Question: Could you please provide some background about your career journey at Allianz?
Grace Goding: I've been working at Allianz for nearly 13 years and in that time I've worked in 7 different roles. I think the first six months of my career were the hardest as I was not only learning new systems, new processes and a new role, but I was also brand new to the working world and hadn't yet built up my confidence. I was lucky in that I had the same manager throughout my formative years, and that manager helped me to build my confidence and gain my first promotion within Allianz, kicking off my career in the Workers Compensation Division.
I am now Innovation & Strategy Manager for the Workers Compensation team. I am not only enjoying it because it aligns with my areas of expertise, but also because it allows me to focus on one of my biggest passions – people engagement and development. I am currently focused on implementing our strategic objectives stemming from the new corporate enterprise strategy that involves educating teams on everything from ensuring they understand what their job means to how they fit into the bigger picture and know they are doing meaningful work. Our teams also deal with mental health and psychological injuries day in and day out. So this year we are focusing on supporting our employees in this challenging work and creating a space where people feel comfortable talking about mental health.
Question: What is the main message you hope to spread for today's working women?
Grace Goding: I think I have two main messages for women in today's working world. First, encourage each other by sharing your inspiring stories! It often seems like only the negative stories get put in the spotlight when it comes to women in the workplace, but I know that there are many positive stories to be told. And it's those stories that can make all the difference for any woman who may doubt herself or is having a moment of defeat.
My other message for working women is to find a flexible schedule that works for you and your circumstances – and most importantly, don't feel guilty about it. I've learned throughout my career that if I push myself too much or stretch myself too thin, then I will eventually run out of steam. And now that I'm a mother, that just isn't an option. I've realized that having boundaries and working flexibly does not make me a failure as a mum or as a manager, and more than anything it is helping me to lead a healthier life, both personally and professionally.
Question: Can you talk us through one of the main challenges you've had to overcome as a working mother?
Grace Goding: Truthfully, one of the main challenges is that I'm so tired! My daughter Chloe is 18 months old and we have our second on the way, so juggling my personal life with my growing career hasn't been the easiest at times. My partner and I have really had to rely on our flexible work schedules so that we can enjoy our time as new and expecting parents without sacrificing our careers.
Question: What advice do you have for other new mothers, returning to work?
Grace Goding: As I mentioned, being able to work flexibly has been absolutely critical for my partner and I as we've adapted to being working parents. Since having our daughter, we've had to have transparent conversations with our managers (we both work at Allianz) about achieving the right balance that works for our new family. This has led to my working a nine-day fortnight and both of us work remotely once a week. Without having these options, I'm not sure how we would manage.
So my advice for new mothers returning to work is to not be afraid to ask for the flexibility and schedule that you need. Have those conversations with your boss about your working arrangements as early as you can so you have clear expectations of what your schedule will look like once you do return to work.
Question: How can friends and family support a mother who is returning to work?
Grace Goding: Returning to work after maternity leave was a learning process for me. I used to find it hard to accept help – both at work and in my personal life. However, since becoming a mum, I've come to realise how much of a difference help and support can make when your whole life has just changed and now you're trying to adapt back into working life.
The support I've received from my mum over the past 18 months has been unparalleled. She looks after Chloe two days a week which has made this adjustment period in both my and my partner's lives so much easier to manage. I think it's all the small things that friends and family do – from cooking a meal and watching the kids to just sitting down for a chat – that help working parents to find their new sense of normal now that they have a family and a career.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Grace Goding: One of the reasons I love my job is that every day is different. Whether I'm in the office or working from home, I am able to manage and provide input in a wide range of areas. I am often a general trouble shooter given my experience and length of time with the company, but I quite enjoy this and see it as an opportunity to teach and collaborate with my teams for all problems big and small.
I spend a lot of time both with my manager, the General Manager of Government Services, and our management team, primarily looking at continuous improvement initiatives that will strengthen our performance, assist our people to do their job better or increase their job satisfaction while also improving our customer's experiences at the same time. I also work closely with our management team on our growth and diversification strategy, looking at new opportunities for us to provide customer services. This gives me the chance to put my entrepreneurial hat on and really get our teams to think outside the box.
And at the end of a work day, the laptop is shut and it's time to be with my family. I've learned throughout this transition of becoming a working parent that it's so important to be present in whatever you are doing, otherwise moments in work and personal life can just pass you by. So when it's time to be with my family, I make sure that I am really there, not just physically but mentally – for my daughter, for my partner, and for myself.
Interview by Brooke Hunter