What can’t you fix with coffee, chocolate and dry shampoo? Pretty much everything, which is why Allison Rothmund is mostly winning the juggle struggle. This impressive mama and Chartered Accountant has worked across Australia and London in corporate roles and has spent the last 12 years at NAB.
Allison uses her senior leadership role to connect and inspire others and it’s this passion that sparked side hustle, Champagne Supernova (networking and bubbles? Yes please!). We love that through all this career-awesomeness, Allison’s family is still number one. Allison talks to us about being kind to yourself, defining your boundaries and not saying yes to everything.
Can you tell us about your career journey?
I studied Commerce (Accounting & Finance) at Monash University and started my career at PwC in audit. I was 20 years old, working at 333 Collins Street and wearing snappy suits every day. I grew up in Tasmania and my dream in high school was to wear a ‘power suit’ and work in Collins Street, Melbourne so I was living the dream! PwC was a brilliant place to start my career – amazing people, a high-performance culture and high-profile clients. I completed my Chartered Accounting qualification and worked all over Australia and London. In 2006 I joined NAB in a finance role. Over the past 12 years at NAB I have worked across Finance, Performance & Rewards, People & Culture and Operations. In my current role, as Head of Customer Assist, I wear two hats. Firstly, I lead a large contact centre team in NAB Assist, working with customers experiencing financial difficulty. Secondly, I lead the Wellbeing @ NAB Assist strategy, designing and implementing initiatives to enable our people to thrive in the workplace. This year I also launched my side hustle, Champagne Supernova. Champagne Supernova is all about creating events and opportunities to bring amazing women together to connect, inspire and be inspired, build networks and share a laugh over a glass of champagne.
You have two gorgeous children, a six year old daughter and a nine year old boy. How has having children changed you? Are you more or less ambitious in your career?
I’m still ambitious, but my perspective on things has shifted dramatically. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m very clear on my priorities and my boundaries, and I do not feel the need to justify them.
I’m more empathetic and more mindful of how I spend my time at work. My definition of success has changed. Career success in no longer defined by a title or a pay grade. Success for me is working with great people, doing work that is aligned to my values and feeling like I am making a positive difference in the lives of those who matter.
You have a senior role at NAB leading a large team. What have you found most challenging about working and having a young family?
In the early days it was sleep deprivation, tearful childcare drop offs and juggling sick kids with a big role. I naively assumed the juggle would get easier once both kids were at school. Boy was I wrong!
My kids need me now more than ever. I struggle with ‘working mama guilt’ most days. While I make sure I attend important school events, I simply can’t be at every assembly, art expo or class mass. Likewise, I can’t attend every work conference, dinner or offsite. Like many women, I often feel like I’m not doing enough at both work and home. I’m my own harshest critic!
You are an active member of the Connecting Women community at NAB. How do you mentor and connect other women?
I’ve been coaching and mentoring women across the organisation for several years. It’s one of the best parts of my job!
Last year I hosted ‘The Executive Exchange’ Connecting Women event at NAB, an informal chat with four senior leaders (and 300 staff in the audience) about their careers, lessons they’ve learned and words of advice. The conversation was relaxed and authentic. I’m passionate about breaking down the structure and facilitating real connection between people, regardless of role or level.
What do you think the biggest barriers are for women to move into senior leadership roles? What needs to change? What can companies practically do to better support women?
I believe one of the biggest barriers is job design. I’d like to change the way senior leadership roles are designed to make them more attractive to smart women, because despite all the talk about creating equality and diversity in recruitment processes and candidate shortlists, I don’t think that’s the real problem. I’m confident that I have the ability to take the next step in my career but in all honesty, I don’t want the jobs on offer. That’s the real problem. I’m a mum and that is my first priority. I do not want to be available at 6AM or 8PM for a teleconference that is considered urgent for someone else. I want to be able to work flexibly and be assessed on the quality of my output, not the hours I am visible in the office.
So what can companies do to better support women?
- Support flexibility in practice, not just in policy.
- Re-design senior roles to allow women (and men) to work part time, from home, job share, compressed weeks, flexible hours or whatever works. There are some great examples of flexible job design up to a certain level of many organisations, but then it seems to revert to very traditional Monday to Friday, 14 hour days in the office as you get closer to the top.
What advice can you give women working towards senior leadership roles while having a family?
- Define your boundaries, or others will define them for you. These may change depending on the stage your family is at and that’s ok. My number one boundary at the moment is my finish time. I leave the office at 5PM every day because being home to eat dinner as a family is a non-negotiable for me.
- Be kind to yourself. Some days are hard. I’ve been that mum, walking out of childcare in tears, then fixing my make up in the car before hopping on the train for a full-on day in the office. I’ve been that mum who has smiled her way through back to back meetings with senior stakeholders, only to go home exhausted questioning why I am doing all this. On these days, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are doing the best you can.
- Find your tribe. I am fortunate to have some incredibly supportive friends in my corner. They will listen, laugh with me, provide brutally honest advice, a shoulder to cry on, and a glass of wine when needed! We need this connection and support to keep us going.
- Choose how you spend your time. A wise friend taught me that saying yes to something means you are saying no to something else. For example, I get invited to a lot of ‘coffee catch ups’ with people who are seeking my guidance, or want to hear about my career journey. While I’m very generous with my time and my experience I’ve learnt to say no sometimes. If I agree to spend a precious hour chatting over coffee, I’ll need to work at home after the kids go to bed to catch up (effectively saying no to time with my husband).
The juggle sure is real! How do you manage it? What do you do to stay sane on those crazy days?
Coffee, chocolate and dry shampoo!
The mornings are tricky as my husband, George starts work at 6AM. So we have a beautiful babysitter, who takes the kids to school three mornings a week, allowing me to get to work by 9AM. George is finished work in time to pick up the kids and drive them to all of their after school activities which is great. I’m super organised, and have lists, diaries and calendars to keep us on track with all the family admin (I’m a control freak!).
Launching Champagne Supernova earlier this year was hectic. I managed to find three whole new ‘days’ in my week (9PM-12AM most weeknights gave me 15 hours, plus a daily two hour commute gave me 10 hours). While I ‘found’ at least 25 extra hours a week to work on my passion project, it wasn’t without sacrifice. My sleep, exercise and sanity suffered and I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I’m now back to exercising regularly, sleeping more and feeling much better for it!
Favourite time of the day is… early morning – I get out and exercise while kids are still sound asleep!
Instagram sites that inspire you…
@bodyimagemovement – I’m an ambassador for Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Movement and a proud promoter of positive body image. If you haven’t watched Taryn’s documentary ‘Embrace’, do it now!
@turiapitt – I love her no-nonsense approach to life and its challenges.
@ladystartup – I have discovered so many beautiful small businesses and products via this page.
I’m happiest when… I’m with my family, with nothing I need to do and nowhere I need to be. Add cheese and a glass of wine and I’m in heaven.
I’m addicted to… coffee, chocolate, F45 training (I’m late to the party but am loving it).
Favourite wardrobe staple for work… Witchery black military blazer.
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend… jeans and runners.
Heels or flats? I wish I could say heels, but my feet are screaming flats!