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Fran Mether: Co-founder and Strategic Business Designer at Arteri

In this episode, Ellen interviews designer Fran Mether about her career journey and founding the service design consultancy Arteri. Fran discusses growing up in a creative household in Canberra and studying industrial design. After working for major retailers in Melbourne, Fran became inspired by human-centered design approaches that create impact. She relocated to Canberra to work on strategic projects for clients like the ATO. Fran then co-founded Arteri with her business partner to pursue her passion for service design. She shares how her background in industrial design informs Arteri’s creative, tangible workshops that help organizations reimagine challenges. Join us as Fran reflects on transitioning from designing products to transforming services and systems.

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Please note: this transcript has been autogenerated and may contain some errors. 

Thank you for joining us for another episode of the Newitech People podcast, digitally diverse. I’m Ellen Bennett, a senior recruiter at Newitech People. And today we have the wonderful Fran Massa joining us who is the founder of Artery and a strategic business designer.

Thanks so much for joining us. Rian. Hi, Ellen.

How you? Good, good, thank you. First of all, thanks so much for joining us. And I would love to just get a brief overview of who you are, where you’ve come from, your career to date, just so, yeah, listeners can get a good grasp of what you do.

Well, it’s been a long journey, I guess. I was the youngest of five kids growing up in a very creative household in Canberra. That really drove a lot of my creative thinking throughout my career.

So early on, I decided to go into design and move into industrial design. So that was really my founding life was in the design world and developing products and establishing myself within some pretty major retailers in Australia and working for overseas companies, designing products and really pursuing this career of producing for the masses. Really early on, I traveled.

I did a lot of travel through Europe and lived in Singapore for a year and taught design and creative thinking and then moved back to Australia and spent about 15 years in Melbourne. So I did that working for some of our big retailers and designing for them. And then I got to a point in my career where I started to realize I wanted something more and I wanted to pivot out of the physical creating products.

And at the time, I remember thinking, I don’t want to design landfill anymore. I don’t want to design these consumer products that people take into their homes and have for a little while and then they either pass them on or throw them out that I wanted to have impact on the world. So I started to look at user experience and understanding what that was about.

And I did a few projects in the companies I was working for where I was able to understand this thing around people using technology. And that really sparked my interest. And I really started off there and did some training and started going to meetups and things like that.

And I was still in Melbourne and developing that career and then got a mentor. So throughout that journey, so call out to Paul Blake, who took me on as a, mentored me through that transition phase and he really called me out as a service designer. So my thinking and my brain and the way I orientated to the world of business and services, he said, you’re a service designer.

And so I started to pursue that career and then we had an opportunity. So we were looking at I guess, leaving Melbourne just trying something out, trying a new transition in life. We had three kids and we’d work really hard working but we wanted something a little bit different and to try something new for a little while.

So we went up to Canberra, got some roles. He worked for defense doing environmental consulting and I started working at ATO. So that was really that big transition.

I’d done a few projects and a few things prior to that and then moving into more government work. But after being in Canberra for a few years, going through Covid, I had started working as a consultant inside of government. My business partner and I had started working together.

He was more in the operations side of developing organizations from more operating model business architecture strategy. And so we blended our skill sets together and developed artery. So that’s where it comes together.

But I get to pursue now within this business some of these early thinkings around driving impact and what I wanted to change and how I’d evolve my own practice. So that’s been really exciting. What a journey.

Yeah. Something that I really took away from that was that movement or that transition from industrial design and physical product design into more of like a digital space. And you’re right, there’s definitely less impact on the environment and less impact on the planet with digital products.

And also you can iterate much faster as well, which is super handy. But I guess now that you’ve moved into owning your own business or founding your own business in artery, what kind of problems do you folks solve? What are you usually working on? Yeah, at the heart of it, we want to drive change or big impact for whether it’s australian citizens, people in general, even businesses. So we work on pretty big projects.

We’re looking at often a business and how they need to shift and change their business and we reimagine what their business is in the future. So often we’re looking, it could be something like three years out or it could be ten years out or in some cases we’ve even thought 50 years out into the future and how that business needs to change to meet its customer needs. So that often that’s going in to understand who their customers are, the problems that they’re having.

So it’s anything from. It could be indigenous companies or individuals or it could be aged care. We’re doing some big projects in health at the moment.

So helping off the back of COVID and how the Department of Health needs to support different stakeholders within that ecosystem and how we would deal with outbreaks of disease and other things into the future and so they’re building up businesses to do that. So it’s often very macro level problems that big organizations need to deal with. But it can also be, when you get to the heart of it, it’s often an individual feeling pain.

