34 successful Australian female execs share their industry advice for female graduates

WOCinTech Chat/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Once you’ve finished university, it can be hard landing that first job in the industry you want to work in.

Particularly in Australia where it’s taking longer for graduates to find a full-time job since the GFC.

For female graduates entering industries typically dominated by men, the conditions can be even more challenging.

We asked successful female executives from a range of industries what advice they would give female graduates who want to break into their industry.

Here’s what they had to say.

‘Don’t be turned off a career in tech if you don’t know how to code’

Zoe Ghani/Supplied

There are so many other opportunities in the tech space for you to play to your strengths and thrive. For example, you could look at a career in product management, project management, UX and design, quality assurance, business analysis – the list goes on. It’s about finding what you’re passionate about and going from there.

Know what you want and learn about it. Define the exact areas you want to work in and combine with your unique talents to create a vision for where you want to go.

It doesn’t need to be perfect. You just need to figure out the additional skills required and then educate yourself to fill in the gaps by working on pet projects which utilise these skills. For example if you are interested in design or code or any other area, create your own website, play with new technology, install applications, visit tech meetups – have fun, break things! You can then talk about these projects in an interview as the formal job experience you don’t currently have.

You will have learned a lot more through small “hobby” projects than someone who has no experience at all.

Be confident in your ability by giving examples of the experience you’ve gained that will benefit the company. Create the argument for yourself you know you can win.

Zoe Ghani — Chief Technology Officer at The Iconic

‘Don’t take your foot off the pedal’

Natalie Goldman/Supplied

Start increasing you networks, start meeting up with people, and get to know more people in your industry. It pays to get a mentor that you look up to and follow their success.

The more people you know in your industry the more likely you are to grow and expand. Personal development and professional development is also important to focus on while reading widely, watching and also being proactive and seeking opportunities whenever they arise.

Put your hand up for opportunities and try and ask for extra projects, it’s very important to be seen as somebody who’s always willing to go the extra mile.

Remember not to take you foot off the pedal, as many women think to themselves that one day they’re going to have children and be in a position where they need to figure what they’re going to do for their future. Either way you don’t know when you’re going to have children, and when/if it does happen, you’ll figure it out.

Be bold, be brave, and don’t hold back!

Natalie Goldman — CEO of FlexCareers

‘Get yourself a great mentor’

Kate Save/Supplied

It is important to follow your passion, learn from a mentor and understand how your role fits into the broader field you are in.

As dietitians, we are trained in the science of food, but in the real world, there is rarely a neat solution to a client concern. Instead, it’s important to have a wider perspective to ensure you can provide more than just dietary advice to the people seeking your service.

To make a real impact, you need to consider the bigger picture, from the psychology of eating to the impact of exercise. Understanding your industry is the key to knowing how to connect all the pieces of the puzzle to create a holistic solution beyond nutritional advice. This understanding will develop in time, but having a mentor from the outset can be hugely beneficial.

A trusted adviser can help you navigate your way through the early stage of your career and help you see the ways in which the different aspects of your field connect to create a whole.

It’s important to be learn something new every day, and having a mentor who you can trust and learn from can help you avoid mistakes, mature in your profession and provide you with the ongoing guidance and support you may need.

Kate Save — Co-founder of Be Fit Food

‘Don’t be afraid to branch out and look for opportunities in a sector that wasn’t your first choice’

Emma Perera/Supplied

The corporate wellness sector and industry is booming and some may not know that it is a very multifaceted and broad space.

For many female grads who studied things such as psychology, nutrition, exercise physiology, physiotherapy etc, and thought they had to go into private practice, they should not be afraid to branch out and look for opportunities in the corporate wellness space which wants hands on knowledge of this area.

Grads could discover a new found motivation and drive to help and bring their skills to the employees of corporates who may not necessarily seek them out in their personal time.

Another great way for grads to get into the space if you have a natural desire or drive to help people get the most of out of their life and enrich their lives is to join your company wellness team and drive initiatives in the company.

I think it is important to also be flexible. Embrace opportunities that come your way which may take you on a different path.

