Samantha Rush has always been driven by curiosity; from pulling apart and rebuilding appliances in childhood, to today rebuilding systems, processes and businesses in her career. She shares how the combination of curiosity, courage and a UQ MBA have allowed her to take the driver's seat and shape her own impact.
Most kids ask 'why', but I wasn’t one of those; I didn’t ask, I simply found out for myself. And while this did lead to some destruction, including an incident with the family washing machine, it also sparked a curiosity that I would carry through my career.
In high school, I developed a passion for three quite different areas: languages, accounting and tourism. When it came to what I wanted to do, a degree in International Business seemed like a good way to encompass all three. My first experience in a university environment really developed a deep-seated love of learning. Throughout my career, I went on to also graduate from degrees in Human Resources and Psychology, which would ultimately lead me to my MBA at The University of Queensland.
After my first degree, I took off on an overseas adventure. I taught English in Bangkok, travelled on the Trans-Siberian railway, poured beers in the middle of nowhere, and even worked in the dining hall of an Israeli Kibbutz, flipping pancakes for five hundred people. More than just a 'gap year', I learnt to be self-reliant and to be comfortable with ambiguity.
Eventually, I returned to Australia, and secured a position working with Suncorp whilst completing my degree in human resource management. While working for a large finance organisation may not seem suited to someone with a sense of curiosity and adventure, it actually fed into both of these.
Being such a large operation meant there were opportunities to move around, to constantly learn and try new things. I built a solid reputation and worked my way up, taking on different roles that were offered to me.
After my psychology degree, I came to a decision point: I could do a PhD and extend my studies in psychology and increase my qualifications, or I could build the business skills that would help me drive my existing career. I chose the latter and went in search of a program that would fill the gaps in my skillset.
During my search, the UQ MBA really stood out among its peers due to its range of practical experiences and industry projects – these were perfect for me and where I wanted to go. I also wanted to build a network, to study and learn from people who were driven and curious – people from diverse industries and backgrounds, and UQ really gave me that.
What I didn’t realise, was that over the course of my MBA, I would develop three unexpected skills that would shape my career. The first was the confidence to take control of my own career, by sitting in the driver's seat rather than the passenger side. Taking on this mindset gave me the courage to take the opportunities that scare me the most, because that is where you can have the most impact.
Secondly, it gave me the ability to appreciate and make use of critical feedback. This might sound unusual, but how many times when we get given feedback, do we dismiss it? I saw the power of critical feedback in my MBA industry project, where the support (and constructive criticism) of faculty would take me from someone who knew nothing about the Oil and Gas industry to someone who could sit down and discuss business with the CEO of one. It was so powerful that after graduation I went on to work as a mentor for future cohorts.
The third thing is the ability to step back and reflect. When we are in the midst of our jobs, leading people and projects, it can be easy to dismiss this as unimportant. The reflective learning opportunities on the UQ MBA gave me an appreciation of its value, and although I remain a dive-right-in person by nature, taking the time to reflect has helped me make better decisions in my job, my career and life in general.
Five years on from graduation, I made my way up to executive management at Suncorp, where I lead the delivery of an end-to-end financial reporting process that will meet the requirements of new international principles. Essentially, I have come full circle – I am once again pulling something apart to rebuild it for the better.
During my MBA, I became involved in the Social Economic Engagement Program at UQ, something I still do today. Making a difference through consulting projects with not-for-profit organisations has seen me contributing to the arts, animal welfare and children's health, to name a few. In all of these projects, I have seen first-hand the impact business knowledge can have.
I’m now ready to put my passion for helping others into practice, by launching my own consulting firm that will help small business and not-for-profit organisations to solve their challenges. I am excited at the prospect of taking my career in a new direction; applying the knowledge gained on my MBA to transform organisations and make a difference, to be at the place where real change happens.