Academic Careers in Corporate


We spoke to two academics who are kicking ass to learn how they made the move from ‘traditional’ academia into a career they love ahead of our online panel on 25 March and Sydney panel on 27 March:

  • Melina Georgousakis | Research and Policy Manager at The Bupa Health Foundation, Bupa Australia, Founder, Franklin Women

  • Magda Ellis | Senior Analyst, THEMA Consulting

How did you move from academia to what you are doing now?

Magda: “I did an internship for three months at a biotech business development consultancy, focussing on the commercialisation of developing technology. It was the best thing I ever did: it opened my eyes to other opportunities and it really made me understand what my transferable skills were. It utilised all the skills I had been using throughout my career to date, and then applied it to a more commercial environment.”

Melina: “I was in a medical research institute for nearly a decade and it was the only world I knew. I started to realise there was a whole other world of people using science training to improve health in different roles and that excited me.”

There definitely was a niggly voice in my head, which I now know a lot of academics have which is ‘you’re leaving because you’re not good enough’. I had to rewire that way of thinking.
— Magda Ellis

What did you find were the most transferable skills you were able to apply to a corporate role?

Magda: “Seeking out relevant data, putting it together in a concise and understandable format, reporting back and using all those insights to tell a story.  The communication and writing skills are all things we do on a daily basis in research and academia and we take for granted that it’s a skill set and it’s something you can apply to any role.”

Networking at Franklin Womens Network

Networking at Franklin Womens Network

What would you say are the differences between academia and corporate?

Melina: “The main difference is the rigour of detail and pace.  In corporate, decisions need to be made swiftly. Corporate can’t wait say, four years to introduce a new idea, product or service, like you might need in research.  

I had to learn how to balance that academic rigour with speed and quality of delivery. The concept of working on a ‘minimum viable product’ was completely new territory when I started in corporate. In academic, you have a hypothesis and you rigorously test it before releasing or sharing ideas!

The outputs of my work in corporate is not comparable to academia, instead, I manage the level of energy I put into each project that  matches the impact its going to make. For example, I don’t always have to do a systematic literature review for two years on a topic to make all business decisions, but I know the circumstances when I need to.”

Having a PHD is very highly regarded and organisations are curious about how we can apply our academic mindset to solving problems of scale.
— Melina Georgousakis

Magda: “I definitely had a fear that maybe the grass wouldn’t be greener on the other side. I had a fear of ‘why would I give this up, and work for someone where I might be told what to do’, ha! I was nervous I’d go into a commercial environment where I’d be micromanaged and work life balance would go out the window.

The reality was much different. The work life balance is much better in corporate, to be honest! In academia, I was always in ‘planning’ mode. Whether that was my next experiments, my site visits, what I’m going to publish, how many pieces I’m going to publish, questioning ‘am I on the right track’. It was a never ending ‘to do list’ in my mind. I could never sit down and relax at the end of the day. I was always ‘thinking’. Now, in corporate, I work 8.30am - 5pm.

How did you make the move into a corporate role? How might people reading this replicate the move?

Melina: “Well to be honest, I didn’t even consider it until I had launched Franklin Women’s Network and became aware of opportunities outside of academia. While I was on maternity leave with my first child I had a lot of time thinking about what skills I had developed, where I needed more experience and how I could best add value. My role in the Bupa Health Foundation was made specifically for me thanks to building my networks over the years.”

Magda: “While wondering what it was that I might move on to if I ever left academia, I put the skills I enjoyed into and thought ‘what the heck’. I put epidemiology into the search function just to see what was out there. And, there was a job for a Health Economist. I thought ‘I have no idea what a Health Economist is’. Looking more closely at the job criteria, I saw I could tick nearly all the performance criteria and my interest was piqued.

Thanks to building networks over the years, I was able to step into a role which was custom designed for my skill set.
— Melina Georgousakis

The next step for me was enrolling in an online course in health economics to upskill on the sector. I really loved it, so when I completed that, I jumped ship and ended up in consulting! Doing the course was a big confidence booster.”

Our academic community have told us Impostor Syndrome and confidence challenges prevent them from taking those steps, above. What internal work did you navigate to put your best foot forward to make a positive change to your career?

Melina: “Honestly, I went in with so much self doubt. I thought ‘I don’t have any transferable skills, I only know research.’ In the policy role however, within a couple of years I was promoted three times. It made me realise that we can absolutely use the skills we’ve already learned outside of academia and any we don’t have - we also have a skill where we can easily learn and adapt!”

Melina addressing Franklin Womens Network.

Melina addressing Franklin Womens Network.

Magda: “I wasn’t happy.  What motivated me to act was talking about how I felt to others. I realised that others felt the same: it wasn’t just me!

On talking to other people about it, it showed me the breath of opportunities that were out there. The more I talked to others, the more I felt it wasn’t a bad choice to leave to pursue new opportunities.

When I finished my PHD, there definitely was a niggly voice in my head, which I now know a lot of academics have which is ‘you’re leaving because you’re not good enough’. There are lots of people who do PHD’s, relatively speaking, but only a few make it to Professor status. I had to rewire that way of thinking.

I put ‘epidemiology’ into the search function of There was a job for a Health Economist. I thought ‘I have no idea what a Health Economist is’, yet I ticked nearly all the performance criteria. My interest was piqued.
— Magda Ellis

When I went to that Franklin Women network, with all these academic women in the room, we’ve got all these amazing women who do their PHD’s, and they don’t go all the way, for whatever reason and it’s not because they’re not talented or intelligent: it’s because they follow another career path. It’s really important to have these conversations to let people know there’s an alternative pathway.

When women leave academia, there’s a loss of that training however the gains for the corporate world to positively impact change are enormous.”

How did you ‘rebrand’ yourself for corporates to be able to see your experience?

Magda: I started with my CV as the first step. When I was rewriting my CV, I realised my resume had to be put into the bin and start from scratch! I learned I had to sell my transferable skill set not how many publications I’d written. Rewriting it took a long time, and through this process I had a clearer picture on how to sell myself for an interview, even when I was looking for work and contacting people. Once this was in a format non-academics could understand, I felt more confident going to ‘market’.”

Melina: “When you’re doing a PHD, you’re around all these excellent people who are doing great things. You’re thinking it’s not perceived as ‘anything unusual’ to have these qualifications.

What I discovered was that in other industries, this is really highly regarded. They loved that I had presented work at conferences, that I could critically review scientific literature, that I could translate complex science in a way the general public could understand.

When I thought about all of my brilliant peers and I realised I had to stand out. I asked myself what would make myself stand out amongst a brilliant crowd? In addition to my research, I started to put myself out there, slowly. I started to speak at schools, I updated my LinkedIn profile, I signed up for a Twitter account. I made myself more visible, by design, outside of science.

That way, when people look me up they don’t only get a research page, they learn about my interests and what makes me different as a person and as a possible team member.”

It’s ridiculous that what stops us as academics is using our qualification as our sole way to define our value. I had so many perceptions to what a ‘career in science’ looks like. Making a change could be the best decision of your life.
— Melina Georgousakis
Life at THEMA Consulting.

Life at THEMA Consulting.

Outside of corporate, what opportunities are out there?

Melina: “Until I started the Franklin Women’s network, I had no idea as to what the opportunities were outside of academia for someone with a background in health and medical research.

Every single sector has an interest in health in some capacity so the opportunities really are endless. I have met women working in start-ups, consulting firms, the major banks, government, not-for-profit organisations. Having a PHD is very highly regarded and organisations are curious about how we can apply our academic mindset to solving problems of scale.”

What advice would you give someone who might be reading this and thinking ‘how do I start’?

Melina: “It’s ridiculous that what stops us as academics is using our qualification as our sole way to define our value. I’d recommend keeping your mind open. Don’t close doors to other opportunities based on your gut reaction to what you have always known.

I had so many perceptions to what a ‘career in science’ looks like. Making a change could be the best decision of your life. “

Magda: “The key thing is to really think about the aspects of your current role you really enjoy and see how those skills could be applied elsewhere. I went to a Franklin Women workshop where we were asked to write down skills we enjoyed and skills we didn’t. I hadn’t thought about my career like that before.

And never underestimate the power of networking! I really can’t recommend how important it is to talk to other people going through what you are going through and to build those supports. You feel less alone and empowered to act.”

I found myself stuck when I was doing my postdoc, and it took me years to finally jump ship and go into consulting. When I finally did, I loved it.
— Magda Ellis

Join Melina and Magda at our Sydney panel on 27 March or join our digital panel March 25!

Enjoy this read? Learn about how two other academics, Dr Jillian Kenny and Dan Sleeman moved into entrepreneurship.

Careers in Academia | Panel Q&A

How do I apply my academic skills to a new industry / corporate opportunities?

We spoke to two academics who are kicking ass to learn how they made the move from ‘traditional’ academia into a career they love ahead of our digital panel on 25 March:

How would you recommend others start thinking about an ‘alternative’ career to academia?

Dan: “I think what’s exciting about academic careers is the skills which are transferable to so many other areas. I would encourage those seeking a new opportunity to figure out what big problems you want to attach yourself to and you’re passionate about.

“Take research work, which is a curious and creative endeavour and apply that same curiosity to other areas. Be interested in learning new skills, exploring other industries and sectors and explore how you can think of developing a transferable T shaped skill set which demonstrates a depth of skills.”

Dr Kenny sharing her insights with young girls in STEM.

Dr Kenny sharing her insights with young girls in STEM.

How might others apply their academic skills to industry / corporate?

Jillian: “I realised I wasn’t going to be an academic pretty quickly after starting my PHD. Academia is about research which is brilliantly suited to others; for me, I’d always been drawn to outcomes I could see the tactical results in real-time. There are differences culturally between academia and the commercial and entrepreneurial space, however once you start to look at it, there's a lot of similarities as well.”

Dan: “Academics have so much conviction. It’s that feeling I’d encourage someone to pursue.

Researchers and academics have depth of mastery, which demonstrates a passion and creative pursuit. Research is about rumbling with ideas so as an academic you have inherent skills you’ve developed as subject matters expert. Skills in creativity, exploration and asking really good questions are adaptable to organisations who need refreshing thinking.

When we think about ‘T’ shaped skills, it encourages us to think more widely than our niche. So many academics would have incredibly relevant and translatable skills to any industry.”

Dan Sleeman at The Shed Melbourne, applying his love of education to a new venture.

Dan Sleeman at The Shed Melbourne, applying his love of education to a new venture.

What about alternative examples such as consultancy, or entrepreneurship?

Jillian: “Academia can be a little isolating in that you’re working by yourself a lot, and you have to do everything which is like entrepreneurship!

I founded Power of Engineering. We were supposed to do one event and it turned into one organisation. We reached 10,000 regional students across Australia; 75% report they’ve changed their mind from a no to a yes as a result of coming to our events. We had no money, we knew no-one, and threw our hat over the wall, made a grand statement.”

A move doesn’t have to be ‘grand’. Ask yourself what is it that you care about and you want to create an impact in. The size of it isn’t important it’s the action of taking a step that’s important.
— Dr Jillian Kenny

Dan: “There are a lot of similarities between an entrepreneurial and a research setting.

I think the most important thing is to think about when seeking a new opportunity is to ask yourself what purpose you’d like to be aligned to. That could come in the form of a consultant, an advisor, a Board member or an entirely new career in a different industry who needs your expertise and skills.

Entrepreneurship in particular, relates to any kind of group of people who are doing something new and can apply experience and expertise into different areas and turn that into value. If we look at startups in particular, having access to someone as experienced as an academic with a depth of knowledge could be hugely beneficial. (Many Universities have an accelerator programme, that’s a great place to start if you’re curious about entrepreneurial opportunities, too.)”

How to I market myself if I've been in academia all my life?

Jillian: “Network. If you are interested in a move, or finding out more in academia, talk to a variety of people. The more people you talk to the broader perspective you get. You might be really surprised by the similarities and the skills you’ve accumulated would be really valued.

Start by asking people about their experiences. There are loads of networking opportunities and events available through those forums.”

Dan: “Creating 1:1 connections with people is a great start. Your personal network is so important in terms of exposing you to opportunities you mightn’t know about in a way that mightn’t be limited to one academic niche. Using LinkedIn as an example, connecting with people who are doing things that excite you, and creating connections outside of your area and educational organisation. Offer to help others who do things you’re interested in.

Meet with people who are doing things that excite you. Seek some real world validation about your ideas and talk to others about it. You never know what might come of it.”

Any other tips?

Dan: “I would encourage anyone to reflect and think about the skills you have learned which demonstrate creative thinking. You might surprise yourself!

Be flexible and adaptable to things going on you and: have faith in your ability. If you are used to having a certain expertise, new things can feel out of your domain. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable: it just means you haven’t done it yet.”

Where to start? If you’ve been an academia, what’s one small step?

Jillian: “A move doesn’t have to be ‘grand’. Ask yourself what is it that you care about and you want to create an impact in. The size of it isn’t important it’s the action of taking a step that’s important.

Don’t think academia is the limit to your skills. There are so many non-technical skills academics bring. I’m giving you permission to think creatively.“

Join these legends at Alternative Careers to Academia at our Digital Panel on March 25!

Ping Pong Retention

Howdy, y'all!

I'm back from USA and sooo excited to be back on Australian soil! I'm back on Aussie coffee and WOW, I can sure feel the caffeine ha!

San Francisco and Vancouver were jam-packed with insights. I met with the major tech giants, head of D&I, people and development teams, HR reps, consultants and coaches.

I was ready to be schooled by the worlds best in engagement and learning hacks. 

Instead, it was a lesson in retention.

Not many individuals are staying at firms for longer than 12 months, some said. "No one stays in a role for longer than 11 in Silicon Valley", said another. One said "it's less about loyalty and more about a bigger pay cheque elsewhere." One people leader admitted to offering a higher salary just to convince an employee to stay from a counteroffer.

I pictured myself earning $300,000 a year, with catered lunch and benefits all taken care of, and a recruiter emailing me with a better offer, like many of those I spoke to said were experiencing. Would I jump to a better offer on a better salary alone?

I'd sure consider it. But would I stay longer than a few months? 

retention stay or go.jpg

Highly unlikely.

Counter offers can earn you up to 20% in some cases more than you're currently earning - but there's really something else at play here: if you're thinking the grass is greener, usually something is missing back home.

Studies tell us time and time and time again money alone doesn't make us happier in the long run. And the men and women that see Happiness Concierge globally tell me this: they want to stay with their firm, but they just don't feel appreciated, valued, they don't see opportunities for growth and critically: the actions of leadership don't match words. 

In fact, the top values that men and women select globally in Happiness Concierge training sessions are Recognition, Family, Integrity, and Growth. They aren't made visible within their organisation, and therefore they're shopping elsewhere, or paying their own cash to come to one of my courses to communicate their value to their employer.

Did they know they had access to a professional learning budget, they could save themselves $50? "It's such a pain in the ass to get approvals", said one attendee. "By the time they approve it, I would have missed out." Another rolled her eyes. "My manager is 'too busy' to approve this sort of thing, and even leaving today at 6pm, it was seen as skyving off."

One firm doing something right is Location Labs. With a reported 95% retention rate, the firms interview and on boarding process is substantive. More importantly, the firm pre-empts employees growth and recognition needs, before the employee knows it's missing, or they've realised for long enough resentment has settled in and they're shopping elsewhere.

“You don’t want people to ever worry or question if they are part of the team and celebrated and appreciated", said former COO Joel Grossman, who started at the firm as an intern a decade ago. "When you recognize people when they don’t expect it, it earns you a ton of points, way more than the dollars a raise costs you. You make a huge impression.”

Recognising talent before they know what they're capable is something Xerox CEO Ursula Burns knows all too well. Starting her career at Xerox as a summer intern, 29 years later she appointed the CEO of the global firm. Burns is now the Chairwoman at the firm and sits on the board of Uber and has worked with President Obama.

For a summer intern to have had the appetite, support, guidance, mentorship and to have seen a role for herself in the company to encourage her to remain with the company gives us many clues as to what Xerox did right - and what we can all learn from Burns' own career steps. (Worth noting: her partner, whom she met at Xerox, stayed home and raised the kids).

Xerox is not widely considered a 'cool' brand. Yet, a closer look into Burns' career indicates her CEO appointment was a combination of internal succession support, her forming critical partnerships with the senior leadership team, a clear pipeline of opportunities and shoulder taps from leaders, a partnership with the outgoing CEO to create a succession plan and a commitment from the organisation to support diversity initiatives. All of this from inside the company, they were able to nurture exceptional talent - and all from day dot.

This is why firms are investing millions in coaching and 1:1 training to get the best out of their people - even if their time is brief, they're going to make sure it's impactful, effective and rewarding. One consultant told me of a major tech firm who had invested millions in coaching to help employees get the most out of their time there - even if it was brief. "No other project delivered as much ROI as the individual coaching, even if they stayed for shorter, they know they're delivering the best value in that time."

Values selected at Happiness Concierge training programmes.

Values selected at Happiness Concierge training programmes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of people I met in SF were somewhat flippant about their loyalty to one organisation, or even the one they worked for. They prioritised networking above anything else. They were early for my networking events. They met with a total stranger. It's always good to have options. 

Yet one of the biggest contribution I see to employee disengagment is having one foot in one place and your mind somewhere else. You can't enjoy either, the current gig nor the 'dream' job. And when you do land that 'dream' job, if all your eggs are on the pay cheque, when you start the gig, there's a hell of a lot riding on everything else going well, y'know?

I put all this to a seasoned people leader on one of my last days SF. Is perk fatigue plaguing large organisations and contributing to lower retention rates? Is it really all about the money in SF? What's the secret to keeping amazing people engaged? There's more to work - for me - than a fancy title and pay cheque. Am I naive to think it's the same for potential employees?

"Oh yeah", they said, laughing. "Give me all the perks you want. But if you can't tell people what their purpose is, what is expected of them in their role and give them the tools and training to do it -  don't matter how fancy your ping pong table is."

Love if you could share this with someone who needs to read it. And I'd love it, even more, to see you at an upcoming event or at your workplace.

Master Deflector

“You’re like an excited puppy”, said a partner, years ago.

I thought that was delightful. She didn’t.

I’d been on the receiving end of back handed comments like this before. The frowns of people who found me too loud, too ostentatious. The silent "shhh" when talking about an idea that excited me. The frustrating phrase, "calm down", directed my way, when I'd bounce in all-excited.

Sometimes I wonder if there was a shield I could have worn when I was growing up and in my twenties that didn't take critique to heart. It really did take me ages to realise I was capable of building that shield myself - instead of waiting for people to "get" me.

But, over the years, I’d built a sort of shield, one where I’d hide a part of myself, to make other people feel more… comfortable.

At work, I’d talk about, well, work. (As a workaholic that suited me just fine as, to be honest, I didn’t have anything else to talk about.) At home, I’d make frivolous chat with my partner, to avoid a challenging conversation about how I felt we’d outgrown each other. And socially, I’d talk about what other people wanted to talk about, because, I thought I told myself it was ‘easier’.

I became a MD: master deflector.

'Work' me and 'errands' me.

'Work' me and 'errands' me.

In my twenties, I whispered to a therapist I hadn’t many friends I felt ‘got’ me.

I’m an introvert, I wanna go deep and I was stuck in conversations about brunch and the weather.

“Have you given them a chance to get to know you?”, she asked, in that way therapists do.

I scrunched up my face and tilted my head. “Huh?”

“When you reveal yourself to others”, she said, “it gives people an opportunity to get to know you.”

I sighed. “I guess I feel like I can’t trust myself”, I said. “Like, if I tell them one thing, I’ll end up being totally inappropriate and end up telling them all sorts of crazy shit.”

“Maybe”, she nodded, encouragingly. “And what would happen if you did?”

“I guess they’d figure out I’m a bit of a freak”, I laughed.

She smiled, encouragingly. “Maybe.”

After years of being a work robot, instead of crying in the loo and hitting the treadmill at midnight to process my emotions, I tried out this radical act of being myself at work. I tried ‘connecting’.

“How was your weekend?”, a colleague asked.

‘I don’t care’, I thought, ‘and neither do you’.

“Good”, I said. “Um, Fine. How was yours?”

‘Shit. That’s what the therapist told me not to do’, I thought.

We continued to have a stale, one dimensional conversation she didn’t care about, and I didn’t care much for either.

I tried again.

“How was your weekend?”, she asked the following week.

“Um, good”, I said. “So, I kind of have this queer Labradoodle share thing going on?”

She laughed. “What!?”

“Yeah”, I continued. The teleprompter wasn’t on anymore and I had to freestyle. “Uh, so, like, he kind of has four puppy moms?”

“Omg”, she said, “I have to hear about this.”

Over the years we had some hilarious moments. I shared Morrissey’s weight loss journey, our favourite Netflix series and she taught me about the value of ankle cleavage, how crotch covers (also known as long singlets) make you look skinnier and where to get amazing pizza (Lazer Pig if you must know).

Revealing myself had filtered out the BS, and we were having real conversations. If, that is, you count pizza recommendations as real conversation and let the record state that yes, I do.

When you're a bit unusual, bit different, or you have an idea and can’t see in what version of reality it would fly, or the people in your world tolerate you instead of celebrating you - getting the courage to say whatever the fuck is on your mind kind of feels like an act of badassery, but doing anything about it seems kind of like career suicide.

The irony is of course, that you only get better at something by doing, um, something in the first place.

My awkward stumble out of ‘how was your weekend’ conversations failed for the first few attempts, but with practice, it got easier. Because confidence isn’t a personality trait: it’s a skill. It gets built by small incremental steps that reinforce doing something slightly different was a good idea in the first place.

I mean, no one (I sincerely hope) was googling ‘when will Rachel Service put Beyonce analogies on the internet to describe her feelings’. I had to put myself out there first. I had to do what I’m terrible at on Tinder. I had to make the first move. 

I was telling a colleague over lunch recently how, since creating Happiness Concierge, once a blog, now a business, complete strangers were trusting me with some of their darkest secrets. How people in super senior positions with important sounding titles were telling me they feel like a fraud at work. That their marriages were suffering. How early childhood trauma continued to affect their behaviours around stressful situations. And how, the more candid I was with them about my biggest regrets in life, my biggest screw ups, the busier I was becoming.

I told her how people from companies I’ve never ever thought would ‘get’ what I’m doing were saying ‘come into our workplace and do your thing, our people need to hear it. How I'd always felt like my fuck ups would resonate with people but it’s kind of that thing where you need evidence until you really really believe it.

“Oh yeah", she said, over sushi. "You can’t trust a leader who doesn’t have the ability to express regret. When someone expresses regret, they’re revealing themselves to you. And you’re more likely to trust them. Think about it: can you really trust a leader who doesn’t have the ability to say they effed up?”

I knew from the people I had met they felt isolated, surrounded by people but feel like very few people could see what's in their head. When they came to me, I'd marveled at how onto it they were, and had even asked why some had come to see me. It was validation they were after. That whole 'I see you've screwed up in the past so I feel like you would understand what's going on with me - can I just get a sense check that the way I'm feeling is... normal?'.

Aaah, normal. I'd love to know what that looks like. I think it just means that you're not alone. 

In my Mojo Sessions, I’ve often observed how one of the most validating part of the experience appeared to be when people were given an opportunity to own their narrative. When they were asked to attach a language, or a catch phrase, to put previous experiences and thoughts patterns into something they could ‘own’.

In therapy circles, it's known as 'to name it is to tame it'. I think that's why actually doing something about a shitty situation is so hard for so many of us. Do I really have to own this? Can't someone else do it?

It's hard work but it's also scary being yourself, I have discovered. It can have consequences, I have discovered, too. You might lose friends, partners, lovers. How others perceive you might change. Opportunities to what is expected of you might dry up.

Maybe all of that will happen.

But the question we gotta ask ourselves, I think, is less ‘who’ or ‘what’ do we want to be defined as (or in comparison to), and more ‘what is the price I’m willing to pay to not be myself at work, at home, with friends, family, loved ones’?

If there’s little consequence to your financial, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental safety, there’s sweet all motivation to change anything.

But, if you feel, like I certainly have, that there’s a disparity between your private and public self, that you’re spreading yourself thin because you’re being lots of versions of yourself for others and that you are mentally and emotionally disintegrating to make others feel more comfortable, well guess what?

You end up paying some form of price.

Be it opportunity cost (because you’re busy doing stuff that doesn’t actually serve you), financial cost (you’re only earning as much as you’re perceived worth and that influences how you see yourself), cost to your emotional, mental stability, an eroded confidence over time, and in some cases, your physical safety, too, or even burnout from just being insanely bored.

Jeremy Sherman writes, “The instinct to survive is strong. The instinct to alleviate fear is stronger. It takes discipline to hitch ourselves to sources of mojo that actually promote survival.”

Discipline, huh. Surely, being 'ourselves' doesn't have to be work? 

Same brand: just different flavas. Like people!

Same brand: just different flavas. Like people!

Well kind of yeah.

Feeling like I could be myself, without fear of judgement, consequence, isolation has been an insanely slow process. It was scary, awkward, stumbly and strange at first.

But over time, owning my actions, acknowledging other peoples judgements says more about them than it does about me, finding my people and finding a creative outlet - has actually kind of set me free from the anxious thoughts in my mind.

I guess the difference between my naive, full of energy, fearless, ambitious kid-Rach; my stuck-in-my-head and blaming others 20's-Rach; and my current mid-30’s being a grown up who DGAF what other people think-Rach is the shield I’ve created for myself - and maintained at painstaking lengths - which protects me, no matter what people say or think.

I didn't realise until recently that I could create that shield for myself.

That it gets stronger the more badassery you put in the tank, the more you hang out with your people who reinforce you're not alone, that there are other people out there who think and act like you do.

And it has been this, tiny, internal, act of badassery that has started a snowball effect in my confidence, how I see myself, and what I've been able to achieve. It has affected every factor of my life. (Save love and finances. One step at a time, people.) 

Tonight, as l looked for a Saturday night series to watch, I came across this interview with Drag Queen, Peppermint. She’d come out as trans recently; a seasoned drag queen had told her that was great and all that, but, “she’d never work in drag again.” 

“But that’s not true”, said the host, Michelle Visage.

“I know that now”, said Peppermint, “but that [phrase] scared the shit out of me. For years. I still worked but… It made me push them to opposite ends of the room… I didn’t think being a drag queen and a trans woman would ever mix. But know I know… these things can co exist: if that’s who you are.”

And that’s who she is.

So I guess the question is, if you're reading this is: who are you, really?

Are you gonna hide behind the shield you've created for yourself to protect?

Or create a new one new to protect you as you make small, tiny, brave acts of badassery?

And what's gonna happen one, five, ten years from now if you freaking don't? Are your loved ones still going to be around to see you become the badass of your own freaking life?

I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below or via email


Truth juice

It’s strange, isn’t it, how you can find yourself revealing truths about yourself to strangers that you mightn’t even share with your closest friends.

I don’t even drink, but last night, I found myself sipping on Rosé, the first time in years, with three people I hardly knew. If this is the year of pleasure, I thought, maybe I could lean and bend in new ways to see what happens.

The Rosé that started it all.

The Rosé that started it all.

There were four of us. One in a long term partnership. One divorced. Two single. All women.

When I rocked up, one said, "we were just talking about online dating. What's your story?"

We got to the juicy stuff pretty quick. I told them about my confronting and eye opening pleasure workshop last week.

We shared stories of cringe-worthy and 'I'm not proud of myself' moments on dates. We talked about why Australia + NZ doesn’t have a dating culture. We talked about rejection and how it impacts confidence. We discussed why we are collectively useless, generally, when it comes to telling someone they don't do it for you. We cheers-ed to rockstars who had dumped us well. We grumbled about ghosters who had faded us, leaving us to second guess ourselves and wonder what we had done wrong.

We talked about our own assumptions of what we felt we ‘should’ do about intimacy, in relationships and in relation to pleasure, the idea of marriage, commitment, monogamy, polyamory - and what we actually wanted to do.

After drinks, we ended up at a nearby diner, licking our fingers and mumbling over fried chicken. One of the group, my newfound confidantes said, “you know what, I can’t remember the last time I talked about sex. Thank you.” 

Visual aids from last weekends pleasure workshop with  Cloud Gate Therapeutics . Did you know there's a nerve that goes from your brain, through your body, into your gut and  into your cervix ?

Visual aids from last weekends pleasure workshop with Cloud Gate Therapeutics. Did you know there's a nerve that goes from your brain, through your body, into your gut and into your cervix?

Experts say the biggest shifts within yourself can only happen when you’re in a new environment.

They say the brain needs to be taken out of the ordinary, or face a major catalyst, trauma or change, for your brain to rewire and say: I reckon there’s a different way I could be thinking about things. Research tells us the most traumatic, depressing, hurtful or least fun experiences can actually serve as the biggest contributors to change (if we're willing to change the narrative around what it means to us after going through grief and acknowledgment). 

There's also evidence to suggest we need connection with other individuals, we need to have an emotional response to a consequence, and we need to feel we're not alone to spark action, too. Case in point: Jennifer Kates, Director of HIV-related policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said at a panel back in 2007 her first political actions were motivated by personal relationships with those living with AIDS. 

If it's true we need a change of environment, to be surrounded by people with different perspectives, to have an emotional awareness of what's bugging us, I rekon that’s why we see therapists, we get drunk and ramble to strangers, why we end up in places we don’t expect and why, I ended up in a room with 20 other women last weekend, allowing a complete stranger to tell me I was beautiful and deserving of intimacy.

Maybe it’s why my courage rocks up when I’m usually out of Melbourne, or on a plane, or in an expensive boutique where I can't afford anything, and perhaps and it’s why I shared my inner darkest fears and thoughts with three women I barely knew over fried chicken last night.

Twice this week, people in my network apologised after what I had thought was a really super fascinating discussion about what was going on in their head.

"I feel like we talked about myself the whole time", said one. "Sorry about sharing all that", said another.

I was miffed: hadn't we just had a super interesting discussion? Emotions, in my opinion are like any other human need, like food, shelter and belonging. And if you need to outsource that (recommended) - I totally fucking get it.

Maybe they were experiencing a vulnerability hangover; associated shame on the realisation they'd stretched themselves, or done something for the first time. 

It's not uncommon to have a physical reaction to saying things out loud for the first time, like throwing up or feeling dizzy after a 'aha' moment. Your body, subconscious mind, your brain and your gut are insanely, and cleverly, all linked to one another. They talk to each other. If the brain can't figure it's shit out, your body will start acting up. If your body is going through change, it can affect your cognitive abilities.

So why do so many of us feel so remorseful after using our Big Words?

I didn't feel any shame about sharing my inner most secrets with those kick ass women. But I did wonder why I wasn't so brave with my own immediate network of family and friends and why those rockstars who had opened up to me, had not long after, felt the need to apologise for getting stuff off their chest.

But I do know why. It's something I find really hard to do myself.

Recently, on addressing my relationship with money, I realised I hold back telling what's really going on with close friends not because they're incapable of being super accepting, loving, supportive, but, for so many years I shared my inner most secrets with therapists, acupuncturists, personal trainers. People I paid. So, until recently, I felt like friends should send me an invoice after listening to me.

Also worried, and do worry, about yabbering on about myself. I worry friends will think I don't have my shit together.

I also realised what I'm super used to is actually categorising friendships or relationships into categories I already know (friend, sister, colleague, new person) - as opposed to something that continually evolves, just as we do.

It's tempting, maybe absurd to think you're the only one capable of changing, especially when people in your immediate network aren't reflecting the things / activities / ideas you want to do more of. But there's something really cool that can happen once you start getting curious, and dipping your toe in the scary conversation pool.

It was reassuring and helpful to hear Mel Robbins, the author of The Five Second Rule [above], talking about her marriage challenges, expectations and navigating what her role was as her kids grew up that "each phase of your life requires a different version of you". 

Being open, talk about my anxiety, depression, body image demons, fears with people in the internet was easy.

But saying those things to the people who know me, love me, respect me and want me to be OK is actually becoming one of the most scariest things I've ever done / trying to do more of. 

Earlier this year I did a Values Audit. I felt like I'd used up all my mojo and I wasn't clear on where to next. I created a list of words that resonated with me. Courage, Relationships and Power.

I want the courage to use my grown up words with people I know and love. I want relationships that fulfil and enrich me. And I want to use the power I already have, to use words, the thing I'm good at, to help other people, as well as building more rewarding relationships.

It's literally my job to use Big Words to help others find theirs. Maybe we could all try, collectively,  little harder to help each other find ours, in real life, too. 

Good luck out there, rockstar.