Academy Xi Blog

Behind the scenes: how Academy Xi drives student success

By Academy Xi

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Businesses want to be customer-centric, but few come close. How do we put our students front and centre, and deliver the best-in-class training in the digital space? Let’s take a look behind the scenes. 

Continuous learning is not just another fad: for many, it’s now a part of life. Learners from all backgrounds are flocking to short, skills-focussed training more than ever before. Motivations vary wildly – from kickstarting careers to reclaiming confidence, from helping businesses soar to simply learning for enjoyment. 

Check how we at Academy Xi, Make it Happen, for you and your future. 

So what does Academy Xi do differently to deliver the best experience and outcomes for our students? 

Sounds cheesy, but it really is a team effort, weaving human-centred design principles into everything we do. We chat to our leadership to learn more. 

Product Development 

Tiffany McHugh, Head of Product (Learning), explains Academy Xi’s approach to delivering highly engaging content for online learning. 

The Product Team at Academy Xi is made up of highly experienced, technically skilled learning designers who are using Human Centred Design principles to create world class online learning – essentially practising what we preach! With backgrounds from instructional design, teaching, education management, and multimedia design & production, the team uses a mix of learning theory and digital practices to design experiences, not just course content. 

At the heart of it, we aim to demystify technology in a rapidly changing industry. Our job is to explain complex ideas in simple terms, using plain friendly language, supported by plenty of real world examples and industry stories. No lofty jargon, no unexplained terminology, no intimidating concepts – we aim to make our courses as accessible as humanly possible. 

Our courses are particularly unique in that we create our own learning frameworks; these are deeply researched, co-designed with industry experts, and delicately balanced sets of design, business and technical skills that employers in digital industries want. These frameworks underpin all course material we create in-house, ensuring we deliver the learning outcomes students need for their careers now, and into the future. 

The result is a suite of online courses that give students the perfect mix of skills, practice and knowledge they need to confidently advance their careers, or even start a new career

The courses are easy to progress through, using a combination of multimedia content, plenty of interactivity, lots of social engagement opportunities and regular learning support from the mentors and student experience teams. Our learning platform is specifically selected for the best user experience possible, and feedback confirms this to be true – our students love it! 

Learning is a two-way conversation, so we design-in plenty of opportunities for learners to check their growing capability, get feedback and test ideas with others.

We also update our course content regularly to make sure what we teach is as current and fresh as you will find anywhere in the world. 

I was blown away by how the course was put together and loved the fortnightly catch ups with my group. The course structure and delivery kept us all engaged with the topics we were covering each week and a lot of the resources were very comprehensive and super helpful. I liked the mixture of mediums used for course instruction – video content, written and live tutorials – it worked well. I also really enjoyed the quizzes and having break out rooms to discuss concepts with my classmates.” – Imogen Abandowitz, Digital Marketing Elevate graduate

Student Experience

Chris Veness (Head of Design & Business Portfolio)  and Renju Phillip (Head of Technology Portfolio) chat to us about how the student experience is shaped by mentors and the student support team. 

The Academy Xi Student Experience team has a combined 30 years of expertise in delivering online education and building digital capability. The team’s commitment to delivering a first-class learning experience for our students really sets us apart.

Our learning model empowers students to not only absorb new (and sometimes complex) concepts, but also put what they learn into practice right away. 

We do this by engaging some of the world’s best industry practitioners as our ‘Mentors’. With backgrounds ranging from Customer Experience to UX Design and Data Analytics to Software Engineering, these qualified professionals know what first-class looks like and are very passionate about sharing their knowledge.  

Every person who chooses to study our courses achieves the highest level of commitment and support from our team to ensure they succeed – in the course, and beyond graduation.

We pride ourselves on our small class sizes, which allow students to participate more fully in discussions and get to know each other more intimately.

