ADVICE: Learn at the right time – Don’t upskill for the sake of it

Kaylene Ledgar’s experience with education has shaped her entire career. Despite not getting her ideal grades when finishing high school, she excelled in her public service career of 26 years, built her own business from scratch, and is now a world renowned public speaker, mentor, coach and more. In this interview, Kaylene shares her approach to learning and how she has used non-traditional educational experiences to live a life with no regrets.

  • How did you get your career off the ground? What role did education play?

After failing my HSC, my dream of becoming an accountant, fizzled away. I found myself unemployed until I found work in a factory production line. I was not happy and struggled with depression.

My dad suggested I sit the Australian Public Service (APS) test, as it would provide security for my future. Within a few months of completing the test, I was offered a traineeship in the APS. The traineeship included classroom and on-the-job learning. At the end of the traineeship I became an APS level 1 officer, doing administration work and mail. This was the start of my 26-year career in the APS.

  • How have your personal experiences with the education system shaped the way you approach leadership and business today?

Over the years the most valuable learning experiences have been the ones where I have learnt on-the-job. There is no better training than doing. The key is to have clarity as to what you are being asked to do and knowing where to find answers if you are unsure.

As a leader I have found it necessary for the growth of my team members to allow them the space and support to learn on-the-job. This doesn’t mean giving them a task and walking away. You don’t want to throw them in the deep end without something to hold on to. You provide clear leadership, scope for their task and deadlines. They developed their skills quicker when given this opportunity and it allowed me as a leader to focus on other tasks.

There have been many times over working life where I have attended short and long training courses and while extremely valuable at the time, I haven’t had the opportunity to put it in to practice in the work place. In my leadership and my business, providing learning at the right time is key to ensuring return on investment. I’m a learner at heart and an advocate for professional and self-development, however from a business perspective you don’t want to waste your money or time upskilling then not having the opportunity to apply it.

  • How did you go from having a fear of public speaking to becoming a professional public speaker? 

There came a point in my career where I had enough of watching others move ahead of me and win promotions that I was simply to scared to apply for. My problem was not the skills for the job but my fear of speaking to two or more people at a time. I had a deep fear of speaking in front of the two-person interview panel.

Deciding it was time, I decided to enrol in a Toastmasters International Speechcraft course, an eight-week public speaking course, in hope that it would give me what I needed to face an interview panel.

Over the eight-weeks there were times where I nearly gave up, however I didn’t and with the support of the Toastmasters I learnt how to manage my nerves, gather my thoughts and speak with confidence. After just eight-weeks, I felt ready, still extremely nervous but ready to do the job interviews. I had applied for three jobs and was successful at securing interviews for all. To my amazement, I won all three jobs, one of which was a double promotion which took me from an APS 4 to an APS 6 in one move.

With only a taste of what I could achieve from facing my fear of speaking, I joined the local Toastmasters Club and continued to build my skills and confidence as a speaker. In Toastmasters I had the opportunity to learn by doing, joining the Club Executive and then moving beyond into District Leadership roles. The self-paced learning suited me, as did the opportunity to learn on-the-job.

The more I immersed myself in Toastmasters the more opportunities I received at work. I quickly moved into leadership roles and this is where I thrived. What I loved most about leadership roles in APS and Toastmasters, was the opportunity to mentor, coach and support others to develop their skills. This led me to find my passion as a speaker, trainer and a coach.

Now I am comfortable and confident speaking to large and small groups. I am a certified World Class Speaking Coach and help others build confidence speaking. I now run workshops as well as provide one on one coaching, this would never be possible if I had not faced my fear of speaking.

  • What advice do you have for others facing a similar ‘fear’ in a task they’re facing at work?

My fear of speaking was not my actual fear. My fear was the fear of failure and while I overcame my fear of speaking, the true fear, fear of failure stayed with me and showed up in other parts of my life. It wasn’t until I started to dig deep and look within that I found my true fear – then I was able to work on my limiting beliefs and made true breakthroughs.

When I work with clients, I share with them the six keys to overcoming fear of speaking:

  1. Purpose, you must have a deep seeded need to want to overcome the fear. For me it was winning the job interview.
  2. Mindset, you have to look within and uncover your limiting beliefs. Once you have you can work on reframing your thoughts.
  3. Skills, you do need to develop skills. For me it was learning how to put a speech together, how to think on my feet and how to manage my nerves.
  4. Content, you need to gather your knowledge and experience. This allowed me to have something to say.
  5. Practice, practice and practice some more. You can’t breakthrough your fear of speaking if you don’t speak.
  6. Feedback, you need feedback on your strengths and areas where you can improve.

With these six keys you can overcome your fear and realise your true potential.

  • What made you decide to start your own coaching business?

As a leader I soon realised that my passion lay with coaching and mentoring. While I enjoyed my career in the APS, I wanted to follow my passion. On my 46th birthday, with my dad’s help, we hatched a plan for me to leave the APS and start my coaching business before my 50th birthday.

This changed the following week when my dad was diagnosed with Liver cancer. During dad’s short illness he told me that he had ‘no regrets’. He was grateful for the life he had lived and while he would have liked more time he had ‘no regrets’.

Two months after dad passed and lots of soul searching and talking to mum, I handed in my notice, retired from the APS to follow my dream of having my own coaching business. I want to be like my dad and when my time comes, I want to be able to say I had ‘no regrets’.

I am now in my second year of my coaching business. I have published two books and am working on my third. I am running workshops and coaching one on one. I am loving my new career and I have ‘no regrets’.

  • What were the biggest challenges in starting your own coaching business and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was getting over my own limiting beliefs and yes, the fear of failure.

This is where I had the true breakthrough with my fear, finally shifting the limiting belief from failure to learning. Everything I do in business comes from a learning mindset. I create, I test and I learn.

Whether it is creating a new program or implementing a new marketing strategy, I do it with a learning mindset. Each day, each new idea I am learning. If I don’t nail it the first time, that is ok, it was a test. What did I learn from it? What can I do differently? What will I try next time?

Another challenge I had as a new business owner was working out what works for me. When I first started, I listened to all the advice offered and I tried to do everything. I was struggling and did start to doubt my abilities and dream.

Once I woke up and realised I had the choice of what to do and what not to do in my business, everything started to fall into place. I looked at all the ideas and suggestions provided from others. I took time to identify what resonated with me. I created a vision of my business and lifestyle. Then I started focussing on what mattered to me. While I can confidently speak in front of large groups, I much prefer smaller intimate groups where I can create greater personal connections. I love my one on one coaching and the idea of online courses. My business is growing in a direction that connects and works with me.


About the expert

Kaylene Ledgar is a Holistic Life and Communication Coach and author. Kaylene works with entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world to overcome their limiting beliefs, reconnect with themselves and find their direction in life.

Kaylene is particularly passionate about helping others face their fear of speaking and accelerate their career. Kaylene says “You don’t need to fear speaking; speaking is a learned skill and you can master it.”

In 2003, Kaylene made the life-changing decision to face her fear of speaking. Fear of speaking used to consume her, but now with hundreds of speaking opportunities under her belt, she is a motivational speaker who inspires others through her stories. Kaylene shares tips and tools to speak with confidence in her book “Speaking, It’s NOT Worse Than Death”.

Kaylene believes that when our actions match our values, we find our true path. In 2019, she decided to close the door on her 26 years career in the Australian Public Service to be a full-time coach, author and live her true path.

Kaylene sees a world where fear does not hold us back. A world where we share our stories and lessons to support others. A world where communication brings us together.


Image description: A women sitting with her hands rested in front of her on a small circular stool. She has brown hair with white streaks, is smiling, and wears a black and white jacket over a black top, with black pants. She has a pearl necklace and her nails are painted red, with her fourth finger in black and white on each hand.

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PEOPLE: I can be what I can’t see – Jean Sum

Jean Sum, Founder of Sum of Jean, made a shift from the banking industry to international development and is also now a mentor to Asian-Australian women. She believes strongly in empowering women, overcoming imposter syndrome and breaking through the bamboo ceiling so everyone has the opportunity to become what they cannot see.

  • For those who resonate with imposter syndrome, what’s a step by step process they can go through to manage and overcome the roadblocks imposter syndrome can create?

Imposter syndrome is an interesting term used to describe the feeling that one doesn’t deserve their success. At the root of this, I see this as someone not feeling they are worthy. Not seeing themselves as good enough and worrying that they would be ‘found out’.

I have a few tricks to help me through this:

  • Stop. Acknowledge. Feel.

I stop and listen to the voice that is telling me that I’m not good enough. When I was invited to MC the Australian National University’s Alumni Gala to farewell Chancellor Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC as my first MC gig, my response was “Who, me?” I gave it some airspace by acknowledging this voice and recognised it was my perfectionist persona stepping out.

  • Gather the evidence

What experiences have I had that tell me I am good enough? That I am worthy? I have over the years saved congratulatory and thank you notes. Occasionally I pull these out to remind myself that I am on the right path and making a positive impact.

  • Have a support crew

When I feel shaky and need a bit of support, I call my support crew. This group includes individuals who understand my journey, my coaches, mentors and champion. I trust them and they understand my dreams. I called my Champion about this MC gig – he said “Great idea! You are perfect for this role. You encompass exactly what this gala needs”. This was all I needed to say yes.

