Monthly Archives: September 2017

A homecoming with fresh eyes

We’ve written about the benefits of Boomerang Hires, but what’s it really like to leave a company and return again a couple of years later?

Two years ago I left Slade Group to see what life was like on the other side. Having consolidated my internal recruitment and industry knowledge in a consulting role, I went back to professional practice to work in a mid-tier accounting firm.

I learned a lot sitting at that desk. While it taught me about different operating systems and processes, I also learned something about myself – essentially that this new job was not for me; recruitment was where I wanted to develop the next chapter of my career.

In my next role I worked for a niche professional services recruitment firm, where I specialised in forensics, insolvency and corporate finance. Sounds dry if you’re outside the industry, actually a pretty exciting time for me. It allowed me to upskill, while expanding my network in the professional services sector. I grew the business, met some influential people and made many successful placements. There were even a few parties.

However over the course of leaving Slade and working in those subsequent roles, I was discovering what motivated me and finding out how I could add value to the company I worked for, as well as client organisations.

As a returning employee, you have an objective viewpoint. You’ve had the opportunity of new experiences with other businesses and the benefit of seeing your former employer with fresh eyes. For me the culture at Slade, the integrity of its leadership and the trust the brand enjoys (evidenced by longstanding relationships with clients, candidates, and former employees – myself included) were deciding factors in making my return when the time was right.

Today employees change jobs a lot more often over the course of their careers, and there is certainly an advantage to learning new skills in a new organisation that you can bring back. Culturally coming back to Slade was easy because I understood and respected its values. Flexibility and adaptability are critical in today’s market. Being agile, learning from different organisations and observing how others work has allowed me to realise new opportunities for the team I now lead. Likewise, being a knowledge specialist is equally important: clients appreciate my understanding of business support roles and my experience in industry.

When moving on from a job people often talk about the negatives that motivated them to looking elsewhere. The positives for me are always the people, colleagues and clients, where I established relationships based on the authenticity of a personal connection to the business.

Coming back to Slade was like leaving home in my early 20s. Heading off on many adventures and returning to my family home a bit older and wiser than when I left. You are much more appreciative about being looked after and having your favorite things!  At Slade my ‘favourite things’ means quality systems and processes, ongoing training, clear values, flexibility with time arrangements to pick up on life’s vagaries, and of course my colleagues and clients. When I walked in the door, it felt like my team already knew me, like I was welcomed back from a holiday.  I’m not one to get too comfortable, I enjoy taking risks, and there’s much to be done, but it’s a nice feeling to boomerang back to our Slade family.

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From Temporary to Team Leader

Many moons ago I walked through the doors of Slade Group to register as a temporary candidate. I had just come off a self-imposed two month work break and I was finally done with lounging in pyjamas and drinking wine at midday.

I decided to register for temp work, as I had no idea what industry I wanted to be in, or even what I wanted to do. You see, I have a varied career past. I’ve been a business manager, office manager, payroll manager, purchasing officer, loan writer, accounts payable, accounts receivable, executive assistant, personal assistant, receptionist, cat wrangler, Jill of all trades…

Whilst it may seem that I have jumped from job to job, I’ve actually only worked for five companies in my entire career (of, cough, 18 years, cough). I’ve been lucky enough to secure roles with privately owned businesses who have allowed me to work my way through the ranks. I’m the type who wants to learn everything I possibly can about an organisation, trying on as many hats as I can during my time. Fortunately the companies I have worked for have allowed me to do just that.

Meeting with a wonderful consultant here at Slade, who was very happy to hear about my journey and understand my need to find my next challenge, I was recruited for an internal vacancy to provide annual leave cover, starting the following week. That was five years ago!

I’ve also been very lucky to have opportunities to grow and expand on my skills by working in different roles. I’ve supported the Chairman and Managing Director, which gave me amazing insights into how Slade ticks. I’ve been a consultant for both temporary and permanent placements, allowing me to see both sides of the recruitment process. Most recently I got to spend 18 months in the role of Operations Manager. This gave me in-depth understanding about quality, compliance and procedures – all of the back-of-house functions that affect everything my colleagues on the frontline do. I am inquisitive by nature, so this was right up my alley. I thrived in an environment where I could really sink my teeth into our systems and processes, and most importantly, improve on them to create a better experience for our clients, candidates and internal staff.

Fast forward to July this year where I took on the challenge of leading The Interchange Bench. I AM LOVING IT! I love that my team and I get to spend our days placing candidates in roles that, although they may start off as temporary, can lead to permanent positions. We enjoy making good matches, which are also the right matches, not just a body to fill a chair. In fact we won’t place someone at all if they are categorically not the right fit for the job. I think that’s why we love our jobs so much, we are matchmakers and home-finders. In some ways recruitment can be like RSVP, but that’s another conversation altogether.

