Judith Beck, after working in Banking and Finance, allowed her entrepreneurial desire to take over, which led her to form her own national executive search firm, Financial Recruitment Group, which she ran as a Managing Director for over 25 years.
In 2012, she founded Financial Executive Women (FEW) and was CEO until June 2020. There she was focused on providing advocates to their members during the year, including the successful FEW circles and conference for addition support and networking. She knew from that experience that diversity and inclusion needed to be everyone’s responsibility, so she founded FEW Good Men.
FEW Good Men has some of Australia’s most senior men volunteering to be Advocates to Senior Women. In 2020, she decided it was time to pass the baton for the FEW business to the next generation, to take the already successful business to its next level of success. In 2021, she wrote ‘No Sex at Work’ and in February 2023, she will be launching a new podcast with another industry expert to discuss everything you need to be successful in career and life.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/ venture/ initiative.
I was the youngest of five girls and one boy. We lived in a middle-class neighbourhood and my father had a good job until he was made redundant. He was forty and couldn’t get a job, so my mother had to go to work. I saw what it was like to have ups and downs and how to adapt to change. My mother started her own business and my father worked for her. This showed me that women could do anything at any age. My parents always taught us that we were individuals and gender, or social standing should not be a barrier to success. They taught me that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it?
When I was working in financial services early in my career, my boss made lots of promises about giving a group of us equity in the business. When he didn’t keep his promise, I decided it was time to leave and start my own business – that event pushed me to take action. Sometimes those negative experiences turn out to be the best thing that could ever happen – a blessing in disguise.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business/ initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
I was always taught to back myself and if I was passionate about something then I should give it a go. I always knew that I would have my own business one day but didn’t know what it would be. When the opportunity arose to go out on my own, I didn’t think twice and figured what I have got to lose. If it fails, then at least I tried.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
Now that I have had successful businesses, I believe it is important to pass the information on to the next generation – not just what went right – but what went wrong and why. That is why I wrote my book and why I am launching a podcast. My co-host is also very experienced, and we feel that the information people are hearing these days is glossed over or not provided by people who have walked the path. We want to provide real discussions with open and honest information in an environment where people feel willing to tell it like it is.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
It’s important when starting any new venture to stop the self-doubt chatter in your head. Everyone has self-doubt when they start something new, but don’t let it consume you. Recognise what is happening and deal with the issues you feel you need more help with. Don’t beat yourself up or talk yourself out of something – get help and advice from people you trust and who have the right experience.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I am very proud of the Financial Recruitment Groups success of over 25 years and the great reputation we had. I am proud of the work I did at FEW because we helped so many women in their careers at all levels. I am also proud of my book because the feedback has been so positive and so many see it as a manual to refer to for the rest of their career journey.
While the global pandemic of COVID 19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in start-ups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level.
Given we had to stay home because of lockdowns, for me it meant the ability to focus on writing my book which had been on the back burner for several years. From a personal perspective I got more exercise. Taking a hike or a walk during the day was something I never made time for when I was working in an office environment and flying to different cities all the time. It made me realise the importance of human connections and taking care of yourself.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
In terms of career, the change I would like to see is a time when there are no classifications or labels put on people. When someone goes into the workplace they are seen as individuals and only judged on their individual capabilities and abilities – and what they bring to the business.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?
It’s about leadership not gender. When I started my career, I did not enter the work environment thinking I am a female. My mindset was on what I needed to do to get from A to B successfully as a businessperson. I looked at what skills I needed, how to build effective networks, and to make sure I had mentors and advocates.
I think everyone should enter the workforce focusing on what they need to do to get from A to B from a skill level. Stop focusing on barriers that may or may not be there. If something negative happens in form of discrimination, then it is important to address it immediately. Make sure you start collecting mentors and advocates the minute you enter the workforce, so you have more experienced people to speak to for guidance when situations occur.
What would you want to say to our young women leaders/ audience reading this?
Don’t try to do things alone. If you don’t understand something, ask for help. Surround yourself with positive people who have more experience than you do so you learn from them. If you can go into an office, I would do that if possible. Learning from colleagues by listening is powerful and you don’t get that from working in a home office. Also, accidental connections are made in person and these connections can be particularly important later in your career.
Work on your soft skills as that is what sets people apart. Don’t cut corners as it will always come back to bite.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal and professional journey? What is your personal motto for life?
You can have it all – you just can’t do it all. Don’t try to do it alone, get mentors in your corner and ask for help. Outsource things that others can do to free up your time for the important things.
I used to get annoyed because my mother-in-law would want to clean my house and do laundry while I was at work. It made me feel like I wasn’t coping – but in reality, she was trying to help and be nice. How silly of me to not realise this. If your mother-in-law wants to help – let her!
Accept that you will make mistakes and learn from them. My personal motto for life is – You only live once so make the best of it – it’s not a rehearsal.