Grace Goding is the Innovation and Strategy Manager at Allianz Australia. She believes more young women should consider a corporate career and shares some of the opportunities that have been afforded to her as a result. (Partner Content)
In recent years, a growing trend of young women have sought to start their own business rather than pursue a career in the corporate arena. The reasons for this are manifold. Some women are of course drawn to the creativity and autonomy of entrepreneurship but there is also a large percentage who are merely seeking an easier work/life balance.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always reality. Starting and maintaining a business is often beyond challenging; requiring long hours, unstable income and self-managed superannuation. It can be a great path for some but shouldn’t be viewed as the best way to secure flexibility.
So how can large employers buck the trend to attract and retain young, female talent? What should they be looking to do differently, and how can they better support women in their ranks?
Recently, we caught up with Grace Goding, Innovation and Strategy Manager at Allianz. She shared her professional journey to date and explained some of the ways a corporate career has helped her to live a rewarding life both in the office and outside of it.
Did you always envision yourself working in a corporate role?
When I was at the early stage of establishing what I wanted to get out of my career, I had heard about growth and learning opportunities that can come with working in a large corporate environment. The people you meet and the networks you build, along with the training and the investment in your learning and development overall is what drew me to the corporate world. Choosing this environment for my career meant I could learn new skills beyond what I had learnt at university, from people at all stages of their careers.
You’ve worked at Allianz for nearly 13 years, what have you valued most from your career during this time?
The company fosters a high-performance culture and has also given me the tools to own my own career development – I have received technical training, leadership courses, and even a scholarship to complete my Masters in Management (Personal Injury) at Deakin University.
Most importantly, they’ve been incredibly supportive in offering my partner James and I (we both work at Allianz) flexible work arrangements. This has been particularly important to us in recent years as we became parents. Our daughter Chloe is 18 months old – and I’m now in my second trimester with our next child. And honestly, I’m so tired! It’s been hard because with my first pregnancy, I was able to go home each day and rest. Now that we have Chloe, James and I have really had to rely on flexible schedules in order to enjoy our time as new and expecting parents without either of us having to sacrifice our careers. I now work a nine-day fortnight, with one day from home and James works from home as needed – so we are better able to manage the juggle.
Our flexible work has allowed James and I to experience the joys and the challenges of juggling parenthood and career together. I’ve realised that having boundaries or working flexibly does not make me a failure as a mum or a professional and having that supportive work environment to do so has been so crucial.
Can you tell us a little about your future objectives over the next 12 months in your role as Innovation & Strategy manager?
My role is all encompassing. At the moment I am focused on implementing our strategic objectives stemming from the new corporate enterprise strategy. This involves a large education piece as I am very passionate about people engagement, meaning everything from ensuring they understand what their job means, to how they fit into the bigger picture and feel like they are doing meaningful work.
I work within the Worker’s Compensation team and we deal with many mental health and psychological injuries. This year, we are really focusing on supporting our employees in this challenging work and creating a space where people feel comfortable talking about mental health. We also recently released a Workers Compensation whitepaper that offers employers a holistic approach to cultivating mentally healthy workplaces in Australia, which has sparked great conversation around this important topic both with our employees and with external organisations.
Did you face any barriers or challenges in the early stages of your career? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, absolutely – the first six months of my career were the hardest. I think this was because I was transitioning from my studies into a full-time role at a corporate environment. Learning a new role, learning new systems, and meeting new people is not an easy process when you are brand new to the working world. At first, I honestly just thought it was too hard and I was also very shy when I was younger and didn’t have a lot of confidence.
Thankfully, I had the same manager throughout my formative years at Allianz, and I think that consistency really helped to build up my confidence. This manager pushed me to apply for an Injury Specialist role in the early days of my career. I honestly didn’t think I was good enough, but she insisted I apply – and to my surprise I was successful! I have been lucky enough to have consistent and strong management support during my time with Allianz, both from males and females, and this really sparked my personal motivation to become a leader for others and not let a lack of confidence get in my way.
Rising through the ranks is no easy feat, how have others supported you on this journey?
Whilst being encouraged to apply for that Injury Specialist role was a pivotal moment in my career, it’s all the little things that have helped to truly build my confidence throughout my career. My current role often deals with large tender submissions, and I’ve come to realise that if the outcomes aren’t always what my team hopes for, it’s not necessarily a direct reflection on my performance. I feel a lot of women take personal responsibility for outcomes at work and having the confidence and awareness to know it’s not always a personal shortcoming is really important.
My manager also tended to put me in situations that were outside of my comfort zone, specifically when it came to public speaking. I used to dread speaking in front of an audience; however, the speaking opportunities I do now – with confidence – allows me to continue pushing myself, even at this stage of my career. I think the company has given me the chance to build a necessary support network that has allowed me to get more involved in the industry and our community. The benefit is twofold in that I can then take these learnings back to my team to better mentor, lead, and hopefully inspire.
Also, the support of my mum since having Chloe has been unparalleled. I honestly could not have gotten to where I am today and worked through the trials and triumphs of becoming a new mum, without her. She looks after Chloe two days a week – which also helps us save on child care costs – and often cleans my house and cooks us dinner! Sometimes it can be hard for me to accept help – at work and with Chloe – but when you do, it really does make a world of difference.
How do you think more women could be encouraged and supported to enter a corporate profession?
I think people should be sharing their story! I’m constantly trying to tell people about the positive experiences I’ve had, because it often seems like only the negative stories get put in the spotlight. I’ve learned that mentoring programs are incredibly important and can encourage more women to enter the corporate world by making that transition I mentioned before less intimidating. Employers should fully advertise their flex work arrangements, as well. So often women are led to believe they have to choose between motherhood and their career, which should never be the case. I am living proof of that.