Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Introducing Jess Timmins, Senior Director of Service, discussing how the social sector was calling her name and her decision to leave the corporate world. Jess also talks through inclusive workplaces for women and changing our views on feminine traits.
Tell me a bit about you, your career and what gets you up in the morning.
Well in practical terms, what gets me out of bed in the morning, is my dog called Todd. He’s very keen for his morning walk. This year, more than ever, going on a walk every day has been so good for me.
But in terms of what gets me motivated for work, I think that I’ve always wanted to use my time and energy to try and see positive social progress in the world. So, if I can connect the work I’m doing to that mission, then I find it pretty easy to get out of bed.
My current role is Senior Director of Service at Hireup. Hireup is an online platform for people with disabilities. I work with the Service team, who connect with our community day in and day out, helping them to navigate Hireup, solving problems and ultimately trying to deliver the experience we want everyone to have.
It's a really cool role because I get to hear the stories of our community every day, and use that to help to improve the experience we provide and the impact that we have on the world.
How did you begin your career and what was your starting role?
I worked in call centre roles through the years following high school and while I was studying at uni. The first call centre was the Transport Info Line. Before we had apps, people used to call to get timetables, find out if there was trackwork etc. I then worked for a property management company in their call centre. We used to arrange for tradespeople to attend corporate sites to fix issues.
What has been the biggest influencing factor on why you do the work that you do?
When I was in high school, I always wanted to work in social impact/justice, but I’ve never really been able to pinpoint exactly why.
I deviated from that path a little bit, because I was in a good paying job whilst studying at uni & then I was struggling to move into the social impact sector. There were times when I felt like I should just stick with the corporate world. But there was always just a little voice inside me that told me to keep trying.
Eventually, I got my foot in the door with a small charity that did racial and religious prejudice education for students. As soon as I started that role, I knew that the little voice inside me had been right all along.
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to work in roles and for organisations that remind me that working for a positive social outcome gives me a sense of purpose and meaning.
Life is busy. How do you manage it?
I think the answer to this question probably depends on the day or the week. This year in particular has been hard and I’ve definitely found myself getting into some unhealthy patterns. The things that work best for me are:
Being really clear on what my priorities are, both personally & professionally.
Knowing the difference between working a lot because it's genuinely needed & working a lot because I’m in the habit.
Closing out my day, week well so I feel a sense of accomplishment & don’t stress about the things I didn’t do - they’re all on the list for next week.
Creating space for myself to switch off.
I also benefit from an amazing executive assistant who helps me to get things organised.
What is important to you when it comes to the work you do and the work of those around you?
Again, working towards positive social progress is the most important thing for me. Beyond that, I think it's important that I’m being challenged, I’m learning & developing new skills(whether formally or informally) and that I’m able to have a positive impact on the teams I work with.
In terms of positive impact, I’ve been very focused on the idea that a key role of a leader is creating space for your teams to be well, so they can do well. I’ve been thinking a lot about that this year.
What do we need to do to push more women into leadership positions?
I think for me it's about promoting feminine leadership styles and traits, both in the workplace and in the world. I’m always frustrated that when you go to look for books on leadership, or management or business, they’re predominantly written by males. That doesn’t mean that women can’t take something from them, but I think it does mean that we associate great leadership with the Simon Sinek’s of the world.
In the workplace I think that can be about talking about things like patriarchy and its influence on our work, about different ways women work & manage their energy.
And on a really practical level, I think it's about pushing ourselves to always go that step further to put great female leaders in place. For example, is there one more female candidate you can headhunt into the recruitment process, is there one more coaching session you can do for a female colleague?
What does a workplace look like if it is inclusive and nurturing of women?
I think an inclusive & nurturing workplace is one that has the right mix of strategies that manage equity within the business & activism approaches that tackle societal challenges. For me that is a business that not only provides you with a childcare allowance, but also uses its influence with the government and other stakeholders to advocate for better childcare structures for all. It's a business that understands how the patriarchy has influenced its internal operations, and is supportive of broader women’s rights issues in the world. It balances gender across all layers of the business and it also doesn’t promote conferences or events that don’t have good gender equality. And there are many, many more examples that we could find. That’s really difficult stuff to balance, but an organisation that is striving to do that will always be one that makes me feel safe, included and nurtured.
Top 3 tips for women looking to get into a Leadership role.
Know why you want to lead, why are you driven to leadership. Let that guide your decisions and direction.
Connect with yourself regularly to understand what you’re doing well and where you want to grow. Don’t use those growth opportunities as a reason not to apply for a role though, you’ve got what it takes to learn while you lead.
Think holistically about the different leadership opportunities you can take both in your personal & professional life. Value those personal leadership experiences as much as your professional ones.