So if you’re looking at an aged care, it could be the family of someone who’s aging, it could be the services, so it could be nurses that support that space or doctors. And so often we’re going to the heart of what’s going on for them and how the department or the big businesses need to serve them. We’re also getting to some opportunities to work in energy, so the transition to renewables.

So that’s another big thing which speaks to some of those sustainability things that I’m interested in. We’ve had the opportunity to also work within that sector, private sector, and helping reimagine or building better services around renewables, whether it’s ev, solar panels, those sort of things, and the services that go along with that. So yeah, it’s been a big few years, but we’re really excited about the big projects that we get to work on, the big impact that we can have as business.

Yeah, all of that stuff sounds like really juicy, layered, multifaceted issues that it’s not as if there would be any one customer or user or person that would be impacted by all of these issues. It’s like, yeah, you’re looking at basically the community as a whole, which for some people would be quite overwhelming. But it sounds like that’s what really gets you fired up.

And you’ve hit on a big key point there, because often we go into these organizations and the first thing that we have to get going, apart from understanding scope of project, but really unpacking who’s the stakeholders. So often the very first thing we do with any client is understanding that the stakeholders that are in the ecosystem, who is it that we need to understand? Because sometimes they’ve thought about it and sometimes they haven’t, and the actual complexity of the whole ecosystem in which they work. But that’s, I guess part of the artery approach is about unpacking those stakeholders, really understanding who we need to target and how do we build artifacts and other things that help us and help our clients understand those people.

And sometimes that is even going into some organizations where they’ve forgotten who their customer is or they think it’s someone, it’s actually other people in the ecosystem that they need to start serving or they need to start thinking about how their services can hit those people. So they can improve lives for others in the bigger picture. So it is complex, but the approach we take allows us to navigate it.

Super cool. How long have you guys been around for? Is it like over the last few years, we’re nearly hitting two and a half years. James McPhillips and I’ve been really pushing the business for Christmas will be about two and a half years.

It’s been a fairly short journey in terms of business, but we’re really got some really great clients and we get to work with those regular clients and starting to build out some other ones. So it feels dense in terms of the time we’ve been in business and what we’ve got to achieve. It’s a lot of things have been happening, but it feeds us.

We love to do this, but we’ve also got a really great team that we make sure that we can come back and be part of the artery team that creates sort of a space where we can, I guess, find safety in terms of being with each other so that we can go out and do the complex work because it is quite challenging. So we need each other to come back to and make sure that we’re being brave with our clients and we’re trying new things and we’re thinking in an artery kind of way, which we try and be a little bit bold with the way we do things. A lot of it’s about overcoming or challenging current ways of doing things and how they can change and do things differently, whether it’s a piece of tech or sometimes there’s a change that needs to happen with their staff or the staff experience, or it could be their policies or processes.

So we go in and get to unpack those and think of new ways of doing things. And in a way, that’s like one of the best things about being in a young business, I guess you don’t really have any concrete processes. You kind of just are making it up on the fly.

You’re able to be super agile because it’s not as if you’re stuck in your ways, which is really helpful, especially when you’re coming into these organizations and offering solutions that they might not have heard of or thought of. So. Yeah, no, that’s great.

And I was just going to reflect on what you said in terms of, I think that agile is really important because often we are going into big organizations, often in terms of how some of these technology projects or even the projects we get to work on, it’s often through the IT department or CIO of the organization, but they’re often for us really big organizations that have, I guess, the funding that can go along with this and these big projects, but going in, being agile, because often those big organizations are complex and they do things in their own unique way. So you can’t be too rigid. You’ve got to enter into that business in a way that’s going to meet the needs of the stakeholders that you serve or the customers that you serve as business so that you can really meet their processes and the way they work.

And often what we want as a business is to go in there, provide a kind of seamless experience, just as we want them to provide that to the customers. We want to provide a beautiful experience so that they come into our space, our artery space, whether it’s online in a mirror board or it’s inside of a room in person that they feel part of like a seamless experience and they come away feeling like they’ve achieved something and they’ve got value. But it’s a relief as well.

So that they know that something’s going to happen, that there’s going to be action, but also they can move away and get on with their busy jobs where every business we go into, it’s super busy. So we try to create that experience for our customers as well. I love that it’s sometimes a little bit hard to kind of immerse yourself in some of these businesses because you’re right, obviously any government department is going to be so vast and have so many people that you would need to consult with.

