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Interview: Zoe Hutchinson

Annie:

Great. All right, we’re all set. Can you still hear me okay?

Zoe:

I can, yes.

Annie:

Fantastic. So, congratulations on all of your qualifications, first of all. I bet that felt really good.

Zoe:

It did. Nice to lump all the past experience onto a piece of paper.

Annie:

Absolutely, and to be recognized for what you know, because otherwise it can be a little bit like a tree falling in a forest, can’t it?

Zoe:

Well, it’s true. Yes. That’s very true.

Annie:

Yeah, all right.

Zoe:

And you can’t afford, at the moment, well, just the volatility of the market, you can’t afford it to not be on a piece of paper.

Annie:

Yes, absolutely. What industry are you in, Zoe?

Zoe:

Risk management at the moment, and that would be where the bulk of my experience has come through, either oil and gas, or risk management.

Annie:

Working for the big ones?

Zoe:

No, currently working for a division of [Wesfarmers 00:01:06] Industrial. But prior to that was for a niche engineering manufacturing business that’s [inaudible 00:01:15] all the big names are industrial. [crosstalk 00:01:19]

Annie:

All right. Great. So, Zoe, what I would love is if you could give me just a bit of a summary of your career history. And then, how you found out about Churchill and recognition of prior learning. And then a bit about the process, and then sort of where you’re at now, and what your plans are for the future. So, that’s just giving you an overview of your conversation. Then we can just go one step at a time and I’ll prompt you with questions as we go.

Annie:

So, if you can just tell me, if you can just start with telling me about your working history, that would be great.

Zoe:

Okay, so I guess most of my formative experience has really come together when I moved to the United States to work for a county sheriff’s office as into finance in general administration at that stage. It was very quickly identified that I had a natural skill in investigations and sort of evidentiary analysis, you know, process mapping, that kind of thing.

Annie:

Right.

Zoe:

… hand picked to receive some investigation training with Oklahoma state bureau of investigations, which was located in Tulsa. So, off I went and did all that. And obviously, that’s the really ticked all my boxes. Just the [inaudible 00:03:03] you know, my natural, that’s where I tend to fall. As a consequence of that now, when you’re working in the U.S. strictly for a county sheriff, it’s a [inaudible 00:03:14] position, it’s no different than the president.

Zoe:

The sheriff at the time re-ran for election and he was not successful. And the new incumbent, I, we didn’t see eye to eye. I didn’t agree with his values. And I had said to the talent sheriff, Mike, I said, “Don’t, if you’re not successful, I’m going back to Australia.”

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

So, he wasn’t successful. And I ended up back in Australia. Had a phone interview with a company called KGI Unlimited, which was a toy and nursery equipment manufacturer, and designer, mainly for the [inaudible 00:03:59] market. And went as the assistant accountant, initially. So, I came back to Australia [inaudible 00:04:09] started working there, and then ended up shifting into the quality systems frame.

Zoe:

I’m using those investigation skills to analyze, we did a lot of loyalty reporting because it was a lot of our toys and nursery equipment was licensed. And that’s the major Disney lines, you know, Hasbro, all of those. Mattel, all licensed, so you therefore have to do loyalty reporting, you had to do. And there were a couple of products recalled. And through my investigation skills, and working for them in that quality arm, even though I was still working as the assistant accountant, took on more of an investigative nature.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

And that sort of really played to my strengths. Did a lot of, we had an offshore production facility, which was in Hong Kong. Had to do a lot of internal auditing and sort of streamlining systems and processes in the Hong Kong production facility, which we’ve been reducing the waste and this that, and the other.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

From there, we’re poached to go and work with [Kryten 00:05:28] who was the manufacturer and designer into the well and go. We were poached again for finance. But, then escalated into head of quality. And I guess the experience there was just dealing with the major players. So, we’re now dealing at a global stage, plus at a global level. Global supply. Now, I took that company, Kryten, to [inaudible 00:06:04] accreditation, then leveraged that accreditation through [inaudible 00:06:07], which was another offshoot of that business.

Annie:

Wow.

Zoe:

Leveraged that a [inaudible 00:06:16] but it became so profitable that that was actually bought out. And from there, so I was there for 9 years. And then it just got to the point where I had maxed out my career. So, short of becoming the managing director, or the CEO, which I had no intention of doing, and I would have had to study engineering, like to have escalated that service. I didn’t want to study engineering at the time. And he was also, the owner was also looking to sell the business to a major player. Like, looking to get bought out.

