Today on International Women’s Day we interviewed batyr’s longest standing employee, National Program Manager Steph Vasiliou. Steph has been an integral part of batyr’s growth from when we were just three people strong, often behind the scenes, but today we’re bringing #girlstothefront.
How does it feel to be the longest-standing batyr employee?
It feels like it’s been a massive whirlwind and it definitely feels like a real privilege thinking about how it all started where the three of us did whatever you had to do to make an organisation run; from coding websites, to doing payroll, to writing to-do-lists for Seb, to building batyr to what it is today. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to be a part of, so looking back it’s pretty amazing to actually have been a part of that.
What are the greatest challenges you faced into making it to where you are now, and how did you overcome them?
I think some of the biggest challenges have been my own confidence. I have been so lucky to be surrounded by such supportive people, like Seb, Sam and everybody else at batyr, and in my personal life too. I think my own confidence over the years is something I’ve had to work on. It’s almost held me back from going for some of the roles that I’ve gone for, and so a big thing I’ve had to learn is how to back myself so I’m not my own limitation.
What would you say to other women out there struggling with their own confidence and finding their voice in professional and social circles? What was one of the biggest things that helped you back yourself?
I think something that I’ve learned along the way is I used to apologise a lot for anything, like saying my opinion or getting involved in certain conversations and having to say no to certain things, and it was actually my supportive male colleagues at batyr who have pulled me up on that to try to get me to back myself. Another thing I’ve realised along the way is that I would internalise mistakes, often when I made a mistake I would think ‘oh I’m the worst person ever, or I’m not good enough to be in my role’, and the things that I did well, I would externalise those wins and say ‘oh it’s because I got lucky’ or it’s because of the other people involved’. A big thing I’ve worked on over the past year is when I make mistakes to own them, but when I do something well, to own that as well and to acknowledge I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where I am. I don’t believe it’s luck anymore, I think I’ve worked really hard and I’ve surrounded myself with amazing people.
Another one is I just say yes to any opportunity that comes my way, whether it’s work outside of my role, networking opportunities, going to meetings outside of the organisation. I listen a lot to people I admire, so people in different roles, I often just sit and listen to how they say things, and how they hold themselves in certain situations. I think for younger people wanting to work their way up in organisations, it’s important to listen out for opportunities that come up. As long as it’s in line with their well-being and what they can manage, I think that’s so important. I also think lining yourself up with people you admire with all skill-sets and all roles, I think that every single person has value to add, and that’s what’s helped me to really learn a lot.
In my personal life I’ve also surrounded myself with friends who build each other up, like my best friends work in paramedicine, meteorology, journalism, public relations, social work and I think having close friends that I can vent to, and learn from and tell each other to go for those promotions, has helped us back each other and ourselves. I think that’s been a massive thing, so if young people can surround themselves with positive influences that can support them, that’s really important.
In summary I would say:
- Back yourself
- Say yes to opportunities if they’re in line with your well-being
- Own your wins!
- Stop apologising
Often times sitting in meetings when I was first starting off, I would spend a lot of time in the meeting building myself up to say my opinion, and now I just go for it, because what’s the worst that’s going to happen?
From actioning your own advice in the past year like you mentioned, have you seen the change in yourself and the pay-offs?
Yes, oh my gosh, I definitely have days where I doubt myself, and I have days where I see myself as this fraud in my role, but I think I’m having more days now where I feel I can recognise the things I’m proud of in myself. I think I’ve grown so much and I’ve taken on a new role, and that was a big lesson for me in my own confidence because I wasn’t going to go for it initially. Why? I didn’t think I was good enough for it, and it was my co-workers around me who asked why I wasn’t going for it, and that made me realise what a waste that would be if I prohibited myself from going for new opportunities. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to know the answers for everything, but that’s not what makes you good at your job, pushing yourself and diving right in, that’s how I learn, and being open to new experiences and new learnings is how we’re going to get anywhere.
What do you think has been your greatest contribution to batyr? You have to own your wins!
I think outside of my role, something I’ve really valued is building really strong relationships with the people in batyr, and recognising the wins and hard work of other people. I think with the amount of time we spend at work we’re more than just colleagues, and I think it’s important to look out for each other. Over the years I’ve really tried to make sure that if I notice somebody isn’t doing too well, that they have someone they can talk to. I think looking out for different people in the team, and continuing that positive culture and being a family, is something I’ve been proud of.
I think I’ve also tried to be really positive and open to the changes that have happened, going from 3 people, to now fifty with our casual staff, there have been so many changes. From our CEO change overs, and the four different roles that I’ve had, it’s a lot of change and it’s easy to be scared and fearful of it all, and sometimes to feel a bit negative about certain things, but I’ve just been super open to any new experience, and I think it’s helped me be positive, which has also added to the culture here as well.
Who are some strong female role models in your life?
I can’t name a famous person, I think I relate more to people in my circle that I actually know, and I might have said this already, and I think my biggest role models are my best friends, because I’ve seen how hard they work, they’re all women, we’re in such a diverse field and we’ve all gone through different challenges within our careers, but I just see them owning what they’re doing, and dominating it. I really admire how much they push themselves, and how we push each other and back each other as well. So I actually think they’re my biggest role models for sure.
Through our Being Herd program, you would have met so many inspirational young women, and witnessed so many inspirational moments, what have been some of your greatest takings on the power of women supporting each other?
Seeing women through Being Herd, some who haven’t felt like they’ve ever had a voice, some who haven’t talked about their experiences or revealed them to anyone else, but seeing them feel comfortable in a space, to be able to not only share their stories, but own them, and see a transformation from day one to day two, it’s such an empowering and inspirational thing for me. I think I am so privileged to have a job where I get to hear people talk about such personal experiences, but talk about them in such hopeful and positive ways, and knowing that they are then hopefully feel more confident in themselves as women, and knowing that their stories are valid, that in itself is so powerful. Watching them being able to build off the back of that confidence in their own lives and moving forward if it’s at work, or at university, or in their daily lives and to be able to manage certain situations that come up in life is inspiring. Hopefully they feel like they have stronger voices when it comes to the direction they want their lives to go. To have been a part of that journey makes me feel like the most fortunate person I think. What a way to spend your time.
What part do you hope batyr will play in creating a better future for young women in Australia?
I’ve been lucky enough to have never dealt with inequality in the workplace, I’ve been able to get these amazing opportunities, but I know it’s something a lot of women have to deal with everyday. I would just hope that the women who do become a part of batyr, either by volunteering, or sharing their stories, or working for batyr, feel like they have a platform for where they can be lifted, and really can know that they have a voice, and that we believe in their voices, and that we want to give them an opportunity to share them.
I think people who come to batyr and Being Herd, they learn to find their voices, and what we’ve seen through our program is people feeling more confident after they leave Being Herd. So I think what would be amazing to see in the future, as we continue to work with more and more women, is that more women are empowered to build their confidence, and that’s going to feed back into their relationships, their community and conversations they have with other women as well. I feel like it’s a snowball effect starting at Being Herd and going from there to build their confidence so they can take their lives in whatever direction they want, knowing that they can. It’s just the start really!
A lot of my struggle has been building my own confidence so I don’t limit myself. So my one big piece of advice would be back yourself, because then there’s no limit to what you can achieve.