  • List the qualities and skills

Every year, I write a list of qualities and skills that I am proud of. The qualities that make Jean Sum unique. One of my qualities is creativity which I have used to turn this list into a colourful word collage. Everyday I walk past and a word or two subconsciously fills my mind and my body.

  • Dance, Journal, Meditate

Yes! I do all these to help me believe I am worthy! Why? Because I can live so much in my mind and I need to come back into my body and heart, which hold so much intelligence. I dance to express my emotions and shift my energy. I journal to process thoughts. I meditate to centre myself. These practices help to clear and sift through the mind clutter that can contribute to the imposter syndrome, and return to my central intelligence – my inner voice that gives me strength to achieve great things.

  • The stats clearly show that both the glass ceiling (for women) and bamboo ceiling (for Asian-Australians) exist in Australia. For those experiencing that in their workplace or industry, how do they overcome these barriers and become what they cannot see? How do they break through to pioneer a ‘first’ in their sector and be a breakthrough role model for others?

The bamboo ceiling represents the barriers that exclude ethnic Asians from executive positions on the basis of subjective factors such as ‘lack of leadership potential’ and ‘lack of communication skills’. You can hear what’s on the other side of the bamboo ceiling, but it’s hard to reach. Approximately 13% of Australians are of the Asian diaspora, but only 1.6% are in senior leadership positions.

Firstly, recognise what the external and internal barriers are. Ask yourself: What can I and can’t I change? Are there skills I need to improve on? Are there any self-limiting beliefs that I am placing on myself? Doing some internal work helps to shift our thinking.

Secondly, what are the external barriers? Are there opportunities available? To whom are they available? Who can I talk to about this? Is there someone who believes in me and can be a champion for me?

There is a saying ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and to some extent this is true. But think of the ground-breakers throughout history – Rosa Parks – Activist, Lakshmi Bai – Warrior / Queen, Wang Zhenyi – Astronomer – these women became leaders in spite of everything stacked up against them. They couldn’t physically see what they could become, but they had a vision. And this is what they saw.

I draw on my personal experiences to remind myself that I can be what I can’t see. I have successfully changed careers and built a cross-sector career. I am often the first corporate partnerships manager in organisations I work in and have developed ground-breaking and sustainable partnerships over the years.

I achieve this by allowing myself to think and feel what is possible. I find others to back my work. I have developed effective communication skills. I work across the organisation – executives, managers and teams. I find courage from within to try new things. I haven’t met many Asian-Australian partnership managers in the community sector and it is not stopping me from being a great one.

My goal is to breakthrough into senior leadership within the community/social impact sector as there are very few Asian-Australians who are Directors or Heads of Departments in this space, let alone Asian-Australian Women. My drive is to model what is possible for future generations, in a field that is not traditionally encouraged for Asian-Australians to enter into. To show what is possible.

  • Have you ever experienced the glass or bamboo ceilings in your career? If so, what happened, and what did you learn from those experiences?

Yes I have. I was in my 20s working in banking and I noticed that most managers were Caucasian men. I have university qualifications in Commerce and Actuarial Studies and had intentions to climb the corporate ladder. I tried talking with managers about my aspirations, but I found it difficult to. I tried networking and demonstrating my capabilities, but I didn’t fit into the mould of what a successful banker looked like. I wore pant suits, watched football and went to the pub with colleagues. I was trying to be ‘one of the boys’ which failed miserably!

I was hiding a big part of me.

Life threw me a curve ball when my brother died of suicide. His death made me realise that life is too short to be doing something where I couldn’t be all of me. I decided to pursue my university dream of working in international development. It was there that I started being seen – as a woman and an Asian-Australian. It was the very essence of my being – as an Asian-Australian Woman, I understood the impact of gender inequality and communities in Asia that supported my transition into the community sector.

My lessons:

  • Learning why I am doing something. Why am I spending my energy in particular areas of my life?
  • Learning how I can respond to the situation. I left banking because it wasn’t what I wanted. But the skills and experience are incredibly useful now as a cross-sector partnerships manager and I am working with banks and corporates to address our society’s challenge of family violence.
  • Learning that ceilings can be dissolved in other ways. As a corporate partnerships manager I am demonstrating what is possible through embracing diversity of culture, gender and different ways of thinking. I am having conversations with executives in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I have advised CEOs, Vice-Chancellors and Executives of international companies from a culturally diverse and inclusive lens. This is an impact far greater than that I’d envisaged in my 20’s.
  • Why is it important to find your ‘support crew’ in your career? 

My support crew help keep my ship steady in the rough seas. They remind me of who I am, my strengths and the impact that I have made through my work. They encourage me to grow and challenge me to think in ways I might not have before. My career support crew includes my colleagues, mentor/champion, coaches and sometimes clients.