Zoe:

He did get bought out, and so I actually took a voluntary redundancy at that time. Jeff and I took a sabbatical to go and do a little bit of extra study and personal development. And then, got this role here, at [inaudible 00:07:14] the division of Wesfarmer’s Industrial as the national contact manager. So, now, I’m shifting into a quasi-legal. But, still bringing in the but a small quasi-legal strategy plus business improvement, plus quality, plus a bit of everything. And that’s about it. That’s the trajectory.

Annie:

Wow.

Zoe:

Yeah, so I’ve cut across quite a few different sectors. A lot of different sectors. You know, I’d also studied nursing in a previous life and done all of that.

Annie:

So, take me back, right back to the start of your studies. What qualifications do you have, obviously before the …

Zoe:

Before this? I had done a, I bowed out of nursing just prior to what used to be called an SES, which is a state enrolled, or SEN,[crosstalk 00:08:23] as opposed to an SRN. And I left just ahead of, just prior to SEN qualification. Because I went, I wanted to go off and do different things. And I ended up living out of [inaudible 00:08:36] traveling and doing all that. And beyond the qualification I had, other than [inaudible 00:08:44], was as [inaudible 00:08:46] quality auditing and integrated risk.

Zoe:

So, that’s it. That’s all acquired knowledge.

Annie:

Right, so a deployment of quality …

Zoe:

Quality auditing and integrated risk management.

Annie:

Auditing and integrated risk management. Okay. So, what inspired you to do that course?

Zoe:

It was to just I guess, to then get the piece of paper, because I had [inaudible 00:09:24] to the head of quality and it was …

Annie:

Okay, so …

Zoe:

… to have …

Annie:

… oh, gotcha. So, that was when you were, was that when you were over in the U.S., still?

Zoe:

No. That was at [Briarton 00:09:36]. So, I was back in Australia.

Annie:

Okay, yep.

Zoe:

And it was just yeah, it was, I didn’t really, like, it wasn’t going to detract from the position. I already had the role, anyway.

Annie:

All right. So, in retrospect, do you think you possibly might have been over to RPL those qualifications at that point, as well?

Zoe:

Oh, look, maybe. But RPLing of qualifications at that time was not as …

Annie:

Accessible?

Zoe:

… not as accessible as it is today.

Annie:

Right. I guess what I’m trying to get clear on is, did you already have the skills and knowledge, and was it just a bit of a process of I’m working my way up the rungs. I’d better have this qualification? Or was it because you needed …

Zoe:

Yeah.

Annie:

Yeah, okay. Yeah, that was what I was trying to get to. And so, so you said that you working as an assistant accountant. So, your accounting knowledge was vocational as well?

Zoe:

Correct.

Annie:

Okay. All right, great. You have such a good example of you know, learning on the job, which is probably the best way to learn things.

Zoe:

It is.

Annie:

But then, if you don’t have the qualification, people assume that you don’t have the ability, which is crazy.

Zoe:

That’s correct. Yes.

Annie:

So, Kelly told me about you and suggested that you’d be great to talk to. So, she’s told me that you received a graduate diploma of strategic leadership, advanced diploma of program management, and an advanced diploma of business.

Zoe:

Correct.

Annie:

And tell me …

Zoe:

… more if they were available.

Annie:

Oh, really. So, did you qualify for any more qualifications than those three?

Zoe:

Well, I don’t know.

Annie:

Right.

Zoe:

Like, I don’t, there was no not through Churchill. Like, I don’t know that there was any that matched where I’m looking to go.

Annie:

Where are you looking to go?

Zoe:

Well, that’s, I knew you were going to ask that question. I’ve kind of dug a hole for myself. I’m still actually, searching for the true clarity. I know that I have a lot more to offer. I know that I’m not where I’m at now, is not allowing me to be who I am. Where I end up, I don’t know yet.

Annie:

Okay.

Zoe:

I know that sounds really vague. I know that there’s, if you come and ask me in 6, 12 months, I will probably be there. But at the moment, I can’t tell you.

Annie:

That’s great. So, I get that you’ve acknowledged that you don’t have complete clarity. But, can you give me a little bit more information about the feeling of feeling like you’re not where you need to be and you’ve got more to give. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Zoe:

It’s likely to be where I’m educating. So, I’m passing down my knowledge and my wisdom. So, whether that as approached as a consultant, as a don’t know. I enjoy public speaking. I’m not, that’s not to say that I’m not nervous when I’m doing it. But, I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing the lights going on in people’s eyes when you translate the information that’s in your head and make them, allow them to facilitate their understanding of something.

Zoe:

So, I suspect it’s going to be down that road.

Annie:

Okay, so a bit more of a mentoring role.

Zoe:

Yes, more than likely.

Annie:

Right.

Zoe:

And strategy.

Annie:

Strategy.

Zoe:

So, the grad bit in strategy was very important to me. I am a strategic thinker. I have the ability to [inaudible 00:13:49] but then call it right back to the minute details and investigate it in order to reach that blue sky, you know, end game.

Annie:

What a valuable skill. So …

Zoe:

I’d like to think so.

Annie:

… do you think you’d ever want to go, would you ever want to go as far as doing an MBA?

Zoe:

It’s possible. It’s possible. If there was going to be, you know, I’d probably, I’d have to drop another 20 grand to do that if the ROI on that was there, then possibly.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

I somehow don’t think it’s going to be, I don’t think I’m going to need to do it in order to get to where I want to go. If I choose to do that, it will be just for the sheer love of studying, and learning, as opposed to leveraging it to get to wherever I end up.

Annie:

That’s great. Now, can I ask you, this is a little bit of a different line that is just around conversation. It’s just evolving in my mind. As a woman who is working in senior management in what I imagine is a bit of a man’s world, in terms of the industry that you’re in, how, what has your experience been. Do you feel that you have always been given equal opportunity and equal treatment? Have you experienced equality? Or what has your experience been, rather than me putting words in your mouth?

Zoe:

Personally, I prefer to work with men on a day to day. That’s not to say that I don’t get benefits from working with women. But, in my experience, I am at my best when I am working one-on-one with a male, because we balance each other out. So, men, by and large, tend to be more I guess, their a lot more simple minded. They can see where they want to be, and that’s where they aim. I think when you partner a woman with a man of that caliber, we bring the details. We bring in the that’s great, but have you considered x?

Zoe:

And I think from my experiences, my most beneficial experiences, and my most rewarding experiences have been when I partnered with men. When you get too many women involved, where you tend to mess things up a bit, because there’s a lot more emotion involved. There’s all the backstabbing and the rubbish, and gossiping and the you know, men are a lot more black and white, which is who I am. I tend to be very black and white.

Annie:

And the converse of that, if it’s just men and no women, do you think that that has a worse outcome than men and women combined?

Zoe:

Look, I will be honest. I have never, it’s not until I’ve reached this role, that I’ve actually felt the effects of a bit of gender bias. And you know, when [inaudible 00:17:59] being diverse, equal opportunity rubbity rah, rubbity rah, they’ll throw all that lip service at you. And I don’t mean to talk disparagingly of Wesfarmers. However, they are very much old white men in suits.

Annie:

Okay.

Zoe:

So, if you don’t play the game, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, but if you don’t, but also if you’re female, if you don’t play the game, there’s no skin in it. Like, you may as well just check out now.

Annie:

Right. And so have you felt like you’ve had to play the game to …

Zoe:

Oh, yes.

Annie:

Right.

Zoe:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And of course I don’t play the game. I’m not, I acknowledge that I am different. I do acknowledge that I agitate. Because I’m passionate about what I can recognize the potential in things. And I’m passionate about that. So, if you’re not going to, if you’re not going to meet me on that journey, then I’ll just keep agitating.

Annie:

Okay. And so, do you feel like you have the respect of your superiors, considering that you’re not playing the game?

Zoe:

Yes, I do. I do. Because they understand that I have got their back. Having said that, so they, it’s a difficult, it’s like a bit of a rub, here. They respect me on one hand, but would probably ideally love to get rid of me on the other.

Annie:

Okay.

Zoe:

So, it’s a really challenging, that’s a challenging question to answer. Because I force them to be accountable.

Annie:

Okay.

Zoe:

And as we know, not everyone wants to be accountable.

Annie:

No. No. So, is this part of why you’re feeling like you’re looking for something more and something to be more satisfying?

Zoe:

Right. Yeah. Yep.

Annie:

Okay.

Zoe:

Absolutely. Makes sense. Wanting to align myself with an organization, big or large, don’t care. You know, so that I know that it is likely to be predominantly male, because I will just naturally gravitate to that. But, my, I’m being very strategic in my action, that it needs to be aligned to my values.

Annie:

I felt like that word would actually come up.

Zoe:

I’m at a point in my career that if it’s not aligned to my values, you know, adios …

Annie:

And so, can you summarize what your values are?

Zoe:

I value accountability. I value respect. The word, the phrase that wants to come up is a reputation. I want to align myself with a business that has the reputation of without fear nor favor. Be bold. If you want to be truly successful, be bold. You know, make some ballsy decisions, and stand by them. If you fail, own that. Because we all fail. Everyday we fail. We do some things that may not work out quite how we expect it to.

Annie:

And how do you define success?

Zoe:

Success to me, is living in alignment with your truth.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

Whatever that is. And it’s very, how I define success, and how you define success could be entirely different.