Academy Xi online training was completely different. I made so many new connections and I felt a sense of community that I didn’t with university training. The class sizes were small, so we actually got to know each other – it was way more engaging.” – Oshi Paranavitane, UX UI Design Transform graduate

Our live sessions are run by Mentors who provide far more than just training –  they supply our students with operational perspectives from their current industry practices, using client scenarios and real case studies to bring the learning to life.

“There’s always this question in your mind of whether I could have learned it on YouTube. You see a lot of stories around software developers or engineers self learning on Udemy. But where this course distinguishes itself is the real people – a supportive peer to peer network. Making use of the unlimited mentoring sessions was critical. [My mentor] Albert did a great job and I didn’t know initially that you could book time with him everyday, but then, after a few weeks when I did that, and started accelerating – it made all the difference.” 

– Barry Nguyen, Software Engineering Transform graduate

Our courses are all designed such that our students learn by doing, and walk away with immediately applicable practical skills. Projects are therefore an important cornerstone of each course. Depending on the course, these may be real-world client projects, or personal projects. 

Live client projects are a unique feature of our Transform courses, which really take learning to the next level. Students work on real business problems and deliver their solutions using learned skills. Our students graduate with real world experience and exposure to relevant industry practices… and have the portfolio or github profile to showcase these projects. 

Our unique training and delivery model ensures the highest level of success to best prepare our graduates for any interview.

“I went in with high expectations, which were all met. I totally understand why people recommend this course, and in particular, Hayden… [the training and project] absolutely enabled me to get the job with Westpac.” –  Yuka Mochizuki, UX UI Transform graduate

Career Support 

Will Phillips, Head of Career Support & Talent Services, explains the different tools used to empower our Transform graduates to secure jobs in their field of choosing.

Everyone’s journey is different when it comes to their career path, and here at Academy Xi we provide our graduates with the tools, support and guidance to help them take that first step towards achieving their individual goals and landing that dream job. During their Transform course students have access to our digital Career Toolkit which establishes the foundations needed to be job market ready, covering topics such as resumé writing, crafting the perfect cover letter, building a personal brand and harnessing the power of LinkedIn for your job search. 

Post-course our graduates can opt into our industry-leading Career Support Program where they have access to a Career Coach to help refine their job search strategy, in a one-on-one setting. As participants in the program, the graduates are in the driver’s seat and are accountable for their own job search, with the Academy Xi team on hand to help them navigate the employment market, providing insights, advice and guidance where necessary. Everything from interview preparation, networking tips and mindset coaching is available as part of the Career Support program, which is tailored to each participant’s needs through our personalised approach.

Our Talent Services team are focused on creating awareness within industry about the pipeline of graduates coming through our courses and tap into our extensive network of employers to seek out potential opportunities that might be the right fit for someone at the start of their new career.

As a team, what motivates us is seeing our graduates land that first role and transform their careers into something new and exciting. We are very proud that 9 out of 10 of our active participants in the Career Support Program land a role in under 180 days. In many ways this last phase is the toughest part of the whole course, it’s not easy to get your foot in the door and it takes a lot of drive and determination. A job search is challenging and there is no golden ticket or cheat sheet to achieve instant results. Everyone’s path is different and those graduates who put in the hard yards and stay motivated are the ones that make it happen.

“The practical up-to-the-minute advice from Dan and the Career Support team was absolutely outstanding. Being able to practice for mock interviews and talk through how to best approach my non-linear career journey, and compose my own narrative for the job market, was critical to land my new role shortly afterwards.” 

Alessio Somma, Service Design graduate

In the words of Matt Hill, Co-CEO, “It’s absolutely fantastic to hear these success stories – from both students and corporate clients –  as it reinforces that our approach to learning is delivering tangible individual and business outcomes. It’s so pleasing to see teams come together to deliver a fantastic result for our students and clients.” 


With Academy Xi, you can make it happen. 

For your business. For your career. For your team. For your future. 

To learn more about our courses for individuals and teams, contact us at or 1300 098 165.

Academy Xi Blog

Tribe Spotlight: Marina Chelak

By Academy Xi

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Our Community Programs Manager, Marina, is celebrating her 3 year anniversary working at Academy Xi. We chatted about her journey so far (and discovered she’d quite like to give diamond mining a whirl…). 

