‘Avoid dream-squashers’ – 5 career-advancing tips from the WMWC

On Wednesday, 12 November 2014, Macquarie University held the Women Management Work Conference (WMWC) at the Sheraton on the Park hotel in Sydney. The tagline of the event was ‘Igniting leaders and entrepreneurs’.

Many presenters shared a wealth of information aimed at helping women accelerate their careers.

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Speakers included: Natalie Walker, Inside Policy; Air Commodore Robert Rodgers, Air Force; Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst; Deborah Harrigan, Dell; Diana Ryall AM, Xplore for Success; Danielle Fletcher, Propellher; Sue Ismiel, NADS; Angela Lovegrove, Telstra and Anet Redmer, Redmera.

The atmosphere of the day was one of inspiration and introspection, with many speakers highlighting the importance of taking time out of your busy schedule to reflect on where you are at, and gain clarity on where you are heading. Many practical pieces of the advice were drawn from engaging stories and experience-sharing throughout the day.

We selected five presenters’ insights and advice from the day designed to inspire you to advance your career and further your leadership skills.

1) Natalie Walker

Natalie Walker from Inside Policy spoke on being the change you want to see in the world.

Natalie’s tips on how to achieve your dreams:

  1. Be tuned in to who you are; understand and embrace it.
  2. Have a coalition of people around you who will support you no matter what, including people who are supporters and enablers. Avoid dream-squashers!
  3. Have the courage to pursue your dreams, don’t be afraid to fail.

If you’re in a career transition, take time out to just be with yourself.

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Natalie herself undertook a two-week silent meditation in Sri Lanka, which enabled her to find the narrative of who she is, the people who have supported her and what she needed to do to be the change she wanted to see in the world.

NATALIE’S ADVICE: “Think about what change you want to see in the world. Think about it, visualize it. Then try and do it. Then share it. For those more advanced along their pathway, support others to find theirs.”

Don’t be dream-squashers, be dream enablers.

“Listen, absorb and be open to learning.” Natalie Walker

2) Air Commodore Robert Rodgers

Air Commodore Robert Rodgers delivered his advice for organisational agility and leadership development.

Robert’s top tips on successful leadership:

  1. Have a clear intent;
  2. Be motivated toward a common goal;
  3. Be committed and persistent to work towards it.


  • Organisations are human systems that are enabled by leaders, through certain behaviours who are motivated by meaning.
  • The role of leader is to build on the sense of meaning employees bring and connect it to the organization to make it more effective.
  • Having a technological edge is not what it’s all about. You need technical parity, but it’s in the human systems that the difference is made.
  • A leader cannot be the expert anymore. A leader has to be the person that is bringing together a group of experts.

“Organisations are human systems” Air Commodore Robert Rodgers, Director General Personnel, RAAF

3) Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst

Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst, CEO and Cofounder Cyber Security Networks, PhD Corporate Entrepreneurship, discussed the idea of intrapreneurship and defined it as “Taking an idea to a profitable reality within an existing firm.”

She also highlighted the importance of self-analysis, suggesting we should all ask ourselves, What is my profitable reality?

“There is power in knowing oneself.” Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst

She also reinforced the idea of carving out time to think about what you want to do. “read, watch online tutorials, network, take a holiday every year. Go somewhere new. Stop thinking about work; Ideas percolate in the back of your mind when you relax.”

4) Deborah Harrigan

Deborah Harrigan, Dell’s Executive Director, Global Order Experience and Customer Care Solutions, offered some inspirational career advice.

Leap and the net will appear

“In the workplace, the net is provided by the people that recruit you. They believe in you.”


  • Fear is what gets in the way of realising future career aspirations. But it’s only a small four-letter word. Her favorite book? Face the fear and do it anyway, by Susan Jeffers.
  • Fail fast – Without failure we don’t develop.
  • Buy into the culture or ‘fabric’ of the organisation.
  • Your values must come first – the company’s values must sit well with yours.

5) Sue Ismiel

Sue Ismiel, Founder of NADS presented on owning your management style.

“Don’t ever let your shortcomings stand in the way of your dreams.” Sue Ismiel, NADS

She tapped into the essence of leadership:

“You have to know exactly where you are, exactly where you need to get to, have a strategy and manage the emotions of those around you.”


  1. Hire great people. Let them do their jobs.
  2. Set clear objectives (one-page business plan that highlights 3 objectives for each department – 3 simple KPIs (1. Pro-active execution of the business plan in their area, 2, budget and 3. Team)
  3. Be the leader people would want to follow. In order to do that, take care of yourself first.

Thank you to Macquarie University and CP Communications for inviting Leaders in Heels along to the event.


What great career advice have you heard that has stuck with you and given you the motivation to take your career to a new level?


Sally Miles Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos.