Design Your Work Life

This first Strathcona Centre for Learning Futures event for witnessed Lisa Leong, host of Radio National’s “This Working Life” and Year 6 Strathcona parent, engage her audience young and slightly less young to be active in shaping their careers to fit them rather than shaping themselves to fit known careers. Those who filled the tables in Featherstone hall were challenged to think not of what they wanted to be, but who they wanted to be.

The Strathcona Centre for Learning Futures aims to bring an expansive frame to education, to think beyond the tests of school to what the students will grow to be beyond school. It asks the question, “What will students need to succeed in the workforce they will enter?” and invites experts to help provide answers. It is about thinking bigger than a school curriculum or a particular work experience.

Lisa Leong  speech certainly fitted the bill and brought her answers from her personal journey and insights she has learned from her interviews on her radio show. Lisa established a successful career for herself in law, but felt lost. She was looking for a way to contribute more broadly to the community and a colleague suggested to her that she volunteer in hospital radio. She did not know there was such a thing. This was a real “sliding doors” moment for Lisa that eventually led to her current role as national radio star. Lisa told a story of sacrifice – she eventually gave up her law job for radio work that initially had 10% of her law pay check – iteration and creativity. There were several steps on Lisa’s journey of experimenting with who she was professionally before she landed her current portfolio of roles.

One of the many memorable moments of Lisa’s presentation was when she told of how she drummed up an audience for one of her early radio jobs. It was a new radio station and she had the midnight to dawn slot. How do you build an audience for a program that nobody knows exists? Lisa began with taxi drivers, convincing drivers at a taxi rank to give her their number and she called them in the middle of the night and had them pretend that they had rung her! Through this she built an audience of not only the taxi drivers but their families and friends. She did the same with bakers and service station workers – people who worked and listened to the radio during the hours she was on air. Through this she built a following by being resourceful. Lisa was certainly creative and adaptable in her endeavours.

Lisa’s radio program, this working life, features interviews with various people around the world to help her listeners navigate the world of work. One of her programs late last year was a conversation with Dan Klein from Stanford University who managed to transform organisational culture at Netflix using the techniques of improv – short for improvisational theatre. Anyone who has seen the TV show, Thank God You’re Here will have some understanding of improv. Lisa drew on some of these techniques for some interactive work with her audience here on Thursday. The first was one Dan Klien had mentioned on the show called “Yes but, yes and”. When people introduce ideas whether at work or at home, they are often greeted with “Yes but” followed by reasons that the idea will not work. Lisa described these reactions as idea piranhas. The audience were challenged to pair up and one member of the pair was to make a suggestion for a party. Their partner had to respond with a “yeah but”… The conversation petered out after quite quickly without any resolution. Lisa suggested we change the response to “yes and…” The conversations were much more productive and led to an improvement of the original idea rather than killing it. Lisa encouraged us to use this approach in meetings and conversations to build collaboration and creativity, generate ideas rather than just knocking them back.

Other interactive activities Lisa led us in were called 1,2,3 Fail, Lemons to Lemonade and Norwegian Clapping. Each challenged us all to take a design thinking mindset to our work lives, using curiosity, courage, creativity and connection. We cannot plan for one job for life and in many ways will need to create our own jobs. Lisa was inspirational and had the whole room thinking.

Our next guest speaker is on Tuesday 19 May when Associate Professor Hernan Cuervo will speak on the topic Generations, Young People and the Future of Work. This too promises to be highly engaging and relevant for our young people as they seek out expert guidance to help them navigate their future in work. I look forward to seeing you there. To reserve your spot, please visit

Mr Ross Phillips
Senior Dean of Learning Futures and Pathways
school captain heading

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Hearld Sun heading March 2020

Online tools to keep kids learning even in a statewide school shutdown

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The Australian - IWD

Lifelong learning key to the future

big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
He says recasting some of the technical disciplines, such as engineering, into a humanfocused
discipline could result in an increasing interest from women.
The Business Council of Australia has suggested an overhaul of the vocational and tertiary
education systems with a shared oversight body and better information about the range of
It has called for that same culture of lifelong learning, for initial qualifications for a strong
foundation, and then modules to upskill and retrain throughout careers.
And instead of separate funding for universities and vocational training, the BCA says an
individual education “account” would allow promote individual choices.
The corporate sector’s peak body has also called for a focus on STEM, as technology
continues to transform the economy. Across the education system, STEM skills and
knowledge are increasingly sought after – but not found.
While the Australian Government pours millions into STEM advancement and advocacy,
institutions continue to struggle to attract, retain and progress women.
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews says parents and teachers
should encourage STEM participation.
“It’s easy as parents to brush off a dislike of maths or science with an, ‘It’s OK, I didn’t do
well and I turned out OK’,” she says. “We need to change that attitude and make STEM a
priority for our kids. We need them to keep engaging students in a way that ensures both
girls and boys are equally supported in the pursuit of STEM.”
Tech Girls Movement founder and STEM educator Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen says teachers
need to be enabled and supported to do that: “It’s challenging for teachers to have to do
the next big thing.”
Teachers need the tools, training and confidence to deliver STEM and other subjects in an
inspiring way. Beekhuyzen says there is a push to teach coding, but points to forecasts
indicate half the current coding jobs won’t exist in the future.
So what are young people to do? Beekhuyzen says it all comes back to resilience and
adaptability. Her own program inspired Kira Molloy, 20, to get into technology. She is now
on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship, studying at the top-ranking National University of
Singapore. “Before I got involved with the Tech Girls Program, I had never considered
studying computer science and was set on studying medicine,” she says. “From the
experiences I had through the Tech Girl program I was able to go to QUT and Google in
Sydney and see amazing technologies and amazing women leading the field. This ignited a
passion for me to pursue a career in technology.”
Lifelong learning key to the future – The Australian, 3/7/2020 10/3/20, 11(21 am Page 5 of 5
At the coalface of girls’ education, Strathcona Girls Grammar Head of Digital Learning and
Innovation Michelle Dennis says the most important skills will be those that can’t be taught
from a book.
“A lot of future-proofing comes down to giving students the opportunity to encounter new
experiences,” she says.
And national award-winning science teacher Sarah Chapman, from Townsville State High
School, says future-proofing involves questioning and assessing information, from
humanities and religion, to arts and sciences.
“A lot of these things are uncomfortable for young people,” she says. “It needs to be more
of the norm.”

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