Julie Goods, Executive Manager People and Culture, has retired after 19 years at Helping Hand. Here she shares some of her career and life reflections in this farewell profile.
Who would know more about how to gracefully conclude a successful career than someone who has helped to launch a thousand others? Passion, enthusiasm, an inquisitive mind, and a desire to make a difference have been the hallmarks of Helping Hand’s outgoing People and Culture Executive Manager, Julie Goods. Swapping long hours in the office for long hours building a new home on Hindmarsh Island with her new husband, semi-retired plumber Steve, will be a culture shock, but one for which she has been well prepared by her diverse and interesting life.
Born into modest circumstances, the oldest daughter of migrants from Belfast, Julie, 58, left school, like so many of us, with no particular career goal in mind and no qualifications. Forty years later she has a notable career behind her forged by courage, natural intelligence and hard work. That work ethic must come in part from parents who worked in factories their whole lives and a mum who would make a jug of hock, lime and lemon to dispense to women at home on the weekends as she did their hair.
“I’ll never forget the smell of hairspray and hairdryers,” she says, “nor the laughter of the women as my mum did their hair. Wonderful to see a group of women having so much fun.”
One of Julie’s first experiences in the workforce gave her a different lesson about the workplace. Employed at David Jones as a teen girl in the hosiery section, helping women choose their panty hose, she worked happily enough for one boss, but was quickly sacked when another took his place.
“I was young, pimply and overweight,” she said. “He saw me for the first time and sacked me on the spot. I have no doubt at all that was the reason – all the other girls there were far more glamorous.”
That’s the only time she has been sacked, but it helped shape her understanding of the impact of injustice in the workforce. Even taking her into a job rep role for the Union for a time.
Various minor administrative roles followed until Julie found a place at the then SA College of Advanced Education. That College evolved into the University of South Australia, and alongside it Julie’s career evolved as she progressed into finance and human resources. It was while working for this fledgling university – struggling as a single mother after a divorce – that she met a hugely important role model who helped build her up and shape her future.
“Denise Bradley really took me under her wing and was very kind to me,” Julie said. “She was an amazing female role model at a time when there was social injustice, inequity, and the need for real change in the sector.”
Professor Bradley was an enormous figure in the world of tertiary academia, and as the Vice Chancellor of the University of South Australia she displayed leadership skills in shaping and creating an organisation that Julie very much admired, and learned much from. There were a lot of fun elements to the job as well, getting to know a diverse range of academics and artists and helping them forge their careers. Among the more quirky appointments she had to make were the nude models for the art school.
“I’ll never forget hiring one of them who was an accountant. He’d turn up for his modelling stint dressed in a tie and briefcase and then strip off!”
Julie believes her role at the University was instrumental in giving her a deep understanding of people, their roles, their psychology and their differences. And she learnt the tough lessons that are part of re-shaping an organisation like that – including the redundancies.
“Some have been harder than others,” she said. “Some of the male staff at that university behaved very poorly so there was not a lot of sleep lost over moving them on. But I learned then, and have tried to always follow this rule, to be honest and open with all employees. Most of the time that has been appreciated – though this kind of change is very difficult for people. Most of them moved on to better things though, and the organisation did too.”
After 19 years at the Uni it was time for a change of her own. “History is repeating,” Julie says with a laugh. “I’m moving on again now after another 19 years with Helping Hand.” At first her roles were short-term – a maternity leave stint filling in as HR manager followed by a year conducting an organisational review. But that review resulted in a lot of changes and Julie took on the wide-ranging role of Corporate Services Manager, responsible for a diverse array of portfolios including HR, Marketing, IT and property among others.
“The organisation was very scattered and needed focus and change,” she said. “At Helping Hand I was able to influence and make decisions and much-needed change, and I like to think the ethos of the organisation was part of that change, and my legacy.”
She acknowledges there are still some tough challenges ahead in the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care and the ongoing evolution of expectations, both of customers and staff.
“What people expect as they age is changing, and what people expect as they work in the sector is too. We need to continue to build a flexible organisation, built on caring principles, and I think we’re in good shape for that now. And we need to focus on our workforce as much, if not more, than any other aspect of our business.”
Julie describes herself as a completer/finisher, and attributes this to the key reason she has stayed in organisations so long. She believes the timing of her retirement, in the wake of the difficulties with COVID, is right.
“I can’t see retirement being the end for me,” she says, “I have plans to help with volunteering, travel and getting to my personal to do list. And, at the age of 58, I’m getting married and buying the first house I’ve owned since about 1996. I need something new now, and so does Helping Hand. I loved my job, but they need a different energy now, and more energy than I have, and a different perspective.”
One of Julie’s last tasks for Helping Hand was her involvement in inducting her replacement, Natalie Morris. Natalie is a qualified lawyer, a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, certified in ProSci change management and is currently doing her certification program with the Australian Human Resources Institute. She has served on several not-for-profit boards and committees and is joining Helping Hand in March 2022 to make a positive difference in an organisation that aligns true to her personal values.
“I think Natalie is going to be a great fit for Helping Hand, she has an excellent energy and I wish her and all of my many friends in the organisation all the best.”
Julie said that her farewell from Helping Hand was genuinely emotional, leaving her in tears and also much laughter, but it helped her to leave on the right terms, at the right time. After all, who would know better how to start a new life, than someone who has already lived one well.
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