Sept. 7, 2021

#4 Building Innovation, Confidence, Getting Your Ideas Heard & Having a Go with Susan Oliver

#4 Building Innovation, Confidence, Getting Your Ideas Heard & Having a Go with Susan Oliver

Listen to this episode as the Chair at Alice Anderson Fund, Susan Oliver, shares her experience and expertise in rebuilding stakeholder trust and finding potential in legacy assets, all whilst mapping a path for a company to succeed into an unknown future.

Susan has been involved in the governance of global companies since 1996 including IFM Investors, Transurban Group, and the restructure of Centro Group, but before that, she also had a long career in technology and futures consulting, culminating with leading the Commission for the Future for the Australian Government.

This conversation with Susan is very eye-opening especially for promising women-led startups in the pipeline. She also has other interests in a range of not-for-profit causes. Currently, she sits on the board of the Melbourne Theatre Company, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. She helped found The Big Issue in Australia and co-founded Scale Investors to fund female-led startups.

Susan is also an active angel investor through Scale and dedicated to supporting innovation and participation by women as both entrepreneurs and investors, all in all, she has contributed significantly to the innovation, IT, and arts policy agendas in Australia.

She was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 for service to Australian society in business and an AM in 2019 for significant service to business and to women.



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Susan Oliver
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-oliver-am-134a244/

Scale Investors
Website: https://scaleinvestors.com.au
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scale-investors-ltd/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/scale_investors
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scaleinvestors/

Alice Anderson Fund (Launch Vic)
Website: https://launchvic.org/general/angel-sidecar

Links from the Show
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Australian Institute for Company Directors
https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au

CSIRO
https://www.csiro.au/en/

Golden Seeds Ventures
https://goldenseeds.com

Launch Victoria
https://launchvic.org/general/staff-board




Transcript
Susan:

I think women often lack confidence. I see some women who are curtailing, their ambition, because they feel that's as far as they can go. So I think sometimes there's sort of almost a guilt about feeling that ambition. But it's not so much about ambition personally. It's about ambition to be influential. To be the example for others to follow because leadership is by example, Back yourself And make sure you're a person of substance with substantial knowledge and get out there and have a go

Vicky:

hello, and welcome to the chasing party podcast by SheSyndicate, a nonprofit dedicated to closing global economic gender gaps. I'm your host Vicky Lay and today's guest is Susan Oliver. Susan is chair of the Alice Anderson Fund, a seasoned board director, startup investor, and founder of the scale platform. Australia's first and only angel investor network backing exceptional female founders. On this show, Susan,shares her tips for getting your ideas heard and adopted why it's never too late to re-skill and how having a purpose can lead to greater confidence. We also dive into some of Susan's personal life missions around mentoring women, into technical roles and building an innovative nation from the ground up. Enjoy, and let's dive in. Welcome to the show, Susan

Susan:

thank you, Vicky.

Vicky:

It's really lovely to have you here. And just for context for our audience, we first met at a cafe in Melbourne and we were talking about investing in female leaders. And from my perspective, I was completely blown away by your own journey as a female leader across business and society. You're a successful tech entrepreneur and investor philanthropist and board director. So for the benefit of our listeners, can you please share your personal journey and what brought you to chairing the Alice Anderson Fund?

Susan:

Well, I started my career and professional development if you like in the property and the construction industry in the late sixties and early 1970s, and that's probably a long, long time ago, most of your audience at that time, I'd always been encouraged by my parents to think that I could do anything I really truly wanted to. And I found so many obstacles in my pathway and they were really. About my gender and I was one of the first women to, through the course and one of the first women to try and get into the building and construction industry at a professional level. And so I was supported at university by three extraordinary women. All of whom were first in the world or in their sphere to some extent, both in nuclear physics and in engineering and in architecture. And so I had terrific role models on the one hand. Women can do everything, but there's a lot of blockages and we need to help each other along the way. And so I've never forgotten that. And I've always modeled myself on those three extraordinary women. I want to support them and to be successful. And at the same time, I really want to encourage and support all people to be at full stretch. In whatever they really want to do and endeavor to do. So it shouldn't be such a big ask that so many organizations and so many of our institutions seem to be designed to stop us from being at full stretch. So the pathway. A long one, I'm older, and it's been varied. And people said to me, you've changed careers so many times, and that suits my personality, and my curiosity, but it also has been because I've hit. a ceiling so I've made it to go sideways and then I've got up again and I've hit another ceiling and I've had to go sideways. And because my interests are technical engineering software, all of those sorts of things. And I'm totally in support of the, world's got a lot of things we don't do very well. Let's find the people who've got the better ideas. And I often am a person who believes I got better ideas, Vicky, this true or not. Um, I've always looked to be able to be creative and. So, I guess career changes were often because I needed the next challenge. So I headed up the Australian commission for the future. I've worked in the construction industry for pioneering company, merchant builders, and I've worked within the public sector in tech, engineering, and infrastructure. And then I joined the board of Transurban in its early days when I could say it was a startup and that really began my board career. So I haven't talked about scale and I haven't talked about Alice Anderson Fund, I haven't talked about angel investing, but that might be your next question.

Vicky:

Absolutely. Well, why don't we jump into some of your experience in angel investing and scale, and with the current role you're sitting in, please talk to us more about that.

Susan:

Okay, well, in about 2008, I think it was, I was in New York for a women leaders conference and I met the people who started a group called golden seeds in the U S which was. A group of angel investors from all over the United States actually, they have chapters everywhere who invest in women, led startups. And at that time I was just beginning my own journey. I have a technology partner who's very brilliant in our software. And pitched on a couple of occasions, were not given any help. We were basically told. Right go away and we didn't fit the model and we really need the starting point. And I got that starting point from that group in the U S and I thought, well, we need this in Australia and we need it for women because we're not being given a fair go and we need to really, start getting advice so that. we can begin people on their startup journey with the right information. So they're not wasting their time making mistakes. So I really modeled Scale Investors on the Golden Seeds model. So it wasn't my idea. It was just, that I was instrumental in bringing it to Australia. And I found some good, strong shoulders to stand on with Howard Schwartz and Annette Kimmitt and Laura McKenzie who were early stage, very engaged in the early stages of scale. And it's really worked. I mean, what's been amazing about scale and very pleasing is just how many. Women particularly, but also men have come on board to the angel investors have learned and had gained confidence through their engagement at scale and who have gone on to lead all sorts of careers and lives in and around this innovation and supporting startup space. So in the years, since we began 2013 we launched And today there's just been an exponential growth in the interest and the understanding of what it is to be a startup and what it is to be an angel investor. And what's also become really clear is that. scale put on the agenda for the Victorian Government in particular, that there was a real gap in the marketplace. And that is women led startups very, very much under invested, less than 2% of all of the funds that were going into startups through to scale ups in Australia, was going to women. That's probably about three or 4% now, and there's very similar numbers in the US and in UK. So we weren't alone in that.. Now this, uh, supported at the federal level for founders and now the Alice Anderson Fund. So scale has been, I think, a terrific success and with the new board members, new chair. And new CEO's, I think it's going to continue to thrive and succeed. And I believe now it's just part of the infrastructure, which is a fantastic feeling that I've been part of creating something which has got some sort of perpetual ongoing life, which is often not the case. So That's very gratifying. And the Alice Anderson fund is really let's give all thanks to Dr. Kate Connick, who leads launch, Victoria. She was an early supporter of scale. She totally got what we were trying to achieve. And through her hard work and vision, she was able to get funding for the Alice Anderson fund, which is basically the Victorian government investing as a sidecar. in women led startups, so they're actually adding their investment to the investment decisions of other angel and support group. for women led startups.

Vicky:

That's wonderful. I love how you have built this. you always try to come up with innovative solutions to landscape and ecosystem problems. And, with scale, you created this infrastructure that is now perpetual as you called it, it's running without you. It is growing and becoming part of the startup community. And now you've managed to convince a government to, back with a big ticket into. You know, the sidecar fund that will support other, female entrepreneurs, as well as investors in those companies. So congratulations on that. That's a fantastic contribution to the ecosystem. I would love to know more about your current role and I guess what you're thinking about at the moment in terms of problem solving. So what's the biggest area related to your role you are curious about and why, and what are some of the things that you're researching the most about right now?

