As I mentioned in my first article in this series, reflecting as I leave the public service formally at the end of this week, writing these articles has been a cathartic experience for me. I hope that those who have read one, some or all of the articles have also got something out of them.
To recap, I joined TabCorp in July 1998 in desperation. I quickly found that I had made a big mistake and when HR called to ask how I was going a month later, I told them the truth. That call triggered a reaction from senior management. I didn’t mean it to. But they made a real effort to help make things better. I’m not sure that I appreciated this at the time. I do now.
I got to do a number of special projects. I spent some time at the ‘new’ Bowen Crescent headquarters working at Sportsbet and in the claims section. Claims was an office environment and required me to listen to calls and assess them against the betting rules and results. I liked this kind of work.
I applied for various jobs within the business, but was not successful. To be honest, I would have disliked most of those jobs anyway.
I also got asked to develop a reward and recognition program and, later, to put together a report for senior management analysing opening times. The penny dropped. An analytical report such as this could be my ‘golden key’ out of here. It was a deliverable I could take to job interviews. I could make sure that the next job I got was one that I actually wanted and would be good at! I was finally learning to be strategic about my career, so this report needed to be good. I spent time at home inserting graphs and making it look very special.
The report was well-received, but one of the Senior Executives mentioned that next time it would be good to include an Executive Summary. Being an arrogant 27 year old, I had deliberately left the summary out because I wanted the execs to see ALL of my hard work. Have to say I’d be annoyed at that girl if I was in their shoes now. LOL.
So I returned from my holiday in Thailand in September 1999 with my work colleagues, that I mentioned in my last article. It was time to move on. Senior managers had remained interested in helping me find my niche the whole time I was at TabCorp, but I knew I needed to make a move.
I applied for a job with one of the big four banks. It was a call centre management role. I got to the second round and showed them my report. They were impressed. I knew one of the interviewers from my first job at Foxtel. We hadn’t been friends but we knew one another. He asked me to go for coffee after the interview. He told me that I had left something of a (positive) impression on him from my Foxtel days. He recalled a memo I had written to management at Foxtel, off my own bat, about a particular decision they intended on making. I made a case against it, but said that I would accept whatever decision they made. I delivered the memos under several office doors at the crack of dawn. He thought this was a bold, but inspired move.
I thought I had the bank job in the bag. My references had been checked and the wait began. I had seen some other interesting jobs advertised, but it wasn’t worth applying. Then, I got a call. The bank was restructuring its call centre operations so they were not going forward with the job.
BUGGAR. One of the jobs I was interested in closed the next day and it required a written application. The role was with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. I slapped up the application and my boyfriend of the time organised a courier. I got a call the very next day and was asked to come in for an interview with the recruiter. It went well. She told me that at the TIO I would be ‘a star among stars.’ This sounded promising.
I progressed to a second interview with the Ombudsman and some of the management team. I brought my report. They loved it. The recruiter called my boss at TabCorp who gave me a great reference. I got the job. I was in the Bowen Crescent office and popped my head into the door of the Senior Exec to tell him. He wasn’t surprised.
So in November 1999 I started my career in regulation at the TIO. OK, I know the purists will say that the TIO is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body and not a regulator – and that was definitely the case in 1999. However, in the modern sense of regulation – the Malcolm Sparrow ‘harms’ approach (I love Sparrow’s work by the way, but that’s for another time) – I think that the TIO was and still is a ‘modern regulator’, addressing in practical terms ‘real’ harms.
I excelled at the work at the TIO. I enjoyed the work. I had learnt to have an enquiring mind through my academic research, and this was a way to bring all my experiences together to fix problems for real people. I found my niche. Before long, I moved on to manage systemic complaints at the TIO. This involved identifying and investigating systemic issues and working with industry to resolve them. I continued, from time to time, to look for other ‘golden key’ projects. That is, deliverables that would bode well for future job opportunities. I invented a way of recording unactioned work – quite an achievement in an immature ICT environment. I became the ‘broadband internet’ expert, and I made significant contributions to Annual Reports.
I had stopped stumbling. I knew where I was going and I was being strategic getting there.
So that’s it for this series of articles. I will formally finish my regulatory career – for now anyway(!) – at the end of this week. But that’s not all from me. Watch out for future articles on probity, regulation, eSafety, eSecurity and whatever else takes my fancy.