July 23

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First Impressions

It’s been an intense first week on my PULSE assignment. I started in the Australian Programs department of Save the Children Australia (SCA)* on Monday.  I have been tasked with helping the Strategy and Growth group with governance, operating model and business systems improvements.  The timing of my arrival couldn’t have been any better.  There was a 3 day face-to-face senior management team meeting on Tuesday – Thursday.  This allowed me to meet the Australia Programs (AP) leadership team, including state managers and national team members (see photo below); and to participate in their strategy refocus and planning sessions.  This was the first meeting with the new Director of Australia Programs and new Head of Strategy and Growth.  Tuesday was a steep learning day for me, with the new faces, different subject matter and new terminology followed by a work dinner, which included the CEO.  My brain was frizzled by the time I got home.  The following days were less intense, with better understanding gained from repetition of concepts and terms.  The senior management team meeting provided me a great opportunity to learn about the ways of working within the Australian Programs team and with other departments and to participate in developing the future strategy.

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I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was getting myself in for when I signed up for my PULSE assignment. I had visions of living and working in a developing country with vastly different working conditions.  Being at the head office of Save the Children Australia is not too dissimilar those I am accustomed to at GlaxoSmithKline.  The office area is an open plan design, where you can sit anywhere depending on what time you arrive in the morning.  I have found a stand-up desk near a window, which should provide me some level of incentive to arrive early into the office.  There were even surprise bonuses such as 2 monitor screens per desk, a kitchen with crockery and cutlery, free tea/coffee and fruit, meditation classes and bring your kids or dogs to work.

Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. I’d been introduced to the CEO three times already by Tuesday evening.  Everyone is so passionate and knowledgeable about social justice issues, which is a little intimidating but also provides an opportunity for learning.  Meetings are started with an acknowledgment to the traditional owners of the lands throughout Australia and respects are made to elders past and present.  There is a concerted avoidance of using labels and I am sure that I will naively say something offensive; if I haven’t done so already (I apologize in advance).

The most striking observation this week was how corporate the working environment was Save the Children Australia. It surprised me how similar it was to GSK.  There appears to be many meetings and a high usage of white poster paper and post-it notes, especially in the senior management team meeting. Also, there were a high number of acronyms used, which I am still trying to learn.

By Friday, I was overwhelmed and ready for the weekend. To decompress, I watched “Paris Can Wait” (romantic comedy), found a yoga class on Saturday morning, visited the Victoria Market to buy some fruits and vegetables, had dinner with my mother and caught up with a friend to see the football, where the mighty Tigers had a surprise win against the Giants.  Would it be amazing if this was the year that the Tigers could pull it off and actually perform well in the finals?

Next week is where the rubber meets the road – when I need to identify specific objectives for my 6 month assignment at Save the Children Australia.

 

Footnote (*):

Save the Children is a global organization consisting of 30 member organizations, an umbrella organization (Save the Children International) and Country / Regional Offices. Save the Children Australia is a member organization, which provides direct services and programs to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; and supports international programs to non-member countries on behalf of Save the Children International.

From the 2016 annual report, Save the Children Australia supported 165 programs in 24 countries. The Australian Programs department has over 600 employees and supported 96 programs, in more than 200 sites within Australia (see main picture for map), working directly with over 25,000 children and adults to create positive, long-term change in areas of education, health and protection.