Susan:

The Alice Anderson Fund. I'm chairing it. And I've got a terrific board and I really don't want to take credit for setting it up that I think that. probably. we created some sort of awareness and I think Kate Cornick should have the credit and Victorian government for setting up that I'm delighted to be sharing it. And I think it's got a very important role in almost legitimizing, the investment in women and this gender parity, gender diversity. Issue, which has really taken off as you know, and is growing and now has so much life of its own. So what am I thinking about? First of all I'm working pretty hard to get some commercial opportunities for our own start up, and they should be there. And, it is a very great example of how it is when the staff is a deep tech solution. And so I'm also talking with others in the ecosystem around whether or not be doing enough for the deep tech that may not come out of CSIRO or may not come out of that is just as legitimate and perhaps more innovative and because that is not really an angel investment angel investments who looking for. Something, which is already got probably a revenue model already got one on more customers and is likely to be an exit or an IPO within five to eight years at the most. Where is Deep Tech is a much longer journey, much deeper pockets and much more vision and imagination required because you're breaking a paradigm. You're not working within it. So that to me is something that we need to think about systemically in Australia. and I'm just really in discussion with a few people associated with Melbourne university who are thinking similarly, and we're trying to work out what it is. It could be providing intervention.

Vicky:

Got it. And when you talk about interventions around deep tech and this focus on vision and creativity that's needed in terms of problem solving and moving the industry forward, what is the role that you see women playing in this field?

Susan:

I'm not sure if I can answer that by saying it's a specific gender issue. What I see certainly in the startup space and where my angel investing has happened. And I've been quite a successful angel investor just seems to be a good instinct that I have.

Vicky:

I can vouch for that.

Susan:

I myself mainly investing, when I set out the investments and looked at what they were doing,, I am investing in things that they've got a strong technology influence and often a really good social outcome. And I'm not a, I'm not a social investor per se. I really am working for something which has got a global market and a real competitive advantage. But I do think that I, come to a, sort of a view that it can have a great positive impact on humanity, then it's really worth taking the risk. So I don't think I'm, I think I'm quite typical of women investors. So I do think that is one aspect of all of this that we would see that the diversity angle would support. I just don't want to. argue or give the impression that I'm saying women only invest in charitable causes. I don't, I mean, I'm really, I am expecting to get some sort of return, given that I've, over invested as a percentage of my superannuation.

Vicky:

Yeah.

Susan:

So what else? I think women, are, somewhat scarce in the Deep Tech excellent at startups, because I think there's so much understanding, you know, How people behave online for women almost sort of retailing, marketing imagination. I think we do that particularly well, but whether or not we're as inclined to get involved in the deep tech and the heavy engineering, I think that's why so many people are working hard to get young women down that path of science, maths, engineering, and technology.

Vicky:

Agreed. That's definitely an area we're looking at SheSyndicate. And I know it's an area that you personally have focused on throughout your career, being a woman in stem herself. What do you think we can do either in the context of Australia or more broadly to try to pave pathways for women in this industry?

Susan:

I think they, they support, that schools and others are giving to encouraging women to be involved in stem really important. I think there's groups who are encouraging girls at school to be involved in innovation and giving them almost permission to innovate.. I just don't think that we outside of research groups and universities and CSIRO. I don't see how organizations gave a lot of permission and sustained support to long-term rethinking of the big problems organizations face. So I always come back to the fact that Australia has great capability we've got great people who are very well directed. We've come up with some amazing and really go well beyond our population sort of reach in some of the technologies and advancements. We made that we've got a very cool customer base in our private sector now corporations and enact government procurement. And I just don't think that there's a long term risk appetite. For corporations to both take on our own revolutionary, great solutions and nor do I see a great deal of success within those organizations in their own innovation capabilities and long-term commitment to it because it's not something that just happens over two years. And I, my goodness, that's not giving us a return with that to do something else So,. That would be an area where I, see a weakness

Vicky:

Definitely. So I guess what I'm hearing you say is this need for greater risk-taking and investment in the long-term future outcomes by corporations, by government procurement processes, in order to encourage innovation and hopefully more bodies or, you know, more, diversities into the sector.

