How many Identities do you have?
Firstly, I am a mum and wife and they are my most important identities. I am a mum to Darcie who is two and a half and I have another one on the way. I am also a career woman, having my own company Fratelle Group (an Architectural practice that I’m a Director of) but then I also hold a number of Non-Executive Director roles for Bethanie (aged care), LandCorp, and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA); both of which are WA Government land development agencies.
I also hold Volunteer positions within the property industry, focusing on Advocacy, which is something I am passionate about. I am a Division Councillor with the Property Council WA and a Chapter Councillor for the Institute of Architects.
How many hours a week would you dedicate on average to each of those identities?
I generally work a 4 day week in the office and I like to have at least one day per week at home with Darcie, however a lot of my work can be done at night. My average week will be between 40-50 hours and a lot of that is design work, research and trying to understand and keeping my finger on the pulse on what's happening within the property industry in Perth. Having your own company also means hours at night creating strategies for projects and business development. However, the most important thing for me has been to ensure that I have extra time at home for Darcie and I, which means I’m happy to give up personal time in order to do work stuff so I can spend time with her.
What made you decide to become a Board Member?
I saw it as the next step in my career and it seemed like a natural progression. I’ve been on these Boards for about 2 years, which at the time I thought I'd probably be moving into such roles within the next 5 or 6 years, however the roles were presented to me a lot sooner than I had anticipated, and I’m not one to turn down an opportunity. My first Board role was offered to me when Darcie was just 6 weeks old. In addition to running my own business, the various volunteering and Committee roles I have held over for my entire working career have meant I have built up the experience needed for these Board roles. I’ve been in this Industry for almost 20 years and I’ve always given time out to committees whether that be through the Property Council, Institute of Architects, Women in Construction or different advocacy groups.
How old were you when you sat on your first committee?
At University I was the President of the Architects Students Association at Curtin in my 3rd year, then once I left uni I moved on to the Emerging and Graduate Architects Committee through the Institute of Architects. I always maintained my volunteering roles and I was on the Committee for the National Association of Women in Construction for many years. I’ve always been one to find a cause that I’m passionate about.
How do you balance your career with being a mother?
The balance comes from a team partnership with my husband. We run Fratelle Group together so it’s a team effort at work and it’s a team effort at home. It’s all about being organised. I still get up and go to the gym in the mornings. I try to go 3-4 mornings a week, and Adrian and I swap days so he can also fit in his workout. This is so we can still maintain our sense of self but it’s all about being flexible and working together. Being present in the moment and in what I’m doing at that particular moment in time, whether it be with Darcie at work, working out, or spending time with family and friends is important to me.
What are your greatest career achievements to date?
Since the age of 11 I’ve always wanted to be an architect and one of my goals was to run my own practice by the time I was 30, which I did achieve. I set a subconscious goal which I always worked towards. I joined Fratelle Group back in 2009 and since then how we've grown! The key projects which stick in my mind the most are the ones which have changed communities for the better. One of the greatest things I enjoy as an architect is watching the general public interact with the space you’ve created and how it makes them change their behaviours and how they look, feel and operate within the space. There's two projects in particular, the first being the redevelopment of the Guildford Hotel which involved taking a burnt out building that had destroyed the heart of Guildford for 8 years and bringing that back to life!
The second was the development of Brownly Towers, which is government housing in Bentley. It was one of the worst crime locations in Perth and when the building was renovated it was 40 years old and the government was trying to bring Bentley back up through a complete urban renewal focus- and this was the first stage. When I initially went through the site I had to have a bodyguard with me and there were people living there who had been there for the past 40 years who just wanted to go about their day. Watching them change and appreciate the spaces they lived in was amazing. We did some art instillation's, including one where we took pictures of some of the oldest residents hands and imprinted them on the wall as hands tell you so many stories about people’s lives. To watch the residents interact with that and watching them appreciate the space was really amazing.
