Inspired by… Zara D’Cotta

Zara D'Cotta, Author & Keynote Speaker

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis
Different quotes resonate with me at different times, but this is one I often find myself going back to when I lose perspective. We can become so consumed by situations at work, in our businesses and personal lives, that in the grand scheme of life, don’t really matter. Sometimes I have to give myself a bit of a nudge and remember to grateful that I am here, and re-focus my energy on the bigger picture. Gratitude has been an incredibly powerful tool for helping me overcome the challenges that have come my way.

2. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your
I was incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful manager when I first started out in my communications career (as an intern at CUB), Felicity Watson. We worked together for five years and she played a pivotal role not only in guiding me and supporting me through my early career progression, but also became a great friend. Fifteen years on, she continues be a great mentor and I am eternally grateful, she is a pretty amazing person to have in your corner. She’s been so generous with her time as I’ve built my own business and brand. She’s been my cheer squad, a shoulder to cry on, and so much more. She’ll even take the time to read my keynotes and give me very honest feedback. She’s a very good listener and knows how to ask the right questions, which have helped me make some pretty big decisions in both my business and personal life, always from the angle of not just what’s best for my business, but for me personally. It can be hard to balance what’s right for your business / career with what is right for you, which is something that I’ve found really challenging, as I’ve been through significant health challenges throughout my entrepreneurial journey and it can be really hard to separate the two. I think having someone that can look at your situation through a professional and personal lens is really invaluable.

3. How do you keep the balance between work, life and play?
I think balance is something we are continually striving for and I don’t think there’s a perfect formula. Different things work for me at different times, so it is a constantly evolving process, but something that is non-negotiable for me is creating space between the beginning and end of my work day for exercise or down time – so a walk, swim, or meditation in the morning before I start working, always a break at lunch time, even if it’s only for 20 mins, and I don’t work late – the computer is generally always shut down by 8pm. My health is my number 1 priority, I am no good to my business without it, and when I work late if affects my sleep, and everything else becomes unstuck. I try to make sure I’ve got at least 1 day of the week for relaxation and play.

4. We know you’re in the midst of writing a new book at the moment! Can you tell us a little about it and what drove you to write it?
I sure am. I’m writing a book about healthy homes. Not many people understand the link between the health of their homes and their own health, and I’m on a mission to change that. It’s come about as a result of my own health challenges. After going through breast cancer at age 29 and being diagnosed with a melanoma at age 31, I learned first-hand the vital role our home has to play in supporting our health and wellbeing. The impact of my cancer treatments and surgeries took an immense toll on my body and made me extremely sensitive to a number of things in our home environments, that I subsequently learned can trigger a whole range of health issues, both in the short and long-term. I’m really passionate about sharing my experience, and the things I wish I’d known when I was younger, that could have prevented the illnesses I have been through. I think the biggest challenge of our time is how can we live peacefully in the modern world while making our health a priority. There are lots of simple changes we can make in our daily lives
that can make a huge difference. I’ll be sharing these in the book, and will be launching a podcast this year too.
5. What's playing on your Spotify playlist at the moment? Anything you write to playing in the background?
I like to have a distraction free zone when I’m writing – which means wi-fi off and phone on aeroplane mode, which sadly means no Spotify! I do like to have music going though, and I try to mix it up to get my creative juices flowing – at the moment it’s Pavarotti, I haven’t listened to him in years, and he brings back fond memories of time spent with my Grandmother when I was a young girl.
6. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
That it’s never too late to change direction in pursuit of your dreams. I was working in a global role in the oil and gas industry when I was diagnosed with cancer – it was what I had always thought would be my dream role, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I thought at 29 it was too late to change career. Looking back, I can’t help but feel annoyed at myself that it took a cancer diagnosis for me to commit to finding a fulfilling career. It has certainly been a more difficult path – the challenges are never ending, I’ve stumbled and fallen many times, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. The energy and sense of fulfilment I get from what I do now is second to nothing. And I know that no challenge I face in my business can be as hard as dealing with the prospect of not being here. It is my firm belief that you are never too old to change direction. I met a very inspiring women who went back to school in her forties to do her HSC, so she could go to medical school and graduated to become a doctor in her fifties. Pretty amazing, hey?
7. Our three go to pieces of Tech at the moment are Canva, UMUN and Slack. What
piece of tech are you loving that helps you work smarter not harder.
Audio recordings on my phone – the best ideas come to me when I’m walking. When I’ve got a speech that’s often how I’ll do it, go for a walk and record all my thoughts into my phone, then type it up later.


Inspired by… Tara Ness

Tara Ness, Customer Experience Consultant

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis.
I have to admit, I don’t collect any inspirational quotes to keep me motivated and focused, and perhaps I should! But there is one quote that I have found relevant my entire life. Everything happens for a reason, I truly believe this. When life throws all different things as you, it’s important to believe there is a reason behind it. When I look back on the significant relationships in my life and career opportunities I have had, they were all a result of little decisions I made. I had no idea those decisions would take me to where I am now. When I have had challenging experiences, I look back now and try to learn as I believe there was a reason why I had to face it.

2. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your career?
I have been fortunate enough to have many mentors in my career. Being able to work directly with the Founder of the business and incredible managers along the way has tremendously benefited me. As I have spent 10 years in research, it’s in my nature to seek advice and feedback when facing big decisions. I have been lucky to have mentors along the way which has offered me so much time and advice, both professionally and personally. Now with some experience under my belt, I enjoy mentoring those starting out in their career as I have had first hand experience in seeing how valuable this is.

