Mob Pod: Rachelle Towart, Pipeline Talent.
The Davidson Institute’s Lisa Gissing talks to Rachelle Towart about her journey and the importance of planning and money management in running a successful business like Pipeline Talent.
Rachelle Towart, OAM is a proud Wonnarura woman, born in Blacktown in Sydney, NSW. As an Indigenous woman with a powerful personal story of the effectiveness of leadership development, Rachelle has elevated awareness of the importance of Indigenous leadership and governance capacity to the national stage. In 2016, Rachelle formed Pipeline Talent to build support for emerging Indigenous leaders after recognising the need for an improved range of tailored support programs for Indigenous executives. As the Managing Director, Rachelle Towart is recognised nationally for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, governance, and education. The Davidson Institute’s Lisa Gissing talks to Rachelle about her journey and the importance of planning and money management in running a successful business like Pipeline Talent.
LG: Hello everyone, I’m Lisa Gissing from Westpac’s Davidson Institute and today we’re speaking with Rachelle Towart, Managing Director of Pipeline Talent, a 100% Indigenous owned recruitment company specialising in Indigenous appointments. Welcome Rachelle.
RT: Thanks Lisa. Pleased to be here this afternoon.
LG: Before we begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the various lands in which we all meet, and pay my respects to elders both past and present.
LG: I also acknowledge and pay respects to those here today who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and recognise the diversity of Indigenous peoples, countries and culture in Australia.
LG: As Australia’s first bank, we acknowledge our role in supporting an inclusive and diverse nation where all of our cultural backgrounds are recognised and respected. So Rachelle, let’s start today with you telling us a little bit more about yourself and also Pipeline Talent.
RT: Thanks Lisa. Thank you for your beautiful acknowledgement to country and I too would like to pay my respects to those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country who are listening to this podcast with the Davidson Institute.
RT: My name is Rachelle. I’m from Wonnarua country near Singleton in NSW but I was born and raised in Western Sydney and moved to Canberra a very long time. I’m a wife of 27 years, I’m a mother of 25 years.
RT: And also a newly, a new mum to my 2 little nephews who are who have been in my care through kinship care and I’d also like to pay my respects other kinship carers who are in a similar position to mine. I found myself turning 50 in a few weeks time and I’m now a mum again, starting from scratch with a now 3 and 4 year but I’m absolutely blessed to be able to care for them.
RT: Have been I suppose a leader in indigenous leadership for many many years now. Being the CEO, former CEO of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre and 5 years ago came up with the concept of Pipeline Talent.
LG: Wonderful, and can you tell us a little bit more about Pipeline Talent as a business?
RT: Yeah. So I was sitting on a plane ride over to Western Australia 5 years ago and was reading a magazine, the Qantas inflight magazine where Qantas had done a story of me which was lovely.
RT: But I’m sitting in row 30 next to the loo reading an article about myself. I turn the page and there was this story about women in the pipeline and how women’s numbers were increasing in corporate, community and government roles
RT: And I thought to myself if I change the word woman to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people where would the numbers in executive recruitment sort of sit. And very evidently it’s non-existent.
RT: So I looked at different state and territory governments. If I looked at the Northern Territory government. 26 agencies, not one of them headed by an Aboriginal person. In the Federal Government there were about 23 or 24 senior executive aboriginal people within the Australian public service.
RT: And I looked at the ASX 500 where seat suite and board members less than 0.04% Or really non-existent. And I got off this plane and I went I’m going to start an executive recruitment company which I’m so glad that I’ve done.
RT: Its making a really big difference in the lives of you know, putting parity to it’s real forefront of executive recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
RT: And for me we’ve grown over the last 4 years Being an executive recruiter and waking up and going into the world of recruitment wasn’t an easy, easy start. You are put into a world, into a world of car, used car salesmen and real estate agents.
RT: And for me going into a sales sort of environment really wasn’t what I expected it to be. Recruitment wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. And I really had to unpack well why don’t we have Aboriginal people in executive roles
RT: And some of that was around people not being able to, weren’t given this thing called real feedback and if the listeners to this podcast, every time I say the word real I’m putting up my 2 fingers and using the inverted commas of real feedback.
RT: People are scared and intimidated by giving real feedback I think to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. And I think if we got that feedback right then we would be in a much better position and see a much larger proportion in middle to senior roles.
RT: So for me it’s really critical that we get this thing right and because we are not like a normal recruiter.I don’t hire recruiters to work with me. We all come from a project management and a really good relationship base that we find putting these 2 things together make really good people recruiters. And so we are having some great success in doing so
LG: So as a leader what have been some of your most valuable lessons learnt throughout your career? And what would be your advice to other aspiring leaders out there?
RT: Leadership is just such a crazy world to be in. You know. It’s not about the position that you hold. It’s about how you hold the position.
RT: And I’ve been really fortunate to see other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and I think if you can see you can it and you can believe it and you can be it. And taking I think the best form of learning for me is not necessarily going through a classroom but it’s done through observation.
RT: And observation is a key to education for me. So what do you take from those leaders that do really great things? What do you take from leaders who you don’t see doing great things?
RT: And what do you put into your toolkit of leadership behaviours. As I said the observation to me is absolutely key.
RT: And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Pick up the phone and reach out to people. We’ve got such amazing technology either through LinkedIn or through other various means that we can find a person’s contact number and reach out to them.
RT: There’s nothing better for me to receive an email or a or a connection point that says hey, how did you get to where you got to. I was very fortunate I’ve received many awards and recognition. I actually received a Westpac Community Leaders award back in 2014.
RT: Purely off being able to ask the question. So when I was the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre we were pretty much down and out with our, the money situation and the board had asked me. I was the last one standing, Rachelle do you want to have a crack at being the CEO. And I said sure . How am I going to generate income and money?. So, I wrote to Gail Kelly when she was the CEO of Westpac.
RT: And said dear Aunty Gail I’d like to have lunch with you and 10 of your rich friends. And she can either say yes or no. And for me fortunate enough for me she said yes. And from that luncheon made me , made the leadership centre a sustainable organisation just by asking questions. Because there are only two answers in life yes or no. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask a question.
LG: Some great advice there. So leading on from that. As a managing director now how important is planning and money management?
RT: Wow it’s the most important the world of being able to understand your finances. It’s so critical to good governance.
RT: Particularly when you’ve got the responsibility of not only yourself but your family but then also if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to employ staff. That you’ve got a regular commitment to pay staff wages.
RT: You’ve got to understand. You’ve got to have, you’ve got to have really great accounting skills. But you know you’re not just paying someone a service. I’ve got a great accountant and financial advisor. But yes they can give me this advice on where I am sitting and where I am going but I’ve got to understand those finances too. I can’t just leave it in the hands of somebody else.
RT: I’ve got to understand it. I’ve got to know it. And I’ve got to be responsible. Because money is key to business success. And you’ve got to understand it. You’ve got to know it.
RT: I cannot stress to you the importance of understanding money. Where it sits. And forecasting into the future. Because you never know when something is going to happen. And sometimes you make poor decisions.
RT: Like I started this business 5 years ago. It started in my little house. I then asked a friend whether I could move into her office and rent a desk. I then moved a little bit further and got 3 desks from another friend.
RT: And then 2 years ago I made a lease on a space that I’m currently in now. And I reckon it’s probably been my only bad advice that I listened. That I didn’t get advice on. And that’s probably the reason why it was bad advice – because I didn’t ask.
RT: And that was that I took a lease on a building. When perhaps I may have been able to use my super to buy and invest something for myself. And now I’m probably looking to expand my staff. I got now have a team of 8 in 5 years. That’s a pretty big deal. And for me it’s a huge commitment but I’m almost bursting at the seams.
RT: So I’m now talking to my financial advisor and my accountant around what can I do now to get into a bigger space. But it’s about talking to those around you. Because you might not have the knowledge of everything.
RT: But there’s people around you that can provide you with that advice. And that is certainly what we are doing now in terms of hopefully in the next few months being able to get a bigger space and perhaps even one that we own.
LG: Yeah what a wonderful journey and thank you for sharing it with us. And I guess finally how do businesses or candidates get in touch with you and Pipeline Talent and register their interest in I guess either recruiting or being recruited?
RT: The easiest way is just to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
RT: And one of our team will be in touch to find out more about you. Because really recruitment is about relationships for us. We want to make sure that we are. You’re investing in your career and how do we get the most of out you. We don’t just do executive recruitment. So we look at those on an entry pathway to and have an aspiration to in middle, senior and executive roles.
RT: For those that want to be appointed to a board we’d love to hear from you We are always looking at our you know Kanban, that we do our project planning on is filled with jobs from you know Medibank to NSW treasury to working with other Aboriginal organisations like the Aurora Foundation or Gayaa Dhuwi
RT: To working with the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association. And we are really fortunate at the moment that we are working with the Yoo-rrok process. Which is a newly. A truth commissions that we’re working with the Victorian government in setting up 5 commissioners for the treaty process.
RT: So we’re really excited. We get lots and lots of work. And the work is variety We never get the same job twice. Oh we do because we don’t advertise, we get repeat business because we are good at what we do. And we want to hear from people all across Australia because we don’t just recruit in one area.
RT: We recruit Longreach to Broome to Murray Bridge. The new thing is now people working where it works. You don’t even need to leave your home to go to jobs. So we love the work where it works because it means that Mob don’t have to leave their family and community to get a really decent opportunity for employment.
LG: Yeah wonderful. Fantastic. Thank you very much Rachelle. We’ll leave it there. But some great insights. Today we’ve been speaking with Rachelle Towart, Managing Director of Pipeline Talent.