Annie:

Yep. And when it comes to being a part of a corporation, and a corporations, and you know, looking for someone who you can work for who is in alignment with your values, and helping them to achieve success, what definition of success in a business that you’re working for would be in alignment with your values? So, success at a corporate level? Is it just bottom line? Is it just profit, or is it more than that?

Zoe:

No. It’s not just bottom line, because this is what I’m living now. It’s all about the bottom line. Even though it’s way more than the bottom line. You know, it’s I guess, it is working in a culture where you know that your opinions matter. First of all, you know that your opinions are heard, or your, you know, it’s if you’re going to offer solutions. If you’re asking for solutions, so if the corporation is asking for solutions, and we offer those solutions, consider them. Don’t just pay it lip service. Otherwise, don’t ask.

Zoe:

So, there’s integrity there. So, that is to me, you can demonstrate integrity, then that is success. You know, if you are going to be good leaders, you serve. That’s ultimately what it’s all about.

Annie:

Okay.

Zoe:

For me, I think too many people are elevated into positions of leadership and it’s all about them. They’re not there to serve the people that are going to drive the success. If you look after your people, your people will look after your business.

Annie:

Yeah, that’s a great line. That’s so true. Right. So, it sounds like you want to be part of an organization that acknowledges its people and is in service internally and externally.

Zoe:

Correct. Yep. That they appreciate. It’s client appreciation.

Annie:

So important, isn’t it?

Zoe:

… internal appreciation and there’s external appreciation. But if you don’t internally appreciate the people who are working for you, your business, in my opinion, your business will amount to nothing.

Annie:

I agree.

Zoe:

Because they’re the ones that are driving your business. You are there just to serve. You are there to give these people the resources in order to get out there and do what they need to do, and do it well. And if by serving, that means that you listen. And by serving that means that you invite opinion, and discussion and collaboration and ideas, and you actually take them onboard, they’re not all going to be good ideas. You know, probably even in 100 ideas, you might only get one really rock solid one.

Annie:

Absolutely.

Zoe:

But, don’t invite feedback. But only listen when it’s good feedback.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

Yes.

Annie:

Well, it sounds like your clearer than you think you are about what you’re really looking for.

Zoe:

Probably. Look, I’ll know it when I find it.

Annie:

Yeah, that’s great. So, Zoe, thank you so much for being so candid with me. How did you find, how did you know about Churchill and recognition of prior learning?

Zoe:

I was, Churchill was identified to me through Jason Linford, who is a friend of Randall’s.

Annie:

Right. Okay. So, word of mouth.

Zoe:

Word of mouth.

Annie:

Okay. And what, so what was it that made you want to start looking for getting some qualifications through prior learning? Or was it a conversation with Jason?

Zoe:

It was just a conversation with Jace. He just did have you, or he had a bind full with Randall that morning, or whatever. And he just raised a conversation with me. And he said, how are you off for all your bits of paper? And I knew what he was talking about. And I said, well I bet you’ve got way more than me. And he goes have you heard of this mob? And then he put in Churchill’s link. And I just went into the link and I said no. And I said, let me guess, you know the owner. Ha, ha, ha. And he goes well, as a matter of fact, I do.

Zoe:

And then just went from there. And so, he just did, he said I will email them and ask them to make contact with you. Which Kelly did straight away, within a couple of hours. And Jason was, he stepped out then. He just said there you go. I’ve put you in touch. Work your magic. I didn’t have to work much magic. Kelly was the one working all the magic. I just rustled up a bit of evidence. And even I said to Kelly, I said, when you were asking for the evidence, I’m thinking, you know, I’m crap.

Zoe:

I hope this is going to be, because you know, you only know what you don’t know. And I’m thinking oh, like, I know what I know. And I know that I can do my job well. But finding evidence of it is pretty tough. If you haven’t, I mean, [inaudible 00:28:33] awards and all these different projects and things that you may or may not have worked on. And some people like that. They collect awards like they’re, they just do. I’m not one of those people.

Zoe:

I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of a, I work the magic quietly in the background. So, but anyway, it didn’t, that was all immaterial in the end.

Annie:

So, did it end up being a fairly edgy process, or was there much evidence that you needed to provide?

Zoe:

No, not really. I just did one lot of evidence dump into the folders. And that was it.

Annie:

Oh, wow. Great. And so, how long did the process take?

Zoe:

A week.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

Perhaps a month.

Annie:

Wow. Great. Yep.

Zoe:

Between giving the evidence and Kelly coming back and saying, oh, well, here you go. This is what you qualify for. And then it was like great. Okay.

Annie:

Let’s go.

