Paula shines during day with mining giant

April 20, 2015

Nev Power and Paula Hicks

Nev Power and Paula Hicks

A Murdoch University business student is a step closer to realising her dream of becoming a senior executive with Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue) after spending the day shadowing its Chief Executive Officer Nev Power.

Paula Hicks, a 31-year-old Banyjima woman originally from Geraldton, won the opportunity after entering GenerationOne’s CEO for a Day competition, which gives Indigenous people across Australia the chance to learn directly from business leaders.

She said she was born to be a leader and wants to succeed for herself, her children and for Aboriginal people across Australia.

“I want to show them that it’s possible,” said Paula, who is in her first year of a Bachelor of Business (BBus) in Management at Murdoch. “My greatest hope is that one day a young girl looks at me, knows that I started with a similar story and realises that your dreams are not limited by anyone but yourself.”

Having worked her way up the career ladder into middle management roles, the mother and foster carer has backed herself to take the next step on her career pathway and is determined to suitably qualify herself for her dream job.

“It is my dream to become Fortescue’s first female Aboriginal senior executive. This is a company that is making a difference to Western Australian and Aboriginal people’s lives and I want to play a major role in that,” she said.

“I know I have what it takes and this opportunity ha given me even more motivation to achieve my goal. Being CEO for a day under the guidance of Nev Power was an amazing and unforgettable experience.”

Mr Power said the initiative gave him the opportunity to share with Paula some of the things he’d learnt on his career journey.

“I am very proud to be involved in GenerationOne’s CEO for a Day initiative,” he said.

“At Fortescue we create opportunities for Aboriginal people by offering a hand up and not a hand out. It’s the same principle on which GenerationOne’s CEO for a Day campaign is founded, and together we’re helping empower young and aspiring Aboriginal people to challenge the status quo and take positive steps towards becoming our future business leaders.”

It’s a cause Fortescue Chairman Andrew Forrest has long been a passionate champion of and one that he had the opportunity to reinforce when he met with Ms Hicks for a one-on-one discussion.

“Paula’s story is already one of success and she’s setting her sights even higher to prove that anything is possible when you open the doors to opportunity. She embodies all that GenerationOne stands for and is a wonderful role model for young Aboriginal people,” said Mr Forrest.

Admitting her strong work ethic comes from her mother who raised seven children (including her and her sister on her own after her father passed away when she was 10), Paula said she applies her mum’s philosophy to everything she does in life.

“My mum used to say you don’t need money to make something of yourself, you just need to grab every opportunity that comes your way, work hard, be determined to succeed and have self-respect,” she said.

“I am the first in my family to complete year 12, the first to go to university, the first to buy a home, and I hope to be the first senior executive,” she said.

“I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Paula was recently successful in securing an Aboriginal cadetship through Fortescue’s FIVE STAR program, which will see her undertake a paid work placement with Fortescue for 12 weeks each year over the next three years of her degree.

Paula completed the first 10 weeks of her cadetship with Fortescue’s Aboriginal Engagement team prior to her first semester of university, and it was this taste of working at Fortescue that inspired her to submit an application in the 2015 CEO for a Day competition and request an opportunity to work alongside her role model, CEO Nev Power.

She has been supported during her time at Murdoch by staff in the School of Management and Governance and the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre, which offers Aboriginal students educational and cultural support throughout their time at Murdoch.

Braden Hill, manager of Kulbardi said: “Since she first came to Murdoch, Paula has demonstrated a remarkable drive and ambition to succeed in her professional career.

“It’s wonderful to see Kulbardi/Murdoch students being recognised for their potential by engaging with these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Her commitment and dedication to her personal and professional growth will see her emerge as a fantastic leader in the future.”

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