They say life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.
From the early stages of learning, then to studying, finding a job, and even changing career paths entirely — mothers have been there every step of the way.
Mother’s Day is a chance to remember and celebrate the strong and beautiful these women.
We asked 11 top Australian executives to tell us exactly what kind of impact their mothers have had on their success within their careers.
Here are the lessons they taught them.
I don’t have to choose between having a career and being a mum — I can have both
My mum was a single mother when I was much younger.
Seeing her expertly juggle a full time job, two kids, child care, school pick ups, and still have the energy to raise her two young girls, rooted in me a resolve never to choose between having a great career and being a mum. You can have both, be both, and be amazing at both.
— Naomi Shephard, head of brand at Facebook
Have a go, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
My mother, and also my wife, are inspirational women. I was lucky enough to be raised by a mother who believed in having a go, saying you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It was a sentiment that led all the way back to my junior basketball days. Her encouragement and guidance have been amazing both in my career and raising my own family of three beautiful children.
My wife is now the most wonderful mother anyone could ask for. With the stress of three children and a husband who travels internationally, she truly is Superwoman. Her job is the hardest on the planet and that’s something I’m not afraid to say. My role as the Global CMO at 2XU has its challenge, but the role of a mother is harder, more demanding and more important than anything I face. I’m a very lucky man.
– Shaun Patterson, global chief marketing officer at 2XU
Success is more likely if you pursue a career you enjoy
From a very early age, my Mum taught me that success is far more likely if you pursue things in life you enjoy, you care about, and that give you a sense of achievement. This was instilled in me well before I entered the workforce, but it is something I have applied to my own career and when leading and supporting others. We’re all out our best when we find that sweet spot where those 3 things meet.
But it wasn’t just about the hard edged measures of success. Mum has always reminded me of the need to care for myself – and others. Things can get pretty chaotic and making sure I take the time to look after myself; eating well, sleeping well, keeping fit and prioritising time with friends and family is absolutely essential. She’s an incredibly pragmatic person that has taught me how to make decisions with the confidence and clarity that ultimately allow me spend time on things that really make a difference. This mantra has served me well in my career, allowing me to channel my focus and accomplish my goals.
– Melanie Evans, head of retail at ING Direct
If you want it, you have to go and get it
I grew up in South Africa, amongst political turmoil. My mother was the first woman in her family and group of friends to go to university. She was, and continues to be, a great influence on me in stressing the importance of hard work, of being actively involved, of trying new tasks, based on the philosophy of – if you really want it, go out and get it, nothing just falls into your lap.
Calculated risks reap rewards and are the values which got me into my career today at Nvoi – a tech startup for the contingent workforce, that’s all about trying new skills and actively going out to get what you want, because competition is only going to heat up.
– Jennifer Maritz, CEO of Nvoi
No one will tell you the answer, you have to learn how to find it yourself
As a young child, I remember asking Mum what electricity was. Not knowing the answer, she took me to the library to find books at my level which were ultimately unsatisfying. She encouraged my curiosity which ultimately led me completing an electrical engineering degree and then a PhD in Artificial Intelligence.
This was a great foundation for starting SLI Systems which uses machine learning to help retailers increase traffic, conversion rates and average order value. As to that electricity thing, I still don’t understand why two particles of the same charge repel each other. I’ll keep working on that Mum.
– Shaun Ryan, VP corporate development and co-founder at SLI Systems
Be involved with community and local projects — it can help you relate to and engage with colleagues
My mother is a very strong and determined individual. From an early age, living in the country, she was always getting involved with the community and local projects, she was never idle.
Up until very recently into her early 70s, she continued to own and run her own business in work-related healthcare insurance. This Mother’s Day, I remember her drive, work ethic and community spirit – all of which have played a major influence over how I have shaped my career, relate to my customers and engage with my colleagues.
– Helen Masters, vice president & managing director of Infor South Asia, ANZ & ASEAN
Look for inspiration in other’s achievements and drive
From an early age, my mother tutored me in science, helping foster my interest and leading me to pursue my medical degree at the University of Melbourne. Having recently received the NSW Premier’s Award for Innovation in Science, my mother’s achievements and drive motivate me in my new entrepreneurial career.
My mum listens to me when I go through issues; she guides me when I feel lost; she motivates me when I feel down; she is constantly supporting me in every facet of my life, but her support of my career is something I will always be appreciative for. Thank you Mum!
– Nikhil Pooviah, founder & CEO at CancerAid
Go above and beyond for the customer, or patient
Being a highly regarded general practitioner herself, my mother instilled in me the importance of good patient care and going above and beyond the calling to provide this. Throughout my entire life and career, she has shaped my thoughts, beliefs and attitudes which have led me to this position where I believe providing high quality care is one of the most important aspects of being a doctor. CancerAid is an extension of this and provides me a channel to improve the care given to patients and caregivers on a much larger scale.
To me, my mum is an inspiration for the hard work, perseverance, intelligence and care she provides in her work as a doctor and as a mum. As always, I wish to make her proud.
– Raghav Murali-Ganesh, co-founder & COO of CancerAid
Give back with community service — it can inspire you
It’s fair to say that my mum has had “everything” to do with my career path. From support provided during my education, to being a great listener and helping make decisions about career changes, including whether I should work overseas or return home. Through it all, the support has been unconditional. Perhaps what has been hardest in these times has been taking my daughter, her only grand-daughter, away from the person who possesses the kindness and values that I have benefited from and hope to share with my children and the teams I’ve led and worked with.
One of the most significant influences she has had on me is her sense of giving back and community service through her active involvement with the Asthma Foundation and Rotary International. Now working with Airbnb, and with a vision of “belong anywhere”, that sense of community continues to inspire me on a daily basis.
– Sam McDonagh, Australia and New Zealand country manager at Airbnb
Go back to work after having a child for mental stimulation and financial independence
My Mother always helped me to find the right paths in life, but never in a forceful way. Her style was to ask searching, guiding questions; “what do you care most about” and, “do you think you would be better at this, or at that?” In effect, she helped me to discover the answers for myself.
She was always very supportive of women remaining in the workforce after having children, my role at international transfer company OFX offers great flexibility, but not every corporate culture is so accommodating.
Mum could see that the challenge and excitement of a successful career would set a very positive example for my son, and was convinced that the mental stimulation of working and financial independence would benefit the family and myself much more in the long run. “Your children will be happy if you’re happy” was one of her observations, and she fully supports my choice to work in a demanding and dynamic environment.
– Marina Trusa, general manager finance, OFX
Be cognisant of your desired outcome and ensuring your actions ladder up
My mother’s influence has had a significant impact on my career, primarily on my overall approach to business relationships and how I strive to conduct myself. While my mother would win a kindness contest against anyone, she is also a tough cookie and doesn’t compromise her actions if it encroaches upon her principles – a trait I have held closely throughout my career. She is quintessentially fair and honest, and instilled the acumen of treating everyone with respect, regardless of their position – all of which are essential to fostering sustainable business relationships. Of particular importance was the lesson of being cognisant of your desired outcome and ensuring your actions ladder up. This has helped me stay on track, even during the busiest (and most stressful) of times.”
– Lisa Hasen, vice president of APAC, OpenTable
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