Susan:

and also more breakthroughs. Not a breakthrough in deep tech is going to not happen in 12 months or 18 months, and is something that people might be commitment to and work to achieve. And, we sort of almost institutionalized that into the CSIRO or into universities. And that's got a place. But that doesn't necessarily give it that commercial orientation, that commercial outcome that we need, which is, this is the problem you're solving. This is the way you're going about it. Let's continue to monitor that try that proof of concept within our organization. So in the end, we've got what we want. And that might be three, four year journey. I think that's what I'm mean about a long term. It's a commitment to it. It's not something that stops and starts.

Vicky:

I agree with that completely. One thing that for our audience, you know, they're, they're a little bit younger in their career journeys and a lot of them may have only been sitting on their first board or contemplating jumping on a board. Can you talk to us a little bit about. What's involved in sitting on a board. And, how did you get started in that? And maybe what was some of your biggest failures when you first got started or some of your greatest fears? And then how did you overcome it?

Susan:

So my first board was, as I said, Transurban at the time, it was really just stashing on the city, make project and Melbourne. And it's now. the top 30 or whatever ASX company. So it's really grown since those days when I first started, which I think was 1997, a long time ago, how did I get on that board? The chair of the board, Murray Cox, his wife, Julianne was the leader and teacher at Methodist ladies college here in Victoria, responsible for the education of people who sort of at either end of the normal distribution curve that is highly gifted or people who struggled with some aspects of their learning. And so she was always looking for innovative ways to engage people in enthusiasm for learning. Participation in education. So Laurie said to his wife over dinner, I'm looking for a new board member for Transurban and I would like to have a woman. And I had worked on some work for her when I was at Commission for the Future, and subsequently looking at innovative practices in education, just as a now I'll give up a day on a weekend every now and then it was not a paid role. And we related very well. And she said, Made Susan. And that's how it happened. So the old word of mouth, that I'd put myself out there and she'd enjoyed working alongside of me and appreciated that I would have something that was a little bit different to bring to a board meeting. I immediately did the Institute of Company Directors course and fast learn and what it all involved and I was so pleased with that course. And later I came and I actually. taught up to four modules of it for 15 years. So I was pretty committed to the theory of governance. And I think that's really important. You've got to be on a board. Don't think you can do it because you've been a CEO or you've been a consultant or whatever. It's actually a body of knowledge that you need to learn. and become very familiar with, and it's not just covered by compliance either. It's really covered by leadership and wisdom how to work in a team and to engaged with your fellow directors in a positive and constructive way. So it covers the full spectrum of considerations, which into the company directors does a reasonably good. Job conveying that there's other groups as well. That also do that. So what worried me most when I joined the board was that these were really intimidating blokes and when we broke for lunch, they they brought out the huge steaks and the red wine, and it just seemed to be this incredible formidable club. And I just didn't feel as if I was a member. And the second aspect of that was that I kept on being spoken over the top of. And that was very well. What do you think of about that? That you tried to say something and somebody talks over top of you. Is it deliberate so I actually went to my chair and I said, Barry, you appointed me. This is where I can make a contribution. I need to be heard. And I don't feel as if I have to start shouting or shouting somebody down. That's not how it should be. So you're chair of the meeting. You should be facilitating my contribution. And he said, Oh, I didn't notice said, well,

Vicky:

Wow.

Susan:

it happened several more times as I kept taking him for that cup of coffee and reminding him. And finally he said to me, why don't you sit next to me at the table and kick my ankle when it happens. So I did,

Vicky:

Oh my my gosh. That's amazing.

