Member Profile | Jo Pye
Jo has been a member at WorkLife Coledale since 2021. A powerhouse of a career woman, Jo seems to have perfected balancing work and life brilliantly. This candid chat with WorkLife Founder Kate Dezarnaulds addresses the reality of being a driven woman in the corporate world and navigating motherhood. We find out that we have a soon to be published author in our midst and the best places to eat when visiting Thirroul!
Jo’s business HumblePye is a coaching business. But it’s a coaching business that specialises in leadership, health, and wellness. It’s about helping middle to senior managers excel at what they’re doing. That could be helping them focus on their communication, their assertiveness, their ability to set visions and goals based on where their values are at.
This chat between Kate and Jo is an absolutely delightful read and we implore everyone to give it a go!
Tell me a little bit about your local life story. How is it that you are resident on the south coast?
I am originally a Wollongong girl, grew up in fig tree, then left at the end of Year 12 to go to Sydney to pursue university studies. So I studied Food and Nutrition, Applied Science, and I’ve had a career essentially in the food industry in various different capacities. Prior to coming back to the region, I had a few years in China, Shanghai. When we returned, we decided that coming to the gong was the best place to be. We had two children at the time that we returned, and then a third came along. Thirroul has been home for nine years and our kids are now seventeen, fourteen, and nine so quite a mixed bag.
I didn’t know about the China adventure. What was it that took you there and what brought you home?
It was three years in Shanghai. At the time, I was working for a global market research company that specialised in consumer insights, selling to large FMCG companies like Coke and Nestle. So I had an Asia Pacific role and I was set up there to help grow the business and develop an insights and marketing team. Like a lot of those assignments, it was meant to be just a quick six months. But the six months turned into three years, and towards the end of that time the role actually moved into a global role. So I was doing quite a bit of travel between countries. It sounds funny, it’s almost like I was commuting between Shanghai, London and in Chicago. We would have been away for longer because the plan was to go to Chicago after China, but baby number three was made in China. So we came home and had her in this part of the world.
Tell me a little bit about what your kind of work life balance looks like. And particularly maybe what it looks like compared to when you were working those kind of crazy global roles.
It’s a good question, Kate. Because sometimes, I think I have got the balance right, but then life will throw a curveball at you as it does when you have three children. I actually, and I don’t know if it’s going to upset a few people in me saying this, but I actually felt I had a bit more balance when I was in corporate job. Part of the reason being, that you have greater resources. I’ve always been a working mum who has been very comfortable with outsourcing jobs that I consider I don’t need to do such as house cleaning or Ubering of children. It’s something I have been quite happy to outsource. My children have only ever known a working mum. So they’re quite independent, and they’ve grown up knowing that there are people around to help. Of course, you don’t have as much freedom and flexibility when you’re doing a corporate gig, but you do have that opportunity to have greater structure. In terms of doing my own thing, it certainly has offered flexibility to be able to attend to family needs. I have an elderly dad now having lost my mom a couple of years ago, and I’m an only child and there is no family in this area. So working for myself has given me that opportunity to respond more quickly. I guess a better description is greater adaptability to the things that happen when you’re raising kids and looking after elderly people. So I guess I think both worlds are great.
It’s really good to reflect on the being able to call on more resources. Is is a real winner of working within big organisations, isn’t it?
I actually get coaching myself, coaches get coaching as well. We were talking about the prospect of increasing my workload within the business or doing corporate work again. I was really interested that the question was asked, ‘well, how will you handle this being a mother of three children?‘, and I thought, would a man be asked this question if they were contemplating upping their workload? My response was that I have no problem with outsourcing to help raise my children, particularly if it’s jobs that I don’t do very well. I’m not somebody that loves the life of a full time house person. So I’m quite happy to outsource somebody doing housework, meal prepping, or dropping off and picking up kids. My children are comfortable with that as well. I don’t think of myself as a less mother for getting the help to do that. But I did think it was interesting that I was asked that question, and I thought, would a man be asked that question.
My mom was a working mom, she was ahead of her time. She was, you know, an educator, she had a fabulous career teaching and retired as a school principal, she went back to work when I was six months old, which was unheard of decades ago. Her advice always was to make your children independent. You don’t have to do everything for your child. The best thing you can do is to make them independent. A good mom is a happy woman. If you’re working, then you’ll be a great mom, if you’re happy being at home, you’ll be a great mom. So I think as women, we have to determine what’s right for us, not what is being told to us. That makes us good moms, we have to figure it out as individuals. I think that’s been really beneficial for our children to say to both our son and our daughters, that mom’s fulfilling her dream, whether that’s being a full time mother, or being a career person.
