Liz Vinaka is the Operations Supervisor at DHL Express Canberra. She previously spent over fifteen years in the corporate world and mingled with high profile guests as an Executive Assistant to Australia’s federal government officials. Liz has no regrets about swapping her VIP shoes to work for the world’s biggest logistics company. Her love for the new career and industry has seen her quickly progress. In our conversation, Liz shares the similarities between her role as an EA and her work now, and her plans for the future.
Working as an EA was rewarding but Liz felt she needed a change of pace and a new challenge. The position at DHL Express landed on her lap, thanks to a good friend who thought Liz was perfect for the job. Fast forward to now, Liz was promoted earlier in the year and is enjoying the challenges. She started at DHL Express two years ago and has already had two promotions. We asked what she did to achieve such success, particularly since she didn’t have a logistics background.
“I came from a strong admin background. In my previous career as Executive Assistant, it was extremely busy and I learned to be very effective and efficient in my role. You were expected to interpret ambiguous things that came through. Because I had always just picked things up and run with it, [I did the same thing at] DHL. I had to quickly learn multiple things and ask lots of questions.”
Once Liz was comfortable learning more about her role, it didn’t take her long to passionately come up with new ideas for her and the team to operate more seamlessly.
“I created a lot of templates to improve processes. I made sure meetings had an agenda to make the most of our time. I’ve always been focused on continuous improvement in all the jobs I’ve had.”
Liz’s ability to communicate clear messaging with conviction won the praise of her peers and management. This support empowered Liz to do things beyond the scope of her role. While anyone can construct an email, it takes art and empathy to use email to influence.
“The quality in my communication was commended, so I helped out the team to create standards around how to construct an email. Sometimes I am asked to write internal communications. I enjoy this; it’s something I am good at. As an EA previously, everything was done to the highest standards. I have progressed at DHL because of the quality of my work.”
We asked Liz what support she received when she started with the company. She says there was a strong onboarding program.
“They really look after their employees in learning and development. Good work is recognized and rewarded. I’ve been employee of the month for a few times since I started back in 2019. I was named employee of the quarter in 2020 and again this year. I won the ‘Best 5S Champion in 2020’.”
5S is an employee award which recognizes continuous service and process improvement with lasting impact and effect. Since its introduction in 2019, more than 38,000 employees worldwide have been trained in this methodology which is based on the principles of Sorting, Setting in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.
When life gives you lemons, help others
Liz is also the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Ambassador. There was a callout for anyone interested in the role and Liz put her hand up immediately for it. Now two years in the volunteer role, she is finding it so rewarding and a way to give back.
“I am passionate about mental health and wellbeing. A couple of years ago, I went through some personal matters. I used EAP services and found it so helpful. I am a compassionate person and I am there to listen and help. I want to give back and help others.”
Liz shares how very authentic people are at DHL Express. It makes her proud to bring her whole self to work and she is loving every minute of it.
“I have come from a very corporate lifestyle and eventually resigned and took a break from it. I found it pretentious and lived it for long enough. I wasn’t looking for work at the time and my friend mentioned a position at DHL which I thought I would be great at. My initial reaction was that DHL was just a courier service. When I went to the interview, they mentioned they were looking for someone to work in the office. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I was excited to get the job!”
“Being recognized for my work and the experience from my previous roles has definitely helped me to succeed and strive for more. Coming from a corporate background has helped me to bring a different outlook on how to work in a very different industry.”
You can have your cake, and eat it too
Liz goes above and beyond in her work. But baking cakes for an employee’s birthday is a whole new level of commitment. We think after this story is published, everyone would want Liz as a colleague and friend.
“I love baking cakes. I am a cake maker and decorator. I have done a lot of cakes for DHL including the CEO/ Senior Vice President DHL Express Australia and Vice President of Operations Australia. I used to have a side business where I made wedding and birthday cakes.”
Other than baking for her colleagues, she is a solo parent and spends time balancing looking after her two daughters and looking after herself.
“I like to spend time with my 2 daughters who are 19 and 11. I love to listen to music and spend time with my family. My 19-year-old daughter just started in public services and I can relate to her role in her position. I also have an 11-year-old and it’s an entirely different conversation. I’m a single parent which makes things a bit more challenging. My new role helps me balance my hours so I can be there for my daughters a lot more.”
Liz had a wake-up call when she first started at DHL Express. She was so accustomed to working long hours in previous organizations that her manager at DHL called her out on it.
“My manager said to me ‘You need to take a break. We want quality here — not quantity. You cannot give us your all if you are burning the midnight oil’. That is what I love about this company — they really care for their people.”
Liz wants to encourage more women to get into logistics. She says there are so many opportunities and room for development. She is a great example of this.
“I believe I have given all my strengths and abilities to my roles which have gained me my recognitions, achievements and promotions. There are so many pathways to growth here. There is a good balance in roles and so much flexibility.”