I started my career in law and then moved into magazines and media and am now creating amazing content for corporates – so you never know where your skills or journey may take you.

Emma Perera — Executive Director at WellBeing Grow

‘The top skills that all graduates need are complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence’

Alexandra Sloane/Supplied

It’s well known that the jobs landscape will continue to change rapidly, especially with technologies like quantum at its infancy.

The World Economic Forum estimates 65% of children today will end up in careers that don’t even exist yet and according to executives from some of the world’s leading companies,

Cultivating these skills are critical for any graduate heading into the tech or other industries. I think women can be particularly strong in these areas, so leaning into those strengths is a great idea.

For women in particular, the challenges in the tech world are widely talked about – and my advice would be to overcome some of the key barriers, one of which has been referred to as the “confidence gap” between men and women. We’ve all heard the stats and soundbites, for example; women will only apply for a promotion only when they meet 100% of the qualifications, and men apply when they meet 50%.

Alexandra Sloane — Head of Marketing at Facebook Australia

‘Focus your energy on things you can control, and let go of things you can’t’

Professor Retha Wiesner/Supplied

Pick something that aligns with your passion and inner values and make it great. Don’t be afraid to embrace failure. Sometimes that’s the best way to learn.

Make sure to focus your energies on what you can control. For example, accept that external critics, competitors and horrible bosses may cross your path, these things are out of your control, so let it go. Instead, be vigilant and identify opportunities for growth.

Identify mentors who can act as a sounding board and help you identify strategies to progress your career journey.

Find support groups and programs that will help you to upskill.

Professor Retha Wiesner — Project Director of the WiRE program (A CSIRO ON participant) at the University of Southern Queensland

‘Doing your research before getting into the startup industry is critical’

Sarah Sahyoun/Supplied

Getting into the startup industry can be tough given there’s often no formal graduate program. As a result, doing your research and networking is crucial.

Join meetup groups in the space you are interested in and attend events. Immerse yourself in the industry so you have a deep understanding of it and its community.

However, landing a job is only the first part of the equation and it’s incredibly important you assess the type of company you’re joining just as much as the role itself.

I think people underestimate the influence your first job has on shaping your future behaviours and expectations about the workforce. To ensure your experience is as positive as it can be, make sure to find a company where the founders share the same values as you, can offer great mentorship, are big supporters of social causes you believe in, and aim to empower and bolster their employees. While this can sound idealistic, the great thing about start ups is so many exist to make a difference and will be driven by things that go beyond profits.

To find the right one for you, never be afraid to ask questions, both during your first interview and throughout your entire career.

Sarah Sahyoun — Chief Culture Officer of OpenLearning

‘Cultivate a network of like-minded entrepreneurial individuals’

Topaz Conway/Supplied

Great things can be achieved when women support each other. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a CEO or high school dropout.

Starting a company with the view to scale globally can be incredibly daunting for women, particularly for young female university graduates. Those who want to make it as an entrepreneur need to be hungry to learn, assertive enough to ask questions, and brave enough to share their experiences.

I guarantee you, someone else has been there and quite often can offer a solution or new way of thinking. Sisterhood is a powerful tool women sometimes forget to capitalise on. Find support from your fellow women but also do your homework. Learn to crawl before you walk and remember that starting a business is a journey.

Topaz Conway — Chair of SBE Australia

‘Have the confidence to establish your own brand of leadership’

Rebecca James/Supplied

Approach it with a generosity of heart and spirit. Build people up. Focus on strengths. Downplay weaknesses. Be crystal clear on the objective, and then be giving of your time to motivate others to achieve it. Be kind.

And yes, be nice. It’s not a dirty word. Don’t compromise on your own values. Inject positivity always. In return, you’ll be part of teams that achieve more than you — and they — thought possible. Success will follow.

And most importantly, they’ll love coming to work every day –- and so will you.

Rebecca James — Chief marketing and enterprise officer at Prospa

‘Be courageous’

Claire Fastier/Supplied

Purposely surround yourself with strong mentors who you want to learn from: if there are people in an organisation who you admire and want to emulate in your career, you’re probably in the right place.