That’s amazing. I love it. Now, what has been the biggest challenge for your industry over the last couple of years?
I guess in terms of my industry, I’m in the coaching space. But I’ve also been hanging on to my love for food and the food industry in the ag sector. So I’ve been doing board work, and I’ve been doing board work both for Nutrition Australia, and MLA, which is Meat and Livestock Australia. Of course, the big challenge within that industry is navigating a lot of the information that’s thrown at consumers around sustainability, around what’s good for you what’s not good for you. That does overlap into the coaching space, because I do health and wellness and food education coaching as well. Where the big challenge for industry is navigating tremendous amounts of information that is thrown at consumers. We have different channels in which that information comes through, social media being the obvious one, and that information is not always credible, but people will grab it, believe it and then as an industry, you’re trying to overcome misinformation in a world where there’s a lot of information. I think that’s across a lot of across a lot of industries, managing information and cutting through all that noise that is out there. That relates to how we market ourselves how we position ourselves, how we differentiate ourselves in a really, really noisy world. Obviously COVID played a big role in the last couple of years. So I think as we navigate tremendous change and noise and information from an employee perspective, a bit of burnout and people languishing, people just feeling tired and burnt out. And it’s good to reassure people, that’s okay. It’s very normal, given what we’ve all experienced the last couple of years.
Now when you’re outside of work, what are the things that give you great pleasure? Are there any side hustles? or hobbies?
I do love my home. So I love cooking, have always been someone in the kitchen, love having people over whether it’s long lunches, or lovely dinners. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at what I can do to create a lovely space for people through the way I’m styling my home or nurturing them with food. I try and keep myself reasonably fit. So I participate in kind of gym activity, but I also do physical culture. Say there’s probably some people who have heard of Physie. It’s been around forever. I think it’s over 150 years now that it’s been going in Australia and I love it. It’s not just the physicality of going and doing a dance sport, but it’s the community of women that you are amongst.
It’s fun and my two daughters do it as well. So there’s not too many sports that you can do with two young daughters. You can have three four generations doing Physie at the same rate. Our competitions actually consume our lives from September/October onwards. I have a lot of friends that get quite annoyed during the month of November when I’m not available to be socialising. That means pretty much every weekend at Homebush doing Physie. It keeps the mind active as well, because you’ve got to learn a syllabus. I find as I get older, the brain is a bit slow to pick up the work. So it’s challenging from a brain perspective as well as physical.
What about a book your bookshelf at home, have a think about your bookshelf at home and tell me what’s on there that you would recommend to the to the work life community, it can be fiction or nonfiction, something that you just love.
So there’s probably two books sitting on my desk at the moment. One thing I’m very passionate about within leadership is humility. That’s the reason for Humble Pye. So I have a book titled, The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility by Marilyn Gist, an American professor. She’s done a body of work that looks at the positivity around instilling greater humility in our leadership. Part of the reason she said she started that study was when Donald Trump came to power, and she thought, how can we have a leader of that nature of that personality leading the country. So she embarked upon really exploring and understanding what humility was in its application. So it’s a little bit of a Bible. I’m, you know, building a lot of content around how to act more humbly, how to apply humility, and how to understand and assess humility in leadership. It lends itself very nicely in a world where we’ve kind of got rising self entitlement and narcissistic behaviour at play.
The other one is The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Emma Carey. It’s about a young woman who went skydiving, her parachute didn’t open, and she survived. So it’s her story of survival and how she embraced life, you know, much greater than what she would ever have done prior to the accident. So I’m halfway through that.
I am also in the process of writing a book myself, so hopefully it’ll be a matter of weeks before I send it a way for its first edit. That will hopefully be on my desk in a matter of time. It’s quite a personal book, my mum suffered melanoma, that’s ultimately what took her life. So during the course of that whole journey, I journaled a lot, it was just a way to kind of help me get through the days. My mom was an avid reader, so towards the end of her day, she kept saying, “you should turn it into a book, because if it can help one person understand the journey of cancer, or melanoma, or anything that’s really an adverse incident in your life, then then you should do it.” So that’s really quite a personal look at the path of someone receiving a terminal diagnosis right through to grief and then life after life. When I started it, I tried to write it in a way where there were kind of leadership lessons, but that’s going to be the second book, The first one is going to be very personal. The second one’s going to be understanding leadership in a situation that’s non-corporate, because we tend to have all of our learnings about leadership within a very kind of structured, corporate environment. But in a situation like that, where you’re being the carer and the advocate for a terminally ill person, you have to draw on an incredible amount of leadership. So I want people that are understanding leadership and aspiring to be better leaders to understand it from a really personal story.