So is there anything in particular that you can share with us that you folks have in the pipeline for the next twelve months? I know that’s probably a difficult question to answer, but I’d love to hear some of the things that you’re up to. Yeah, so look, we’ve got some great clients so we’ll continue to work with them. We get to work with Department of Agriculture as well at the moment.

So that’s been a really great project ongoing and we’re hoping to continue that work. We’re working with a new agency in Canberra and helping them build out their business. So we’re helping architect their business but also starting to really unpack who their customers are so they can design the business from scratch to meet those customers.

We have a few projects of our own, so we’re building a little bit of an app ourselves so we won’t say too much about it, but it goes to the heart of what artery does. So some of that creative approaches and how to really ramp businesses up on that side of things. So watch that space and we’ll get some early birds in to test out some of our products and things that we’re developing.

We’re really keen to do a lot more teaching as well. So part of what I’m really passionate about is teaching. When I go into an organization, I love getting people to know how to do my approach.

I’m not interested in just holding it for me as the only person that I need others to kind of think in a service led approach as well, and how do they best serve their customers. So I’ve been doing a bit of lecturing and guest lecturing and things like that over the last three years. So we’re really keen to do more of that work and build out some of those as part of the artery services.

And that’s mainly it. We’ve got so many ideas that come up amongst our little team of what we want to do, and it’s working out just like any big business. Where are you going to invest your time and money? And so we do have some things that we’re looking at doing.

We want to grow our team as well. So that’s key. Finding the right people that can come in, be part of the mindset and the growth mindset and trialing new things and working really well with clients.

So we’re looking at bringing in some new people as well. In the next couple of years, we’ll slowly grow the team and make sure we do that in a sustainable way. As a recruiter, that sustainability piece is music to my ears.

Love that. And how many people do you folks have at the moment? Yeah, so there’s probably about five core members and then we’ve got some freelancers and contractors that we bring in. So we’re anywhere between sort of eight to ten people at the moment.

Yeah, it’s slowly building out. Finding the right mix, I think, is really important and where we are in our stage and our journey of our business, and as we grow and get more clients, so we do it slowly, but we do it with intention and make sure they’re the right people. Yeah, that’s fantastic.

And I think especially after nearly two and a half years having that many people around to collaborate, that’s such a massive feat. Like, well done with that you touched earlier before about how everyone that you work with is really service led. And is there anything else that you’d like to share about the culture and what you want to foster over the next few years as you grow? Yeah, I guess the mindset that we really try to find in others is that sort of growth mindset that we all hear about now.

Like, how can you go into and self learning so that growth mindset about how they can work with clients but also within themselves. So often we’re thinking about people that don’t necessarily always have every single skill, but are willing to pick up some of those skills along the way. So we really try to make that part of the culture and the way we test and iterate, even when we’ve got, like, we’re whiteboarding every day with clients and ourselves and thinking about how we can develop something.

So it doesn’t have to be perfect that you’re going in there to test and iterate and build. So that’s really key that when people come into our space that they’ve got some of that that they can build upon. But I guess personally from my own career and having been in organizations that I’ve loved and hated and loved, and you all have your different journeys with different businesses and different bosses in different places, taking a lot of those, learning those experiences through life.

And then what does that mean for your own business and how do you want to be as a boss is really something that James and I are unpacking and making sure that we’re evolving as well in terms of being leaders so that we can support staff. And sometimes you don’t get it right. Sometimes you’ve got to learn and get feedback.

And that’s part of the process. I think that’s really thinking about my career and the different places I work with. The leadership has been really key to as an individual, how I’ve grown or been part of something or felt part of a bigger picture.

And so making sure that we’re bringing that into the equation as well is really important, as well as individuals coming in and us making sure that they can sort of grow as well on their journeys. It sounds to me that you almost don’t want a perfectionist. You want someone who’s happy to forge ahead with that learning process and accept that you’re not going to get it right all the time.

But as long as you’re willing to have a crack, that’s what you’re after. Really we do. But at the same time, we know what’s interesting with our business because we’ve got these sort of two sides.

One is very creative and we get our clients to think creatively and bring that together. We’ve also got this other side of the business, which is really about unpacking the business, understanding how it’s made up for its capabilities and what does that look like? And that’s a lot of boxes and things on a page. So often you get different mindsets coming into different roles within the business.

As I’ve developed and understood what a good MTT looks like. Multidisciplinary team. It’s really about having those complex, all those different kinds of brains that all can work together.

And I think part of it is about making sure that individuals can feel safe within the space and learn and grow, but also that we’ve got different, like, we’ve got the analytical brain, we’ve got the divergent brain, we’ve got the people that can take all the data and pull it into something and the strategic sort of mindset as well. So we do want sort of different types of people as well coming into our business and even people that bring that real technical skill. But then knowing how to work with each other, I think, is going to be really key over the next few years that we’re bringing in different perspectives and all those things around different cultural backgrounds and everything else to the table, but we can do it so that everyone comes to an understanding about how they can grow as individuals and how they can support each other through their journeys as well with artery and helping us build a business that keeps doing what it does at this stage into the future.

Yeah. Exciting. No, I think that’s really great to hear.

I feel like most businesses now are starting to realize that the more diverse their team is, the better ideas and the more diverse the ideas are. It’s only a good thing to have that diversity in methodologies and in ideas. So, yeah, I think the more that you can do that and tap into that, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

I’d love to kind of take a step back a little bit. You did mention earlier that you have an industrial design background. Can you tell us a little bit more about your higher education and how you got into this space? Yeah, so I studied bachelor of industrial design.

So it was a four year degree. I think now students can do it in three years, which know we feel like I had to do an extra year, but it was heaps of fun. And I say this in terms of, I was really lucky in terms of where I landed.

I went to University of Canberra and it was a really important phase of my life because I had four years. You got to grow up. Four years is a long time, from 18 to 22.

And we had the best lecturers in the world. I think the starting group, there were 50 students within the industrial design cohort. And then the final year, I think there was 20 or 25 students, 50% dropped off.

But I think that’s typical for a university degree. But it was like having the best uncles in the world. So when I went in there, I felt like I was part of just nurtured in a way that you didn’t get at school.

And not every degree was like the industrial design degree, I think because it was a smaller set of people and it was really important in terms of my journey from schooling through to understanding what design was and how. When you’re thinking about design, graphic design, industrial design in those days, yes, there was a design process, but it wasn’t as rigid now that what we do inside of these big organizations, so it’s much more fluid. Your approach was not really tied to really strict kind of processes or this understanding discovery define, develop those phases.

It was really around developing products and physical things. So it was very much, we were physically developing products, sketching, doing all those good design skills. And so those skills, I look back now, and when you’re doing the degree, you come out of it and you go, there’s no industrial design jobs in Australia at that point.

There weren’t, so you go overseas. But when I look on my path and I say this even to people, and I highly recommend any student going off and doing design degree, because you look back and you see those skills that I reflect on, the skills that I got to develop and the creative thinking and the way that my brain works. I can now take this into a corporate environment and really use those skills.

I use the double diamond, so it’s very process driven in terms of the way we do the design approach now. But I still do it in a fluid way because I have a foundation of design. And so that’s really helped me navigate this corporate world where I can transition in the design process in a really fluid way.

And I think others that may have come into it later have learned the process and quite committed to the steps in my approach can be fluid, but I’m also very aware that I’m working with people that need structure and so I can provide structure using, say, the double diamond framework or the other design processes that people have mapped out. Yeah, so that was really good. But after doing my degree, like I said, I went overseas for a while as well.

And I was so fortunate to go off and teach at neon Polytechnic in Singapore. And I was fortunate enough to teach the creative thinking over there to engineering students and teach them how to be creative and their approach was very rigid and they would copy a lot and so I was given a textbook and told teach them creative thinking and I was given a textbook and told how to do this. I threw the textbook out and I said kids, they were about 1718 year olds, I said kids let’s get some paper and make some paper planes and I would do things like that.

That was very different to taking the textbook that I was given to go and teach them how to be creative and that was fascinating how I started to understand how different, different cultures were in terms of creative thinking. Singapore now I’ve been back what, almost 25 years later or something, 20 years, won’t say my age but it has changed and though we know that that creative thinking course that they implemented years ago when I was there, they did it across all the schools at the time or all the tertiary education and it has had an impact on that country and I look at it and I experienced Singapore only a few months ago and it’s pretty amazing how far it’s come on its journey and it’s slowly changing. I thinking as a country too amazing.

No? That must be really rewarding to think back and be like, oh, I wonder where those students are at now and how they’ve implemented those lessons and if any of them still make aeroplanes. Well hopefully they’re not making aeroplanes for a living but they might be having time out and doing some things that allow their brains to think. Often it’s getting off your screens, getting off and going for a walk and having those moments where you can connect all the dots throughout the day.

That’s often how I do it, go for walks and get my brain thinking about all the things I’ve learned, all the things with a client and it’s often those moments where I can connect the dots and go oh, that’s what we need to do. And then I go back into the workplace the next day and test some of my ideas that I’ve thought of the night before. Yeah, sometimes you just need to switch off a little bit and then your subconscious works in the background.