When I created Sum of Jean, I was nervous about adding it to LinkedIn. I knew it was important for reaching my target audience, but the thought of connecting my professional and deeply personal stories was nerve wrecking! I called upon my support crew to make this jump. They reminded me of my purpose and held my hand as I leaped.

  • For those wanting to build a ‘support crew’ because they’re just starting out in their career, where do they start?

I invite you to close your eyes. Imagine you are surrounded by an incredibly supportive group of individuals who believe in you. They have your best interests at heart and know that you can be what you can see. Because they see you. How does it feel? What words come up? What colours do you see? Now imagine where they come from. What skills and experiences do they have?

Open your eyes and write these words down. Write what pops first in your mind.

Go through your network of family, friends, colleagues, teachers and managers. Who encompasses these qualities? Are there qualities that you have identified that are not found in your network? Place these into categories such as job types, industries and skills development.

Talk with those on your list and tell them your story, ambitions and dreams. Ask if they would be your support crew. Ask them for their advice. Tell them you are looking for other supporters. Can they recommend anyone? People are often more than happy to help – find the courage to ask.

Remember – you don’t need many – quality over quantity. As you grow your network and experiences, this support crew will change over time. Enjoy building your relationships with them.


About the expert

Jean Sum is a proud Asian-Australian Woman with a keen interest in solving “wicked” societal challenges. She is a mentor to Asian-Australian women, writer, speaker and a cross-sector partnerships broker with nuanced understandings of the private, community and university sectors.

She created Sum of Jean to offer support to other Asian-Australian Women to align their life and career paths with their values, strengths and desires. As a woman who started a career in a traditional, masculine industry (banking), she hid a large part of herself in order to be seen as exceptional in her career, and did not embrace her feminine qualities such as intuition, expression and empathy which are the traits needed as leaders in the 21st century.

Jean’s vision for Asian-Australian Women is to truly see and believe in themselves, to walk boldly in the world and for their voices to be heard.

To know that they are worthy. You can read about her learnings and stories through http://www.SumofJean.com.

PEOPLE: How Courtney Blackman’s international career in music and fashion led her to Melbourne’s tech industry

Courtney Blackman has worked in London, Melbourne, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Costa Rica and more. Following a long and impressive career in the music and fashion industries, she recently shifted her career into the tech sphere and is now CMO at YBF Ventures.

Courtney has shared her experiences working in different countries, different industries, and among constant change.

  • You’ve had an incredibly international and diverse career across multiple industries. What have been the biggest challenges of moving your career across countries and sectors, and how did you overcome those challenges?

I’ve loved the challenge of diverse roles across multiple geographies. Straight out of university, I worked in real estate and hospitality in Costa Rica; then moved to the Dominican Republic to set up processes and systems to create a sustainable back office for a school for vulnerable children. Then I moved back in America (I was born and raised in the States) and did stints at the World Trade Office in Vermont and at an institutional investment advisory firm outside of Chicago. After that, I side-stepped in to fashion and music after moving to London and hovered there for 15 years working in PR, television and publishing – I actually exited two small businesses in London, one which I founded, one which my partner and I acquired. Sandwiched in the London run, my partner and I historically restored and operated a hundred-year-old opera house and ran an art gallery – both in Canada*.

*We don’t have children, so we do a lot of stuff, and then more stuff on the side.

I’ve been in Australia for nearly three years and once again have shifted to a new industry: tech.

You know when you get hired at a new company and the onboarding takes a few weeks, as you’re learning new systems, a new corporate culture and new skills? I think the same can be said for changing careers and moving to new countries ­– you have to take the time to learn the key components that will enable you to do your job. It’s just a different context – and maybe an actual new language.

One of the most noticeable things for me when I moved to Australia was the lack of any network whatsoever. In London, I had spent 15 years nurturing businesses and a solid, wide-reaching network. You don’t realise how important that is until it’s not there. When I moved to Australia, it wasn’t just moving to another country where I knew no one, it was moving to a new industry with a network of zero people in it. I’m nearly three years in and am still building my network, still always learning things about tech and I try to squash any feelings of being an imposter the moment they creep into my brain.

  • Many people dream of an international career – is it as glamorous as it sounds? 

Working internationally is an amazing way to deeply experience a country or culture. When you go on a holiday for a contracted period of time, you’re not deep diving into anything and in fact, you might actually be participating in a “set up” tourist experience.

Spending serious time somewhere allows you to understand deeper cultural norms – whether a country is high-context or low-context if it’s polite inclusive or polite exclusive to linguistics and beliefs and how everything spills over into everything everyone does including the way they conduct business.