Susan:

But for all that, I'd still say that there's a lot of unconscious behavior. That are very difficult for a woman to get past because these guys have operated so close to each other. They're so familiar with style. They play golf with each other, perhaps, you know, and they certainly talk footy before the board meeting and while I can talk footy I'm probably much more comfortable talking opera if that doesn't sound silly. And so there were all sorts of differences in that respect that didn't make me quite a member of the club. I'll add to that, that in my view, I'm a little bit left field. And so with that, with my gender and with Not being part of the club, it was actually extremely difficult to make a contribution. And I had to think of all. sorts of ways of helping that to happen. and so it was really tactic around. making a contribution. It's not a tactic around, Hey, Susan said that it's a tactic around, how do I make a contribution? That's good because they need to listen to me in these areas, not every area that in these particular areas. So I came up with quite a lot of devices on how to do that, but probably chief amongst them was to give my ideas away. Sort of plant the seed of something. And then as you know, the guy then says are much the same thing and everybody says, oh, good point, Fred. And you know, but if Fred doesn't repeat it with quite the depth that you think it could have a little bit of breakfasty. Thank you. I have to say hope. That was a really good idea. I think you also suggested or implied that it could be blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you give Fred the idea and he's got ownership of it and everybody's comfortable. So that's probably a dreadful thing that I've done that time and time and time and time again, just so that the thought was picked up then, and it was for the benefit of the organization.

Vicky:

Not at all. I don't think that's a bad thing at all. I think that's a extremely clever way to. Move and contribute to the ship, right. To move the project forward, to move the goals forward that are for the collective. Good. And I really love that. You said that giving your ideas away, this is something that pops up a lot in, entrepreneurship, but also in, I guess some of the conversations we have. with the women who are struggling to make their case at work, to communicate effectively and to try to influence decision makers, or even as a decision maker themselves, bring their peers along with them. I really love this idea of, of giving your ideas away. So can you talk just a bit more about that, or maybe another tangible example of when you gave an idea away that you were maybe holding on to for awhile and then how it turned out amazing or how the result was actually way better once you, handed the reigns over.

Susan:

Yeah, that's really good question. Really good way to, to phrase it. There was an example of one of the organizations, where the organization was very engineering and finance and its orientation, and it really needed to have a consumer focus. And so when one of the managers who should've had the responsibility for this was presenting to the board, I said to him, oh, I think what I'm hearing from you is a theme which is called customer first. And It wasn't, it sort of could have been a little bit. but they actually picked up on that. So just giving it a name branding it if you like, created, and created a program and created this sort of engineer's response to that, which is doing it really well with all sorts of quality assurance, checks and KPIs installed in it. That was one time. Where if I had have said, oh, I think we should have a program around customer focus. Yeah. It might've gotten lost, but you plant, sort of a brand. it's got a theme and it, and it grows recently. I was reflecting. I was involved. the small group of us who put together the big issue in Australia. And The Body Shopreally, and Graham Wise need to take. most of the responsibility for that. So I just say I'm one of, with the big issue, because it wasn't held closely as a ours. It was enabled as everybody. And attracted the choir of hard knocks and it attracted all sorts of things. And I sort of say, well, that's like creating a really good magnetic fridge so that people can put magnets on it. And it's not a possessive thing. It's an enabling thing. And I feel as if scale was an enabling thing as well, here was a concept, pretty simple supporting women to be good investors at an angel stage and supporting women to be, successful entrepreneurs. That's pretty simple that you create it and other people, want to add to it and want to make it bigger and it becomes ours, not mine. And I think that sort of thing, creating something, which is greater than my contribution that is owned by others, and their innovation comes onto it,. Is sort of my idea of customer first it was a notion, and other people could put their fridge magnets on that fridge..

Vicky:

Yeah. On the topic of big issue. I know you guys are celebrating 25 years, so congratulations. Yeah. And just for the context of our audience who is outside of Australia, the big issue is actually one of the biggest social enterprises and they've sold and distributed over 13 million magazines generating over $31 million for its vendors. So when you talk about the magnet on the fridge, you know, I definitely can see that in that model, but also in what you've done with scale as well, when you create the platform and infrastructure, I've seen so many people flock to this common cause. And so it sounds like a lot of what you do is you create a playpen almost for anyone to come in and bring their passion along with them. And you give them a platform. So that it's kind of like the, I guess, the firepower power under people's rockets. Why would they do it on their own when they can do so much more on your platform?

Susan:

It's probably better than a fridge it is also that creating a first of all, I haven't got all of the ideas, so how fantastic. if other people can come and put their ideas on it. take whatever satisfaction they need from that and build their communities. I think big issue, it is a social community on the day that the, um, the 25 year celebration issue was solved. I bought it from one of the initial vendors who I knew 25 years ago and that time he was looking after his wife who was very, very unwell and she subsequently sadly died. He stayed with the big issue, not consistently, but coming and going. He became a trainer of our vendors and now he's back as a vendor himself so he's part of the community and he knows that at scale, our angels we're very much a social community. We're supportive of each other. And through scale, one of them members is now found a new career in looking at commercial opportunities for technology from within universities, another to have the net true scale, and that I have their own startup, that we're investors and now they have their own startup and others have started investing separately from scale, but still in this sort of technology and early stage. So it's actually generated it's own field of influence and little bits in the ecosystem. And I think that's the social part of it. And the opportunity part of that are very important in both the big issue and in, scale.

Vicky:

Yes, definitely. I love our switch too. I love your comment of, it's probably better than a fridge. I agree with that and another sort of angle on this, idea of giving things away or giving ideas away. I just noticed, as you talk about all of your amazing career accomplishments, you know, personal professional or philanthropy, you are so quietly confident. So understated, I sort of felt that way. When I had a coffee with you, I was I was blown away. And then when I went back and looked at your profile and looked at some of the things you'd done, I realized that there were so many layers that you hadn't even mentioned. And so I sort of bring this up because a lot of the younger women that I've worked with and myself quite candidly in my own career, there's this period of time. Early on in the journey when you're not as confident in yourself. And you're kind of grasping for validation and grasping for, I guess, confidence through your own ideas. And so you don't want to give them away. So can you try to rewind back to where you were? I guess, pre quite confidence that I'm going to put you in there. Yeah, you can just, you know, you're like yeah, I can't take credit for that. This person did this and you know, I'm happy to happy to give credit where due., what advice can you give to someone so they can get to where you are? Because that emotional journey is so hard to do. And so I don't know if I've worded that question correctly, but yeah. Give it a go. If you can think of a way to help that woman trying to understand or trying to be okay. Giving her ideas away and having the confidence to do so.

Susan:

I'll just say, I guess I am quietly confident that I even surprised myself.

Vicky:

You really are so understated. It's amazing and refreshing as well.

Susan:

Just, uh, the week before last, I think it was at scale they've presented a gift and a card where people had written their messages and I read it and I, I was surprised I was surprised at the warmth and the admiration and respect for me. So I don't think I'm a big ego. I think that I have, almost an emission. I think deeply I have a mission. I want to achieve certain things and I hope that I make a difference and that's probably sounds very altruistic, but that's the way I've always been so that's never, ever been any different. However, the real point of your question is what is it like to be 25 or 26, wanting to make your mark. And first of all, I would say, why do you want to make your mark? Because it shouldn't just be for your ego. It should be for a purpose, whether it's your organization or. Your own sense of mission or purpose. And so make that purposeful rather than anything else. And if you make it purposeful, then I think you're not going to be playing any of the silly games that people play around competitiveness. And you know what I mean? So I think that purposeful. Think being confident and clear in what your purpose is in whatever you're doing. If you're in a relationship. That your purpose is to ensure that each of you benefit from that it is a constructive and happy relationship. Similarly, in a work sphere you want your employer to benefit from your work and your contribution. And you want to feel as if what you're doing is purposeful and valuable use of your time. And you don't want to be playing games around that. So sometimes those sorts of relationships don't work. And so you need to leave. You need to find one where you've got that compatibility. So comparing a relationship work situation. So find, find one that works and do be different. That was the confidence to say. Sort of that field idea or that game changing idea and put it forward, confidently, respect the people around you. You may be just not ready for it, but do have a go I think I was a bit of a Crusader in my younger years and probably arrogant as well. Probably the arrogance didn't help me perhaps it also gave the confidence to be more ready to take those risks and put forward alternative places, doing things. And a layer that I'll talk about is in my early career, I discovered within one of the government departments that I worked in for awhile, I discovered a major fraud and I took it to my boss who took it too. His boss and so on. And we revealed that I subsequently got some threats of concrete shoes on the bottom of the Yarra was pretty scary, but that wouldn't have, stop me from, from saying, look, I found this it's a huge, rort a huge fraud, and it needs to be understood. And, and I need to take that up through the organization. So I was always a bit of the, what would you call me? A reformer...