What about a piece of furniture in your house? What’s something? Yeah, what’s something that you’re attached to? What’s something that you love?
We’ve got a TV room, and it’s got a big corner lounge in it. I love nothing better than on a Friday night, I curl up with my nine year old and we have movie night. Every Friday night it’s popcorn. It’s comfortable and cozy, and it’s hopefully creating beautiful memories for my nine year old. So I love that lounge.
If you’ve got friends visiting you on the south coast, what’s the one thing that you think that they must eat and try if they’re likely place to go or thing to eat? What is it? What is it that you think speaks of our community.
Depending on the weather, we do try and head down to the beach pavilion just so they can sit pretty much on the sand and enjoy Thirroul beach and have some breakfast. Lately, though, with the new Imperial opening up at Clifton, I’ve been taking visitors out there. So I’ve had friends and family visit over the last few months from areas like Manchester and Newcastle, and I’ve taken them there and they’ve loved it. It’s a fantastic building to show them. I’m really passionate about our buildings being restored and brought back to life as opposed to being on a rip down and replaced as such. So to be able to share with them some of the history of where we live, as well as enjoy a beautiful view and some great food, that’s a bit of a treat.
What’s your best productivity hack? How do you make sure you get the most out of every day?
Religiously, each night, I make a to do list for the next day, I tick off what’s been done, and I move forward from that list of what hasn’t been done to the next day. To preempt that at the start of the week, I set myself a bit of a task list of what I want to get achieved in that week. So even if I haven’t achieved something on the to do list that day. As long as it’s done by the end of the week. I’m pretty comfortable with that. There’s a great strategy, it’s called Win Learn Change. You can apply that at the end of each day, where quite often we’re very good at beating ourselves up that we haven’t ticked off our list or achieved what we wanted to achieve. But if we reflect and go well, what did I do well today because quite often we talk about what we didn’t do well so it’s kind of getting in that mindset of what worked well today? What do I know today that I didn’t know yesterday? So that’s my learning. What I’ve learned from today, what can I change for tomorrow? That’s what we’ve learned to change. So it gives us a very positive mindset. Even if we’ve had a really horrendous day and we feel like we haven’t achieved anything, there will be something we will have learned during that time.
What’s a snapshot of you living your best life?
I am a dreadful person in the morning, as much as I try and be an early bird, I’m just not. I am the ultimate night owl. But you know what, living my best life means I am up, I’m feeling fresh. I’ve drank my few glasses of water in the morning. And I’ve got a good energy about me to tackle the day. Exercise is really important to me, both from the mental and a physical perspective. So a good day means I’ve managed to squeeze in that bit of exercise. And I’ve stuck to a pretty good clean way of eating. I don’t demonise foods, but sticking to our whole foods. And eating well means that we do have that energy. So yeah, it’s the basics for me. It’s not complicated.
What’s the best thing about a work life membership? From your point of view? What have you used it? What does it do for you?
Well, I started using it just before COVID. What I experienced was a husband that started working from home and we have a dedicated office, but he had a job where it was like a few days from home a week. I found that really hard because he’s on the phone a lot and has meetings. I’m someone that needs a reasonably quiet space to concentrate. So I looked at WorkLife and used it for planning days where I just needed to think and just get through information and jobs without distraction. Being at home I find can be distracting because there’s that mental part of your brain, it’s saying there’s washing that needs to be done there’s beds that need to be made. But when you’re in this environment, and it’s it’s such a beautiful environment that thought of what’s got to be done outside of work is just totally forgotten. So it’s a lovely escape from a home office.
It’s also a great place to bring clients too. I have conducted a number of coaching sessions and programs here. I have one particular client who embarked upon an eight week program so she was here every week, and I know this space energised her incredibly. I have done workshops in the boardroom with the same impact, it’s a very energising space because the location is just so stunning. We were able to go next door to Earth Walker for lunch.
It’s served a purpose from very individual position where it’s helped me be creative and productive and escape from my home office. And then it’s been really really professional and inviting for clients to come in on your own or as part of a team.