Am I busy? Sure. Do I still have loads to learn? Most definitely. It certainly helps that I’m surrounded by a supportive management team who are here to see me grow, learn and excel. I’m excited for things to come here at The Interchange Bench – our team is growing, the company is evolving and I’ve got an important part to play in steering us in the right direction. I’ll be team Interchange Bench for a while… After all of my previous abodes, I think I am home.

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Would you get up early on a Sunday to see a house you couldn’t buy?

Image: Elgin Stree Residence, Sonelo Design

Elgin Street Residence – Sonelo Design Studio, photograph by Peter Bennetts

Like many real estate obsessed Australians, I’m fascinated by other people’s property, but I’m also passionate about good design. So while the opportunity for a lie in on the weekend is always appealing, I’ve been waiting some time for a spot to join modern and contemporary design expert Stephen Crafti, on one of his popular Melbourne architecture tours.

It’s an uncharacteristically sunny winter morning, the clear blue sky is enticing and while somewhere between five and ten degrees depending on your distance from the city, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. From the conversations around me at the meeting point cafe, off Toorak Road in South Yarra, our ‘small’ tour group (about 50 strong) is a quirky mix of architects, students, arty types and industry professionals. They’re at various stages of their careers or retired and the fashions as we board the tour bus, range from low brow to South-of-the-Yarra glamour, reflecting the diversity of those drawn to Crafti’s events.

Crafti himself, a successful author and regular contributor to The Age, as well as other newspapers, local and international design magazines, is as much a draw card as the open houses we are going to be seeing. His personal style (he’s sporting signature thick rim black glasses and a fedora today), enthusiasm for the subject matter and witty running commentary are also part of the experience.

Our first house at 15 St Helen’s Road, Hawthorn East, was built by Davey Architecture Studio in 1982, and John Davey lived and worked here for 25 years. Featured in the August 2017 edition of the The Boroondara Bulletin, Crafti describes it as 80s brutalist. Testament to Crafti’s literal ability to open doors, we’re met at the property by Davey, as well as current owners Phillip Schluter and Liz Wu. While the exposed concrete blocks, dark yellow corrugated columns and black steel framed windows (likened to the Pompidou modern art museum in Paris) no doubt appeared radical set amongst the neighbouring heritage homes at the time , ironically the whole back garden including the pool is now overshadowed by a two storey faux Georgian monstrosity. We’re told the original colour scheme had a fuchsia palette. Inside over split levels you can still find bright blue benches, but the pink carpet is gone and accent colours are now olive green. Some later additions are also eye catching: there’s two giant calligraphy prints hanging in the living room and a red peg board coat rack that work for me. Crafti has offered to redecorate with 80s furnishings. He’s both good natured and deadly serious.

We cross town to Kensington to see Tim Hill of TANDEM Studio’s own True North house at the corner of Eastwood and Parsons Street. Built in 2016, it has a just finished quality enhanced by the shiny corrugated façade and the deliberate absence of window coverings (still a point of contention between Hill and his partner). Privacy has nonetheless been considered in the siting of the building. Set on a triangular block that tapers from double front to a single room, it references the boomerang shape popular in 1950s design. Built-in seating and dare I say an almost caravan style dining table were made necessary by the rounded walls. With its bright inner courtyard, pin spot LEDs, light timber panelling walls and ceiling and exposed wardrobes, it has a contemporary Scandi feel. Hill has rescued a historic cottage and stables (heritage listing pending) at the rear, adding to the holiday feel. And yes, it’s occasionally rented out on AirBnB. TANDEM won a Commendation for the project in the 2017 Victorian Architecture Awards.

Back on the bus, Crafti says while some notable property owners are prepared to give him personal access to their houses, he’s only interested in those who feel benevolent to share their homes with the public. All of the places we visit are well lived in, certainly not display homes. Our hosts greet us with their partners, children, housemates and dogs. They’re wearing their weekend clothes, carrying their groceries or doing whatever they happen to be doing when we call on them, like visiting relatives. Although the mood is casual, months of planning goes into these tours. After lunch back in Toorak Road, we head Northside again.

Next is a tiny Victorian terrace on Elgin Street, Carlton, normally entered via a discreet doorway from a laneway behind Canning Street. Its façade blends with the period from the front; it’s disguised amongst a series of commercial use conversions at the rear. Architect Wilson Tang from Sonelo Design Studio has contrasted dark (dark timber window slats and black mirrored walls) and light (a bright loft bedroom and internal lightwell courtyard) in this small space. There are some clever modern touches, including folded steel stairs and folded metal shelves, perforated acoustic panels and a dining table on wheels that slides away for greater floor space. Contemporary light fittings also contrast with the older style front rooms, while wide timber floors and flush horizontal lines on the brick feature walls serve to anchor the high ceilings. Owner Arya Triadi is from Indonesia, bringing aspects of Bali style to create a shady space that anticipates the summer heat. The project is a strong example of Crafti’s argument that good design can make small spaces richer and more meaningful.

