Challenges and opportunities for graduates: resilience, adaptability and climate action

gemaker Managing Director, Natalie Chapman, gave the occasional address at the University of Wollongong graduation on 24 June 2019. Below are the video and transcript of the speech.

Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Magassy, Presenting Dean of the Business Faculty, University colleagues, guests, family and friends and most importantly all the graduates here.

First of all congratulations!! You’ve put in a tremendous amount of hard work to be here today. You and your family must be so proud. It’s a fantastic achievement.

Secondly, I’m extremely honoured to be here today. Thank you for inviting me.

As Commerce/Business graduates you have the ability to make a difference in organisations around the world, in all sectors at all levels. You may play a supporting role, or the lead where you set the tone for the organisation and how it behaves.

70% of Australia’s top 100 ASX listed companies CEO’s have a commerce/business qualification. IT entrepreneurs have come into their own over the years and are now growing Billion dollar companies, multinationals.

As you will have heard many times the world is rapidly changing.

In 1996 when I graduated from my first degree the world was a very different place.

  • Only 35% of women were employed,
  • and 13 out of 100 people had a mobile phone. Yes I was one of them
  • Websites were not common.
  • There was no social media – yes!!
  • Work from home or “flexible work” just didn’t exist.

Since I graduated, massive technological and social changes have impacted work practices and disrupted industries, spawning new sectors and novel business models. This year, female participation in the workforce reached 61%, compared with 71% for men. This is a great improvement, but still an issue that I am proactively addressing.

In 2011, After working in numerous jobs, I set up my company, gemaker with $10k in savings.

My company, gemaker, helps researchers and innovators to commercialise new ideas and technologies. My staff are mainly women with caring responsibilities. I bring women back into the workforce by providing flexible work from home that is meaningful and rewarding. In return, I get higher staff loyalty, lower overheads and the ability to scale my team up or down to match different clients’ needs.

I’ve demonstrated that this progressive business model is profitable. But to make it work, you have to be committed and adaptable, trust your employees and measure their value by output, not hours spent in an office.

As a graduate you need to be resilient, adaptable, a team player with a ‘can do’ attitude to stand out from the crowd.

You won’t want to hear this on graduation but lifelong learning is your friend….as you continue to develop and adapt

Or that’s what I tell myself after making it through my degree, hons, a Masters and MBA and now the Company Directors Course…..which reminds me of how hard it is to have a family, work full-time and study!

I’ve learnt plenty of Lessons since graduating.

Some of which I thought I’d share with you.

Firstly, Do what you love! I love science, complex problem solving and marketing. So for me a job that combines these is what gets me out of bed every morning.  Well most mornings…

Number 2 ) Success is not how much money, promotions or awards you have. For me, success is enjoying what I do, working with people that I want to work with, being paid well and respected and having impact, so that what I do makes a difference.

Number 3) If you are rejected – for a job, or promotion,…yes it will happen probably more often than you’d like.

 Instead of wallowing in self pity, think.

This wasn’t meant to be, because there is something better out there. This has kept me positive through every rejection and things just have this way of working out for the better.

Even the most successful people have been rejected at some point.

  • Walt Disney was fired because his boss felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”​
  • Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon had several start-up that failed before Amazon took off
  • Our successful Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was unsuccessful when she put her hat in the ring to lead the country.

Number 4) Put your hand up, volunteer and grab opportunities to expand your skills and knowledge beyond your job description. It really makes a difference.

Each year my senior leadership team and I get together to discuss what we want to focus on for the coming year. We all have young families and we’ve been thinking more about the future not just our future but that of our children and how we can protect it.

One thing that has hit home for us all is that  Climate Change is real and we’re not doing enough to reduce our impact. As the teenage girl Greta Thunburg from Finland bravely got up and said at the 2019 World Economic Forum “Act as if your house is on fire!” because frankly it is!

Some people put their heads in the sand or rattle off any number of myths to deny its existence. Or say our emissions are too small in the world to matter. If we continue to do that then the impacts will affect you in this room the most and your children.

  • Imagine if Australia put climate change as the number one thing to fix, what we could achieve.
  • Imagine if every organisation had it central to their mission,
  • Imagine if you did it personally what would that look like?

As a graduate, you have the power and the skills to change the world for the better. You are voters, you are the most socially responsible and engaged generation so far and you are able to help with the massive transition of industries that is required across our energy, agricultural, water, transport, infrastructure sectors to support a sustainable planet. If we’re on the front foot – This is a massive opportunity for you and Australia to be involved with strategically growing new companies, new industries which are global and improve the health of our planet.

Follow your values and convictions when you join a new organization and check their values align with yours. Do what you can personally and professionally to reduce your impact on the climate.

And always remember to give back to your ecosystem. When you rise up through the ranks, get awards and have a platform use it for good. To raise others up with you, right injustices and make a difference!    

Thank you!