3. You were part of the team at Forethought for quite some time now, and managed to take some time off and have a baby amongst all your success! How do you manage the balance between work, life and play?
It definitely is tricky and something I am still working through. Everyone always talks about balance and getting your priorities right. I think the challenge is feeling as though you want to get everything perfect – being a mum, growing your career, being a good partner, looking after yourself etc. I really believe that as working mums we sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to do everything. I have learnt that balance is possible as long as you are clear on what is important to you and have an employer and family that understand that. Having a flexible working arrangement and a partner that supports you to be a working mum is critical. Transitioning back slowly from maternity leave really helped me.

4. If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger self starting out, what would it be?
Hard work pays off, keep pushing yourself and don’t give up. When things seem tough, keep your head up high and take a deep breath. Everything happens for a reason.

Inspired by… Allison Tsao

Allison Tsao, Humans Who Lead

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis
This quote captures how I’ve evolved in my own life – my journey of growth. Too often, we as human beings suffer because we want to change things that are out of our control. We struggle so much because we think to ourselves, “if only I could change that person, or if only that person would listen.” What we don’t realise is if we change ourselves – our attitudes, mindsets, and behaviours – that we can actually affect real change in the world. It’s called role modelling, or as Gandhi put it, “being the change you want to see in the world”. We must focus on developing ourselves in order to contribute to the positive evolution of humanity.

2. What drove you to start your business Humans Who Lead? And you recently moved across the world to live in Australia didn’t you?!
Yes! I moved to Australia in November 2014 with two suitcases. It was a total leap of faith, I had never even been to Australia, I only knew two people in Sydney, and I didn’t have any job lined up. I had been climbing the big corporate ladder in NYC for 8 years when I realised that that life wasn’t going to be for me. Something in my soul was telling me there was something else I was meant to do and distancing myself from my NYC lifestyle would give me some space to reflect on what that was. So fast forward 3 years, I’ve been working with a boutique consulting firm in Sydney, helping organisations through transformational change. Being in executive meetings most of the time, I realised that the pain I  experienced in corporate America felt very similar in corporate Australia. People are struggling! They are stressed, so busy, and simply overwhelmed with the complexity of the world. There are just so many demands on us as humans these days, how do we make sense of it all and lead lives that are fulfilling and energising amidst all this change?

3. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your career?
If you asked me this five years ago, I would have said no one. Hah! Seriously though, in my younger years, I thought I had to figure it out all on my own, and I was terrible at asking for help. I felt like “asking for help” meant I owed someone something in return. That is simply not true. My own growth has profoundly shifted how I think about asking for help. For me, it’s about two things. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who want to lift each other up and sharing who you are, vulnerabilities and all. This is why I love Miss Collective, because that’s what you’re all about! The other thing I’ve learned is that help takes on a lot of different forms. It doesn’t always have to be formal mentorship. Rather, nowadays, it seems like everyone I meet is helping me Level Up. I learn something from everyone I meet – even the people who criticise and judge. That’s not to say that I take everyone’s advice, rather, I consider it and weigh in and take on what I feel is helpful to me because I know myself.

4. How do you keep the balance between work, life and play? Do you get a chance to do anything for yourself?
Oh, isn’t this the million dollar question? There’s no such thing as balance! It’s all about integration! (Disclaimer, I wrote my thesis on work life integration). Balance assumes that something has to be traded off, it almost inherently creates a sense of guilt in that trading off. I like to look at life as an integrated dance of work, life, and play. What this practically means is that as long as I stay present in the moment and am enjoying what I am doing, I don’t think about work, life, and play as distinct and separate from one another. This, of course, isnt’ easy. Sometimes I find myself going too fast and realise I’ve gone into hyper-doing mode. That’s when I have to slow down and listen to my body. The human body, if we can pay more attention to it, is such a smart instrument that is finely tuned to tell you when you are not integrated, or not in balance.

5. What’s your go-to Podcast at the moment?
I don’t listen to podcasts (am I the only one out there?!) I’m a terrible auditory learner so my mind literally blanks out when I listen to books on tape or podcasts.

6. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Know yourself and value yourself. Once you do, your potential will be limitless.

7. Our three go to pieces of Tech at the moment are Canva, UMUN and Slack to help us be more organised and on top of things! What piece of tech are you loving that helps you work smarter not harder?
– zoom, they are awesome. We have virtual team mtgs all over the world all the time now. We record mtgs, webinars, etc. and share them on mobile and desktop. We share screens and collaborate together. For some reason, it just feels easier with zoom than it did with all the other virtual tools before it.

Be scared – but do it anyway

One of my favourite parts of Miss Collective and SheSays events is meeting amazing women during the pre-event drinks and networking. Last week at our Female Founders event with Cyan Ta’eed, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting brilliant women from all sorts of sectors and professions – IT, data analysis, tech start ups, digital agency and even a business owner in the niche medical tourism field! Networking doesn’t come naturally to me but I’ve never felt intimidated at our events – somehow, without fail, our attendees are consistently friendly and interesting to talk to.

But moving on to the main event – the super-smart and super-successful Cyan Ta’eed, co-founder and executive director of digital marketplace Envato. Which is basically a one-stop shop for everything people need for their creative projects.

Cyan and her husband Collis have built a worldwide success with Envato over the past 10 years, and the story of their journey is equally as inspiring as hearing about the leadership that Cyan and Collis continue to deliver to their organisation in it’s quite unique culture.

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