But it sounds like to me you’ve obviously started off in that physical, very physical. It’s in your hands what you’re making and then all of these fabulous things that artery is doing. It seems like it’s gone full spectrum in that you’re now in very abstract design and service, design and strategy.

And how did you find that transition into going from one extreme to the other? To me that is just wild, that one brain can be great at both. So you’ve obviously connected some things there. Yeah, it’s interesting.

I think it was the journey into service design, I think as well, in terms of some of these, the way I think and the way I would enter organizations even in my twenty s, I reflect back now, and I had always a lot of these thinking, like, how does that happen in a business? So if you’re going in, even in the onboarding journey into a business, and I remember used to think they should do a better job at this, like, this is not right, that person should be doing it, and why don’t they have a better system for doing this? And I’d be thinking it in my head, but I wouldn’t be saying it out loud. And I think as women, we’re getting better. And certainly myself having gone through life, having kids, slowly developing my skills, over time, you start to realize that you actually know more than you allow yourself to say.

And I think for a long time I still had these skills. I just wouldn’t say them out loud. Heading into my forty s, I allowed myself to voice more of these things.

And then I learned some of the skills in service design. And then beyond that, strategy and other skills that allowed me to then use my design skills to present my thinking in artifacts. So it also then became quite powerful or drawing at something on a board.

So being able to take those hand skills that I had, those drawing skill. Hand skills, drawing skills, and then put it up on a whiteboard in front of an exec and then them going, yes, that’s right. And me thinking, okay, I’ve got something here.

I know how to unpack these complex systems. It’s just taken time to get there. And I think life experiences do help a lot.

They do help you kind of pick up different things and you start to unpack things. But I think naturally my brain was always like that. Also, I would never want to throw my former self in my late 20s into what I do now without the support system that I have around me or the support system that I would give someone else.

So I’m very conscious that we do enter into spaces that sometimes are not comfortable, and they can be like a frog in boiling water. You don’t want to chuck them in too quick. They need to develop the skills over time.

And the complex conversations that we have to have can be tricky. And sometimes I walk away being really exhausted and tired, all kind of fearful or anxious. But I know that I can unpack it with my business partner, some close colleagues, and other contacts I have around me to help me navigate what’s going on there.

And often it’s reframing it. Now. In the past, I might have taken it on board and been very anxious about it and almost retract from the situation.

I now unpack it. I see the problem for what it is and I go, how am I going to solve that? And that’s a different mindset. My mindset about the navigation of these complex spaces is about how do I solve it? Not about, oh my gosh, someone’s coming to attack me, which I might have done in the past.

Yeah, it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just, it’s a problem that is in front of us and how do we tackle it? Yeah. Another thing we do with clients is when we’re doing workshops with them and what’s great about COVID being behind us, we can start to build out some of these workshops where we get quite.

We try and get them out of that abstract world and into a physical world. And this is where my background in industrial designs really helped in that we’ll do things like Lego, or Lego serious play that a number of designers would know about that and bring that into workshops and unpacking it might be abstract things about personalities and things like that, or it could be concrete things about spaces and how we’re going to develop a service. And there might be spaces in which we need to develop for an organization.

But another thing we like to do is get out paper and any kind of models or artifacts and things that we have. And we do another thing called business origami, where we can bring clients into a room or stakeholders, and we unpack problems using paper and pen and string and Lego and anything else that we have. And doing that physical work often takes people out of the context of their organization.

So often you’re busy doing. Our clients are really busy doing their everyday work, whether they’re regulating exports, or they’re developing new services inside an energy company, or they’re working as health workers or something like that. But we bring them into this artery space and allow them to unpack some of their problems that they have as an organization.

And getting them thinking with physical objects really breaks down these barriers. And using Lego is a really great one, because Lego looks good. So even if you have a block of Lego, it always looks so.

Some people really like using Lego, but we love to bring out the pens and paper and other material so they can unpack services. And that might be mapping out the journey of a customer and what pinpoints you’re going to support. Them along that journey.

So that’s really a great way to do that. And I love doing that because it brings in my industrial design skills and getting really tactile in the way that we unpack the challenges that businesses have. Yeah, that’s such a good idea.

It kind of would bring a lot of things that maybe are unsaid problems, maybe. And it kind of just brings it out onto the table, literally. So, yeah, that’s such a great idea.

I never thought that. I think whiteboarding and brainstorming and all that fun stuff is usually people’s go to, but sometimes you should just get some toys out. Totally.

