Jayne Drinkwater has been a bit of a trailblazer as a woman who has taken risks and given many roles a go in business.
She’s worked in more executive roles than most of her peers, in a variety of sectors, including at nib health funds and the University of Newcastle. That corporate experience, combined with successfully running her own IT business, has given Jayne the expertise to now be a Board director.
Jayne is currently a non-executive director of the Greater Building Society and is also a Trustee of Church Property for the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.
- Could you tell us a little about your career path?
My early career was mostly in banking and the University sector. I did my degree at the University of Newcastle and then I shot off to some very interesting places around Australia, including Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. I jumped around quite a bit which I think was quite unusual back then. Probably not unusual these days but I did spend quite a bit of time looking for my next opportunity, as I was fiercely ambitious when I was younger. I took every opportunity that came along, even if that meant moving cities or changing organisations.
Quite a lot of movement, some fabulous opportunities, and then I eventually settled back in Newcastle in 2003 when I was offered a role at nib health funds as Chief Operating Officer. I stayed at nib for 5 1/2 years and I was offered another role while I was there as Chief Marketing Officer – so that made it a bit more interesting and I exceeded my usual tenure and managed to stay for a whole 5 1/2 years! I left in 2008 and I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to go back again in 2012 to run the newly acquired New Zealand business, as interim CEO for nib New Zealand. I was over in Auckland for six months which was also a fabulous opportunity.
I also ran my own IT consulting business in between times which kept me busy. Now that I have retired from full-time work I have got a couple of non-executive roles: I am a non-executive director at the Greater Building Society and I am also a Trustee of Church Property for the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.
- What do you believe has shaped your leadership style?
Probably the opportunity to work in so many different environments and work with different organisations and different leaders. I am also a big fan of personality and psychometric testing. I have done many of those tests over the years and I find I always learn something new about myself which is great for developing self awareness, but also for learning different behavioural styles. I think that helps when you are leading lots of different people, to be able to understand a bit more where they are coming from.
Of course I have also had the opportunity to get feedback from some of the fabulous leaders I have worked with, and I think a little bit of honest feedback can help enormously when you are in one of those leadership positions. Try as you might you can’t always change your behavior but I have had some fabulous people to work for.
- What advice do you have for other businesswomen?
I think women, particularly in regional areas of Australia, need to grasp every opportunity that comes along. I believe it’s important to try different things, to take a few risks and not be afraid to fail at something.
I read recently that typically what happens when a new role is advertised is that women will only apply if they feel they meet 100 per cent of the criteria. Interestingly, for men, if they meet about 60 per cent of the criteria they know that they will be able to learn the rest of the role fairly quickly. So I think putting yourself out there and taking a few of those risks, and I guess having some role models around doesn’t hurt.
I was very fortunate to have some fabulous role models in my career, including people like Gail Kelly, ex CEO of Westpac. I worked with Gail many, many years ago and clearly she’s someone that wasn’t afraid to take a few risks and she wasn’t somebody who would then criticise people who wanted to take on new opportunities. She expected people to put up their hand and I think that is very important, for women especially. I know myself I wasn’t very good at self promotion, I didn’t put myself out there until one of my fabulous leaders pointed out to me that I was potentially going to be left behind if I didn’t start volunteering for a few new projects and a few new opportunities. But also when you get asked to speak at a conference or a small event, or even something like coming along to be videoed today, is something that makes everybody nervous but it is an opportunity to do a little bit of that self promotion.
- What do you believe makes business unique in the Hunter?
The incredible connections that we have. You hear people joke about it all the time saying you don’t get six degrees of separation. I think I am often surprised when I maybe get one or two degrees of separation and that is both at a business and a personal level. But of course that helps enormously in terms of networking, it also means you have to be true to yourself and honest and make sure that you don’t do anything hurtful or something that would upset you if you saw it on the front page of the newspaper. I think it is a wonderful feature of Newcastle that we have those benefits of working in a small country town even though we are a very large city.
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
There are so many. We are very fortunate to have lots in the Hunter region. I think first of all of Scott Morgan, current CEO at the Greater. Scott’s not only got an incredible intellect and a fabulous strategic view of the business. He is also someone who is very passionate about business, great communicator, loves to get the employees involved in the changes that we are going through at the moment. He has built a fabulous executive team around him which I think is putting us in a very good position.
Scott is also very well supported by our current Chairman, Wayne Russell. Wayne is one of those individuals that is incredibly busy but dedicates a huge amount of time to the Greater – but you wouldn’t know that he had any other priorities at all. He always makes you feel like you are his top priority. I think for myself being on the Board at the Greater as one of his fellow directors that is enormously important to me and to the rest of the team but also the CEO Scott Morgan – I think he finds it very helpful that Wayne can dedicate that amount of time.
Others, of course there are people that I worked with at nib ‚Äì Mark Fitzgibbon and his deputy Michelle McPherson, both extraordinarily talented people who are so determined to make sure nib stays as a leading force in their industry and just inspiring to watch.
Lots of other people, for example, Kristen Keegan, CEO of the Hunter Business Chamber. I worked with Kristen many, many years ago at the university and I think it was probably her first job while she was a university student and you could see even back then that she had that leadership potential that she has gone on to demonstrate.
A long list of people ‚Äì Gillian Summers at Lifeline, so many that spring to mind, I could go on all day!
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