It Started with a Connection

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It Started with a Connection

Karen Dennett and Claire Seeber

I’m a connector. I love introducing people in my network to each other, especially when I can see synergies. Sometimes magic happens and that introduction leads to extraordinary outcomes.

Karen Dennett

I met Karen at a Perth Learning Professionals event. Starting her career as a marketer, she retrained as a high school teacher and made it her mission to ensure her business students were learning more than what was in the curriculum. She wanted them to understand what happened in the business world. Karen bought guest speakers into her classroom and took her students on excursions to local businesses.

But Karen wanted to do more. She wanted to impact students in other schools. That’s when she founded Engaging Education, a social enterprise that gives real-world context to classroom learning and builds critical skills for students across Australia.

Through Engaging Education, Karen was delivering events, and she wanted to host a meaty Student Business Conference. I was working at Murdoch University at the time so offered our campus as a venue partner and Karen turned her idea into a highly successful yearly event which was attended by more than 200 high school students annually.

Engaging Education has grown and through Industry Engaged Karen also focuses on delivering industry currency for high school teachers delivering VET qualifications.

Claire Seeber

I knew of Claire long before I met her. Her parents are neighbours and friends of mine. They spoke with pride about their wonderful daughter and the incredible things she was doing in Melbourne as a business leader, facilitator and coach. They also spoke about their adventurous son who was sailing the world … but that’s another story.

Like me, Claire is a graduate of Murdoch University, and with the two degrees of separation that exist in Perth, we soon discovered many mutual friends and colleagues.

After several years in Victoria, Claire and her husband planned an adult gap year to travel the world before resuming life in Western Australia. Having established her business, Eating Your Cake Too, Claire could live a flexible lifestyle and work from anywhere. They picked 2020 to enjoy their trip of a lifetime – in hindsight, this wasn’t ideal.  Claire’s trip was interrupted whilst in the Americas and she wrote an insightful article for Business Chicks whilst stranded on her brother’s yacht in the Caribbean, which sounds far more glamorous than it was. It’s well worth a read – “Lessons I’ve learnt while stranded in the ocean during COVID-19”.

Claire, like so many others around the world, had to pivot.  After an epic journey home and two weeks in hotel quarantine, she and her husband explored the east coast of Australia before returning to Perth.

The introduction

I spoke with Claire when she arrived back on Aussie soil, and I said that I’d be happy to introduce her to people in my network as she had been away from WA for a long time.

Claire was in Queensland when she and Karen had a Zoom chat. They had no expectations except learning about someone else’s world. What they discovered was that they had a similar vision, philosophy and purpose. They wanted to help people build rewarding careers and live more fulfilling lives (that’s probably why I like them both so much – they are my goals too).

Karen invited Claire to do a leadership talk late last year on a program she’d developed for high school girls. Claire spoke about imposter syndrome, gender inequity and what great leadership looks like.

Karen and Claire then started a discussion about a spin-off program – one they could design and deliver together – a future leaders program for high school girls. With complementary skills in the corporate and education world, passion and commitment, it was destined to be a winner from the start.

The program – Be the Difference/Future Female Leaders

The 20-week program aims to empower the next generation of women to be confident, courageous and self-aware leaders equipped with the critical skills necessary to drive positive change in a complex world.

The participants are high school girls aged 16-18, and whilst the inaugural program is currently being run with Western Australian based students, the plan is to take the program nationally.

The program connects industry with education as organisations fund the program (known as Lead Investors) and provide mentorship for the participants.

At the heart of the program is a social project that each student creates. The project addresses one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals so the lead Investors are also supporting community initiatives and innovation through their mentoring. This also means that the students start their careers with an understanding of, not only the concept of corporate social responsibility but also knowledge about building a sustainable business.

Karen and Claire have brought together a team of experienced business leaders to facilitate workshops and deliver tutorials to ensure these future leaders have the necessary skills and confidence to deliver their social projects and build a solid foundation for their careers.

[Full disclosure – I designed and delivered an online tutorial on personal brand and networking for the program.]

Making news

It was exciting to see an article in Business News this week featuring Karen and Claire and the Be the Difference program, highlighting some of the key industry supporters including the Chamber of Commerce of Industry, City of Joondalup and Edith Cowan University.

I’m looking forward to the graduation and gala dinner at the end of the year where we can celebrate the success of these amazing young women and the older (still young) women who have made this happen.

Want to know more?

If you’d like to find out more about this program, connect with Karen and/or Claire.

The power of connection

The moral of the story is…. be a connector. I’m excited to see where this connection goes. Karen and Claire are amazing women who individually have already had a positive impact on many lives. I do not doubt that together, even bigger things will happen!

Care to follow and share?