And also, like you said, it creates the space for different participants to start talking. So the talking and unpacking happens because you’re being physical with these objects and things, but you start to have conversations around it and unpack it and feeling more comfortable, like playing with your kids, getting down on the floor. Anyone can do that.

We still take it seriously, and we make sure for each of our clients that we’re really meeting with them where they want to be. And so testing some of these ideas doesn’t always work with clients, and some of them want to whiteboard or they want to do other things, and that’s fine. But where we can get them out of their spaces and starting to unpack, we really love that.

And a lot of their staff love that approach, too. Yeah. Awesome.

My next question would be, as we’ve said, you’ve transitioned into more of, like, a physical industrial design background and have now moved into service design, more of the technology space. Do you have any advice that you would like to give to students who are wanting to get into technology or perhaps pivot into technology like you did? I think going to meetups and things like that and starting to unpack some of these spaces so you can go off and do a three year degree or something to really understand skills. But I really like the approach, and I think at Stanford University have this design.

It’s sort of like a design thing approach for your career. So how you can navigate your career. So not necessarily not knowing what you’re going to do and then choosing a course and doing a course.

I suggest going out, meeting with people, having conversations, doing lots of reading, meeting companies, and unpacking. What do different companies do, what floats your boat, what does different roles look like in that organization, and how you can slowly build skills as well that can get you into that space. So I highly recommend exploring it and really talking to lots of people, maybe coming up with some metrics about how many people you’re going to talk to and starting to unpack what it means for you and your career.

Every single person that I know that’s done some kind of design degree and even other degrees, technology, other things, it’s a journey. So it is not like the old days where you went and got a thing and you went and got a technology thing where technology is going to be in 20 years time, ten years time, five years time, even two years time from now, we don’t know what it is. And if I started where I had started and continued doing what I was doing back then, I would not have a job.

So I’ve had to evolve and take up new skills and learn on the job and evolve my practice to move with the changing environment just as an organization does. Individuals need to be doing that as well. And so, yeah, going in, exploring, I think that’s the best way.

I highly recommend doing design understanding. What does that mean? What does human centered design mean? How can you understand your users? The way I see tech is really as a key enabler to driving that human experience. Always if you can build up some skills in that human centered design as well, whether it’s user experience, but really going deep into what do people need and what do they need, not just now, but in five years time.

And those humans on their life journeys, what do they need? And start thinking about that in the way that you process some of your opportunities that come up. Yeah, I completely agree. All of those little tips and tricks, that’s exactly what I like to say to people.

If they approach me as a recruiter and they’re like, hey, what skills do I need? What do I need to be doing? What’s the best way to position myself? Usually I get the, oh, no, I don’t want to go to events. And I’m like, but you really do need to meet people that are going to be in your space and what are they working on? What projects are they working on? Is that something that you envision to do yourself? So, yeah, I think meetups are a really great way. And just like finding out what’s going on, it’s just a really great place to meet people as well.

Who, if you’re thinking about going into a creative or a tech industry, you want to be on the same wavelengths as people as well. So it gives you a good vibe. Check.

Just thinking about my transition as well. One thing that I notice about tech it industry is how willing people are to give time. So I found it immensely.

It was like polar opposite to some of the experiences I’d had in the past working for different industries. It was just incredible how much time people gave up for me and willing to have a chat, even up these meetups, learn something new. And I think that there’s so much we can learn from the tech space and the startup culture and all those things and how other industries can learn from them.

But also for people that are interested in moving into it, it isn’t a hard entry. You will make friends within 2 minutes of arriving at a meetup. So I highly encourage that too.

Ellen. I think there’s so much opportunities to network and learn from others and just have that starting to build that mindset and that sometimes takes a little bit of courage and takes a little bit of practice as well. And even yourself developing and testing your own approach.

And how do you build up these skills over time? And that might mean going to five meetups before you meet the first person, but keep doing it, you’ll be able to meet people. Exactly. And what’s the worst case scenario? You get free food usually, and you listen to a great speaker and then it’s a good night out.

Totally. Yeah, that’s great. I’d love to kind of hear if there’s anything in particular about what you’re doing at artery at the moment or just like in your career in general, that really lights you up and motivates you to do what you’re doing.

I guess as you’re growing a business, just like our clients, we’ve got to do the same thing for us. So really a big part of what we’ve been doing lately is really unpacking what we do as a business, what’s going to be our focus. It’s time to reset what we’re doing and looking at our key customers.