If you identify individuals who you respect and are moving in the same direction as you want to go in, they can help you navigate the journey you’re heading out on.

Claire Fastier — Vice president and country manager APAC at InMoment

‘Often it’s not how much money you make, but what you do with the money you make that’s important’

Lesley Gregg/Supplied

It’s very hard to be successful in financial services if you do not put into practice what you are teaching your clients, so you need to walk the talk.

Young women in the financial services industry have a wonderful opportunity to make a huge impact on the lives of Australian women in guiding them to be financially independent.

By learning good money habits early as a young woman when you are starting out, young women can set the building blocks to build good assets that will set them up for the lifestyle of their choice. Every woman has a vision of how they would like their life to be and good money habits and staying focussed means they can achieve their vision.

Lesley Gregg — Head of Sales at SuperEd

‘Working hard at university and good grades doesn’t matter as much as most people think’

Elizabeth Moran/Supplied

As an employer, I prefer to hire people that have some life experience, worked a part-time job, volunteered and perhaps travelled a little.

To get your foot in the door, make use of your contacts. Do you know anyone that works in a company you’d like to work for? Ask them about graduate programs, a name to address an application to or perhaps someone you can call and talk to about getting started. I’m always impressed by initiative and a bit of background research.

Apply to a range of graduate programs, even if you don’t think the company or the role sounds like it’s what you want. Interview experience is really valuable and you don’t want your first interview to be the most important. When it comes to the interviews, be early and show you’ve done some research on the company and its strategy. What is the company doing that you like? It also helps to look up the interviewer on LinkedIn.

If you manage to secure a role in finance, keep track of your achievements and use them to justify a yearly pay rise. Don’t be discouraged by your initial shortcomings and try to find a strong female mentor.

Elizabeth Moran — Director of Education & Research at FIIG Securities

‘Embrace change and see every task as an opportunity to learn’

Laura Hill/Supplied

I first started in the media industry in a television advertising role, but quickly understood the power and potential of digital and decided to make the move.

As the world is constantly changing thanks to technology, you have to think quickly on your feet, be nimble and willing for constant change and disruption.

It’s also important to take the time to learn the fundamentals – how things work and what value your products bring to your customers, as these will form building blocks to grow your career.

It’s not only about what you know but who you know. Maintaining relationships is integral as it’s a small industry and you never know when someone will open a door to your future.

Laura Hill — Head of Advertising at Gumtree Australia

‘Accept every opportunity at the start of your journey, no matter how menial’

Sarah Adam-Gedge/Supplied

It is important to seek out a support system early on. This might be your fellow grad cohort or a mentor.

Entering the workforce is different to anything you’ve previously experienced, and early workplace connections can help make that transition easier as well as push you to succeed.

The respect and learning you gain from others is a good lesson, I still have a network of people who started with me way back when.

As a junior in the workplace you are starting at the bottom of the career ladder, which can mean long hours and some of the most menial tasks; however, these first years are formative around work ethic, client focus, work quality and balancing work and fun and should not be overlooked.

Sarah Adam-Gedge — Managing Director of Avanade Australia

‘Don’t let anything stop you, even if you are the only women in the room’

Chelsey Quartermain/Supplied

Be highly committed and accountable for your role, no matter the title and always look for opportunities to learn and grow.

Many businesses start with small teams and therefore showing your commitment and taking responsibility will allow those around you to see your potential.

At the same time, you’re gaining valuable experience which will allow you to adapt quickly to new roles. Try to focus on the end goal. It may or may not be your own business but treat it as if it were and you’ll allow yourself to push boundaries. Have fun by networking and bouncing your ideas off a trusted network and seek mentors. Enjoy the journey and the unexpected paths tech can take you.

Taking risks by spotting opportunities and not being afraid to stand by my opinions are recurring themes.

