02 Jul 2024

The best career advice I ever received is…

From the 2024 AFR Women in Leadership Award Finalists.


It’s often 1 piece of advice that makes a profound difference to how we go on to manage our careers.


The annual AFR Women in Leadership award finalists were announced last week. Each finalist was asked “What was the best career advice you ever received?


Here’s some of the golden pieces of advice to share on and on from some of our countries top talents…


“Do not try to be one of the boys. Just be yourself and that’s good enough. – Tammy Medard, Managing Director Institutional AU & PNG, ANZ Bank.

I hope my answer isn’t trite, but the best career advice I got was to not try to be one of the boys. I felt like the weight was lifted off my shoulders at that time because you try so hard just to fit in, so to get that advice from someone senior pretty early in my career I felt like I could actually just be myself and that was good enough.

I’m feminine. I am an empathetic leader. I put my hands up when I’m excited. And some of those characteristics didn’t feel in line with what I had seen from executive bankers before. Just hearing those words, even though I don’t think they meant to go so deep, from that moment it was kind of this “Aha” moment.


“To be successful you must have impact. So always focus on impact and always go where you will have the most impact.” – Ingrid Maes, CEO Venture Captial Fund W23 Global.

When I started in consulting out of university I was quite nervous. One of my early mentors said to me: to be successful you have to have an impact, so always focus on impact and always go where you’ll have the most impact.
What this meant for me is that I was always looking for ways to create impact and add value for the company I work for or the clients I serve. It has been a theme throughout my career to relentlessly focus on “how can I create value and how can I deliver that value?”


“Just be yourself. Work through what you think is the right thing to do and good people will back you 100%” – Siobhan Toohill, Chief Sustainability Officer Westpac.

Just be yourself. I worked for an extraordinary woman called Rilla Moore and she always advised me to be myself. Her leadership style taught me so much and her approach, considering when I first started working in sustainability for her at Stockland in 2005 it was really unclear how you even create a sustainability strategy, she said: “You work through what you think is the right thing to do, and I will back you 100 per cent.”


“There are 2 fundamental truths. Relationships are important and compassion trumps everything else.” – Alison Telfer, Country Head, UBS Asset Management ANZ.

You will make mistakes, you will get things wrong. But if you have good relationships, people will forgive you and they will support you through it.

And a subset of that is working with compassion. I feel a little bit suspicious of gratitude, but I do believe in compassion, definitely, at all times.


“Play to your strengths and do more of what you love” – Kate West, Australasian Region Co-Chair Arup.

I enjoyed engineering, but I wasn’t the best structural engineer in the world. I had a conversation with someone outside Arup who said “don’t concentrate so much on working on your weaknesses – just play to your strengths. You’re great with people and thinking big picture, so why don’t you do more of that?”

You have to do what you love. That gives you energy – you invest more time in it and get better at it, and it becomes a virtuous circle.


For more of ‘the best career advice I ever received’ you can read AFR’s article here


Remember, all our careers we will receive bits of advice, feedback, criticism, and support. There will be words we need to pay attention to, and there will be words we can throw away. Find the golden bits that will influence the person you want to be, towards the ambitions you hold.


#CareerCoaching #EmpoweredWomenLeaders #2024AFRWomenInLeadershipAwards


Poppy Griffiths is Director & Founder of UnlimitU High Performance Coaching, a neuroscience qualified professional coach and speaker with 2 decades of senior business & leadership experience with Qantas Group & Swisse Wellness. 

UnlimitU works with industry, business, government, schools and elite sport clubs across Australia, New Zealand & Asia Pacific. We are passionate about enabling people, teams, and leaders to show up at their best in work and life. Were amplify workplace culture, leadership effectiveness, team performance and wellbeing.

Poppy is strong advocate for working parents, women in leadership, and mentally fit leaders and teams. A 13 year R U OK? ambassador and media spokesperson, and previous Board Chair for Nutrition Australia. 

If you are interested in high performance event speaking, group workshops, 1:1 coaching or advisory for your organisation, leaders or teams, please get in touch. poppy@unlimitu.com.au 


Poppy is UnlimitU's founder and principal success coach. "Every human has more potential, hidden, held back or in the making"