So really doing what we do for clients, that’s something we’ve been trying to spend a lot of time on. And how we build out these services into the future, where we’re meeting our clients needs, what do they need from artery and what do we matching that up with what our goals are? What do we want to do as a business, which is really driving impact back into the community, back into citizens around Australia, but also just communities and individuals, but also businesses as well. We’re really interested in helping businesses and the staff experience and those things.

So how do we as a business really unpack that so we can pull the right levers and focus on those customers that are really going to drive that impact? So that’s a lot of work. We’re doing at the moment. So a lot of whiteboarding, a lot of mirror sessions, a lot of thinking, talking goes into that and finding enough time to do that when we’re doing client works, it is a bit challenging, but we have to make sure we set time aside for doing all those things that we would do for our clients.

We need to do it for ourselves. Yeah. Putting in the big work to set that foundation.

That’s good to hear. I also really like to ask this question to our guests as well, because I just like to showcase to people who are facing a few challenges in their career, that experience is valid and everyone kind of goes through that. So I’m curious if you have any speed bumps from your career or any challenges that you faced and what were they and how have they shaped where you’re at at the moment? Yeah, so I guess from reflecting back on my early career as a designer, but also entering into some fairly big organizations, I found it really overwhelming.

So I did have a lot of anxiety. I reflect now and think about all the things that would keep me up at night or having bad environments or cultures that didn’t really sit with me. Well.

That was really, for me, one of those transition points where I did shift my mindset in terms of the whole design space has allowed me to shift mindset in terms of entering into an organization and being able to tackle these challenging problems. So really in that early career, and I do find this, talking to a number of other women, also men, that sometimes find it hard actually even turning up to work and not feeling anxious is really challenging because you’re thinking about how potentially you’re going to let people down or how you’re not going to live up to the expectation or what you’re doing. Is someone going to be watching me or am I doing enough? And I really struggled with that early on.

And for a time there, I had some panic attacks and things like that. Certainly in Melbourne when I had one role, and it is quite overwhelming knowing what to do with that. How do you move on from it? Do I go to the doctor? At one stage? I did.

Very early in my career, I was prescribed Valium. And I look back now and I go, that was just a mask to everything else that was going on, not only for myself, but also for the culture in that business that I was working in. And I think organizations are starting to shift and change.

I think we as individuals also need to take some responsibility there. And certainly my path through my career, I still have moments where I feel overwhelmed and it’s like, what the hell have I got myself into when I’ve started working on a big project? And it’s like you’re swimming in the data. But I take time out, I take time to myself, and I do a lot of bushwalking.

Fortunately, I’ve got some amazing friends that I can also talk to, as well as my business partner and husband. But I think it’s really important that you need to start to unpack that what that is as an individual and what is the problem? And going to the heart of why are you having these reactions to things? And like I said, taking on design and the way I unpack things now, which is really about understanding the problem, defining the problem, exploring solutions. I do that for businesses, and we’ll develop out some amazing tech or services, but we as individuals can take that design process as well.

And I think that’s a really thing that I’d love to share over the next few years in terms of how people can take that approach and think about how they can look at the problems that they are experiencing and start to explore solutions. And those solutions I might not know the answer to. But going to the heart of what is actually going on for you as an individual, and it might be being in an organization that’s not good for you and that you need to make a change, but it might also be the organization is where it is.

I need to be part of the shift to the future, and I need to shift in terms of my mindset to help navigate that future for that organization. So, yeah, it is like speed humps along the journey as well as learning. I’ve had to remember coming back from having had kids and going into the workplace and this new thing, when I came back, there was this new thing about learning.

So when I had gone off to have kids and I took some years off, ran a small business during that period, this whole learning culture wasn’t a thing. So you didn’t go into the workplace going, oh, I can learn what I need to do. And as I exited and started to do more work and take on some more projects and working with some big businesses, I realized that there was this new thing called learning on the job and that you could actually learn.

And that shifted my head as well, because that had not been a thing like in the six years prior. And it was like unlocking this amazing thing that I could learn to be something I could learn with that organization. As that organization changed, I could be part of that.

And that that could enable me to build my skills and that was an amazing shift, I think, in the corporate world and how it allowed its staff to evolve and change. And that is a really big part of what we try and instill in organizations. What are you going to do with your staff? How do your staff need to shift and change? So often we’ll do these profiles about current personas of staff or customers, but sometimes where I’m parking staff and then thinking about those staff of the future, what do those staff need to be in say, five years time? And then thinking about what those initiatives or things that need to take place to enable staff to transition into that future where the business is headed.

So that’s really interesting as well. Yeah, that’s really cool. And it’s great that you can utilize your learnings into hopefully creating some really great processes for future businesses and their future employees.

