Since graduating with a Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management and Accounting) from RMIT, Nicola Gleeson has been working as a Human Capital Consulting Analyst at Deloitte. Nicola is passionate about wellbeing and living a healthy lifestyle whilst working in a busy, corporate environment. Today she shares her professional experience and advice on navigating university and entering the workplace as a young woman.
According to 2018 data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 31.8% of managers in the management and related consulting services industry were women. Going higher up the ranks, women made up only 24.5% of key management personnel, and a measly 9.4% of CEOs. What do you see as the biggest barriers to women entering the C-suite, and would say there has been any significant progress in terms of achieving gender equality in the workplace?
I do believe there has been great progress made in the past few years when it comes to achieving gender equality in the workplace, however, it’s tough to read statistics like those and realise how far we still have to go. I think the two biggest barriers we face as women in the workplace is the unconscious bias that can exist in recruitment and career progression processes and decisions, as well as the limiting beliefs that a lot of women hold about themselves, compared to their male colleagues. The latter is something I’ve read about in numerous books and articles, but until I entered the workplace, I never really grasped the reality of it. As women, we often doubt ourselves and don’t think we’re ready for opportunities that our male colleagues don’t think twice about. It’s not an easy issue to overcome, but organisations can make a significant impact by developing and encouraging female employees to break through the glass ceiling by establishing mentoring and women’s development programs.
I have a lot of hope about the progress that will be made over the next decade. Being one of the small but growing number of Generation Z’s in my workplace, I can see the change that our generation is bringing and demanding. We’re progressive in our thinking and we act on the social issues we care about. I’m excited to see the changes we make in the workplace as we begin to rise up the ranks. We’re fortunate to start our careers now, when the opportunities for women are greater than they have been for previous generations. I think we owe it to the generations that follow us to continue the amazing work that women before us have done to achieve gender equality.
What skills do you feel are the most important to have in entering the workplace, given today’s constantly evolving workplace?
When I was thinking about this question, it reminded me of a quote I recently read in the Deloitte 2020 Human Capital Trends report that said “workers who are able to constantly renew their skills and learn new ones are those who will be most able to find employment in today’s rapidly shifting job market”. The way I interpret that quote is that in a world where change is constant, being able to upskill quickly is the most important skill of all. However, it’s easy to get swept up in the pressure to be an amazing problem solver or a super critical thinker when the topic of the future of work and the threat of automation are consistently at the centre of any discussion around upskilling. To me, the COVID-19 pandemic has stripped this back and highlighted what are truly the most important skills in an evolving workplace and those are the human skills of resilience, emotional intelligence and empathy. In such a turbulent time like this pandemic, if you are able to demonstrate those three skills, I am confident you will be able to get through anything your career throws at you.
Is there a particular female role model that has inspired you throughout your career? If so, who/why?
I honestly can’t narrow it down to a single role model as I take inspiration from every woman I work with. I’m still early into my career and have already been lucky enough to work with a number of incredible women in who I have found mentorship, friendship and support. These women challenge my thinking, push me outside of my comfort zone and encourage me to bring my ideas to the table. I think this is what I find most inspiring – women that want to continuously grow and learn and support those around them to do the same.
How did you utilise your time at university to prepare for such incredible employment opportunities?
I definitely didn’t spend all my time at university deep in the books and looking back, I’m really glad for that. Instead, I used my time to meet new people, develop my teamwork and communication skills and just enjoy the university lifestyle. One thing I am glad I did do with my time was complete a semester abroad in the Netherlands. The experience of attending university in another country is so unique and helped me become a more resilient and open-minded person. I also then deferred the following semester and spent some time backpacking around Europe and I could not be more grateful that I did that. The people you meet and the experiences you have when travelling are so valuable. Plus, once you start full-time work it can be a little trickier to find the time for a long holiday! Overall, my advice to university students is to say yes to every opportunity and focus on developing skills such as teamwork and emotional intelligence, not just aiming for high distinctions. Once you’re in the workplace these skills will be just as important, if not more, than your academic results.
What is some advice you can give to readers, to ensure they successfully transition their vacationer roles into full-time employment?
My number one tip to transition your vacationer role into full-time employment is to network and build meaningful connections. You don’t have to get to know every single person in your team, but connecting with a few people across different levels of seniority will ensure people get to know who you are and your goal of securing a full-time position, and at the same time, you get to learn from people who are in a position you aspire to be in. While the term ‘networking’ can sound really intimidating, it doesn’t have to be a formal or daunting event. Reach out to the people in your team and ask them to catch up for a quick coffee or a chat over Zoom – I guarantee you everyone will be more than happy to make the time. Also, don’t neglect the small moments such as a quick chat in the kitchen or the hallway – all these micro-networking moments add up and will leave a positive impression of you in people’s minds. Make these conversations meaningful by thinking about what you want to learn from each person. Maybe you want to know about that piece of work they’re doing or what challenges they faced when they first started their career. It’s also important to remember that as a vacationer you’re not expected to know everything, or actually, anything at all. Make an effort to ask questions and learn from those around you. If you demonstrate a willingness to learn and take on feedback it will really set you apart from the crowd.
Based on your journey, what is one piece of advice you would give to young females who aspire to one day be where you are today/succeed in the Big 4?
Without a doubt, my key piece of advice is to play to your strengths and be yourself. We all have something unique to bring to the table and it’s important not to compare yourself to those around you. This is definitely something that has been emphasised to me at Deloitte from a number of successful leaders. We all have different ways of working, different strengths and different perspectives and that should be celebrated! If you don’t know what your strengths are yet, don’t panic. University is the perfect time to learn and figure out who you are and how you like to work. The people I see as the most successful around me are the ones who don’t waste time comparing themselves to how their peers are progressing or performing, but instead focus on their own development and are confident in what they bring to the table. If you are true to yourself, the right opportunities will come your way at the right time.
If you have any questions for Nicola Gleeson, please:
1. Leave a comment under our Woman of the Week FB post, or
2. Email us at exec@WCPunimelb.com