Culturally Diverse Leader with Shamila Gopalan
Journey from "Employee to Entrepreneur"!
A story I have been told more then I would like hear, is when a CALD leader migrates to Australia they say, "I had to step down from my current role" ,While many of us take that as only option there are those who take that as an opportunity to find purpose and embark on the journey to fulfillment. Shamila Gopalan , who migrated to Australia and faced the same challenge that many of the migrated Leaders in the job search journey come across , decided to evaluate her purpose and goal instead of being in a rat race. She quickly found her passion which took her to the path of becoming an entreprenuer.
While many of us struggle to find anything to keep us motivated during adveristy ,Shamila used her stregth to establish a business and help others. In this blog interview with Shamila we talk about how she overcame her challenges and created her own path to success.
Hi Shamila, so tell me what brought you to Australia ?
I had a turning point in 2015 and had started to question my life’s purpose. I know it sounds cliché but its true. Maybe I was having a eat, pray, love moment.
At that time, I was still living in Singapore and had spent close to 18 years there (in and out as I travelled a lot). When 2017 rolled around, a friend of mine had recently moved to Melbourne and I came to visit them. I immediately felt a connection to this city - it had the balance and the calmness that I was looking for compared to the hectic fast paced rat race life I was leading back in Singapore. I knew this would play a part in helping me truly find my centre again and give me the clarity I needed to find my purpose.So, I spent most of 2017 in Melbourne, truly living here to see if that feeling was persistent and rational. Everything fell in place and by early November 2017, I had moved to Melbourne.
What are your qualifications and what you did before you came down under ?
I had done my Masters (MBA) a few years prior and for most of corporate career was in the media industry where I had spent 16 years growing my career. I was with CNN International, running commercial / sales / branded content for SEA office, prior to that I was with National Geographic Channel and Fox International Channels. I had also been with a company called Corbis (a Bill Gates company) building their media division to a million-dollar business from scratch under rights and licensing of content across SEA and South Asia and was based in NYC for a bit. And had started my career in advertising but realised that media was I fit in after being fired from my advertising job in my early 20’s!After having a successful career, I followed my passion and took the plunge in becoming an entrepreneur. I had 2 businesses back in Asia, one that failed and the other, BlinkAsia. It was focused on media consulting, content production, talent management and IP building space. I had created a slate of shows, brought in investors and exited in a span of 5 years.
How did you find your foot in the australian market what was your first JOB?
When I first got here, the idea was to take a break for at least 6 months after having spent 20 years in rat race of a career and building businesses. However, I lasted 4 months – there is only so much yoga and baking that one can do. During those 4 months, I had decided that at some point I would like to start my 3rd venture, however seeing that I was fresh off the boat, with zero professional and business contacts (and minimal social ones too) I had to make inroads in building a network and getting to know the lay of the land. So I decided to look for a job thinking that it cannot be that hard seeing the experience that I had and the knowledge I could bring from a global perspective into businesses.
I was dead wrong.
It was hard – I had gone for about 5 interviews mainly with recruiters, and nonetheless for positions that were fairly a step down from where I was in my career and there was an echoing sentence that kept coming up “you do not have Australian experience”.
It’s fair to note, this is not entirely true. I had Australian experience from my previous corporate positions and businesses where I either dealt with teams in here, managed the market and conducted business in this market coupled with 12 other countries. This echoing “reason” from recruiters and employers baffled me.So I switched gears, and positioned myself as a consultant, looked at start-ups that were hungry for global talent and expertise and pitched directly to them. I got hired in 2 weeks! My first consulting role was with a start-up digital & social media influencer agency focused on working with mums and women and set up their businesses in Melbourne. My 2nd role was with another start-up that was part of the gig economy in the talent and recruitment sector, Commtract, that needed their Melbourne offices to be set up and commercialised. I was with them 4 days a week and worked on setting up my current venture, HerWit on the side.
Tell me a bit about your current role ?
Currently I am the Founder and CEO of HerWit, a venture that I launched in July 2019 that works exclusively with women entrepreneurs specifically solo, start-up and small businesses to start, pivot or scale their businesses. I bring my 24 years of building businesses within Fortune 500 companies, my own businesses and my global knowledge to the forefront that help women in business use tangible outcomes through models and assumptions done by the large consulting firms in a simple, affordable and achievable manner.
How did you find the culture and how did you overcome your challenge ?
Having been a global citizen, lived in various countries (Malaysia, Singapore, US, Thailand, HK, Italy) and travelled extensively for work and play, fitting into the culture was not a challenge for me to be honest. Over and above that, I lived in Singapore which firstly was multicultural but more so a melting pot of people from all over the world who lived and worked there hence being exposed to various cultures be it Anglo, European, and a varied amount of cultures was not uncommon.
And it was refreshing to see the work life balance culture that existed, where there was mutual respect for your own personal and family time once work was done by the powers that be (most of the time). I believe there are exceptions to the rule in same cases but mostly not.
However, on the flip side my biggest challenge to be honest was the insidious racial discrimination that exist in Aussie culture. The Anglo and Anglo Celtic population of a certain class and wealth showcase this in insidious and concealed ways which does not make it any less pervasive or brutal.
What would be your biggest advise that you would like to give to CALD Leaders?
Thank you Shamila, that's right "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable", it is the starting point of any major transformation and I can totally relate to it. No major breakthrough ever happened while we sat comfortably hoping for a miracle. Getting off your butt and finding your purpose and passion is the first step to transforming your dream into reality !
Have a purpose and then work towards creating a VISION , this is one of the most important aspect of being successful while highly underrated.
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