Tribe Spotlight: Marina Chelak

Hi Marina! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. 

First up, can you describe your role in three words?

Creator of opportunities.

Casting your mind back…do you remember your first day at Xi?

I do, actually! I especially remember my second day because it was a colleague’s birthday. The Melbourne team were discussing how to surprise him; so I decided to get some helium birthday balloons. Later that day I discovered that you have to order them in advance – I had no idea as it was my second week in Melbourne and Australia in general. I’d recently moved after living in Europe for five years.

Anyway, I spent the whole night googling and I managed to get the balloons. I was glad I could add some brightness and contribute to his birthday. On that day, I also realised how cool and caring the whole team in Melbourne was.

I remember from my first day being really impressed with the onboarding process. It was on Trello back then. It seemed so organised and fun at the same time and it made me look forward to everything else that was going to follow.

How has your job at Xi changed over the years?

This is the part I like the most about my work as my role has changed a few times. This has given me the chance to explore different areas of the business.

When I first joined Xi, I started as a Campus and Events Coordinator. I was the sidekick to our Events Manager by day and a “Campus Director” by night when we had our evening courses going on after hours.

I loved how dynamic my work was, how many interesting people I was meeting and how much I was learning from them all on a daily basis. During that role I learnt how to own whatever I was doing and to never diminish the value of even the smallest tasks, because it’s all those small details which make great experiences.

I am grateful for my team making me think about my work this way back then. I’ve lived and breathed that insight throughout my work since.

A few months into the Campus and Events role, I transitioned over to being the Events Producer after the opportunity to step up became available. It was hard farewelling my Manager, as I felt like I still had so much to learn from him, but this was also when the Melbourne team came to support me the most. Thanks to them, I was able to continue growing our community through a variety of multiple events and meetups, bringing together people willing to share and learn from each other. 

After a year and half working with events, I had a big change and moved over to our (then) newly established B2B team. I was working with an audience that was new to me – corporate. 

Always open to a new challenge and adventure, I happily jumped into it and I’ve learnt heaps of new skills including business development and how to run online events.

Despite having a great team and manager, I realised how much I was missing the presence of community in my life and that it was in fact what I’ve been so passionate about all this time.

Luckily at Xi people usually get recognised for their interests and they end up where they truly belong. That’s how I made the move into my current role as Community Programs Manager, where I run our community-based In-Residence mentoring program, connecting our students with experts. This supports them to a faster transition into their new industry.

You’ve had quite the journey so far! How did you first learn about Academy Xi?

I started looking for a job in Australia when I was still in Europe. I applied for a role at Academy Xi before even moving here. At the time I’d never heard about Xi – I just found the job ad quite catchy! 

Back then I was looking for work in both tourism and event industries, but I was very keen to work in a start-up.

Two days after arriving in Melbourne from Europe, I had my interview with Academy Xi. I remember I was very jet-lagged but it was the best job interview I’d ever had.

How do you balance your career at Xi and your personal life?

There were times when my work at Xi was my focus – but I loved it because I was in a stage of accelerated growth and learning. I was very excited about having what I had professionally. 

With time, as my priorities in life started changing, I felt more work-life balance in my day to day. I’ve felt that there has always been an option for having that balance – it’s really about how you choose to approach it, how you want that work-life ratio to be.

However, I’ve been so lucky to work with people who I consider my friends that at the end, the border between personal life and work becomes blurred anyway.

How has Xi helped you in your career development?

Xi has always been a place where I could experiment – where I could try without being too afraid to fail. The experiences I’ve had have helped me to discover where I stand in terms of my skills, passion and capabilities. 

Since the first day I’ve had the freedom to do the work my way and when needed, I’ve always had the support of my team. Having such great conditions for applying my creativity, while at the same time having the feeling of safety and support, has definitely been a catalyst for my career growth and development at Academy Xi.