Chelsey Quartermain — General Manager at House&Land.com.au

‘When you face obstacles, it is incredibly important to have drive and focus’

Oksana Goncharova/Supplied

Don’t be intimidated. The tech community is incredibly welcoming and inspiring, both in Australia and across the globe. In saying that, it’s the same across every industry – opportunities won’t be handed to you. The best place to start is to jump in with both feet, find opportunities to network, and build relationships within the industry. There are plenty of meetups relating to both niche areas and the broader industry, if you’re not certain what area you want to get into just yet. Alumni programs are also a great place to build connections and find mentors, peers, and potential job leads. It is important to stay connected to the industry and educate yourself; there are so many great books, blogs and podcasts in tech, which makes it easier for anyone passionate about the industry to learn and become a part of the community.

Instead of attending networking events with your resume in hand, go in with the goal of meeting new people and starting interesting conversations. You’ll find plenty of people are happy to offer advice and some will be willing to stay in touch and potentially open doors for you down the line. Don’t forget to seek opportunities to add value to your mentors and your network – these relationships are always a two-way street.

I can’t understate the importance of having drive and focus. Believe in yourself and your dreams, and work hard to achieve them. When a challenge crops up, be flexible, face it head on and don’t be afraid of taking risk. In the world that’s changing so fast, the biggest risk you should avoid at all costs is not taking any risk at all.

Oksana Goncharova — Managing Director of Material Information Platform at Ansarada

‘Believe in yourself, have a plan, and be open to new opportunities’

Melissa Ries/Supplied

Believe in yourself. It’s difficult early on, especially until you’ve got some experience, but you have to back yourself. I’ve seen so many women passed over for roles because they just don’t think they can do it. Find that confidence, I know, easier said than done, but really find it – it’s so important.

Have a plan. Think about where you want to be in two to three years’ time. Always think about the role you’re in – is it getting you to where you want to be? Are you learning new skills? Learning more about an industry? Try not to stay in a role just because you know how to do it. Challenge yourself.

Be open to new opportunities. Yes, a plan is good, but you also have to be open to new opportunities. Is there an opportunity in another department you could consider? Or another country? If you’re unhappy in a role, change it.

Ask for what you want. It might be a difficult conversation and a bit awkward, but what is the worst that can happen? They say no?

Think hard about roles before you accept them. Do your due diligence. Does the company have similar values to you? Do you think you can work with the people there? Headhunters and recruitment consultants will sell jobs to you. Some will convince you to take a role that may not be right for you. Don’t feel pressured. Do what is right for you.

Network. Today of course we can do this via social media, but nothing replaces meeting people at events and good old-fashioned networking. Many roles don’t even get advertised – so who you know and what you can learn about people and the industry you’re in or want to be in, is critical.

Find a mentor or create your support team. It’s important you find someone to champion you. Yes, you need to put yourself forward for roles, you can learn about them once you’re in them, but you also need a support team. Is there someone internally in your organisation you can trust? Would they champion you for a new role perhaps? Seek those people out. And make sure you thank them.

Melissa Ries — APAC General Manager and Vice President at Skillsoft

‘Show you’re extraordinary’

Sue Steel/Supplied

Think outside the box. As you’re searching for job opportunities, it’s vital that you apply for jobs that ignite your passion and truly excite you. So think creatively and look towards innovative technology fields that will drive you to work on incredible projects across the world. Don’t shy away from things that you don’t know rather embrace this chance to learn more.

It’s no secret that it’s a competitive job market out there, especially for graduates, but don’t let this deter you — let it push you. A challenge of applying for graduate jobs is showcasing your industry experience, so apply for internships, participate in university projects, volunteer, freelance and even build a portfolio of work to showcase at interviews. Use your initiative to stand out from the crowd.

From the moment you walk in the door, be sure to take note of how the company makes you feel. It’s important to find a work place that makes you feel welcome and where your opinions count.

Sue Steel — Executive Vice President of People & Culture at Nearmap

‘Happiness fuels success, not the other way around’

Rachael Powell/Supplied

Always look to find something you love doing, are passionate about, and plays to your strengths as that’s the elixir to success in work and life.

Jump at opportunities to learn. Everyone always says “be proactive” but there’s more to it. Just asking for more of the same work is great to demonstrate that you’re at what you do but always look to learn from the work you’re doing. When an opportunity is in front of you to do something that will stretch your thinking and evolve your skillset, grab it by both hands. Opportunities to work outside your comfort zone and grow your abilities is the best way to further your career so don’t let them pass you by.