Vicky:

Well done to you well done for calling that out and having the guts to bring it up with management and, pushing it through, despite all of the threats, that must have been easy. Going through all of that.

Susan:

No, it wasn't and I was probably a little bit young to know Exactly how to manage it.Let's do this right. the future let's do it right, let's all make the effort and push out ideas and push the opportunities and perhaps be even more aggressive than I have been.

Vicky:

I agree with that completely. And you know, you talked about being, mission-driven making sure if you're going to make a mark, why you're making a mark? What is it for? How did you figure out what your purpose was? Could you articulate your mission in a sentence or in a feeling. And how did you go about understanding and unfolding your understanding of what it was that you were supposed to do in contribute to?

Susan:

If you look at my career path, I would say that there wasn't any one missionor start, and capturing that just a few words is not possible. You asking some tough questions?

Vicky:

Okay.

Susan:

I think more recent. Yes. let me talk about more recent years with the whole issue of Alice Anderson scale. And in the early 1990s, I worked with a company called invertase and they were a company with new product development and design, and really worked in professional services way to innovate on behalf of the companies. I was very inspired by that. And I really strongly supported the notion that design was a really creative process and that technology was a very creative process and we needed to do a better job of that in Australia. So that was the point of time when I said we need to have greater acceptance awareness and support for the innovation ecosystem. So from 1990 onwards, In the year 2000, I wrote two of the three thought pieces that were presented to you in a national innovation summit. I've written letters. I've done things when asked permission for the future, which was a federal government supported organization. and really scale came about because I thought, well, dammit, it's not a good just talking we have to stop talking and we have to do.. So that sort of mission and then innovation and innovative Australia, not just selling our minerals and iron ore etcetera off shore for somebody else to value add but looking at, we create value in Australia. And solve some of the really big problems and challenges that we have, that's a 1990 to today. Mission.

Vicky:

I think that was quite well summarized.

Susan:

Not even two or three words.

Vicky:

Well, we'll take it for two or three sentences. I think it's more about trying to. Women or young leaders way find towards those missions that can drive them for a decade, that they can put their energy and careers behind to move the needle in. And I think by, what you've done, you've definitely explained, you know, a thematic or theme a through line through your career and how you've seem to focus on that you sorta talk about long-term commitments for corporations. You definitely live by the advice that you give to. So I think that's really important to note..

Susan:

And I would just add, sorry to break in to keep absolutely the theme where I began this conversation with you today was saying that I had role models at university from three women who mentored and supported me because I was a woman breaking through in my area. That is totally what I've done in all of my career. All the women I've employed over women I've coached and mentored other women. And scale is part of that. And the Alice Anderson Fund is part of that as well. So that's a 1970 onwards journey. That's a long number of decades but it's totally my committment..

Vicky:

Yeah. Absolutely. And I can see that in the projects that you've decided to focus your energy, resources and time on. When you look at that focus of mentoring women, coaching women, paying it forward after you had three great mentors through university. have you noticed any Commonalities in terms of the challenges or the obstacles that women are facing, you know, when you're talking to them, one-on-one any trends or common themes that you're hearing and seeing.

Susan:

Yes. I I think women often lack confidence. and I spend time saying to them that that's fantastic. You should have that confidence. You should be more confident in what you're doing. So I think that's a common theme. I see some women who are curtailing, their ambition, because they feel that's as far as they can go. And I've mentored two women in particular. I just said, well, it's open your eyes to what else is possible. And just worked with them to do that, not to force a lot, to tell them that what they're doing is wrong and they've opened their eyes and they've walked through some new doors and they've had fabulous careers since then, and really, really loved the opportunities that they've found. So I think sometimes there's not the ambition and there's sort of almost a guilt about feeling that ambition. But it's not so much about ambition personally. It's about ambition to be influential. To be the example for others to follow because leadership is by example, as you know. And so I think that's a theme as well that we sort of under develop and undersell and under position ourselves. You've heard all of the stories that women won't apply for a job unless they tick the nine out of 10 boxes. I think that's true. But I also think that women are often aware of. their weaknesses and then look on find ways to strengthen them, which is a good idea and do it in a really concerted way in a real way. So that's a fairly common theme as well. And I think women on the whole, are, not the risk takers that males are I think we're often a lot more cautious, both in our careers and in other activities, investing activities, but in our careers as well. So they would be reasonably common things. And I think not taking on the more technical jobs, I think you find a lot of women, very confident finance, which is great. HR Areas, which is terrific and really important, but perhaps not in risk or some of those areas where I think we're underrepresented in, the professions.

