5 Minutes with…. Ms Shelly Park
Ms Shelly Park is currently Chief Executive of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, where she has been since March 2016. She brings to the organisation a broad range of capabilities, having amassed almost 20 years of experience working across various roles within the Australian and New Zealand healthcare sector. Prior to this, Shelly held the role of Chief Executive at Monash Health for over a decade.
What was your first job out of University and how did it shape your future career path?
Such an interesting question – I didn’t complete any university education until well into my 20s. In fact, I am actually the first in my family to achieve a bachelor’s degree! I began my career as a nurse in New Zealand after working in a number of office jobs, and eventually made my way into a senior hospital management role in Australia, where I relocated to with my family.
I gained valuable experience and insight from working my way up the hierarchy. Starting out at the coal face, I knew that I had ideas, passions and frustrations, regardless of my experience. As I moved to management, this insight taught me that I can constantly learn from others, despite which stage they are at in their own career.
To this day, I still value the thoughts and opinions of the entire workforce, and that’s why I maintain an ‘open door’ policy, will visit staff in donation and manufacturing centres, and carry an emphasis on clear and consistent communication between our leadership and our people.
Who has inspired you most in your career?
To be very honest, it was probably my mother. Sadly, my mother passed from cancer some 23 years ago, and her medical journey showed me that there was work to be done in the health sector.
Alongside this, I have also had the honour of working with some incredibly talented leaders whom I have learnt a lot from. I am inspired by leaders in quality like Don Berwick, as well as leadership gurus such as Jim Collins and Jack Welch. The latter’s quote “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”, is something I like to strive towards.
Were there any challenges along the way for you to reach this point in your career?
Early on in my career I thought I had to have all the answers, and there is no doubt as a leader you’re often expected to have all the answers. I now take the view of Jack Welch who said, “I was never the smartest guy in the room. From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room. And that’s a big deal. And if you’re going to be a leader – if you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world – in the room, you’ve got real problems.”
To admit to this requires a level of courage and maturity that doesn’t always come naturally when you are younger and only starting out. Once I learned to do this, I found greater personal and professional success, and made the journey so much more rewarding for me and for the people I work with.
How important is engaging and managing stakeholders to being an effective leader?
It is critical in everyone’s world, and especially so when you’re dealing with people, health and government. Having stakeholder buy-in is extremely vital to achieving your strategic outcomes and delivering your core business functions. As a leader, you want everyone to be invested in a shared purpose. Through stakeholder engagement you can achieve this by helping everyone believe they have a real chance at shaping a great cause.
What is the most rewarding part of your current role?
I find it rewarding that the work we do every day helps to save patients’ lives. For this reason, the Blood Service is a unique organisation. Moreover, it is also rewarding to be surrounded by many inspirational people as I lead the organisation towards the next step of its journey.
What is your vision for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service into the future?
I’m pleased to say that it is a vison shared by me, the board, the executive, and the inspirational people who work at the Blood Service: to continue our lifesaving work through being at the leading-edge of what we do.
Our organisational vision – to improve the lives of patients through the power of humanity, fits so well with my personal values.
What is the biggest challenge facing the healthcare sector?
The burgeoning cost of healthcare and the strain this places on health budgets as the population grows both larger and older, is challenging all members of the healthcare sector to become more innovative. We have to find the right mix of resourcefulness, innovation, quality and safety, so that we can modernise healthcare and continue to provide services that benefit the growing number of Australians.
To this point, promoting preventative healthcare will be just as important moving forward if we are to reduce the strain on the healthcare system.
How has your experience been with Ccentric?
Wayne recruited me to my first role in Melbourne nearly 11 years ago, which wasn’t an easy task as I wasn’t looking to move at that point. This experience, as well as all my other interactions with Ccentric, has been incredibly positive.