Be brave, bold and kind. Work is competitive, there’s a big group at the base and very few at the top and it’s there to be climbed but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your inner kindness in order to get ahead. You want to be recognised for the work you do. Be proactive. Put your hand up to be considered when you see something that’s the right fit. Don’t wait for someone to notice you’re good at your job, make them take notice but always be kind to those around you.

Rachael Powell — Chief People & Customer Officer at Xero Australia

‘Don’t allow work to define your life; instead allow your purpose to define what you do for work’

Kat Lintott/Supplied

Finding a purpose can be hard, and it is also liable to change, but there are a few important things to remember while you’re hunting.

Experience as much as you can. Its rare you’re going to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you graduate. There are jobs out there that you won’t even know exist! Life is about experiences, about finding things you are passionate about. Allow yourself the time to search for your passion across a range of different industries, not just when you’re starting out but throughout your career.

If you don’t know you love it, try something else. Follow your gut and be content. Everyone is guilty of overthinking big decisions but more often than not, your gut has the answer before your brain does. The most important consideration should be your own happiness whichever level you find yourself at. Remember to be happy and satisfied in the moment. Constantly chasing a utopian future leaves you no time to be satisfied with your achievements so be happy and pursue happiness.

Kat Lintott — Co-founder & Head of VR/MR at Wrestler

‘Put your hand up to help wherever you can’

Suzy Nicoletti/Supplied

The tech industry is fast paced and constantly changing. This means there are always new opportunities coming up. As new changes happen, there’s more opportunities to get involved.

Always look for a solution. Like anything in life, challenges will inevitably come up along the way, but it’s important to focus on finding a solution.

Those that keep innovating will continue to grow and have a strong career ahead.

Suzy Nicoletti — Managing Director at Twitter Australia

‘Select a company that has a plan in place for your success’

Sadhana Smiles/Supplied

How do they do business planning? Have they got a 12 month marketing plan you can tap in? What training is invested into your development? Will they have someone to mentor you? And, importantly, what is the commission structure – does it increase based on performance?

If you are looking at getting into a management or leadership role, be very clear on what you bring to the table and how this will positively impact the business’ bottom line, people development and culture. Understand their commitment is to your development.
Be really clear on why you want to work in real estate and be prepared to work long hours and weekends. However, the rewards are worth it. It can be extremely rewarding helping people into their next home.

Sadhana Smiles — CEO at Harcouts Victoria

‘You need to know who you are and what your values are’

Dora Nikols/Supplied

To be a social purpose expert you need to review and reflect on their personal journey in life to get close to who you are and what you value. You also need to be good communicators to advise companies how to boost their corporate reputation and to run workshops to guide CEOs, staff and corporate leaders to find and share their purpose.

You need to have a deep understanding and interest in public relations, cause-marketing, corporate social responsibility, ethics and corporate reputation so you are able to advise and guide companies through their social purpose journey by being socially and environmentally conscious and using storytelling to share their values.

Graduates also need to have a deep understanding of all the latest trends, research and case studies of companies who are achieving both their business goals and monitoring and reporting on their social impact.

Dora Nikols — Co-founder at Social Mission

‘Look for opportunities via a graduate program to gain work experience’

Caroline Clarke/Supplied

The unprecedented exposure to businesses and development support is priceless.

Graduates are entering the workforce during an exciting time, particularly within the STEM industry. This traditionally male-dominant industry is seeing a significant global shift to encourage bright students to consider pursing a degree and career in these areas.

If you are passionate about what you want to do, you have a strong awareness of your skill, you love to learn and are determined to be successful, chase every opportunity to develop your career.

You have a unique offering, and the technology industry is increasingly aware of your value. It’s about showing your knowledge, drive and passion for your work, feeding a strong appetite for innovation. The ability to adapt to fast paced, vibrant working environments is crucial; enabling the flexibility to embrace opportunities as they arise so that lives and careers can come together in a meaningful way.