Zoe:

Send me the invoice.

Annie:

Fantastic. And so, have you received your actual certificates yet?

Zoe:

Not in the mail, but I have the electronic …

Annie:

You’ve got the electronic. Well the mail ones won’t be far away. So, I guess you’ve already answered my next question. So, you’re just going, you’ve got your qualifications, you know you want another move. And you’re just in the process of getting really clear about what you want. And then you’re going to be looking for new opportunities is what I’m imagining you’re going to …

Zoe:

Correct.

Annie:

… be doing with those?

Zoe:

Become more, I’m already looking. You know, that was just cream. And I recognize that I needed them. I am confident that they will, the ROI on the certificates will be there.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoe:

You know, because people rightly or wrongly look at a credential and automatically make a determination based on a piece of paper.

Annie:

Oh, it’s absolutely true, isn’t it. It does matter. It shouldn’t be the only measure of value, but in the employment world, particularly in the corporate world, it’s really the benchmark, isn’t it?

Zoe:

It is.

Annie:

Qualification. So, for, like in for example, in practice of you being looking on seeking job boards for particular positions, and having qualifications opened up opportunities?

Zoe:

Not yet. I guess it’s changed my mindset a little bit.

Annie:

Okay. Interesting.

Zoe:

Where like I might see an opportunity, and I know I could do it with my eyes closed. But, then I’ll have qualifications required. And unless she’s got those, they’re not even going to look at it. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the truth of it. You know, ageism is alive and well.

Annie:

Oh, okay. So, it’s probably ageism more than sexism that you’ve …

Zoe:

Yes, I would thinks so. So, you have to, so, if you imagine ageism without the credentials, as opposed to ageism with, I think that will diminish the ageism quite significantly.

Annie:

Absolutely.

Zoe:

And it has changed my perspective. Like, I’m now looking at probably, I’m not looking at any different opportunities. The opportunities are still the same. But I’m looking at them differently, because I know okay, I [crosstalk 00:32:49] last week without the credentials. I’m looking at it this week with the credentials. My knowledge hasn’t changed any, but their perception has.

Annie:

And also, probably your internal self-perception has also changed.

Zoe:

Correct.

Annie:

No that’s great. Yeah. I find that a lot with the people that I speak to. You know, there’s a market effect in terms of employers ticking employer boxes. But, there’s also a lot of internal ticking that seems to happen. It just creates a mental chute for people. They see their abilities that they already had. And as you said, you don’t know anything more or different, but you’ve got evidence of your ability. And it just gives you that kick of self confidence, doesn’t it?

Zoe:

Correct. Yeah. Yep. Absolutely it does.

Annie:

So, having been through the process now, if you were talking to other friends or colleagues about the process, what would you say to them about …

Zoe:

Do it.

Annie:

Yep.

Zoe:

Just do it.

Annie:

Just do it.

Zoe:

You know, if you’re looking to, for whatever reason, you don’t even have to explain the motivation for doing it. But, whatever thought is behind the consideration, just do it. You know, look in their, because there’s always options. You know, it’s like if you can’t afford to pay for it up front, you can pay it in installments. Do whatever you need to do, but just do it.

Annie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s great. Well, Zoe, thank you so much for your time. That was such a great conversation that it went a little bit longer than 20 minutes. I hope that was okay for you.

Zoe:

No, that’s fine. No, I’m sitting in an office [inaudible 00:34:39]

Annie:

Zoe, could I, the next, what I would do now is I’ll go off and I’ll write a first draft over the next couple of weeks. And I’ll email it to you and you can tell me if you want anything changed, if you’re not comfortable with anything. And then once we get a draft that you’re happy with, I’ll put it up on our website and then I’ll sort of send it out. And people can read it then, but you’ll give the okay first.

Zoe:

No. That sounds perfect. We’ll be happy to do that.

Annie:

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time, Zoe. And best of luck with your next move.

Zoe:

Thank you. And thanks for reaching out. I hope it’s all benefit.

Annie:

Yeah, absolutely. Really appreciate it.

Zoe:

… made it.

Annie:

Exactly. And this is why we do these. Because you know, telling people stories really gives other people a direct idea of why it matters, rather than just saying hey, buy our publication.

Zoe:

Yeah.

Annie:

Yeah.

Zoe:

That’s right. There’s a bit of balance. There’s a bit of humanity behind it.

Annie:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. For sure.

Zoe:

Perfect.

Annie:

Thanks Zoe.

Zoe:

Thanks Annie. I’ll talk to you soon.

Annie:

Yep. Thank you.

Zoe:

Okay.

Annie:

Bye.

Zoe:

Bye.

 

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