Management, Mining and Motherhood.
Paula Hicks is a Banyjima woman, originally from Geraldton, who already has business experience. Over the past 15 years, she’s worked in the welfare, health and education sectors. When Paula realised she needed tertiary qualifications to compete for the top positions, this mum-of-two enrolled at Murdoch to study a Business Management degree that will be professionally-recognised.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities,” Paula says, “but I am driven – I have aspirations. I have to actually have a piece of paper so I can compete for the executive roles. For me, it’s about going back and getting the formal qualifications to back up my years of experience.”
Paula’s goal is to hold a senior management position in an innovative industry, like resources. So when she learned about a Fortescue Metals Group cadetship that aligned with her ambition, she made sure she earned the placement. “It’s exciting. They’re always looking for the best way of doing things – becoming more efficient and more effective. Working in management and organisational development in a mining company like that is quite cutting-edge.”
I want to challenge myself; to show my foster daughter and son. In my case with management, it wasn’t experience I lacked – it was a qualification that will get me the general manager and executive roles.
On her placement with Fortescue she worked on a leadership program piece. “They asked me to look at different ways to increase leadership capacity,” Paula explains. “I presented my proposal to the General Manager of Human Resources. Now, it’s rolled out as a proper training and leadership package – different to what I originally proposed – but I was part of that conversation. It’s a highlight.”
She's in the second year of her degree and believes that studying at university as a mature-age student has made her work even harder. "When I was in school I was so scared I would fail maths," she says. "So when I read the details for one of my business units, I questioned if I could do it. Now I know nothing can stop me if I put my mind to it."
Paula's ambition to succeed in business comes with the support of her partner, family, lecturers and employers. “They’re all right behind me saying I need to do this. It means a lot to the University, to Fortescue, [to me] as an Aboriginal student.”
As someone who already has extensive workplace experience, Paula has some advice for others considering university study. “I went into university thinking I knew everything,” she says. “It’s actually opened my eyes to the reality that you get a lot out of a university degree that you simply can’t get from work experience. It complements what I have and gives me the theory behind what I already had been doing... I'll take that back to the workplace."