How Suzi Hullick found her moral compass
Today I want to introduce you to a very special woman in my life. Suzi Hullick has been an ongoing inspiration to me since we first started working together at Westpac in Darwin back in 2010. Her passion, drive and determination to not only lead, but help, others has had a huge impact on who I am today. I can wholeheartedly say that Suzi played a key role in guiding me towards my real purpose, and for that I will be forever grateful.
So who is Suzi? Well, these days you’ll find her operating as Head of Indigenous Business for Westpac, but outside of her day job she’s a devoted wife and loving mother to two incredible, young men – weekends spent camping and fishing with her three special men is something she cherishes most. But before life in the corporate world, Suzi spent five and a half years as a Leading Seaman – Electronic Warfare for the Royal Australian Navy. It was during this time her leadership qualities really came to the surface.
“The experience certainly had the discipline element, but the defence force was full of leaders who reached their rank not necessarily because they were the best, but because they had tenure, technical expertise or were just in the right place at the right time and it was the next role,” says Suzi.
This meant you ended up with leaders of varying experience and there was a lot of mistrust, inappropriate commentary, bullying and bad behaviour by from those at the top as a result. It was tough, but it did show me exactly what type of leader I wanted to be, what not to do in a position of authority and where my moral compass sat personally.
It was during this time Suzi also learnt that in people leadership, your greatest disappointment is when people say and do things that are completely unexpected.
“Therefore my purpose was to lead with clarity, guidance and confidence that builds a flexible and dedicated workforce,” she adds.
Years later she seized the opportunity to do just that, when she was offered the role of Head of Indigenous Banking. It was a role she’d proven herself capable of in the years she’d spent in the banking and finance industry, which all started when she’d returned to Darwin with her young family after battling illness and wrote to NAB asking them to hire her.
“I might have failed most of the maths, but my leadership measures were at the higher end of the scale so I started out as a part-time teller and the rest is history,” says Suzi. “I’m proud of where that moment has lead me and right now my key purpose is to help Indigenous businesses to be successful every day, week or month – it’s about supporting growth so that all Australians have opportunity.”
A large part of Suzi’s role focuses on finding ways to ‘close the gap’ for Indigenous Australians by providing financial education and better access to finance and community partnerships. She says helping small businesses develop a plan to help them achieve their first financial turnover or win their first contract is especially exciting – teamed with the love and support of her family, it’s what gets her out of bed every morning.
“Self employment offers true empowerment for individuals and communities and my role at Westpac allows me to use the vehicle of a large organisation to facilitate that change,” she says.
By utilising the company’s in-house School of Money, Suzi has helped develop content for a team of facilitators to teach anything and everything from basic household budgeting and how to save for your first car, to financial management 101 and corporation investment strategies. She’s also mandates community visits to keep Westpac at the cold face of issues and requirements, something she says is a critical aspect of staying relevant and heading in the right direction.
But that’s not to say she doesn’t know what it feels like to be headed in the wrong direction, or have no sense of direction whatsoever. Like the rest of us, Suzi says there have been many times that she’s felt lost in life, but not because of any organisation or leader that she’s worked for – but because of the self doubt she’s created from within.
“Self doubt and the imposter syndrome can be crippling to your self esteem and confidence within your peer group,” she says. “To help overcome these times, I try and make an equal contribution in community and family so that something is going well. I’ve also always made a conscious decision to keep my work and family issues very separate and I think that has been key to my being able to balance the journey in a positive way… also, having a great partner helps!”
It’s true, of all the mentors and coaches you can turn to when times get tough, no one keeps you more balanced, more grounded than your partner and family. That’s something Suzi and I both know for sure. But sometimes, it also comes back to you – flying solo – setting your own standards and personally owning that. Because, as Suzi puts it, you can’t always expect others to align, but you can hope that the behaviours you set as a leader inspire others to follow suit.
“The other element of that is to not take yourself too seriously, be honest and true to yourself, and those around you will see that no matter what role you’re in, you’re leading someone,” says Suzi.
And that, right there, is why this woman continues to inspire me daily. Suzi leads with clarity and compassion in all facets of her life, something I hope to do through this wonderful community of purpose-driven women.