Celebrating Women #IWD - Andrea Popovic

Celebrating women making things happen, this interview features Andrea Popovic AP_2015_headshot

1. What is that one thing that drives you to do what you do each morning?
I’ve contemplated this question many times in my attempt to decipher why it is that I do what I do each day and each analysis draws me back to my desire to be a part of something that starts from nothing and grows into something successful. Nothing gives me goosebumps quite like the prospect of being involved in, planning and executing a powerful new idea that I can envision will ignite change and bring benefit to the people whom it services.  During this time, I find myself in a type of dreamland where suddenly I have a hundred ideas rushing through my head, creativity flows and seemingly, I have all the resources in the world to make these ideas happen. Conversely, nothing makes my blood boil quite like the setbacks such ideas can entail and this is what drives me to build and grow projects. I was taught from a young age to never take no for an answer and to always know better than anyone else what I do and do not  know. If you can get others to see your idea and think big, things start to happen, projects start to grow and suddenly you find yourself reaching new levels of achievement that you at times believed weren’t possible. I live for the successes, the setbacks and for the moment when I can  take a deep breath and say ‘I did it’.

2. A few words of wisdom for the women out there wanting to make things happen in your field or any field?
The best advice I can give to women looking to succeed in their given field is to find a mentor, to say yes and work it out later and to always speak up. I cannot stress the importance of finding a mentor. Whether you are working in a large organisation or if you’re starting something up, identify someone with whom you share aspirations or whose success you would like for yourself and actively request their mentorship. Get in touch with them (phone call, email, LinkedIn/Social Media), invite them out for a coffee and express why you identify them as a role model and what you would like to achieve for yourself (this is exactly what I did, via Facebook!). Mentorship is invaluable and in my experience it has taught me lessons that no training manual or study ever did, such as how to approach people to get what you want, how to properly draft a grant application, how to best converse with senior management, the list goes on and ultimately their advice has saved me time, money and stress that comes with dealing with uncomfortable or complex situations. Say yes and work it out later obviously has it’s limitations, however in my experience it has always led to me to acquiring a new skill or knowledge or identifying a new opportunity. Often, we get quite caught up in wanting to complete tasks to the best of our abilities and as a result, we tend to choose or lean towards tasks or opportunities that require skills we have already developed. If your boss/partner or collaborator asks you to oversee/join a new program or venture concerning a topic you may not be familiar with (in my instance it was ethical waste management), always say yes then go home and learn as much as you can about the key concepts, industry players and leaders relevant to that topic/industry. In taking on a new project, you are challenging yourself, learning something new, overcoming self confidence issues and should you fail, can better understand your strengths and weaknesses and how to solve them. Lastly and importantly, speak up! So many times I’ve left a meeting and heard the best ideas in the hallway or in the lift, where women get together and chat about their ideas. The lift is no place for this kind of discussion, so speak up and let your thoughts be known. If you have done your research and have developed a new idea or have a great recommendation, don’t let the fear of rejection, organisational culture of your colleagues perceptions stop you from verbalising your thoughts. Yes, your idea may not be taken on board or conversely, it may result in praise from your boss or recognition from within your industry, so regardless of the outcome take the plunge and speak up!

3. One thing for work or life you can't live without and why? (share tools or apps that help you on your path)
In respect to work, as I’ve mentioned I found a mentor really early on in my career and every now and again I turn to them for advice, primarily when I’m faced with a major or difficult decision. Ultimately, the decisions that I make are my own however it is very comforting to know that I can throw ideas back and forth with someone whose opinion I respect and experience I value. In respect to life, I have a ‘think, plan and attack’ type of attitude where I believe that I can achieve all my goals will a solid plan and the willingness to work hard, so I could not live without my goals board.   A goals board is essentially a board upon which you stick images or phrases which describe your goals . I have one at home and one in my agenda  (yes, I’m a pen and paper type of girl!) that I look at each and every day to remind myself what I’m doing and why. My goals board contains a mix of personal and professional aspirations which I assemble at the start of each year and  revise as I achieve my goals. I started this habit in year 7 on the advice of my Religious Education teacher who suggested we make one for our secondary school years. By the time I got to year 12, my board was blank and I was ready to start the next phase of my life knowing I had achieved everything I wanted to in the previous chapter. Also, I also cannot stress the importance of sport and being physically active, as a benefit to the mind, body and soul. As humans we are not genetically predispositioned to sometimes spend 10 or so hours in front of a computer, so make sure that you find time to balance hard work with some play. I am a 1st Dan Black belt in Takewondo and I train multiple times a week and have competed at state, national and international levels. Whilst the accolades are great, what I love most about training is the incredible people I’ve  met, the new skills I’ve learned and the sense of clarity I feel after pushing my body to the limits (or should I say the punching bag, pushing the poor punching bag to it’s limits!).

