This week I interviewed Michelle Guthrie for One Plus One, a year after her appointment as the ABC's Managing Director.
What was it like to interview your boss? people have asked me.
Everyone has an opinion about Ms Guthrie and the ABC. The opinions are not always pleasant. I felt I had the weight of expectation on my shoulders. Apart from that complexity, the interviewer part of me was curious to know why someone who had reached such heights in the media and digital world, had such a light digital footprint herself. It was very hard to find detail about her life and what has influenced her trajectory.
For me, the most anxious moments were the hours BEFORE the interview.
I am approaching this in good faith, I told myself, just ask her about the pieces that you need to make this puzzle complete.
But as well as being an interviewer who overthinks everything, I am also a long-term employee of the public broadcaster, a 23 year veteran. Many of my peers have left either by choice or through redundancy. Media as an industry is in turmoil. So what changes are in store for a traditional TV journalist in the Michelle Guthrie era of my career?
It was a bubbly Michelle who stepped briskly into my studio arena this week. Immediate thoughts were that I towered over her( incredibly). She didn't want to shake hands. She opened her arms to give me a hug. I sensed quickly that she was not someone to mess with, and yet I could relax and know that she would give me the space to probe her. We chatted about clothes and finding the right style. I loved her swan shirt :)
So, who is Michelle Guthrie? From what she told me she was a good student who worked hard and then took the opportunities that lay in front of her. She said 'yes' a lot. She took risks. She has fantastic insights into women and leadership. She has a husband (who is a chef) living in Singapore and two lovely daughters. She wants to make the ABC relevant for our time, which means a greater connection to the world many of us call home: online. Change IS her buzzword. But, she prefers to be out of the public eye.
In summary, I'd give her the hashtag: #quietdisrupter
Here's a podcast of a recent panel discussion I took part in on long-form interviewing. The discussion took place as part of the New News Conference 2016 at the Wheeler Centre in October. Excellent moderation by Andrew Dodd and thoughtful answers from Philip Chubb and Ramona Koval.
Recently, I was asked for some advice by a young man who’s about to finish a politics degree and is keen to be a journalist.
He wanted to know about insights, regrets and aspirations I had as a young journalist and the expectations I had at the outset of my career.
He asked whether a master’s degree in journalism from a good institution was more important than building a profile and a portfolio.
He also asked whether being gay and not ‘blokey’ was something he’d have to grapple with. After pondering the questions, I decided to write a kind of 'this is what I know now.'
If you want a career badly enough, persistence is the only option. Persistence, practice, feedback (criticism) and life experience leads to mastery of the craft.
There has never been enough feedback in my career. Some organisations are surprisingly poor at this and I used to be too frightened to ask. My bad.
Always ask for a position, a role, a project that you want. Don’t wait for the invitation. If you ask and you don’t get it, ask why not and take note.
Challenge yourself, even when others don’t.
Don’t fear being outside the pack but more relevant perhaps, why define yourself by what others think?
The thing that stops people the most is self-sabotage. “I can’t do that or be that,” says the internal voice rather than “What do they want and how do I give it to them?"
Networking, building a profile and a portfolio or studying for an MA: further study is great once you’ve had a bit of experience. Mid-career, an MA - or fellowship - is a great opportunity to down tools, take stock, absorb and grow new branches.