Evangeline Aston is a Women’s Leadership, Career and Impact Coach.
She told us that, “Imagine a combination of Mary Poppins (but without the ability to sing so well), part Tauriel from the Hobbit (also played by an Evangeline) & part Captain Pike from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (if he were a chick, with less cool hair)! I’m an optimist that creates positives out of negatives; I dislike limits and find a way beyond them; I know there’s more to things than meets the eye and can uncover these mysteries, and, most importantly, I see the best in people and encourage them to be that best self.”
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
Growing up in Australia was really quite carefree. This will make me sound much older than I am, but I’m really glad I didn’t grow up with the technology we have now, because it made sure we were almost always outside. I always had access to nature during my childhood, whether it was living by the beach, or close to rivers and forests; this was really instrumental (although I took it for granted at the time) in developing my love for nature and the environment, which has influenced my career choices. I was a very independent child and young adult, so I didn’t really look to others for inspiration or direction. I followed whatever direction my own intuition and interests dictated. As a child I had many short, fleeting dreams of what I would do when I grew up – architect, mechanic, marine biologist – though I pursued none of them. Instead, I studied Fine Arts at University, with all good intentions to continue to study teaching and become an Art Teacher – though eventually I realised I didn’t want to spend my days surrounded by other people’s children! In between leaving university and doing what I do now, I had what I call an ‘organic‘ career (which is a polite way of saying completely unplanned!) I pretty much just followed whatever opportunities were open to me. I’ve been fortunate to have had a couple of wonderful mentors who showed great confidence in me, were hugely encouraging and from whom I learned a lot about moving through the world of work.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
On the surface it was experiencing health issues and burnout. But underlying that was a realisation I was wasting my talents, and my precious time, doing the work I was doing…and that I was actually made for something completely different. I have a genuine belief that we all have a unique purpose to fulfill and I knew that I had to discover, then follow, mine.
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 wasn’t driven by a desire to be an entrepreneur or owning my own business; I was motivated by the idea of something that enabled me to find the point of convergence between doing something I loved, that was also recognised and appreciated by others. When I spoke to other women about this, they wanted the same thing but didn’t know how to go about it – this was what made me realise the direction I needed to pursue in my own venture.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
At the core of what I do is guide women to transform their experience of work and create more fulfilling careers, while also making a contribution to making the world a better place. I do this primarily through coaching – whether it’s focussed on career exploration and planning, or taking up a leadership role and excelling it in, or developing an organisational culture that supports people, planet, purpose and profit. The impact I’d like to see from my work is more women enjoying fulfilling careers and thriving in positions of leadership. Ideally, I’m contributing to a world where more women are in charge and guiding the future to be a better place for everyone and all life on the planet.
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?
The biggest challenge for me has been the confidence to say what I do and why I do it, without feeling the need to minimise it. This has translated into challenges around marketing…oh, how I dislike marketing. So, becoming comfortable with that has been an ongoing effort. But I always find the easiest way to cope is to follow the advice I’d give a client experiencing the same kind of challenge. If it’s good enough for me to say to someone else, then it should be good enough for me! I think one of the best coping strategies for any challenge is to ‘Know Yourself‘ – know your values, what drives you, your goals, your triggers, your worries and fears, your personal definition of success and achievement…and most importantly, know your purpose. Knowing all of this can help put your challenges into context and perspective, then find solutions that you know will work for you.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, 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?
Honestly, I have nothing good to say about the pandemic. As far as I’m concerned it hasn’t resulted in net positive change; I think the ability of a section of the workforce to ‘work from home/anywhere’ that many people say is a benefit, is in reality vastly outweighed by all the negatives being experienced in societies around the world, which will have repercussions for years. I haven’t heard a convincing argument, from anyone, that the world is actually a better place as a result of the pandemic. I think, however, it’s offered us a frame of reference for what we collectively believe is genuinely of value, to make better decisions in the interests of as many people as possible.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
Finding the confidence to pursue your purpose is an accomplishment that any person should celebrate. So I’m happy I made the decision to begin my own business, to develop new and unique methods that I successfully trademarked (the Authentic Impact Catalyst ®), and help women evolve their careers and their leadership, to be the best version of themselves in a professional context. I’m also proud of my podcast ‘Culture Reimagined‘, which I co-created and co-host with my colleague Rebecca. We both believe that organisational cultures are untapped, powerful vehicles for positive change and that every organisation can use their culture to contribute to a better environment and future for everyone.
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?
I genuinely believe, with all my heart, that the world will be a vastly better place when more women are in positions of leadership and influence – in all sectors of society. We need more women at the helm in every domain of life, especially the places we’re underrepresented in, (such as politics and private industry), to create a world that is more equitable and gives a greater number of people the chance to thrive. As the old saying goes “A rising tide lifts all boats” so for every woman that succeeds we create the right conditions for others to rise as well!
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
Life is both too short and too long not to do something you love. Time is your most precious non-renewable resource, so invest it in things, endeavours and relationships that are genuinely worthwhile.
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’s leadership today?
There aren’t enough women in true positions of influence and power. It’s an ongoing effort to keep making the workplace equitable, one that we can’t take for granted. I believe women have our own skills and styles of leadership that can make the world a better place for everyone, and we should take pride in those – we don’t have to conform to the traditional models of leadership that have sprung from a male perspective. We don’t need to compete with each other, tear each other down, and treat other women as the enemy. The more we help each other, support each other, encourage each other and blaze a path to make it easier for others to follow, the better for both our own sense of individual accomplishment and the collective ability to make the world a better place.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Embrace the fact that you’re a woman – we have unique strengths and capabilities that can help change the world, if only we accept that we don’t have to conform to traditional views of what makes a leader. If you are, or intend to become, a mother, don’t buy into the narrative that you can have or do it all, all at once. A successful career, thriving business, great mother, happy children, health and wealth – some of these have to give at certain times to enable others to happen. Believe me, there is no example of any woman to follow that has – genuinely and honestly – managed to have and do it all, all at once. That type of perfection narrative harms all women, whether they’re mothers or not.
You will always be more than a leader or an entrepreneur – you’re a person first – so make time for your hobbies and interests, and always stay in touch with friends. Most importantly, be proud of your ideas and the things you want to achieve – if you know with all your heart that what you want to do will make the world around you a better place, then go for it. With the blend of effort, right timing and luck, you can follow your heart and find success.