Once you get past closing down a life in one place and moving across an ocean or a continent, get used to the time difference and realise you don’t have any friends or family around, you have to move fast to plant roots and get your head around your new career.

It’s a lot of moving parts all at once and it can be pretty stressful with its fair share of embarrassing moments. When I moved to the Dominican Republic from Costa Rica, I was at the airport and thought I was asking the person behind the counter for a plastic bag. It turned out in Costa Rican vernacular I was asking for a bag; in Dominican Spanish, I had requested a certain area of the male anatomy! Whoops. Even in the UK, one of my bosses once asked me to fetch him a rubber and I was horrified, as growing up in the US, the word “rubber” was synonymous with condom. He in fact meant the small rubber bit on the end of a pencil. Phew.

Is it glamourous? Due to the nature of my job in London (fashion and music), I got to attend some incredible events and meet extraordinary people. Looking back on it now, sometimes it feels like it was someone else’s life.

  • What instigated your shift from the fashion and music industries, into tech? 

First off, I loved working in fashion and music and as mentioned above, I got to meet and work with remarkable people from all over the world, from so many different backgrounds.

An opportunity was presented to my partner and I to move to Australia. The company that I work for, YBF, is also the company that he works for. YBF’s Board was looking for a globally-experienced CEO in 2017 and my partner was the top contender (having had executive roles at BP, Motorola and GE). He was like, “Do you want to move to Australia?” I’m always up for an adventure, so I said, “Yes”. We shut down our lives in other countries and here we are.

When my partner took the reins of YBF, the company needed to internalise the marketing and PR function. As I had run a PR company for so many years in the UK, I was tapped on the shoulder. Doing PR and marketing for a tech company isn’t all that different from the fashion and music industries – a small business (be it a designer or a musician or a tech company) is a small business – all the same fundamental elements are there – they are just different languages with different sets of vocabulary as you move in to specifics.

  • What’s your advice to others considering a career shift into tech? Why?

Almost every aspect of our lives is touched by tech. Why not be involved in shaping it?

  • You’ve mentioned before that diversity is important. What role has it played in your life and career? 

I’ve always been curious about different cultures. When I was very young, I was almost magnetically drawn to foreign exchange students. I was obsessed about anything different and learning about things that were unfamiliar to what I knew and was comfortable with. I’m still the same, and with a more experienced take on the world, understand how important diversity is. Understanding the way other people think and operate is so important not for just for making up a diverse workforce, but for creating products and services that reach a wider audience more effectively and efficiently.

Prior to the global pandemic, when we were holding regular tech events at YBF, my team was always very cognizant of trying to create as diverse panels as possible and we know that it’s not something that we can do on our own. We turn to our networks for panellist and guest speaker suggestions. My personal goal is to not just to represent gender diversity, but cultural diversity as well, which is often an afterthought in the world of tech. I’ve learned so much and continue to learn from Winitha Bonney about how women of colour are marginalised and look to Winitha to make sure YBF is practicing diversity in as many aspects as possible.

  • Where have you seen diversity make the most positive impact in the workforce, and where have you seen it create a negative impact? 

Diversity shifts behaviour for the better in a workforce. I’ve been in a meeting with only male coworkers and the one leading the meeting only made eye contact with the other males and if I tried to speak, I was met with a sarcastic laugh and an eye roll – like how could I (a female) possibly have anything to add. It turned out another female in the company was also feeling gender excluded by this individual. It was a problem and one that was eventually sorted with the removal of the individual and replacing him with people that shared the company’s values. The impact was immediately positive across the entire team, which was an incredible revelation around inclusivity. That person’s behaviour had made everyone uncomfortable and less likely to share ideas.

  • What are your biggest priorities at YBF this year?

The world has shifted significantly since the pandemic, but our mission at YBF is always to help startups to scale, scaleups to succeed and corporates to innovate. We’ll see how the next several months take shape, but our priority will always be working toward those three key company goals.

Later in the year, we’ll plan on opening more internal innovation hubs. Presently, we’re home to Melbourne’s largest fintech hub, Australia’s first Web 3.0 and legaltech hubs, and we’ve recently opened a proptech hub in Sydney.

We also aim to hold our Lift Off Awards later in the year and will continue leading from the front in regards to tech-focused content creation: we produce three branded newsletters, multiple videos each month, written content on our News page and last year we launched a podcast: People Building Businesses.

  • How are you integrating diversity initiatives into the organisation? What do you foresee becoming your biggest challenges? 

Along with making sure our own team is diverse – we’re 50/50 gender balanced and we come from seven countries, speak over eight languages and have an age range from 20 to mid-50s – we have KPIs in place around diversity and support female-led events and diversity-focused initiatives. Our newsletters are all edited with great effort to ensure diverse representation and we make sure that the guests for our videos and our podcasts are a balanced representation of all of the people that make up the tech industry in Australia.