It’s important to emphasise that when I say Academy Xi, I mean people who I’ve worked with in the company. You know the saying that you’re the average of people who you’re surrounded with. Well, my average has grown tremendously after I joined the team and I continue to learn from them every single day.  

If you could job swap with anyone else within Academy Xi, whose role would you want?

If you’d asked me this question a year ago, I could’ve given you a more interesting answer, but at the moment, I am very much in the place I want to be.

However, our Product team does some fascinating things, the way they build our courses. I believe my curiosity would like to explore what it’s like to be a Learning Designer for a day.

What is your proudest accomplishment or moment here at Academy Xi? Or favourite project?

All smiles at the International Women's Day Event in Melbourne, hosted by Stone and Chalk
All smiles at the International Women's Day Event in Melbourne, hosted by Stone and Chalk

Throughout the last three years, I’ve had a few projects and accomplishments that I am proud of. 

One of them is Pitch X Night – a pitching competition for the startups, which was born before I stepped into the role, but I was able to revive it together with the other two amazing Melbourne communities: YBF Ventures and The Silicon Beach. This event involved way more stakeholders and elements than any other Xi event and it’s preparation took at least 2-3 months.

The complexity of it and the impact it had on the lives of the entrepreneurs who were just at the beginning of their start up journey at the time was what made it special to me. Among the winners were some startups that are still on the market now and some of them are quite successful. The ideas that the Pitch X Night and the prizes that the winners received played at least a small part in their success today makes me proud and happy!

Of course, I can’t stop myself from speaking about the current In-Residence Program that I run – this is my favourite project so far. It’s the program I’ve been involved in from the very beginning and I’d love to grow further. Working with incredible people, creating opportunities for their growth, development, showing them that they can make a huge impact on other people’s lives and in the industry they work in, is what gives purpose to my own work. 

Before working at Academy Xi, what was the most unusual or interesting job you ever had?

While studying at Uni in Russia, I had a part-time job as a Mechanical Computer Engineer. I was the only female in the team of men that built personal computer system units and tested them before sending them to the retail shop. 

Marina – you’re on the homestretch now. Some quickfire questions to end our time with you today!

Embarrassing work moments?

I have a really bad memory, but I believe that if I had a really embarrassing moment at work, my colleagues wouldn’t allow me to forget it!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?

Helena Bonham Carter

If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?

Diamond miner

Motto or personal mantra?

Work smart, not hard

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

I worked as an accountant for 4 years

You’re happiest when?

When I do what I like, be it traveling, enjoying delicious food together with friends, working on a project I’m passionate about or getting myself into another new hobby!

Academy Xi Blog

EdConnect Case Study

By Academy Xi

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When empathy isn’t a given: Department of Education on redesigning relationships [Case Study]

Completing the unit on time while bandaging scraped knees? A teacher’s everyday job. Answering 3,000 calls a day and managing 60,000 queries a month from every school across NSW? An EdConnector’s remit. When communication lags and empathy dissolves between the two parties, few problems get solved. 

That’s where Service Design and Customer-Centricity come in handy. 

EdConnect (part of NSW Department of Education) hired Academy Xi to help enhance communication and build empathy between its Help Desk staff and teachers across NSW. Instantly effective, the training was then scaled across the entire EdConnect organisation. 

The Department of Education’s roll-out of the SAP finance system was a decision that impacted all NSW public schools. As EdConnect solves technical issues and gives expert advice to schools in critical financial areas, they were a core player in the roll-out. 

EdConnect staff provide advice in areas like accounts payable, accounts receivable, transactional banking, assets, master data, and taxation. If it’s a complex issue, the call goes to an internal expert in one of these areas and those teams will resolve the issue with the customer and the school. With four contact centre locations in Bathurst, Newcastle, Wollongong, and Parramatta, EdConnect contact centres receive around 60,000 inquiries a month and roughly between 3K-4K calls a day. 

This can lead to a lot of frustration if communication isn’t efficient. 