Caroline Clarke — CEO at Philips ASEAN Pacific

‘Don’t be deterred if your path is different to others’

Jenna Orme/Supplied

Having a communications degree is important, but certainly not vital.

From a graduate level, no matter your background, I’d recommend starting off your career by showing a passion for the industry, understanding the power of media, and demonstrating your skills relevant to PR and communications.

If you can grasp the basics, show commitment and demonstrate strong presence and initiative from the start, you’re already taking a step in the right direction.

I encourage graduates to have the confidence to hold their own; age or gender do not detract from what you offer. Letting go of those preconceptions and allowing your passion to lead your career is the key to unlocking success.

Exposure to the industry is key to ensuring you know what you’re signing up for. This isn’t a nine to five job. Placing yourself in business environments as early as possible will help establish whether a career in PR and communications is right for you.

It’s vital for graduates, and all women in the workforce, to realise the scale of the opportunities available to them. You define your career; give yourself the opportunity to chase your dreams from day one.

Jenna Orme — General Manager of FleishmanHillard Australia

‘Build resilience and have the ability to weather and bounce back from challenging or difficult work situations’

Amy Foo/Supplied

Carve your own career path. Move fast. Diversity and inclusion is still very much a work-in-progress topic even though we have made huge strides over the years.

Stay curious. Learning is the key to progress and pushing yourself to improve. It does not mean that you should be changing jobs, or going on sabbatical every time you feel you are not learning as much as you could be. Staying curious can be more refined. To me, it means “think differently” about how you’re doing something on a day-to-day basis; to challenge the status quo. It also involves gaining a deeper understanding of other people’s perspectives, motivations and walking a mile in their shoes.

Amy Foo — Vice President of Finance & Operations APAC at Zendesk

‘Hit the ground running, and don’t be afraid to take risks’

Anita Hoskins/Supplied

New graduates are stepping into a period of some momentum. It’s important for our young women to embrace opportunities so don’t be afraid to take a risk, have a differing viewpoint and to voice your mind. We want to hear what you have to say!

Finding that more experienced individual, be it man or woman, with whom you can have a frank, genuine and two-way relationship is an important step to developing quality relationships. And believe in the power of vulnerability – showing your authentic self can build unparalleled relationships that will make you more impactful in your role and your organisation.

Being an effective finance leader is a balancing act – balancing the advocacy for your business with the requirement to challenge and push for improvements and efficiencies. So you’ll need those strong relationships, and you’ll need that willingness to take risks, to succeed in this space.

Anita Hoskins — Chief Financial Officer at Carnival Australia

‘Don’t let male-dominated classrooms and offices discourage you from entering the field’

Melissa Richardson/Supplied

Women often suffer from “imposter syndrome” where a lack of confidence and self-doubt holds us back.

When you’re feeling this way remember that you are just as capable as the next man. A useful way to combat insecurities can be to reframe your thoughts. It’s also important to keep learning as much as you can to build your skill set and to seek out role models and mentors.

A great mentor can help you recognise self-limiting behaviours and give you the tools to overcome them. Young women need to know asking for help is not a weakness, but a strength.

Know that there is an abundance of women currently running successful tech companies.

Melissa Richardson — Managing Director of Art of Mentoring

‘Surround yourself with people who also have big dreams and plans and learn from their experience’

Tara Commerford/Supplied

Understand that while there will be challenging days, don’t lose faith or be overly concerned with not feeling strong enough.

Resilience is not something we are born with. It’s a muscle that we need to grow, and the only way to do that is by building strength through on-the-job, experiential learning.

Gratitude is vital. However, don’t simply ‘be thankful’ for the job that you have, know the value you bring to a company. Ask for more opportunities to challenge yourself further to build your skill-value set, more pay, more equity.

“More” is not a dirty word. “More” is appreciating the contribution you are making to a business and ensuring that you don’t sell yourself short. When you have more, you can also give away more; time, financially and with expertise.

Keep generosity at the core of everything you do.

Tara Commerford — Vice President and Managing Director at GoDaddy Australia/New Zealand

‘Seize the opportunities that excite you, even if you don’t feel completely capable’

Kendra Banks/Supplied

There are some widely quoted stats that found women only applied for roles when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet just 60% of the job requirements.