Inclusivity will always be something that we and any company should make sure is managed alongside diversity. You can build a diverse team, but if inclusivity isn’t part of the value proposition, diversity fails.

  • For other business leaders wanting to encourage and enable diversity in their organisations, what’s your advice?

It’s not hard to do. Put a policy place around diversity (and inclusivity) and make sure that everyone supports it. For example, at YBF, we have a community statement that is sent to every new member and anyone using our event space has to sign off in agreement to it and ensure that they and their guests acknowledge our values. The statement expresses that YBF is an environment that fosters inclusivity and embraces diversity regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, ideology, disability, age, gender identity or sexual orientation. It also goes on to say that members, partners, guests or anyone passing through our doors are required to treat people with respect.

As far as building a diverse team, it’s just a matter of effort – thinking about the language of job postings and the recruitment process to ensure that unconscious biases are eliminated and an active plan is not only in place, but being followed.


About the expert

Prior to relocating to Australia, Courtney was a firm fixture within London’s dynamic fashion and music landscape and scaled and sold two media businesses. Courtney founded and acted as producer and editor-in-chief of The Industry, a multi-platform media company that was exited in Courtney founded London’s Forward PR in 2004 and served as managing director for 13 years. Courtney has also been featured in and provided commentary for numerous publications including the CNN, NBC’s Today Show, The Guardian, Business of Fashion and Vogue.

ADVICE: Three CEOs share their biggest career learnings to date

Jamie K Leach, CEO, Open Data Australia:

“Throughout my career, I have learnt that life does not always go according to plan and that it is not always possible to be strategic in your planning. I have been made redundant from my position. I’ve been employed by businesses that have closed. I’ve suffered through large-scale corporate restructures. I’ve been part of capital raisings that have not gone according to plan, and there has been a need to upskill and redirect my focus continuously. I have had to hone and revisit two skills; Agility and Resilience. I encourage anyone, in any industry and level of their career to make sure that these skills are in their wheelhouse.”

Uzair Moosa, CEO, Hey You App:

“My biggest learning came while competing with Uber – Uber back then was a $3 billion company while we were valued at a mere $ 5 million – despite all industry analysts forecasting our demise, we managed to outcompete them and were able to give them a good fight – the key learning over there was that with the right focus, passion and ambition you can at times achieve seemingly impossible tasks – the key thing is to stay in the ring, know your strengths, and be extremely persistent in pursuing your targets. 

This is something that I at least apply on a day to day basis – with entrepreneurship there are always ups and downs but to give yourself a fair chance you need to remain in the ring and keep giving it your best shot.”

Kristy Chong, CEO, Modibodi:

“The biggest learning I’ve taken with me throughout my journey is to listen to my gut and trust myself. Once we’d developed Modibodi, I sought some opinions as to how I should market this range of life-changing undies. I was repeatedly told we’d need super glamorous models to make supposed unmentionable topics (menstruation and incontinence) tolerable to Australian women and the media.

I refused to believe this was the only way we could have a presence in the market and from day one we’ve sourced customers or everyday women from diverse backgrounds to help model and sell our products.

Six years later we have customers contacting us daily to take part in our photo shoots that celebrate women of every size, ethnicity and age. From mums to athletes, nans to our movers and shakers in the business world, you’ll see every type of woman, and all remain photoshop free. I do believe that the best decision I ever made in business was going into a business that celebrates and empowers women. Modibodi’s philosophy is that all bodies should be embraced and celebrated, and celebrating other women inspires me each and every day.

We’re also passionate about educating the next generation of Australian women about loving themselves and encourage them to be adventurous and to get on with all the amazing things that need to be done today, period or no period.”


About the experts

Jamie K Leach, CEO, Open Data Australia:

Jaime is incredibly passionate about the transformative potential of data. She strives to raise not only the Quality of data but to enable a higher capability of skills and literacy in all areas of data.

Her corporate background is diverse; ranging from senior business development, general management, banking and wealth management roles, as well as leading development and data/technology companies through capital-raising and global expansion.

In her role as CEO of Open Data Australia, she continues to lead a team dedicated to the critical balance between Advocacy and Education and the delivery of Digital/Data Transformation projects with leading industry across Australia and the Pacific.


Kristy Chong, CEO, Modibodi:

Kristy’s the CEO and creator of Modibodi™. She’s a mum on a mission, a fash-tech entrepreneur and a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights.

With over 13 years in senior PR roles for organisations including McDonald’s Australia, sanofi-aventis and Edelman PR, Kristy’s worked with some of the biggest brands in the business.