At Fratelle Group our motto is ‘connect to create’ which is very much what we live by and how we connect with clients and the community to create these projects. It’s not just a building, it's about how people interact with the space, which is really important for us. I did a talk in Singapore a few months ago where I talked about how I deal with different parts of my career on a Micro, Medium and Macro Scale. The micro scale was dealing with the advocacy work and all the policies as well as the state led property agendas I'm dealing with on the Property Council. Medium scale is how I’m trying to change communities through the work we do at Fratelle and the built form. Finally the macro scale is the strategic planning and the land development changes we are trying to do with LandCorp, MRA and Bethanie.
How do you balance the left brain vs right brain?
Architecture is a mixture of Art and Science and that's why I've always enjoyed it. You have that creative side where you’re designing the buildings, but then you have the strategic and business side of realising those designs through the construction and making them work financially. I’ve always been one to think outside the box and try to imagine the “what if”. I guess that’s why I have been chosen for the Board roles. I have been brought on for my expertise in architecture, and infill development to provide advice on growth potential and density in Perth. It leans in well with what I do day-to-day in my business, which I think is why I relate well to those particular roles.
What I enjoy about architecture is how the Built Form interacts with communities. The board roles and organisations I'm involved with are looking to change communities and improve Perth and WA for the better.
What would you say to Women out there who have contemplated joining a Board?
I think for women, whether they are working or not working, board roles are perfect for them to consider, particularly if you have had experience in a particular field where you can provide leadership and insight to a Board. Depending on what your area of interest is and what you are passionate about, there are those opportunities out there.
These opportunities came to me as I have been putting myself out there through various volunteer roles for various years. I did my Australian Institute of Company Directors Course at the Beginning of 2017 which was a great educational stepping stone for me to have. These Board roles don’t take up a lot of time for contact hours on a week-to-week basis except for meetings, but of course you have to put in the hours through doing research and reading.
A lot of the time women put restrictions on themselves and have confidence issues, they think they aren’t good enough for the role or don’t have the experience, but that's not true! Even when I'm mentoring a lot of graduates I have to remind them they are the only person who knows how much they know. As long as you educate yourself so that you are confident in a particular knowledge area, even if you don’t necessarily have the greatest understanding in that area, then people will still respect and value your input and your advice. Women shouldn’t hold themselves back. I always think why say no to something when you don’t know what will happen. Just say yes and you’ll make it work. This is what happened when I accepted my first Board role. I could have easily said no but it snowballed into me being offered the other two Board positions. It hasn’t been by accident- a lot of hard work has gone into those roles as well as ensuring I do speak up and that I'm a valued member in the meetings. But none of that would have happened If I had passed up on the first opportunity.
Have you seen a change in the WA mindset towards encouraging women to take on executive roles?
I have, definitely. It has become a lot more acceptable and people’s mindsets are changing, especially towards younger women in senior roles. I think the biggest key is the women in those roles have the confidence in themselves they believe they can do that job in the first place! Those opportunities aren’t offered to you unless other people have the confidence that you can do the job. I definitely think society is changing but I have to admit I was definitely nervous telling clients and other organisations about my second pregnancy, as I have only been in these roles for a short period of time. I was amazed that the reactions were completely positive. People have embraced it and have offered their congratulations and support, and like last time I will make my career commitments work with my personal changes. I shouldn’t have been nervous but it goes back to what I said before about women being their own worse critic.
What would you say to women in general who are fearful of moving into unknown areas and territories?
I'd say just take the chance and take the opportunity! It might mean there is some short term uneasiness whilst you adjust but I believe you always need some level of discomfort or business in your life in order to grow as an individual. I tend to get bored very easily and I’m always looking for the next big thing. Setting goals for yourself is something which is very important and having goals for each section of your life, whether you are consciously or subconsciously working towards them is important. If you don’t have goals then you won’t grow and you won’t have that level of self-satisfaction to measure how far you’ve come.
For me it’s not easy to always find a balance and fit everything in, however it is important to strive for that balance to create a better life for my family and for myself.