Thank you for being really open about your struggles because you’re so right. There’s so many people who go through that. And before you get into the car, before you head to work, that dread of like what am I doing? I think so many people go through that and just kind of accept it and be like, okay, well this is what it means to work and it doesn’t have to be that way.

So yeah, I think totally valid and great advice as well and how to overcome that. And I guess you mentioned as well, you’ve got a really great support network and you like to go bushwalking. Is there anything else that you like to do for your productivity, your self care? That kind of.

I like, I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I’m listening to this great New Zealander chick at the moment, Chelsea, who’s lean with plants. I don’t know if the rest of Australia is listening to her, but she’s in America doing lots of things and in New Zealand. And really it was not that I want to become vegan, but I just started listening to her in terms of moving to more plant based foods and I had spent some time in Europe last year with some of our dutch relatives and they all seem to be going moving into plant based foods.

The last twelve months I’ve been really exploring the space and thinking what does that mean for me? I’ve been picking up some of her skills, but she’s very interesting and I love the way she talks about us as individuals and creating good habits and shifting. So that’s one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to. I love listening to investor podcasts and ideo have a great one on creative courage.

I think it’s called. So that’s a really great one as well. So often I’m bushwalking, listening to podcasts or doing the dishes, listening to podcasts.

And I’ve got three kids, so we’re super busy. We’re going to any sports that they’re going to on the weekends. We try and go bike riding with the kids as well.

And my kids are all super creative, so we have painting going on in the house and making little movies or doing a lot of Lego as well. So that keeps us busy as well, cleaning up after them, but trying to also sometimes get involved in some of their projects and things, which is lots of fun. Yeah, nice.

Well, yeah, I guess with three kids, that’s pretty much all your spare time. Yeah, that’s it. But it sounds fun.

It sounds fun. It sounds like a bit chaotic, but sometimes chaotic things are the best fun that you can have. Yeah.

There’s a balance you’ve got to embrace when you get to three kids. Embrace a little bit of chaos to help the brain calm down, because if you try and control it, it’s not going to happen. And I guess you mentioned that you love listening to podcasts.

Is there any other content or books or youtubers or anyone else that you like to listen to or to consume? My daughter made me go to the Taylor Swift concert recently and making me listen to a lot of Taylor Swift. Hey, that’s nothing wrong with a bit of fairly new to my world, the whole Taylor Swift phenomenon. I’ve been trying to unpack what’s going on there, and in the meantime, my daughter’s fully immersed in making Taylor swift tops and things like that.

So that’s pretty full on. What do I like listening to? Look, we watch a lot of documentaries as a family. My husband’s an environmental scientist, and he’s very much into science and geography and learning different things.

So we’ve got this polar opposite in the family. We’ve got the scientist and then the artist, creative designer. So it creates a Complex mix in our kids, but we try to get into documentaries as a family.

And we love a good docko on the weekend or something, but watching some great Sci-Fi movies and things like that as well is always fun. Yeah, I think a docko on a rainy day is a day well spent. Totally.

Yeah. I’d like to finish off the podcast with one of my favorite questions. If you could give your younger self some career advice, what would that be? I think it’s having some confidence in some of your own thinking.

So being able to listen to yourself, not question it so much. And being able to put it out there, I think as women, some men, and maybe the culture in which we’re part of our wider culture doesn’t allow people just to put things out, or we maybe have fear. And certainly I had a lot of fear around putting my own opinions out there.

So I would probably whisper in my ear as a younger self and say, no, you have an opinion here, put it out there. And I think that might have got me in more trouble. But also, I think putting yourself out there in those moments, it builds up that while there’s tension there, it builds up your skill over time and being able to face some more of these complex challenges earlier, maybe, in life, and so we can enter in and do the work that I’m doing now, maybe earlier on, but at the same time, I wouldn’t wish for a different journey.

So my journey is complex and up and down and like a lot of us have had, I wouldn’t wish for a different journey. And I do have moments where I have these light bulb moments where I go this moment here where I am right now, it’s because I’ve had all these other experiences, and I’m facing this moment right now because I’m able to, because I’ve backed it up with other moments or other challenges in life. And I think that’s really important to the human journey and those experiences through life and growing older and building skills.

Yeah, I think that’s kind of sums it up. Really. That’s a really great answer.

Like, actually taking in that, that reflection is sometimes a big part of the learning. Yeah, that’s really great. Thank you so much for being so open and so honest with our chat today, and thank you so much for your time.

Really appreciate having you on. Fran. Thanks, Alan.

Love talking to.

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