Fast forward to 2011, when the concept of launching her own business ignited. After the birth of her second child, Kristy’s experience with “unmentionable” bladder leaks made her determined to start her own brand. One that would change our mindsets – and the planet! – by changing underwear for the better.

This ambition saw her design, develop and scientifically prove her patented Modifier Technology™ leak-proof undies and transform this into the Modibodi™ collection: a reusable, sustainable range of tops, singlets, period and sweat-proof undies as well as swimwear, created to liberate us all from endless amounts of landfill.

Kristy’s vision is to build a brand that makes the world better by empowering every bodi to make real, positive change. As part of this vision, Modibodi™ actively supports causes and organisations close to our heart, such as Days for Girls.

Modibodi™ has also won (and been nominated for) numerous product and business awards, which is still such an honour.


Uzair Moosa, CEO, HeyYou App:

After pioneering ride sharing in Saudi Arabia as General Manager of Careem, Uzair moved to Australia in mid 2018 to lead Hey You as CEO. His major achievements to date at HeyYou include:

  • Leading the company to generate profits; HeyYou is now one of the few food tech business globally to be cash flow positive 
  • Successfully growing HeyYou from being a Sydney-focused business to an Australian-focused business with meaningful presence in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth
  • Winning merchant narrative through our focus on “Merchant Led Product Leadership”

ADVICE: Building a career with resilience and how to shift a company mindset to agile

Hema Kangeson has a diverse career, spanning a decade in banking and finance and another decade in agile, lean and digital transformation consulting. She’s worked in Malaysia, the UK, and Australia, and now provides a range of career, agile and lean, and business consulting for professionals and businesses.

Hema’s international experiences were varied and along the way she experienced a lot of challenges, particularly after arriving in Australia and needing to take “three steps down” in her career.

After this experience, Hema switched industries and has been dedicated to supporting other professionals of diverse backgrounds with navigating the corporate sector ever since.

Overcoming stereotypes

In Hema’s experience, there are multiple challenges to thriving in the corporate sector due to preconceived stereotypes. For example, in Australia, she observed, “Brown women in tech are assumed to be from India. I’m actually not Indian, I’m Malaysian and my background is actually Sri Lankan.”

For the diverse professionals she coaches, the common challenges they are finding are linked to self-confidence and needing to work towards a certain ideal of what leadership looks like, which often doesn’t align with their natural tendencies.

For professionals who are struggling in the workplace, Hema advises, “Listen to feedback. Instead of asking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’, ask ‘What can I do about it?’. Increase your self-awareness and understand your talents through external tools, such as Gallup. When I did this, I realised what activities were sucking my energy and what was energising me.”

She continues, “There is always a way. Don’t give up. A lot of people feel stuck and freeze, but it’s important to reach out. There are so many people out there who can pull you forward and support you and guide you. Reach out to people who have gone through lived experiences.”

Shifting mindsets to lead in agile

Switching to agile workforces, processes and ways of working is regularly cited as being critical to business survival long-term. In Hema’s experience, though, the agile mindset needs to be the first step and biggest ongoing priority.

She explains, “There is a fear of the change that is happening. People are not ready to move forward. With agile and lean, the mindset in Australia is tactical rather than strategic. That’s because of the exposure of the people here – you’re as good as the five people around you. In Australia, it’s likely you’ve been in the same company for the past five years and are likely to never have been challenged. And people who join the company and challenge the status quo are considered a threat.”

Taking a top down approach

Hema recommends businesses start the organisation-wide mindset shift from the leadership level.

She says, “It has to start from top down. Leaders need to start shedding all of the things they’re worried about, like power and control. They need to be able to have honest conversations about how they’re going to ensure change.

“So many companies are doing multiple digital transformation efforts with multiple consultancies focusing on different areas, but these are based on tactical approaches. To succeed, it needs to be about embedded behaviours that are embraced by staff.”

Getting the right talent

As well as nurturing the right mindset with existing staff, the end-to-end recruitment process needs to be reviewed to ensure agile and lean processes are continuously practiced and improved. Hema believes it’s important for employers to allow for “psychological safety, flexibility, and inclusivity”, which is what talent are looking for.

The skills recruiters are looking for also need to change. Hema recommends shifting the focus from tech skills to assessing abilities around collaboration, communication and curiosity.

She also believes the current “tick-the-box exercise” of job interviews can be detrimental to businesses being able to explore the full talent pool. She says, “This cuts out a whole group of people who are curious, keen to learn, and might have experiences from outside Australia which may be very powerful.”

One way to shake up the system, Hema suggests, is to “have a one or two week paid test period. Make it more like a trial and be very clear and honest on what it is.”


