Shadowing a CEO

After originally finding myself lost in the city, I managed to locate 6 O’Connell Street. I travelled up to the Sixth Floor to begin my ‘Day in the Life of a CEO’ where I would be shadowing Michael Traill, the CEO of Social Ventures Australia. It had already been a long journey from my home, and I had nearly found myself lost after taking a wrong turn, but upon finding myself a little ahead of time, relief came to me, and it was time to get to the foyer.

Instantly, I found myself slightly intimidated by the building, and upon entering the foyer from the elevator, moved myself to the reception room, where there was a sign stating that this area was unmanned, and to read a list of people to find who I needed to contact. The list was… large, and quite daunting as I had little idea on who I would be contacting ad I would surely be standing there absolutely clueless for at least another ten minutes. However, as soon as I resigned to my fate, I was asked by a worker if I was alright and this began a busy, yet inspiring day at the office.

Also immediately, my initial feelings of inadequacy were obliterated, as everyone (and I mean everyone) in the office was warm, welcoming, and very helpful. As I sit at the desk of the CEO typing this up, I cannot help but think about how interesting, and surprising this day has been. Gone are my expectations of the rather totalitarian workspace you see in the movies and on television programs, where the horrible boss smokes a cigar and barks commands at his workers, and here comes a more modern, and very satisfying atmosphere, where it is clear to me that the people here are happy to be here, and are considered important to the business as opposed to a cost that must be incurred.

One thing that, aesthetically, informed me of the positive atmosphere SVA was that, not only was everyone smiling and offering my coffee or tea (the blackboard behind me suggests there are a lot of coffee lovers upon this floor), but all desks were together, on the same floor, with little to no differentiation (had you have asked me where the CEO’s desk would be located before being shown around, I would have guesstimated upstairs or in a private room – maybe with a fancy gold plate on the door with an inscribed name and a plucky secretary chewing gum and on the phone outside). The atmosphere was informal, yet still highly respectful, and every person I met firstly introduced themselves, and then sought to help me in some way before I even knew I needed help. Towards the end of the day, I found myself smiling and saying ‘Hello!’ to everyone I locked eyes with, whether I knew them or not because they returned me the same courtesy. This entire floor is filled with people that spend their days thinking of other people, and that is a lesson that many people outside of these walls have forgotten, but a fine one indeed that needs to be re-learned.

The aim of Social Ventures Australia is to try and ‘create better education and employment outcomes for disadvantaged Australians’, and this is blatantly obviously when you interact with the people, ask them what their purpose is, and ask why they are doing what they are doing. I asked some people why they were here. What made them want to go into this business? Why did they want to bring about this change? When did they decide to help others through the business world? The replies I received were similar, in their base components. They saw an issue, and sought to fix it. While stories and situations varied, and I won’t go into details, they were genuine, and I discovered that the people I asked, while in varying positions within SVA, had the same thoughts. They were here to help, and help they certainly did. If their treatment of me during my day here, whenever I got lost, or rambled a little too much, perhaps having to wander off and get myself a beverage, is anything to go by, then their motives are, for a lack of a better word (as the beloved online thesaurus has betrayed me) ‘pure’. They were extremely kind in their treatment of me, humble when I asked them questions, and excited to have me there, even when I was sure I must have at some points been a bother.

The light-hearted environment fuelled my day, and the knowledge that I could walk up to anyone, whether I knew their name or not (fortunately their names were on their desks – I could cheat!) and ask them a questions, usually pertaining to where something was, I was helped quickly, and with no evidence of displeasure or annoyance.

Overall, the day was nothing like I expected, and it superseded my expectations immensely. I was honestly privileged with this opportunity, and I do not regret it. It was a great day.

[Tenile Bryce was awarded the opportunity to spend ‘A day in the life of the CEO – Trailing Trailly’ with Michael Traill, CEO of Social Ventures Australia after being selected from The Smith Family’s ‘Learning for Life‘ program. The opportunity was kindly gifted to The Smith Family by Michael Richardson, Head of Equity Capital Markets at Deutsche Bank AG. Michael was the successful bidder on this auction item at the 2013 Annual Equity Capital Markets Dinner hosted by Macquarie Bank.]