4. What are your hopes for the future generation of women?
With each generation comes new knowledge and wisdom that we can look back upon and use to better understand who we are and how we got here. With all the literature that exists about women’s issues and rights, my primary hope for the future generation of women is that they are fearless. As women we are prone to limiting ourselves by our insecurities, fears and complexes, and I wish to see a generation  that is braver, more courageous and more willing to skew the norm and abolish predispositions about female identity and capabilities. I wish to see a generation of independent, educated female leaders who speak with conviction and act without fear. Globally, I hope for a larger representation of females in senior management positions across all professions (particularly science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as well as a large populous of female political leaders. We need to work towards raising strong, fearless women who will continue to work towards gender equity and equal opportunity.

5. What can we do better to help women in the world reach their potential?
To understand why women don’t reach their potential, we need to understand what barriers exist and determine ways of breaking them down. Whilst there are a range of factors that hinder female development, the most prominent include a fear of failure, family matters, inferiority complexes and cultural barriers all of which are supported by this notion of ‘gender roles’ and ‘male’ and female’ interests. There needs to be a push to abolish gender roles and to promote neutrality between sexes in order to create a more level playing field for women both in society and professionally. Women are still vying away from  STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions, pay disparities still exist and women still find themselves without equal access to education and job prospects, so I think that as a global society, there needs to be a collective push between schools, communities, cultural leaders, governments and employers to make these opportunities for women and to encourage women to be themselves, to take opportunities, to embrace mistakes and failures and to trust their instincts.

6. Favourite website for daily inspiration to keep you motivated - or newsletter.
For me, I like to keep the media I read diverse and varied so as to keep myself open to learning as much as I can from as many different schools of thought as possible. Each day, I access: Thought Catalog - is this type of ‘confessional media’ where I come to read interesting articles from writers all over the world who write on topics ranging from ‘How to be a better communicator’ to ’20 things females should know about working in the corporate world.’ The articles all tend to have some sort of profound message that can sometimes have me thinking about certain ideas or themes long after I’ve finishes the article. Forbes - particularly for their management articles and one on one interviews with successful people across a diverse range of professions. I like how they produce short sharp articles that sometimes answer the most complex of people managing questions and can often lead me to research or think deeper about the psychology behind management. I have a soft spot for Warren Buffet quotes and his interviews because I find his bluntness and straight talking nature admirable. E-International Relations - is a go to site for the latest news in my field of work and the caliber and severity of its reporters results in high quality, multidimensional articles. Many professionals and scholars in the field turn to E-IR and then move onto denser articles and essays to better understand topics/perspectives. TED Talks - is a popular choice for many internet savvy professionals and for me I find the messages being conveyed just as interesting as the ways in which they are delivered. I love the ‘I can do anything’ feeling I get after watching a powerful speaker relay a message I strongly identify with. Some of my favorites include ‘How great leaders inspire action’- Simon Sinek, ‘Your body language shapes who you are’ – Amy Cuddy and ‘How school kills creativity’ – Ken Robinson, not so much for the message as for the way in which he delivers verbally and physically a very interesting message.   Follow Andrea on Twitter Andrea Popovic Andrea has an undergraduate degree in International Studies and Commerce where she majored in International Relations, Philosophy and International Business (Trade and Management), and is currently undertaking a postgraduate Law degree at Deakin University. Andrea has demonstrated a keen commitment to international affairs and youth engagement and feels passionately about creating an open forum for youth to discuss domestic and global affairs. Andrea was previously the Program Coordinator at the United Nations Association of Australia Victorian Division where she fundamentally oversaw the World Environment Day and Media Awards programs. Presently, she is the Melbourne Director of the Young Australians in International Affairs, Committee Member of the United Nations Association of Australia - Young Professionals Victorian Division, a member of the Henley Club, and was Co-Founder of the Montenegro Club. Andrea also has a 1st Dan Black belt in Taekwondo and is a former state and international Champion.