What EdConnect needed from teachers was patience and understanding, and to see that admin weren’t a “jack-of-all-trades,” capable of waving a magic wand to solve all problems on the spot. 

“There are a number of ways schools can help things run as smoothly as possible, such as ensuring correct processes are followed and working together with the EdConnect team to get the support they need,” said Reece Mahoney, Director of the EdConnect Contact Centre. “What would be great for the schools before they call is if they’d advise of what they’ve already tried, whether they’ve looked at a handbook or an online guide, just advise what they’ve tried and what’s failed, and then we can get straight to the problem quicker for them.”

Meanwhile, teachers needed the same thing from EdConnect staff. With countless activities, responsibilities, and tasks to balance every day at school, they needed EdConnectors to appreciate the urgency of their issues and the time it might take for them to adopt EdConnect’s recommendations.

On both sides, receiving and supplying what was needed required a substantial amount of mutual understanding, and that’s where Academy Xi stood out as the perfect fit for the job. 

As part of their “Embedding Empathy” project, the EdConnect team and NSW schools used Xi’s help to increase empathy and understanding between individuals and teams. 

Part one of the training resulted in the creation of a Playbook outlining more human-centred behaviour to be adopted within the EdConnect team. An online booklet, flashcards and videos with practical tips were also developed for the team. 

 Part two involved scaling the initiative across EdConnect and all its departments, with rapid training programs designed to be self-sustaining once Academy Xi had finished its work. 

Digging into the problem

After 37 hours of research across eight different locations—which included desktop research, market and competitor research, customer interviews, stakeholder interviews, and contextual inquiries—Academy Xi helped EdConnectors and teachers unearth five major insights about their relationships and goals:

  1. Empathy is about balancing the needs of all customers.
  2. EDConnectors want synergy, not silos.
  3. An EDConnect interaction is part of a broader customer journey.
  4. Internal networks are seen as the easier option.
  5. Change is a constant for EDConnect and schools.

Staff on both sides discovered that there was a “lack of understanding and clarity on how teams can work together” and that many team members were “reluctant to adopt changes due to technology gaps and the volume of change.” They were able to dispel certain biases, such as the common refrain from teachers that “If I call [the centre], it’s going to take a while,” and instead show teachers that “99.9% of people want to do the best by the customer.” 

Co-designing a solution

The goal of the project was twofold: 1) Create a Way of Working (WoW) framework that supported individuals to think and work more collaboratively and 2) Use this framework to drive empathy across the organisation.

For this particular task, co-design was the obvious choice. 

“Co-design allows for the design approach to take place with stakeholders and business representatives, rather than alongside,” says Eric Lutley, Academy Xi’s Head of Partnerships. “When we work closely with an organisation to embed the design approach, capability is continuously built over the life of a project. This capability remains in-house long after we have departed ensuring the long-term success of the project. Importantly, this also allows the project to run at a much faster pace and decreases the need for a lengthy sign-off process.” 

What’s more, co-design means the long-term benefits will be even greater.  

“Having people in the organisation who have experienced the journey and understand in detail each decision point, we naturally created an internal group of people who championed the benefits of the project and will support it post go-live,” Faoro says. “Co-design also ensured that any outcomes not only align to the needs of our customers but also the strategies of the organisation.” 

Mapping different perspectives

As part of the Service Design Thinking process, teams created EDConnect Personas, which were workshopped using a behavioural matrix based on findings from the research across the various EDConnect teams. The behaviours were grouped and mapped, and aligned to the following axis:

  1. Individuals who value fixed processes vs. individuals who seek alternative ways of doing things
  1. Individuals concerned about change vs. individuals with a positive regard for change

Part of the power of this exercise was to show that Personas are not a one-size-fits-all classification, and individuals within the organisation may not resonate strongly with one specific persona. 

“They are there as a broad consideration point to ensure you think about a new approach from multiple perspectives and how it would be perceived or adopted by different audiences,” Faoro explains.