Vicky:

Um, on that last point around taking on the technical roles, that's definitely a key theme we've seen pop up in our circles, actually SheSyndicate where women are. You know, maybe in the thirties or early forties and they have already invested quite a fair bit of time into one career. And you realizing halfway through that they should maybe have gone, done a more technical role in the early stages. What advice do you have for that woman? do you say go back, retrain, try to get a technical role or do you recommend a different path for someone who is kind of looking back and trying to make up for a decade?

Susan:

Look relearn, a lot of the courses. Now you don't have to go back to university or school. You can do them after hours. And I know that's a big ask because many women at that age who also got children and families and other responsibilities, But I do think that the way education is offered online now is so much more accessible. So I would say retrain don't hang on to a skill that isn't serving you a qualification skill. that's no longer serving you as your only skill or qualification. Grow and develop, I think pretty well, self taught. since university, I had a really great time at one stage. I was at a British council scholar and I was at Oxford for three or four months. And that was great. But other than that, I haven't really had any investment in my career and in my knowledge, so I'm self taught. It's perfectly possible to do that. You don't have a bit of paper at the end of it that you can certainly have the confidence to take on a new role or in a board were talking earlier about women taking up board roles to be the person on the board who understand cybersecurity, who understands risk broader than just financial and compliance risk. So there's ways we can position ourselves to bring something that's a little bit. Different and critically important to them, to the board. And why not? you can learn by talking to other experts or going online or just getting yourself involved in something it's a continuous journey. I can't imagine even applying the skills that I learned to university, the knowledge that I learned from university, it's just almost, background to who I am and what I do now,

Vicky:

I think that's great advice to give, especially in this new post pandemic world where everything has moved to remote learning, to remote working and the idea of being able. self-teach and to retrain in the evenings, I agree that that's, great advice. and you sort of named a couple of areas that you thought would be great for someone to if they're sitting on a board. If they're trying to re-skill in an area like cybersecurity or risk and compliance, taking it at a deeper level, any other areas that you'd love more women to re-skill in.

Susan:

I think I'll go back to understanding of IT. One of the biggest areas of, of risk and low reward because of the mistakes and the problems I find is in the design of engineering systems. how information technology systems that sit behind so many of the organizations today, and it's more than social media and apps and so on and so forth. It's the real meat and guts of what drives productivity and the performance of the organization. And I think. More and more, and this is a bit grip to say. I think a lot of people say it, but I'll say it again, more more, every organization needs to define itself as an IT information technology, digital organization. So what does that mean? And can our young women bring to that or all women bring to that? a real knowledge base, not just a superficial knowledge because it needs to be. Much deeper than just the superficial knowledge. So I think that's a real area of need on our boards, um, yeah, I think it's three areas, risk, cyber, and understanding of the engineering systems, information technology systems that drive the organization.

Vicky:

Okay. Great. So final, question for you. If there was one thing that you could plant in the minds of women everywhere. What would that be?

Susan:

That you can do that. You should get our more and have a go, I mean that just sounds have the confidence in yourself and back yourself And make sure you're a person of substance with substantial knowledge. and get out there and have a go.,

Vicky:

And I think that is such a great way for us to end this podcast. Get out there, have a go back yourself and make sure you are getting substantial knowledge. Thank you so much, Susan. You have been an amazing guest. I mean such all of your career and how much you give back in terms of philanthropy and nonprofit work. So appreciate your time. And I look forward to hosting you soon.

Susan:

Thank you, Vicki. You're very good interviewer. You ask tough questions and you've made me think.,

Vicky:

You definitely took those curve balls. I know that I was making it difficult for you, but you've just got such a wealth of knowledge. I wanted to make sure I was excavating and getting the gold nuggets up.

Susan:

I feel dug over.