Our last stop is a real showstopper. From the street, 26 Hampden Road is a private enclosed bunker, a cross between fortress and art gallery, not quite what you might expect to find in the quiet streets of Armadale.  Designed by BE Architecture and featured in Australia by Design’s Top 10 Australian Homes, the build took 60 tonnes of granite. The tough exterior gives way to a luxurious interior where no detail has been spared. Hard surfaces extend to stainless steel kitchen benches and cupboards (repeated in a butler kitchen bigger that’s almost bigger than my apartment), which are softened by exquisitely crafted curved tiles in the laundry and bathrooms. Even the granite basins are textured from smooth to coarse. There’s a feast of contemporary artwork, including a MONA-esque LED screen installation (a video of fluorescent tubes). A brass balustrade leads up to an oculus skylight and a Japanese inspired garden off the master bathroom, complete with freestanding granite bath and a cute outdoor shower. Of course there’s a beautifully integrated swimming pool, overlooked by a Julliette balcony from the living room. The automatically controlled upper storey window shutters and underground car parking (accessed by a lift) could be triumphs of engineering. Owners Russell and Ros are unobtrusively present while architect Andrew Piva takes final questions from our group.

We finish the tour with a drive by of some extraordinary Holgar & Holgar Toorak mansions from last century (vulgar and vulgar to some, Crafti points out), each suitably OTT. While he’s carefully avoided making his architecture tours into Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and the experience has been both authentic and entertaining, the one thing missing has been a beautiful garden – none of the properties we’ve seen has really had one. As the day concludes I’m hankering for what Crafti will have to show us on the next tour… perhaps a stunning home with landscaping to match or an inner city pad with a carefully curated balcony that’s overflowing with greenery, like my place.

Are you a subject matter expert on a creative industry with a unique Point of View? How have you turned your creative passion into a successful career in the world @work?

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A view from Berlin

As a detox for work addiction, in late 2016 my wife suggested it was time we took a sabbatical. And now in September 2017 that rhetoric is well and truly a reality. Like many business owners and leaders, it’s taken me many years to move from taking two weeks off at a time to three, so the idea to go ‘cold turkey’ and take three months took a while to settle. Anita was always going to study to improve on her rusty conversational German, but what was I going to do during endless months in Berlin?

I thought I would pen my impressions of this city before returning home. Steering clear of any sort of meeting that doesn’t include a wine or a bike path, my observations are more cultural than business, but still, from my day-to-day interactions and observations, I think I am building up a picture of their world @work, and life in general.

Visible history

Berlin’s history is fascinating and also highly visible. Everything from the Brandenburg Gate to the Holocaust Memorial to the Reichstag (seat of government), Museum Island, Eastside Gallery, Tempelhof Airport, the Tiergarten, the 1936 Olympic Stadium, Alexander Platz and even the palaces at Potsdam and Charlottenburg tell a piece of German, Prussian, Nazi and post WWII history. What is also impressive is that so many of these places were rebuilt after 1945 (a guided bicycle tour over five hours provided a brilliant overview).

Getting around

Even more impressive is the warmth of the people here and their apparent willingness to embrace foreigners; visitors and refugees alike. Of particular note is that with literally millions of bikes on the roads (only 30% of Berliners own cars), the patience and courtesy extended by road users has to be seen to be believed. I’m riding around 20 km a day on my bike, every trip, everywhere and I feel a freedom that one doesn’t experience driving a car. It’s many years since I rode a bike with any regularity, and the no lycra, everyday, every trip form of transport, with a road system that puts bikes and pedestrians first, means we could take a good look at Berlin. Now, what a good idea for a parliamentary study tour…

Daily life (and death)

I’m a proud Melburnian, but I have a lot to learn from a city like Berlin. I haven’t seen one display of road rage and everyone just seems to get on with life in a cool, calm, and dispassionate way, whilst giving due regard to their fellow human beings. Statistically there’s a 50% less chance of being murdered in Berlin than Melbourne (but by the number of people I see smoking, they probably die in less obvious circumstances)!

German efficiency

With a nod to German efficiency all forms of public transport seem to run on time. They’ve also turned their mind to creating efficiencies in hospitality: with two of my sons in town last week, we went to Klunkerkranich, a unique and vast rooftop-on-a-carpark bar. The 1 euro deposit on every glass and bottle means patrons return their glasses, the bar saves on labour costs and the tables essentially self-clean compliments of patrons. In fact all forms of recycling seem to be light years ahead of Australia. The other thing that has particularly struck me has been the relative cost of living compared to Melbourne. Most of the essentials seem to be about half to two thirds the cost of the same items in Melbourne and dining out is much the same – food is great too, although it’s with a bit of schadenfreude that I think eating out in Melbourne is better.

Over and out

The facts and fallout of Germany’s modern history are confronting, but a history raked over, and over, and over, is better than one swept away.

Lastly, Berlin seems to be a place where creativity is fostered, resourcefulness encouraged and originality embraced. It’s a young city, vibrant, cosmopolitan, and on the go. Ich liebe Berlin – but looking forward to being home again too.

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