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Fun Facts – Discover the First Jobs of 7 Executive Leaders

First jobs of executive leaders

Discover 7 Executive Leaders First Jobs

Ever wondered what the first jobs that executive leaders took after graduating university? We talk with 7 executive leaders about their first jobs.

Wayne Champion

Chief Executive Officer of Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network

My first role out of university was as a freelance scuba diving instructor. And I’m not sure it shaped the latter part of my career, but it did set up some things. So this clearly the part about working under pressure as a scuba diving instructor. But it did teach me to work with people that taught me to enjoy what I’m doing and to assist in situations before I go into them. Obviously, you’ve got a bit of a career now through both the New Zealand and Australian public health systems or public healthcare systems.

Damian Green

Deputy Director-General & Chief Information Officer at Queensland Health

My first job was actually as a sales assistant in Myer when I was in university. Once I completed my economics degree, and I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do going through university, I went for an interview at Andersen Consulting and got offered a position as an analyst in their change management practice. Anderson consulting focused very much on ICT, strategy and consulting in those days. I was very quickly grounded in the importance and the need to build on ownership of workforces and develop skills of workshop workforces to embrace not only technological change but adapt to new process and new roles in the context of introducing new IT. That’s probably shaped my thinking ever since about planning and management of programs in the ICT field. It can’t just be about ICT; we’ve got to start with people first and end with people first.

Steven Issa

Chief Digital Officer at the Australian Digital Health Agency

We’re talking late 90’s, early 2000’s. I had just graduated from Sydney University with a computer science degree and got into a graduate role at Insurance Australia Group. A really high risk-based organisation where I became a software engineer, so a programmer and then a network engineer as part of the rotation. What I learnt from that was that I actually preferred talking to people than working with machines. What that taught me was that probably wasn’t the right career path, down to a more traditional computer science approach. I quickly left there and ended up at Accenture and then progressed to a management consultant career for the best part of a decade.

Michelle Wearing-Smith

Head of Marketing & Comms at MCRI

I started as a sales representative at Unilever but quickly gravitated towards the marketing of products, so soon ended up on the marketing career path at Unilever. World-recognised as a leader in fast-moving consumer goods, it was like a university of brand management. It was there I found my passion, understood the power of the brand and it launched the direction of my career.

Jason Aquilina

Chief Financial Officer at Cabrini Health

My first serious job was at a company that no longer exists; the State Bank of Victoria. I started in banking at the age of 17 and was there for seven years doing various tasks including administration. I didn’t get the chance to go to university, because as an immigrant whilst I did my HSC I needed to help support my family. In my early twenties, I found myself in between jobs, which is when I was hired casually by Australian Air Express. I was doing things like photocopying etc.

The organisation had just started, and someone there saw something in me and gave me an administration job. I was then approached to be an assistant accountant and worked my way up to an accountant role. Eventually, I applied for the Finance Manager position and the CFO at the time said, quite bluntly, “there is not a chance in the world I’m going to give you that job unless you are qualified”. Despite being so blunt, he offered to fund my schooling and got me into a course at Monash University where I did a Bachelor of Business. Once I finished my degree, he funded my CPA, and 9 years later with a few promotions in between, I was fully qualified and worked my way up to be part of the senior finance team, as National Finance Manager.

Jill Rowe

Head of People, Culture and Workforce Development at Interrelate

The first job that really shaped my career was working as a superannuation administrator with Noble Lowndes. I learned enough about superannuation that it gave me the opportunity to start my HR career with Rheem in their head office. There, I had amazing senior management who mentored me and gave me opportunities to train me in every aspect of both strategic and operational HR, so I am very grateful to them.