eBay's leading woman on the risks that made her digital career - Women's Agenda

eBay’s leading woman on the risks that made her digital career

Jo-Ann Hicks’ career at eBay started with her taking a punt: She accepted a six month maternity leave contract knowing that any time with the platform, no matter how brief, would be excellent experience for the online career she was passionate about.

She had to leave her permanent position at seek.com.au and move cities to take the role, but five and a half years later — and now in a much senior position — she says the risk provided the turning point that put her leadership career on track and cemented her position as a digital and eCommerce expert.

“I felt safe and comfortable in my previous role and it was fun. I really had to force myself out of a comfortable place to take the job at eBay,” she says. “I had to move cities [to Sydney] initially without my husband. And it was to take up a contract role with no guarantees of actually going anywhere. My gut was just telling me to do it.”

Three months after making that move in 2009, Hicks was offered a permanent position. Now head of strategy, mobile and customer programs at eBay and part of the leadership team, she’s served in a variety of roles including as head of fashion (where she launched eBay’s Fashion Gallery and built a reputation for opening new avenues for designers to market their products online) and new business. Recently, she was appointed to the Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA) board and has ramped up her work with not-for-profils, including as Sydney Regional Manager with The Nappy Collective.

She says her first OCA board meeting she initially felt like she was too young and inexperienced to be on a board — the classic imposter syndrome — but later realised that what she brought to the table was unique and beneficial, especially her experience in social media, online marketing and eCommerce.

Hicks’ career in digital hasn’t been anything like what she initially planned; her high school ambition was to become a lawyer. After studying Arts Commerce, she felt destined for a Big Four accounting firm and later started with the Boston Consulting Group.

She’s happy she kept things flexible, with the help of both male and female mentors and the internal belief that one must take complete control of her career advancement and development.

“I think nobody can really plan a career unless it’s something they are super passionate about, and those people are lucky,” she says. “You go along, you trust your gut, take a risk, and then at the end of it sit back and reflect on how it went.”

The short facts on Jo-Ann Hicks’ story:

Born. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Where did you spend your childhood? Moved from KL, Malaysia to Melbourne when I was 11 years old. Grew up in the suburb of Greensborough in Melbourne. Went to Eltham Primary School and Montmorency High School.

Leadership qualifications? Undergraduate: Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University. Post-graduate: MBA from Melbourne Business School

High school career ambition. To be a lawyer!

First job? Eltham McDonalds – I excelled at the drive-thru window and the fry station.

Who and what do you lead? Today, I lead the Strategy & Customer Programs team at eBay Australia

Daily reading habits. I sign-up to receive news daily and also proactively visit news sites. I read lots of articles from social media sites (LinkedIn, Facebook), industry sites in Australia and overseas (Mashable, Tech Crunch, Power Retail, Ragtrader, Internet Retailing etc) as well as news sites for ‘normal’ news and business news (ABC, SMH, AFR)

How do you manage your wellbeing? Meditation, meditation, meditation! By far the best thing that has helped my wellbeing. Also, getting enough good sleep, time with my family – in particular my godchildren, yoga and walking. I also volunteer at a couple of non-profits (Board Director at Ovarian Cancer Australia and Sydney Regional Manager for The Nappy Collective) which gives me great satisfaction and cultivates gratitude which in turns increases my wellbeing (and hopefully others too!)

First thing you do in the morning? Reach for my phone, put on a meditation app (I love Smiling Mind, Buddhify and Headspace. Buddhify in particular has excellent “first thing in the morning” meditation sessions”.)

An average work day in the life. There is no average work day at eBay! It’s a dynamic and fast-paced work environment. As I have progressed in my career, I find that I do have more and more conversations and meetings during the day in order to make decisions, give direction, resolve conflict, inform others and share knowledge. I also frequently connect with global colleagues via email, phone or video calls. As I currently lead Strategy, I also spend a fair bit of time on strategic thinking, planning and communicating.

Leadership ‘superpower’? Collaboration. I love pulling a group of diverse people together to work on a project or towards a common goal.

Advice to your 18-year-old self. Take more risks and don’t quit too early! I know that sometimes you get overwhelmed and it can feel easier to run away (I’m an introvert with a ‘flight’ not ‘fight’ instinct!) but stick it out just that bit longer or take that leap of faith. It’ll always work out – you have the strength and ability to make it work out. Back yourself.

Jo-Ann Hicks’ story is the latest of our 100 Stories Project, in which we’re asking women about a turning point that’s shifted her leadership career. Telling 100 stories from January 1 2015, the project showcases the diverse range of leadership careers available, as well as some of the brilliant achievements and fascinating career paths of women. It also demonstrates how planned and unexpected forks in the road can take you places you never thought possible.

Got an idea? Get in contact. Check out more on our 100 Stories Project here

Other women featured in this series include: 

Kate Morris: Why I gave up law to become an online entrepreneur 

Jacque Comery: Leading a team of 12 on an Antarctic base 


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