Creating Personas is an exercise in empathy itself, as it leads teams to rethink the preconceived notions they might have about certain groups or individuals and to, somewhat ironically, resist the urge to throw all individuals into one category or another.    

Using human-centred tools

With the help of Academy Xi, the EdConnect Team created a Playbook containing Tools, Templates & Plays that specifically helped EDConnectors overcome frustrations within the organisation. 

The Playbook contained the new EDConnect Way of Working (WoW) capabilities, including the Tools & Plays that would help embed those capabilities across the organisation, forming the future of EDConnect’s service design. 

For instance, to facilitate the “Achieving Service Excellence & Innovation Through Human-Centred Design” capability, participants were directed to do the following:

  1. Create a succinct set of Way of Working capabilities that align to the Way of Working strategy and framework as well as to the broader Public Sector Capability Framework and ecosystem.
  1. Create a set of practical, future-focused Performance Criteria for each capability at three levels of performance: Foundational, Intermediate, and Advanced.

These initial activities then led to two key sets of capabilities: the “Be”s and the “Do”s. 

  1. “Be” Capabilities: A higher-order set of mindsets that overarch all company operations, these capabilities allowed staff to support, practise, and apply certain behaviours in projects, everyday activities, and interactions, helping the organisation move progressively toward a human-centred culture and build its capacity to achieve human-centred outcomes and innovations.
  1. “Do” Capabilities: A set of practical skills specific to a human-centred design methodology, these skills allow staff to conduct activities throughout the double-diamond framework, and are used in tandem with “Be” capabilities. 

In addition to the Playbook, EdConnectors participated in a Training the Trainers program called “Walk in My Shoes,” which reinforced the goals of delivering a new Way of Working, learning new capabilities, and embodying a human-centred mindset.

Transforming communication 

EDConnectors and schools reported substantial gains in empathy and inter-team communication as a result of the Embedding Empathy project. 

One key to the project’s success was direct, face-to-face communication between EdConnectors and teachers. Directly connecting with actual school staff gave EdConnectors a new-found perspective and enthusiasm for their clients, and schools reported being highly engaged and gaining appreciation for EDConnect’s approach.

“Quantitative data does not paint a picture,” one EdConnector said. “The stories [schools] painted for us was the most powerful outcome.”

Reflecting on the program outcomes, another participant reported, “Importantly, the staff were not just telling the stories from the schools that they visited—they also described how it made them feel.”

Academy Xi provided a “comfortable learning environment” that allowed EdConnect participants to be “very collaborative when creating the empathy map and school profiles.”

As an added benefit, engaged participants went on to engage and inspire others who hadn’t been involved in the training directly. For that reason, selecting the right participants was also a key to program success, and to self-sustaining, continued training within the organisation.

If empathy builds trust, then trust promotes clear communication. Whether it’s juggling phone calls or lesson plans, both EdConnectors and teachers now feel well-equipped to handle problems that arise on a daily basis. Academy Xi showed up with the right tools for the job, but it was the trainees who empowered themselves to solve their own problems in the future.  

Academy Xi Blog

International Women’s Day

By Academy Xi

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This International Women’s Day 2021, we honour our leading ladies of the Xi Tribe. Making up almost 50% of the team – we lead with inclusion and equality first. 

Thank you to the Xi Women – Inma, Kerry, Kritika, Lei, Leola, Marina, Olivia, Patsy, Ranji, Sharna, Syakirah, Tiffany and Vivian. We are grateful for all of you, and also shout out the amazing Xi men who work alongside us everyday.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme of “Women in Leadership” is something which we asked the tribe to reflect on. Have a read through our responses below.

“Who are the leading women / woman in your life?”


The leading women in my life are: 

  • My Mum – for teaching me that all my problems can be solved after a good night’s rest. 
  • My Wife – for teaching me that I can’t control what people do but I can control how I react to people. 

The incredible women I work with: 

  • Lei – That leadership is a choice and not a rank. 
  • Marina – That listening is more powerful than speaking


A few leading women in my life I don’t interact with directly, but I believe are impacting the wider world profoundly. There is a new breed of world leader, women who lead with heightened empathy for their people.

At Academy Xi we teach students to design and lead using empathy as a tool, and I believe leaders such as Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel personify this. Their ‘less confrontation / more listening’ approach is important because it works. Role models like them (and the lack of success of their opposites) could be the start of a shift in leadership style the world over.


I feel very fortunate to have grown up within the filipino culture which is marked by strong matriachical roots. Within my own family we have a history of women (my grandmothers, my mum, my aunts) who not only ran households but ran their own businesses or actively participated in the workforce. Their example taught me very early on in life about resilience and leadership.

As I reflect on this year’s IWD theme “Women in Leadership” I fully appreciate the significance of sharing the stories of the leading women in my family with my two young daughters. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see. 


The leading women in my life are my two grandmothers.

On my mother’s side is my very ‘young-at-heart’ and spritely grandmother. She is always on the go, preparing food, Skyping family all over the world on her iPad and rarely sits down to take a break. I can barely keep up!  

On my father’s side is my grandmother who just turned an impressive 102. She took up painting as a hobby only in the last 12 years and has a beautiful collection of artwork to show for it. She has also kept up her singing skills from her younger years.

I find it inspiring that both my grandmothers have never stopped learning and developing their skills – whether that be in the realm of new technology or creative hobbies. I believe this type of mindset is what keeps us happy and ‘young’. 


The leading woman in my life is my own coach. She stretches me beyond measure. When we do uncomfortable things, we grow. 


In the business setting, our Chief People Officer, Lei Iglesia plays a critical role in ensuring that our most important asset(s) – our people – work in a safe, supportive and productive environment. Lei’s ability to ensure that communication and information is regularly flowing around the business is unmatched, and sets the tone as to what a great leader looks like – showing genuine empathy; offering trusted advice and support; and being bloody great at her job!

Without Lei’s leadership, the Executive team just wouldn’t be the same, and the wider business wouldn’t run so smoothly. Lei is a trusted colleague, an integral member of the Exec team, and a fantastic leader!


I’m so fortunate to have so many amazing women in my life. My mother Lynne, of course, the woman who has battled it all, raised three beautiful children. A brave person who has explored the world, seeking truth within the unknown. She has always been the person that has supported me to follow my dreams, to be true to myself, and has held a tremendous amount of trust for me. I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without her support.

My eldest sister Laura and niece Ella, until she made me an uncle, I did not truly understand what it meant to be a mother and the challenges/rewards that come with it. Motherhood is underrated by those who haven’t been exposed to it as an adult.

My sister has inspired me to raise my children like her, and my eagerness to bring a powerful, intelligent, curious baby girl like Ella into this world. Empowering her with all that I can provide.

My youngest sister Jacki who left her corporate career in the UK to follow her passion, to pursue what truly matters. I’ve been blown away by her wisdom and courage to face her fears, step out of her comfort zone and not be afraid to challenge the status quo. Her elevate worldview and perspective holds a level of maturity that is way beyond her years.

My close friend and pseudo-sister Saskia is someone that I have always admired. Some whose extroverted charisma can get any job or task done. She’s a mum who is not afraid of any challenge and can skillfully balance multiple things at once with absolute finesse. Being a mother does not slow her down or stop her from life, if anything it has made her stronger and more resilient.


I have always gravitated towards female friendships. Interestingly, the older I get, the stronger and more steadfast a lot of these friendships become. There are a couple of fantastic women around me who carve their own path. They take risks when things aren’t obvious or clear. 

One good friend moved to New York with her husband when he landed a job over there. Far from being a ‘trailing spouse’, she has started her own business, podcast and worked remotely for the better part of the last two years. She saw the opportunity and grabbed it. 

Another close friend recently stood up to some workplace harassment when it would have been much easier to remain silent. She decided to speak up despite her concerns around what it would do to her career. She is brave, resilient and her company listened. What a remarkable example to set for the other women around her.

