What my 20’s Taught Me

January 14, 2020

It’s December 20th 2019 and so much has happened in the last decade, not to mention the last week.

Donald Trump has become the third US president in history to be impeached. India is in the grips of mass public protests against a new citizenship law. Anti-government protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months, with no signs of dying down. The NSW premier has pleaded with people across the state to stay off the roads with thousands of firefighters risking their lives as more than 100 fires continue to burn.  Below is a letter to my younger self.

Dear Ashlee,

The year is December 2009 and you’re about to turn twenty. You have no idea about the journey that is about to take place in the next decade.

At school you were often at the bottom of the class for English, Mathematics and Science. This struggle has always led you to put in 150% effort. What you have learnt so far is that no matter what people say, you can achieve your goals if you are passionate, hardworking and persistent. You’ve just completed your first year of your Bachelor with a double major in Psychology, Criminology and Justice.  You love studying and learn new information like a sponge.

As much as you love your degree, the thought of becoming a Forensic Psychologist or Offender Profiler is not something you can see yourself doing due to the nature of the work. After completing your degree, you will continue to study and commence your Masters in HR in 2012 while also starting your career.

You start working in agency recruitment and realise this is not your passion as the type of work doesn’t align to your personal values and long-term career goal, as you want to solve greater organisational problems in the workplace.

Side projects and hobbies are important. You will create a website/your first start-up called The Corporate Climber because you are surprised by the lack of commitment in the workplace to your development, employee experience and career opportunities at a non- executive level.

You will appear in StartUp News, be selected as one of five finalists who are all male for the PcW Young Entrepreneurs Program and have the opportunity to pitch to judges and investors for the first time. Through your work with The Corporate Climber, you will also conduct your first piece of research with LiveHire, and be a Guest Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia for third year Change and Organisational Development students.

Your passion for Technology and Psychology will lead you to pursuing a career in HR Technology. After discovering Workday (a cloud-based HR system that will become the system of choice for the world’s best brands), you decide to write your final

Masters paper on implementing Workday for Organisation and Employee performance. From 2016 – 2019 your research paper will be shared with Accenture’s Human Capital Practice Lead, Deloitte’s Workday Practice Lead and many other businesses across Australia as they embark on their Workday transformation journey.

From November 2014 – April 2015 you will apply for over 192 jobs that you feel are more junior than your experience, as many of the HR functions for companies are based inter-state. Also, very few companies in Perth are yet to move from an on-premise HR system to the cloud and HR tech roles fail to exist in Perth as of yet. You receive less then 10 interviews, rejection after rejection, month after month.  You start applying for jobs in Melbourne and Sydney to see if it’s not just you and quickly receive interviews and job offers from some of Australia’s leading companies including: PcW, Nab, Westpac, CBA, LinkedIn and the Iconic. You soon realise Perth is simply recovering from a decade-long mining boom that has changed the city’s employment landscape and you don’t see it picking up anytime soon.

You’ve always dreamt of living in a big city, where people from all corners of the globe come together and big ideas spring to life.  Being adopted however, you have always been extremely close with Mum, Dad and Karlee and moving away from your family will be the hardest decision you will ever have to make. You will suddenly go from living with your parents to seeing them twice a year. When the right opportunities present themselves however, you know that in order to grow your career you will need to relocate and in May 2015, you will buy a one-way plane ticket to Melbourne.

At 25, the first year following your relocation will be extremely challenging as you start to attempt your career, in a new city where you know less than four people. Having never lived out of home, there will be a series of very unfortunate events such as falling ill with a flu/virus every few weeks for six months and adapting to the unpredictable Melbourne weather.

Since relocating to Melbourne, you will move sixteen times in 2 years, averaging a move every 1.5-3 months to secure a safe and permanent apartment. Your career in management consulting is going well- you will forever be thankful for the opportunities that have presented from working with one of the world’s leading management consulting firms. You also realise that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. After two years you also decide to take the leap from consulting to contracting.

Your love for learning and connecting with others will see you share your insights and experiences of being a female in STEM as a guest speaker for Code Like a Girl at PwC and Naked Ambition on AI and the Future of Work.

You will also re-brand The Corporate Climber to Her Economy. You realise to get the things done, you need to be boring. From 2017 – 2018, you spend all your free time (before work, after work and weekends) on Her Economy, a business-lifestyle platform and company that is dedicated to breaking down the barriers to political and gender bias in the corporate and tech space for young women. Whatever you are passionate about, pursue it relentlessly.

Realising you have done very little travel as you have been so focused on your studies and career, you take your first overseas holiday in four years to Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. As someone who loves visiting cities, you love everything about Hong Kong and it will become one of your favourite places in the world.

Play, smile and laugh. You will find people often become frustrated, sad and unwell because they don’t make time to play. You have so much happiness inside of you, enjoy it.

Your last year of your twenties will be one of your best.  You will start 2019 launching Her Economy, travel to Europe for the first time and get to experience a week on the coast of Italy with your family.  You will attend a Startup Bootcamp where you are mentored by CEO, Founder and Angel Investor Kim Emerson whose company went through to a successful IPO and was in one of the first 20 companies awarded funding through Guy Kawasaki’s Garage.com. You will feature some of the greatest minds of your time on Her Economy including: US Customer Experience Expert Blake Morgan, Dr Richard Hames, Slack, and Pete Wills (Previous CEO of Deloitte Digital Australia). You will get a Co-Founder and have over 15 people write and design for Her Economy. Meeting Dr Richard Hames, attending Amazon Web Services Machine Learning 2020 event and hearing Allie K Miller (Forbes Innovator of the Year) will be among the key highlights of your professional and personal journey to date.

You find many times the urge to pinch yourself because it’s no longer just you that believes in your idea that started in your Perth kitchen seven years ago. When you see other people work on and believe in Her Economy, you will realise having a purpose greater than yourself is the very reason why you started. Your year will end with a trip back home to Perth just in time for your 30th birthday. As you enter a new decade and chapter of your life, take the time to talk to the elderly lady on your street, to read a book, to walk to work instead of taking public transport when it’s a beautiful day. Take the time to escape for a weekend with friends. Take the time to listen and to get to know yourself. Take the time to change, to grow, to rest. Take the time to say yes, take the time to say no. Take the time to be quiet. Take the time to look after your body, to eat well and sleep. Take the time to ask yourself who you are and what you want. Take the time to take the time because nobody will do it for you. 

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