THE past few days have been busy ones for Tanya O’Shea as she’s shone the light on issues surrounding women’s equality.

The Managing Director of IMPACT Community Services has been an in-demand speaker at key events across the state for Queensland Women’s Week. On Friday 6th March 2020, Ms O’Shea addressed more than 1200 people at the IML ANZ Women’s Day Great Debate in Brisbane.

“Our team’s argument during the debate was that the definition of ‘shout’ can mean to call attention to something important. We therefore encouraged people to unite in a collective voice and call attention to matters relating to gender inequality and female empowerment,” Ms O’Shea said.

Ms O'Shea was back in front of a packed room the following Tuesday when she shared with the region’s business community a far more personal message that drew on her own life experiences and career turning points. One of the successful leader’s take-home messages was:

“Never listen to your mum when it comes to career decisions”.

Ms O'Shea went on to explain why.

“When I was finishing Year 12, I really wanted to be a journalist, that was my whole ambition. At the time, my mum saw in the News Mail that the bank exams were happening. She told me to go and do them ‘just in case you don’t get into journalism’. As any child does, I listened to my mother. Off I went and did the bank exams … and I got in,” Ms O’Shea told the more than 100 people at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Ms O'Shea said she decided to give banking a go, at the time also opting to study her second university preference, business.

“Within two years I had dropped out of university, I hated my course and I turned up for work for the next eight years absolutely hating it as well, to be honest. I was treated really well at the bank. I was supported in my professional development. I did lots of travel, I was in a senior leadership position. I couldn’t work out why, but I just hated the work I did and went home each day feeling completely uninspired.”

Ms O'Shea stated that she stayed for 10 years in a career that wasn’t right for her before deciding to change her “pathway”.

“I was on maternity leave with my first child and I decided to go back and do some study. I did a Certificate IV in workplace training and assessment with the ambition I wanted to be a workplace trainer. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was working at a local not-for-profit, the Bundaberg Skills Centre, which is now IMPACT. My friend said there might be a position coming up in the future but there wasn’t anything at that time. So, I had my 12 months off, went back to the bank and then one day I got a phone call – it was the Bundaberg Skills Centre and they were looking for a front office supervisor.”

Ms O'Shea said that call changed her life.

“The day I walked into this organisation I felt uplifted,” Ms O'Shea said. "Someone was there supporting me, and it was all about empowering me. I realised right then and there I was starting to live out my purpose and my passion. That was so important. It took me over 10 years in the workforce to realise what my vision and my purpose and values were: it was working for a not-for-profit organisation helping people.”

As Ms O'Shea progressed through different managerial positions within the organisation, she also rediscovered her love of learning. This gravitated her towards wanting to know more about understanding other people’s behaviour, leading to her studying psychology at university, before completing her Honours thesis in gambling addiction. Since then Ms O'Shea has continued to embrace learning, both in a university setting and through other pathways.

Ms O'Shea has completed an MBA in Business, later travelling overseas on a Rotary Group Study Exchange to the UK where she got to work in other not-for-profits. Last year Ms O'Shea went on an overseas study tour to the US to learn more about startups.

“It’s been a cool ride. Look, you have to listen to your mum, but never listen to your mum when it comes to your career decisions. Do what you want to do. Do what you are passionate about. You have to work out what your values are, what your interests are ... really what your purpose is. I would encourage that within your kids, and I would encourage that within your teams. Support them to understand their values and purpose early so that they can align their future career decisions to what is important and meaningful to them. Don’t wait 10 years to work it out like I did!”

This is the final profile in our Women of IMPACT series, where we have shared the stories of some of the amazing women  that work at IMPACT during Queensland Women’s Week.