And then there is my Mum. Staunch feminist, attended university during the progressive 60s, attended rallies. She then decided to boost her own career in her 50s by deciding to move overseas for a new role and career promotion. Now in her 70s and into retirement, she is still leading a pretty daring life.


I can’t imagine life without my mum, Jasvinder Kaur, hands down the most inspiring woman in my life. Her actions always speak louder than words. She might not say “I love you” often, but she proves it every single day, and has been the glue that has held our family together during some tough times. Always going above and beyond for those she loves, being a rock that we can all lean on and smashing ceilings at work – she’s the best and motivates me to be the best and happiest version of myself too. 


All the women in my family have experienced so many things, good and bad, to be where they are right now. They’re not perfect but nor am I—and I think that’s what makes them amazing—the imperfections that tell you the years of hard work, perseverance, and freedom that brought them to good places in their lifetime. I haven’t been home in almost four years, and I miss them a lot.


Greatful to have so many women-spirations in my life. But to narrow down one, it has to be Halimah Yacob. She is the first Female, Malay-Muslim, Hijabi PRESIDENT OF SINGAPORE. That’s right. She is the current president of one of the most populous, advanced and thriving nation in the world. What inspires me is how she has been breaking the glass ceiling since she started her career. She became the first Malay-Muslim woman to become a Member of Parliament (MP), she was also the first female to hold the position of Speaker of Parliament.

Undoubtedly her success being the minority of minorities (female + mother + Malay + Muslim + Hijabi) have not come without criticism. When she first took office as a MP, she was asked “Who would take care of your children?”. She responded gracefully to her male counterparts pointing out that none of the male MPs were asked the same question, then stating that taking care of children is not solely a woman’s responsibility, it should be shared equally between husband and wife! #legend

All these while being a strong advocate for mental health issues and establishing two rehab centres.


The woman who I look up to each day, the woman who I call my hero, and my bestfriend is my Mom.  Growing up, my mum has been a fighter – and have  persevered in the most difficult of situations. But even so, she never lost sight of hope nor did she lose faith in the power of kindness. For the greater good, she has been selfless and taught me to think of the world greater than myself – ultimately, to help those in need  &  understand the importance of empathy.

Also – to never underestimate the impact of giving, however big or small; whether it would be the old & fragile,  those with disabilities, children without a home, or even pets who are abandoned. She inspires me to be my best self and to serve goodness to the greater community – in whichever way I can because at the end of the day, in her own words “you never know, you can start the change for someone else’s life


I’m blessed to have so many amazing women who have played integral roles in my life. But there is one woman who I’ve always looked up to since I was a child – Elma Fleming.

I run a charity with Elma (and others), and I met her when I was about 11 years old. She is mainly known for her work in the crisis centre of Wayside Chapel. Recently Elma was appointed Order of Australia and continues to provide services for the vulnerable through her charity Streethearts. 

I’ve seen the homeless run to hug her in the street as well as her walk in between 2 very large men to break up a fight in the middle of the road – and might I add Elma is a petite lady in her 70’s. She is truly leading by example and is an important role model in my life.


I have literally hundreds of leading women in my life – from family & friends to my extended family of aunties, cousins and nieces in my ancestral village, to my personal, professional, academic, artistic, spiritual and martial arts networks. Hundreds! 

But I’ll shout out here to the Australian philosopher & critical theorist Elizabeth (“Liz”) Groscz, who way back when taught me as a very inexperienced and green undergrad: she blew my mind, challenged my thinking, and exposed me to a whole new universe of ideas and discourse. The intellectual rigour, depth, discipline, critical thinking as well as openness and compassion she brought to learning was transformational, and has stayed with me ever since. I’ve never, ever forgotten it & continue to build and evolve from those lessons.

To paraphrase one of her books: “To refuse to seek answers but pose questions as paradoxes can make us more capable of bearing up to continuous effort to go against the relentless forces of sameness, more inventive in the kinds of subversion we seek, and more joyous in the kinds of struggle we choose to be called into

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