Stumbling into Regulation (Part One)

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As the final, formal, days of my tenure as a regulator are nearing – yep, that’s right I’m leaving the APS – I have been reflecting on how I got here. How did I become a regulator? And with these thoughts I’ve recalled a number of ‘sliding door’ moments, where my path could have been so very different.

So, how did a 23 year old maths and music graduate with career aspirations of being the next Simone Young (she’s a conductor, btw) and a keen interest in politics, end up having a regulatory career that lasted only a few years shy of 20 years? Well, it’s fair to say that this wasn’t planned. Indeed, there were quite a few trips and stumbles along the way. Over the next few weeks I plan to share my story. Not only because it is cathartic, but because it is a tale of finding one’s place in the world – one’s niche – without even thinking before it started!

It was 1995, my Honours year at Monash Uni. I had known all year that the day would be soon upon me when I would need to find a full time job. I was living on my own and the puny amount I got from Austudy would end at the end of the year. And my money as a Darrell Lea girl (yes, I did wear a bow from time to time), wasn’t going to be enough.

So, the Saturday after I handed in my Honours thesis I invested some of my hard-earned chocolate money in that day’s Age newspaper. I was prepared to take anything… Anything that is, that would allow me to continue with my Masters studies the next year and my musical direction work in the evenings. With some careful planning – potentially influenced by too many weekend beers – I chose my targets for Monday morning. They were mainly customer service roles and some retail, because I didn’t feel that I was terribly qualified for much.

I got two interviews. I remember the first one vividly. It was horrible. It was for a clothing retail shop and the interviewer asked me to sell her an ice cream. Just like that, I had to do a role play espousing the benefits of ice cream. It’s amazing what 20 odd years can do for your confidence, because I reckon I could sell you the whole ice cream truck these days. But it was not so on that awful day.

The second interview went much better. It was an agency recruiting for a new pay TV company starting in Australia. They were looking for ‘Entertainment Consultants’. The recruiter was very enthusiastic and was ‘open’ to my demands to accommodate my study and music life. This could work, I thought! I got a call back to meet with the Foxtel team at their office in Moonee Ponds.

So, I sat outside in my car (a 1982 Ford Laser, no less) waiting for the interview time. I had a horrible cold and could barely speak – which was not good news because they would be testing my phone manner.  I got upstairs and was led to a room on my own. I was told that the phone would ring and I was to answer it for the first part of the interview. It rang, I answered and PRAISE THE LORD, my croaky whine had disappeared. I had the diction of an opera singer (not surprising really, seeing though I had been studying opera, LOL). They were impressed and brought me into another room to meet the team. They asked me what my salary expectations were and I announced that I would expect the princely sum of something between 25 and 30K. They told me I had the job and they would pay me 30K. I went down to the car, called my Dad on my brick phone, and cried. I couldn’t believe someone would pay me 30 THOUSAND DOLLARS. This was way more than my Darrell Lea money.

So, the chapter of my life as a full time student had ended – or so I thought – and I was on my way up the ladder. How did that go? Well, that’s for next time.

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