Balance for Better: Dr Jodi Steel

Dr Jodi Steel spent much of her professional life in STEM or STEM-related roles: from engineering in the RAAF, to research, through to research management, business development and commercialisation in corporate R&D environments.

On the whole, she found it to be rewarding and fun with plenty of opportunity for trail-blazing. Jodi has changed careers three times, most recently starting her own business as a coach, mentor and change agent.  Being different has been an asset - to her and the organisations she's been in - as well as a challenge at times.

Welcome to the Ribit International Women's Day series of inspiring stories designed to encourage students to ‘Shine & Rise’. In the lead up to March 8 and supporting this year’s theme ‘Balance for Better’ we invited leaders and influencers we admire to share their experiences entering the workforce, building their careers, and the lessons they learnt along the way.

Balance…

Have you ever been on a physio board – the one with the half ball underneath – and tried to balance?  It takes constant work and concentration to balance, making small adjustments over time. It takes a combination of rigidity and flexibility, of control and responsiveness, and placing too much emphasis on one or the other won’t get you there.   

As you get stronger and more practised, you can balance faster and with less concentration – and there still won’t be a time when you can get on and ‘be balanced’ with no effort, whether conscious or semi-conscious. Balance is a journey, a mindset, a discipline – it’s not a destination.  Expecting to arrive ‘at balance’ and be done with it will inevitably lead to a sense of failure!

You might hear people say ‘fit your own mask before helping others’.  Much as I understand the sentiment, I’ve found it hard to resonate with.  It made even less sense to me once I was in the two-career-family-with-kids phase, away from extended family. At times, hearing the phrase from a well-intentioned friend or colleague felt like an added burden. It wasn’t until I went through cancer diagnosis and treatments a few years ago that I realised what wasn’t working for me about that statement.  

The rigidity of the priority – look after yourself first – was carrying an unintended inference that I wasn’t doing it properly unless I looked after myself first. What I’ve learned instead is that ‘I’m responsible for myself and the balance of my life full stop’. No conditions, no instructions for how or when. It gives me the flexibility to choose to prioritise others’ needs if necessary while being firm about the need to care for myself.   It’s working well for me: I’m better at balancing, more comfortable with its ebbs and flows and better able to see and recover from being out of balance.

So what does that mean for STEM/STEAM graduates joining the workforce?  Here are 4 key tips:

  • Remember that balance will change over time, and some days are better than others!  Work out for yourself what balance looks and feels like, over what time frame - do you need to feel balanced each day, each week, over a month?  
  • Your purpose and core values are your guiding lights – be clear on those and don’t compromise them.  Look for workplaces whose values are congruent with your own, especially your core values: you’ll do better work and be more fulfilled when you can bring your whole self to work.  
  • On top of core skills, your STEM/STEAM training gives you a particular perspective on the world and an ability to learn, which can also have value in other parts of the economy.  You can turn your curiosity and ability to learn towards other perspectives and ways of thinking, helping to bring balanced efforts to addressing the complex problems we face.
  • Balance doing and reflecting. Through reflection, you can become aware of what you’ve learned in both specific and broader senses and whether your purpose, values and balance have shifted.  These insights can help you act with more purpose and increase the value you add to the world.

What will your journey of balance help you to achieve?

Click here to read other inspiring stories in our series celebrating International Women’s Day 2019.

Ribit.net is a free to use online marketplace that connects student talent to jobs with growth startups and innovative organisations. With a focus on STEM and entrepreneurship, Ribit is committed to helping students present their ‘best selves’ and gain a successful and rewarding experience to further their careers, while also assisting Australian businesses seeking to transform or innovate find the talent they need to grow.

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