December 9, 2020

NAB Careers: A career from paddock to plate

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Madeline Owens grew up in a farming family. She was an avid horse rider before getting injured in a jumping fall, but she has moved back onto some land and is about to get a horse again! This move is a return to her roots, and her work in agribusiness supports her passion for the land.


For the love of the land

Madeline didn’t really know what ‘agribusiness’ was. She just thought of it as ‘business’, and you run a farm the way you would run any other business. Through a conversation with a woman working in agribusiness at another institution, Madeline discovered bankers had a role to play in the farming industry.

“Perhaps it was a bit naïve to not realize bankers do this job. She really honed in on the personal side of it. This is a relationship-focused role, and that’s stuck with me throughout. When she talked about the types of things she would do I realized it was right up my ally! I love hearing about people’s experiences, seeing what they do and how they could do it better.”

Joining NAB on its graduate program, Madeline moved to Townsville and worked with a variety of managers, learning systems, processes, about what NAB Agribusiness does and how they do it. She then transferred to Cloncurry in western Queensland, which was a bit of a culture shock for her.

“I knew approximately where it was, near Mount Isa, but had never visited! I googled Cloncurry and found out that it’s a 3,000-person mining town in the heart of Western Queensland, surrounded by large scale beef cattle businesses. My parents helped to move me out there. It ended up being the best experience I’ve ever had!”


The support, community presence of the Bank and number of opportunities made it one of the best periods of Madeline’s career and life. She still has lifelong friends in Cloncurry and continues to visit when she can. Wanting to try Corporate Banking, she moved back to Townsville before onto Brisbane and her career trajectory was linear as she made her way into a senior management role.

“I’ve had a linear career path, but the path you take at NAB is honestly wherever you want to take it. It was important to me to have a well-rounded set of skills and be confident in what I was talking about. I’m still learning everyday with every new opportunity. There are endless opportunities in the Bank, with the ability to move into different fields if you wanted to trial it.”

Agribusiness at NAB is split into pre-farm gate and post-farm gate. It’s anything to do with the production of foods and foodstuffs, and Madeline loves it all!

How to find a career you are passionate about

Madeline feels lucky to work in an industry she cares so much about.

“It’s been a fantastic career choice. It is really heartening to know you’re supporting one of the biggest industries in Australia, that will be supporting the Australian economy years into the future. When I walk into the grocery store, I understand the origins of the food and what’s gone into getting it onto your plate. It creates an appreciation for the food cycle, what goes into that process, and the people behind it all. That is absolutely the best part of the job — the down to earth people who invest into the future of the communities they live in.”

Madeline shared some tips for finding a career based on your passions:

  • Understand the various applications. “Discover the different ways you can associate yourself with your passion from an employment perspective. There are so many aspects of farming and agribusiness I could have been involved in. Understand how the field you are interested in interacts with society.”
  • Always look for opportunities to learn. “You can learn something from every single person you speak to. Be brave enough to have conversations to find out what you might like and not like about it. It can stomp out a few bad ideas or give you the push you need.”
  • Believe in yourself and your skills. “Really back yourself. I knew my passion and love for the industry, and farming background would give me the purpose and drive to fill in the blanks.”

The work Madeline does helps build local communities, and she loves the interactions she has with people and businesses.


Using courage to open doors

When we suggested to Madeline that she’d made some brave choices along the way she half-laughed and wasn’t so sure about it. But that’s often the way — our own moves may seem normal to us but look courageous from the outside.

But we think she is brave — she has moved to rural Queensland as a young woman and kick-started her career, taken her career at her own deliberate pace, taking on a significantly more diverse portfolio, sought out leadership opportunities, and pushed to be accepted into an Executive MBA program. When she finishes, she’ll be one of the youngest women to ever graduate with that degree.


Her tips for making brave choices are:

  • Build courage through action. “I always understand what position I’m putting myself into, and whether I can get out of it. I take steps knowing I have assessed potential outcomes. The knowledge that I can undo it if I absolutely need to and bring myself back to my safe place empowered me to make these decisions.”
  • Back yourself. “You are the one in control and you are the one who makes the decisions. Have the confidence to say you’re putting yourself first in making a decision because you know it’s the best thing for you.”
  • Have a support network. “It’s easier when you have the right people in your court. I have people to talk to who I know will challenge me and won’t let me stay in my comfortable box.”

The future for Madeline looks bright at NAB.

“What you put into NAB is what you will get out. They will throw everything they can behind you to support you, help you grow, help you see and take hold of your potential, and explore that potential in a number of safe environments. The support is second to none.”

“There is a huge amount of diversity of thought at NAB. So much goes into making this big machine tick. That’s supported by fantastic diversity of ethnicity and gender, but also diversity of thought, cultures, and experience.”

“They’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the culture they want to create, and the results speak for themselves.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.