything was new and unknown and had to be learned. I came from a family where everyone worked hard, though not in the world of big business, so I was very much flying blind. Loving it, but learning the hard way. Reinventing the wheel, when I now know how much simpler and more effective it is to have a network of contacts to ask, a mentor to call on, a peer group to swap notes with or to just lend an ear.
Those early days, when I look back, were pretty tough. I’d left home and the bubble of my small country town for university and life in the big smoke, just seventeen years old and too scared to tell anyone how much I missed home! After a string of part time jobs, my “real” career started when I was twenty. And I was lucky enough to fall into safe hands, with a string of managers who took a great interest in my technical abilities and encouraged me to stretch myself, go that bit further and faster, and they rewarded me in the process with career advancement. But the one that had the biggest impact on me was Dianne.
Di was my first – and only – female boss and she did what the guys couldn’t do: she showed me how to be a successful woman in business. Di opened my eyes to a world of opportunity (she’d broken new ground for a woman in banking); to smarter and more efficient ways of working (she taught me systems and short cuts that enabled her to get more out of every day so she had time more with her real passion, her family including 3 kids); and to that elusive balance of being feminine and ferocious in the world of business (yes, she was competitive and yet she was always respectful and empathetic and her clients loved her). She had a sixth sense to know when I was facing personal challenges away from work; and she encouraged me to share them with her. And so Di taught me that a problem shared was a problem halved. She became that unique blend of boss and friend; of master and motivator. She taught me to surround myself with friends who were interested in seeing me succeed, and would help me do just that.
Almost twenty years later I’ve yet to come across a better role model and mentor, and so it’s with absolute delight that I will be reconnecting with Di at a panel discussion I’ll be facilitating in Adelaide next week on The Female Leadership Journey.
Dianne Rogowski went on to become the recipient of the prestigious Telstra Business Women of the Year Award for the Corporate, Government and Business sector in 2005 and is now CEO of the City of Tea Tree Gully. If you’re in Adelaide next Friday 14th September – why don’t you come and meet me and the woman who inspired my career?
Joining Di on the panel will be Isobel Redmond MP, Leader of the Opposition of SA, and Nicole Graham, CEO of scosa, an organization which plays a crucial role in supporting South Australians living with disabilities.
You can book here for this truly collaborative lunch event – or why not organize a table with your friends and colleagues?
And for those outside of Adelaide, it’s your turn to share: who was your that special mentor and motivator in your life, and what was it about them that made you shine? Share your comments here on the blog.
Hope to connect with you round the traps soon.