About the expert

Hema, is a vibrant change catalyst with optimistic energy and an authentic drive, leaning to shift the balance in the corporate world by empowering culturally diverse individuals design their ideal careers. She utilises her past struggles to illuminate a desirable career path for culturally diverse individuals and works with organisations to recognise the need to optimise their human capital to meet challenges and thrive in the future of work that is changing rapidly through her company inSpur.

Hema has the distinct honour of having worked across three continents (Asia | Europe | Australia), and she possesses the wit, knowledge and the acute experience to lead as an example for her clients. She is a Chartered Accountant (ICAEW) who qualified in PwC and  was disappointed when her recent years of experience in a top-tier firm in London was not even considered in the Australian market. Despite this, she pushed through all obstacles and thrived, achieving the highest success in her career. As an accredited coach, agile and lean trainer and Gallup Strengths expert, Hema aims to use her insights, her personal job experience of 20 years across continents, her wide ranging skills and the corporate network she has established over the years to ensure individuals from culturally diverse communities are no longer underutilised and craft the career of their dreams. Hema also works in conjunction with growth minded, people focused organisations wanting to activate the potential of their leaders and teams, improve their culture and successfully implement sustainable change across the workplace.

To know about Hema and her mission, check out – www.inspur.com.au

ADVICE: The Millennial Crisis (and how to escape it)

At 22 years old, Demi Kotsoris thought her life was already over. She had studied and started a career in marketing and felt she was going to be stuck in the industry forever, despite not enjoying it.

After a year of struggling and pushing through, Demi started her podcast, Millennial Crisis, and another year after that she took her first ever gap year.

From there, everything changed.

The Millennial Crisis

Demi’s research into what she defines as “a privileged problem that consciously or subconsciously affects your mental wellbeing and has a negative impact on your life” opened her up to a life of learning and growing, while also having incredible experiences around the world.

Furthermore, she’s deep-diving into a topic that is still bamboozling business leaders and experts around the world. With almost half of all millennials wanting to quit their jobs in the next two years, and the millennial generation recently being cited as the most unhealthy generation at work, there’s no doubt that millennials are worth understanding and empowering if the next generations are hoping for sustainable workplaces and homes.

Demi experienced a lot of these pressures herself, and felt there was an opportunity for her podcast to make a difference.

She explained, “In a world where everyone is criticised for being human, if I could start a blog that was imperfect, that didn’t just show the highlights, not only told people but showed people that good things – most things – take time and that real life doesn’t run on a social media clock… I hoped that one day, my audience would be encouraged to be able to start something of their own – without the expectation that we start ‘perfect’.”

Challenges unique to a generation

“Living in an ever-changing environment where technology is moving faster than we are evolving we have more opportunity and exposure to information than ever before. This can not only be overwhelming but also lead to assumptions about how life “should be”, how instant gratification is affecting us and the new aged way of communication,” Demi continues. 

“Millennials are the limbo generation, we got to experience a bit of both and because of this, we can often feel it’s too late for us or our complaints are not valid due to our privilege. In my experience, not accepting your privilege and moving forward in that opportunity and information we have can lead to excess stress, temporary depression or anxiety.  

“I would argue, we are a different generation. The phrase Millennial Crisis is dramatic, however, it’s supposed to be, we are a “dramatic” generation and it’s important to poke fun at that sometimes.”

Preparing an escape plan

One in four millennials regularly worry about their finances, with many also concerned about housing affordability, retirement planning, and whether they have enough savings.

Demi argues there’s always a way around these kinds of barriers and stressors.

“For those with financial worries, I say start putting together your ‘escape’ plan now,” she explains.

“How much money do you need to explore yourself, to have new experiences and to grow? That could mean a Gap Year, it could also mean a month away or some self-development or educational programs, it could even just mean building the courage to quit the job you are in now and follow a dream or passion you have always had.”

Once you’ve taken a leap outside your comfort zone, that’s merely step one. It won’t always be easy, though it will often be worth it, Demi says.

“Sometimes you need to take three steps back to take six leaps forward,” says Demi. “It’s cliché to say, but… people are always going to talk – so you may as well live a life for you rather than for others.”


About the expert

Demi Kotsoris is a Millennial Specialist and host of the podcast “The Millennial Crisis”. After spending years feeling as though she was stuck in a life she wasn’t necessarily sure she wanted and feeling overwhelmed by the information online and opportunities around her she was lost. 

It wasn’t until she began to open up about her “Millennial Crisis” and worries that she realised the majority of her Millennial friends and family were going through the same thing. 

Since then she created a podcast that aims to help Millennials lead a  lifestyle THEY want, giving them small challenges every week to ensure they get there – helping them feel less alone in their “Millennial Crisis”. 

Demi is currently a Digital Nomad working and travelling the globe.