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Five Minutes with Julie McCormack

Julie McCormack has steadfastly built her career from an ability to handle complex challenges and a keen focus on what she believes in. Since 2012, Julie has been the Manager of the Clinical Training Unit at the Victorian branch of the Australian Dental Association (ADA); she is also currently an active board member at Merri Community Health Services (MCHS) and a member of the Victorian Women’s Trust.  Previously she was the General Manager of Education at the Law Institute of Victoria and a lecturer in education at Melbourne University.

You’ve amassed a career in both education and public health. What drew you to these sectors?

I started out in education but quickly realised that as a teacher, you have applicable skills across multiple sectors. Both the Health and Education sectors are people orientated. Both are constantly challenged to find new ways of meeting people’s needs. So, there are always challenges, and I find this keeps me on my toes. There is something a little unpredictable about both sectors also. And there is constant feedback from the people you work with, which is imperative.

Can you think of a seminal moment in your career that made you realise you were a leader?

I have known I have skills in bringing people together to work on something, and to get involved, for most of my life - possibly being the eldest in a large family developed this (laughs).I am interested in making things happen, not just talking about it. The development of the Women in Trades website back in 2005 is a good example.The key is supporting and encouraging others to be their very best and helping them to make the connections that get this happening. Perhaps the first time I really thought about being a leader was when I was offered a lecturing role in the Faculty of Education at University of Melbourne after being identified as an innovator in education.

As a manager, board member and elected member of a range of councils and networks – how do you juggle it all?

Life is busy for everyone these days. Managing different roles is easier if you focus solely on the role when you are in it - by that I mean not blurring lines, but concentrating only on the matters in front of you when you are undertaking that particular work. I am also an avid list maker. I start each day by writing the list of tasks to be completed for that day. I write absolutely everything down. My lists drive my family mad!

“The key is supporting and encouraging others to be their very best and helping them to make the connections that get this happening.”

Are you able to talk about leadership in the public health sector?

Leadership and culture are so important in the public sector because in large organisations people adopt a culture very quickly. If this is an inappropriate culture, a whole organisation - which the public is dependent on - can be dragged down in a short space of time. Leaders are carefully monitored in public health, so it is really important they model the behaviour they expect from the rest of the staff.

I am in the fortunate position where I am able to develop and deliver training on issues for large numbers of people. Doing this, you can really reframe ‘issues’ and demonstrate how something should be done. It is important individuals don’t get lost in the system, so there is a significant requirement to explain decisions and allow people to explore issues. I think leadership in this context is about providing the rationale, and then modelling solutions. It is easy for individuals to just accept ‘problems in the system’, but I like to challenge people to find the answers.

“I think leadership in this context is about providing the rationale, and then modelling solutions. It is easy for individuals to just accept ‘problems in the system’, but I like to challenge people to find the answers.”

Can you give some simple tips for younger professionals starting out in the public health sector? 

When starting out in public health, individuals really need to consider whether the values of the organisation they are seeking to join really align with their own values. if they don’t then they probably need to reconsider. Public health is full of all sorts of people, and like any sector, some can be very challenging. A key to success is being able to look past the obvious and genuinely be able to empathise with the people you will work with. And finally: you make your own career. Don’t expect anyone else to package up a career and give it to you. Try and find roles that make you want to get on with things every single day.


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