Skills can be learnt, but passion for a job is harder to find and it is likely you are more than capable for the role. The biggest leaps forward in my own career happened when I took on roles and assignments that initially were quite scary.

These are the best opportunities to learn and prove yourself, so don’t pass them up.

Kendra Banks — Managing Director at SEEK ANZ

‘Network, network and network some more’

Tania Garonzi/Supplied

It’s amazing where a conversation at an industry seminar can take you. By making your passion, enthusiasm and knowledge for the sector known to those you meet, your chances of securing your dream job will immediately increase. It sounds simple but it’s true! Meeting and talking with professionals from a variety of backgrounds within the tech space will also expand your horizons and help you determine exactly what area of the industry you’re most interested in pursuing.

It’s important to take advantage of social media platforms – particularly LinkedIn and Twitter – to make your passion for tech known to others.

LinkedIn really is the modern CV and employers are always on the look out for university graduates to take under their wing. To ensure you’re in the best position possible post-study, try to undertake as many internships and training programs as possible during your studies and continually update your LinkedIn profile so prospective employers have a full and accurate picture of your experience and skill set.

Tania Garonzi — General Manager and Co-founder of Hisense Australia

‘Ask lots of questions and learn from others’

Erin Height/Supplied

Success in product development is all about attention to detail, so learn about the product you’re creating. Whether it’s the type of stitching, the shade of purple, the shape of a zip pull or retail pricing, learn the product inside out.

Design requires decision making and more decision making until a product is perfect for release. It’s important to be trusting, but always verify the facts. Working in manufacturing opens up amazing opportunities to collaborate with suppliers all over the world on new technologies and trust is very important when building relationships, but verifying details is crucial as quality assurance issues are serious.

Follow your instincts, back your ideas and take calculated risks. Love what you do because if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, you won’t do your best and the product will suffer.

One of the best parts of being on a product team is the opportunity to work cross-functionally with other departments. I love working alongside our sales, retail, marketing, operations and finance teams to bring a product to life.

Erin Height — General Manager of Merchandise at 2XU

‘You’ll have times when you’re feeling out of your depth, but remember you’re there for good reason’

Jennifer Berthold/Supplied

Really get to know the organisations you’re keen to work with — not just their product, services or marketing, but the culture and flexibility, so you can perform at your best.

Find out about the gender balance and what opportunities there could be for you in the longer term. There can be a big gap between a company’s written and public support of gender advancement for women, and the existence of any proof that it’s being executed successfully. Simple desk research on the number of senior women in the business and their reputation in the industry can quickly help you gain insights on potential employers. You’ll find our Managing Director is a woman, and the heads of two of our three core business units are women.

Importantly though, once you’re in a role, back yourself. Know your strengths and be confident.

Jennifer Berthold — Vice President of American Express Global Network Partnerships, Australia/New Zealand

‘Build your networks, your brand, and your confidence’

Preeti Bajaj/Supplied

Leaders and colleagues throughout your career journey will come and then take different pathways. The more you challenge yourself to keep connections with those whom you trust and who intrigue or inspire you, the more you’ll surround yourself with people that will become your future business partners and mentors. Seize every new meeting, event or project as an opportunity to build your network.

Taking every opportunity and interaction as an opportunity to have a positive impact on those around you will see you develop into a trusted, capable team member. Further, by looking for opportunities to listen, share a view and test the status quo, you’re accepting an opportunity to position yourself over time as an expert. Don’t be afraid to back yourself if you find an area you want to specialise in for a few years, you can always change, but take the time to learn enough to be solid and meaningful.

Many young and female professionals can struggle with self-confidence when starting out. Building confidence and giving yourself the authority to succeed or fail, and learn, is critical to growth. Find colleagues who you can share a safe space with and sustain each other’s confidence and praise each other’s successes. The more you treat others and yourself as a professional and an expert, the more you’ll be encouraged to keep going.

Preeti Bajaj — Vice President of Strategy & Commercial Operations at Schneider Electric Australia

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