5 minutes with Michelle Wearing-Smith
Michelle Wearing-Smith is currently the Head of Marketing and Communications for the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). After working across a range of industries and organisations, including Unilever, Iris Interactive, Accumulate (Qantas Group of Companies) and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, Michelle began at the MCRI on a contract basis, before starting permanently in October 2018.
What was your first job out of University and how did it share your future career path?
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 brand and it launched the direction of my career.
Who has inspired you the most in your career?
The CEO’s whom I have worked who were strong leaders with a clear vision. When the vision is clear, and there is values alignment, it inspires a clear strategy to be developed and executed.
And from a creative perspective – Seth Godin. In reading his books – it has sparked many ideas for different approaches.
What attracted you to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute?
It was the far-reaching social impact of the translational research and the opportunity to make a difference.
What is the most rewarding part of your current position?
Every day, helping people. From helping a researcher raise money for their research; helping a parent raise money to fund the area of child health research that they are passionate about; helping parents or clinicians connect with the latest research and guidelines that can help deliver the best care for children.
Knowing each day that the work we do is making step changes to improve child health outcomes is the most enriching work I have done.
What do you think the opportunities and challenges will be for the MCRI over the next 5 years?
There are many health issues facing children and adolescents – and they are complex. Some of the biggest challenges children face today are obesity, mental health, brain development and food allergy. Addressing the complex problems requires the interplay between clinical, genetic, social, environmental, and behavioural data, and evidence-based prevention and treatment – and it takes money and the bringing together of brilliant minds.
The exciting challenge is to continue to increase the funding that helps us solve these complex health challenges. There is a perception in the community that funding research is largely the role of the government. We hope to shift this mindset and make it a shared responsibility. We want to better engage with the public to demonstrate that we are already, and will continue to deliver world-class child health solutions right here, right now.
Our opportunity is to continue to attract and retain top talent from around the world to Melbourne and to the institute to work alongside other brilliant minds, pioneering new knowledge and solutions to solve the complex health issues.
What are your top tips for aspiring leaders?
Play to your strengths. Work on developing other areas of strength. A human-first approach to inspire the best of people. Keep your knowledge and skills relevant. Learn to work under great leaders and not so great ones. The most powerful lessons in leadership I have learnt were from working with the most challenging of leaders.
What were the benefits of working with an executive recruiter to secure this opportunity?
I think the biggest benefit for me was the assistance in the process. I was already working full time, so having that assistance is invaluable.