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June 24, 2020

How to Go After What You Want

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Giovanna Romeo is an inspirational leader who has devoted her career to the development of others, her organisation, community and her family.

When you engage with Giovanna her energy lights up the room. Her natural leadership style defines authenticity and generosity. Giovanna is determined to make the workplace better for everyone.

Having the Courage to follow a Vision

Giovanna’s courage kick-started her career. She had her sights set on HR so she picked up the phone, rang Boral’s HR Manager and asked him to help open the door; she was prepared to work for free to gain experience. The HR Manager sensed this was no ordinary graduate on the other end of the phone, and knowing how much courage it took to make that call, he agreed to meet her.

Going beyond her expectations, Giovanna was offered paid work experience.

More than 23 years later she’s still at Boral and has led many significant projects including introducing a paid parental leave policy, raising over $2m for Juvenile Diabetes as part of a community partnership program, and implementing a new learning management system across over 6,000 employees. Giovanna is now the National Capability & Development Manager.

It can be hard to be as brave as Giovanna was in taking that first step to call the HR Manager, and she says,

“It’s about giving things a go, having a vision, sticking to the plan, and pursuing your dreams. You never know where it will take you. I drew on my bravery and fortunately I connected with someone on the other end of the phone who was very supportive of developing a graduate. If you don’t try you will never know!”

“Take control of your career from the start; you can’t wait for someone else to do it for you, there’s so much you can do to help and progress yourself.”

We asked how to best help yourself and Giovanna suggested:

  • Always look for opportunities to help yourself improve.
  • Seek support from others in reaching your goals; this will empower and motivate you to keep moving forward.
  • Network with people in your industry, on LinkedIn, on social media and ask about career and development opportunities.

Taking Opportunities

The bulk of Giovanna’s career has been in HR; from HR Graduate to HR Advisor and HR Manager at various senior levels working across myriad projects. By showing what she’s capable of, working hard and consistently delivering, Giovanna has been offered many opportunities.

“I have pretty much worked with every single business unit at Boral, across all levels of stakeholders. I am lucky to have been involved in so many different areas and projects; I thrive on making a difference”.

“I have consciously created a community that really back and support each other. Through this I have achieved continued personal growth and development. Boral recognises my contribution and in turn have been incredibly supportive.”

She’s not alone in her experience. The average tenure at Boral is 9 years, and “there’s something about Boral that makes people love the culture and connection. People really work together and collaborate.”

Diversity in Your Career

Following a period of parental leave, she was offered her biggest career shift in leading the implementation of the learning management system across over 400 sites and 6,000 employees.

“I was out of my comfort zone initially and asked the HR Director, ‘What do I know about implementing systems?!’ They said, ‘With your experience in Boral, you can make this work.’ I did a project management course to fill my skills gaps, recruited my team and never looked back. I’m so glad I said yes!”

“It empowered me to understand that if you put your mind to it, anything is possible!”

The team won an international award – the prestigious Gold award with Brandon Hall for best advance in Learning Management for compliance training – and Giovanna flew to Florida to receive the award on behalf of Boral.

Her success led to Boral combining the learning team with the learning management systems project team, and Giovanna’s new role was born.

“I’m a driven leader and I know how important it is to have a fantastic team around me. This was key to delivering what we needed to; if I was alone, we couldn’t have achieved what we did.”

When you want a diverse career there will be times that you have transition challenges. “It’s natural to get a bit nervous and ask, ‘can I do this?’ Keep an open mind, focus on the skills you have built over your career and leverage your strengths.”

Giovanna suggests;

  • Think about your brand, your skills, your superpowers and promote them.
  • Have a plan, set goals and put your mind to them – anything will be possible!

“My superpowers are to make a difference, build people up and see them succeed”.

Developing Your Brand

Giovanna sought development opportunities and joined the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). She was later unanimously selected to be a NSW Council member. “This has been a fantastic step for me. The Council plays an important role in building a strong community of networked professionals and contributes to our profession through organising events, participating in online discussions and engaging with potential new members”.

The Council president recently nominated Giovanna for the Leadership HQ Outstanding Leadership Awards for the Women in Leadership Category, where she has made it through as a finalist (the winner will be awarded later this year).

Giovanna was nominated for her ability to demonstrate ‘kind, courageous and supportive leadership’ and for making a significant contribution to the learning community.

Giovanna also says that being well-rounded and having interests outside of work is crucial to making you a good leader and team player. She loves spending time with her family, manages her children’s soccer teams, coaches children, mentors in her profession, and gives back to the community through fundraising. As she puts it; “what you are achieving in your career and what you are doing outside of work both contribute to your success”.

The secret ingredient Giovanna shares is, “know what sparks the light in you. Use that light to illuminate the world and don’t stop pursuing your goals. Never give up.”

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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.