Do Gooder Chat: Anna Watson
When I sat down with Anna Watson at the iconic central Wellington Lido café, we got straight into chatting about careers, passions and the hopeful blending of those into one.
She began by referring me to David Sedaris’ “Four Burners Theory”, shared on Do Good Jobs, a theory on life that had recently caught her off guard. The idea is that a symbolic stove exists which can break your life down into four core elements: friends, family, working and health. In order to be successful, you have to turn off one burner. In order to be really successful, you have to turn off two burners.
The concept had Anna so outraged that she has written her own blog post on the subject (alongside an array of creative blog posts which I recommend reading!).
In rejecting the theory and recognising that life simply cannot be reduced to sexy theories about burners, I believe Anna exhibits the true concept of a successful young woman. She is intelligent, confident and guides her decisions by the things that feel right. Here is a snapshot of her story.
When Anna left Otago University with a Law (Honours) and Arts (Geography) degree, she began working at a prestigious New Zealand law firm Bell Gully in the corporate commercial team. Her practice areas included mergers and acquisitions, capital markets and corporate governance. The experience taught her how to operate within the corporate world (things like communication, presentation and quality of work) and furthered her legal skills. It also gave her the opportunity of working for six months at a top-tier law firm in London.
Yet, there were a range of factors that caused Anna to drift away from the corporate world. She says:
“I had always felt like I had ‘fallen into’ corporate law. Rather than being a happy accident, it was something that bothered me more and more as time went on. I felt like I had cheated myself out of an opportunity to really engage in some deep-level thinking around what I wanted to offer the world in terms of my skill-set, and the type of kaupapa I wanted my employer to be working to.
I got to this point where I knew exactly what I was doing. I just didn’t particularly like it. And I didn’t know what I should be doing instead. What I did know was that it had to be something else. Something not necessarily sensible. But definitely something exciting.
Anna decided to ditch her pencil skirt and put on her tramping boots to lead hiking groups in the Milford Sound for six months. At that time, she also started her blog – “Something else”.
During her guiding experience, Anna was able to step back into herself and she learnt a heap:
I got way more out of it in terms of my personal development than I ever had anticipated. Standing up in front of a bunch of strangers as their guide, their leader, their nurse, their friend, their teacher, their safety net, the personal link to what it means to be a kiwi and even their life counsellor (seriously) – what a huge responsibility. And I thrived off it.
Learnings include in-depth knowledge of native birds and flora and the associated Maori legends/ traditional uses, geography, history and how to work with a huge range of personalities.
After guiding, Anna applied for various legal jobs but felt at each interview she was stepping back in to “corporate Anna” and was determined to remain “adventurous Anna”.
She did what any person in her position should do, and turned to Do Good Jobs. This alerted her to an opportunity with Inspiring Stories, an organisation dedicated to helping young New Zealanders unleash their potential. It is not surprising “awesome Anna” got the job… Here’s what she does as Project Manager of Future Leaders:
In its pilot year, Future Leaders is taking to rural and provincial New Zealand to build leadership and entrepreneurial capability in some of the incredible young people aged 18-25 who are eager to engage in and make a positive difference to some of the challenges faced by their local community.
This year we are operating in some of New Zealand’s most deprived areas including Ōpōtiki and Kawerau, and other more rural areas such as Rotorua, Palmerston North, Manawatu and Buller. As Programme Manager, it is my responsibility to design and run the programme, co-ordinate and facilitate our national and regional workshops and build on our pilot to ensure it grows from strength to strength in years to come.
Upon returning from a hui with 15 Future Leaders, Anna says:
We have ideas blossoming from Eastern Bays ‘community day out’ to a one-day festival celebrating the career opportunities offered on the West Coast of the South Island. The rangatahi involved are truly one inspiring and grounded bunch. Watch this space!
It is not easy turning away from a career path “expected” of you, even if those expectations are simply self-created walls. In pursuing something else and keeping her four elements lit, Anna is someone I look up to, and imagine many others do too.
Want some inspiration?
On September 23, Inspiring Stories are running their annual Festival for the Future. This festival features an action-packed weekend of inspiring speakers, workshops, entertainment, and more – click to download the programme. It’s going to be epic. Be there!
By Tessa Vincent
This is Tessa’s first blog-post for do-good-jobs. She is an avid fan of the website and the “do-gooder” attitude that it promotes.