Passion and purpose in the pandemic: Optus’s Alannah Green is a breath of fresh air
Ah, to share a laugh and some stories when it feels like the world is ending. At the risk of sounding like a terrible LinkedIn post, in the age of COVID-19, the power of human connection cannot be overstated. I was interested to see how my interview with Optus’s Employer Brand Consultant, Alannah Green, would go. Would it feel strange talking about her life and career when there’s so much panic and urgency unfolding? Would we even be able to concentrate?
What I found was a welcome reprieve from the chaos, speaking to a person with bucketloads of passion – for work and life.
A world forever changed
It’s Tuesday, 23rd of March 2020. Coronavirus has accelerated from being a terrifying prospect to a terrifying reality. The Australian Government has just closed more non-essential services. States and territories are closing borders, and foreigners are not allowed into the country anymore. The police are being called to manage the masses of desperate, devastated, recently out-of-work people streaming to Centrelink. The state of the world is utterly gut-wrenching.
Adhering to the Government’s ‘social distancing’ advice, Alannah and I are both working from home. Alannah’s border collie cross rescue dog, Chelsea, can’t believe her luck.
“She’s beside herself with joy right now. I’m making sure she is still having time alone outside, because otherwise she won’t cope when I have to work from the office again!”
Working from home isn’t a new phenomenon for Alannah – she’s enjoyed that flexibility since joining Optus in 2018 as Corporate Internal Communications Executive. It was a role she held for a year and a half, until an opportunity to join the Employer Branding team came up. She jumped at the chance to apply her skills differently.
Alannah is acutely aware that her current opportunity to work from home is a privilege not all enjoy, and she’s keen to express her gratitude.
“I’m lucky to not only be a part of an organisation that supports the health and safety of its employees – both mentally and physically – but also to have a job at a time when so many people are struggling. It’s quite an unsettling and challenging time for us all, and I recognise some are harder hit than others.”
A love of writing, a drive to learn
Alannah’s move into telco followed a winding, varied career which started straight out of high school.
“I’ve always loved writing, but the only writing-based career I could think of was journalism, and I didn’t really want to be a news hound. I was interested in the media though, so I found a job in media sales and worked there for two years before starting my PR degree and consulting on the side.”
After graduating from Bond University with ‘first in class’ and ‘dean’s list’ accolades under her belt, Alannah began applying for Sydney jobs with ferocity – at least one a day. She landed a role in a PR agency and found herself with just two weeks to relocate from the Gold Coast to Sydney.
“It was my first time living out of home. I don’t think any of my family members actually believed I was moving until I told them I’d landed a job!”
Drawn to the often loud, chaotic, cut-throat world of PR, you’d be forgiven for thinking Alannah fits the typical extroverted stereotype. The reality, however, is quite different.
“Despite what I do for a living, I’m not a naturally social person at all – I’m definitely an introvert. Moving to Sydney, I knew I wouldn’t thrive in a share house, so I found a tiny studio apartment. I’m quite comfortable in my own company and need my own space.”
Finding her niche… and a great purpose
A naturally driven person, Alannah quickly made her mark on the Sydney PR scene, building a solid reputation as she progressed through various roles and agencies. In her most recent role prior to joining Optus, Alannah was thrilled to learn from a woman who would go on to shape her future career trajectory.
“The head of our agency was a former book editor and journalist. She taught me so much about crafting content and storytelling. In this role, I also had the opportunity to get more into the strategic comms space. I thought to myself, ‘warmer, warmer’ – I was getting closer to where I felt like I truly fit.”
After a career spent representing various brands and companies, Alannah was keen to move in-house. She was looking for a role she could whole-heartedly commit to – with an organisation and a purpose she believed in.
She’s found both at Optus.
“I feel this is where I’m meant to be. I love how creative this role is – I’ve been able to make it my own. Employer branding is quite niche, and opportunities don’t come up too often, so I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing this work at Optus – a company whose values align so well with my own.”
Alannah shares that Optus encourages its people to challenge the norm.
“One of our values is personal excellence, which is something I strive for every day. I always want to be better than I was yesterday and take my learnings into the next challenge.”
One of Alannah’s key responsibilities is managing the hugely successful #OptusLife Talent Ambassador program, where a group of highly engaged employees share their experiences of life at Optus on LinkedIn. The program’s pilot phase is coming to an end, yet posts from the ambassador cohort have already attracted more than one million views.
“I’m not one for a ‘humble brag’ but I am really proud to have played a role in the success of this program. Seeing the engagement and passion among this group, and the incredible, diverse stories being shared, is really rewarding.”
A true love of life
Alannah is clearly talented and passionate about her work, but it’s not the only thing that brings meaning to her life. We spend longer than I care to admit chatting about the merits of e-books, audiobooks and old-school paperbacks! Then we move to writing, podcasts, TV shows, dogs, food and volunteering. Alannah’s quiet yet thoughtful zest for life is evident at every turn.
“What matters most to me in life is health and happiness. I’m so grateful to have found an employer that supports me to maintain the right balance in my life. I’m proud of where I am today and grateful to be doing something that feels so purposeful.”
As our conversation draws to an end, I receive another alert about COVID-19. It strikes me that, in many ways, Alannah’s perspectives are well suited to living through a crisis. While we have to love what we do, we can’t let our work define us. Things can change in an instant, but there is joy to be found. We just need to keep an eye out for it.
About the Author
Ellen Cameron is Employer Branding Australia's Employer Branding and Content Specialist (aka. Storyteller). She's spent time as a journalist in regional Australia, and worked in marcomms across various sectors including health and disability. Ellen loves writing for high impact and deep connection; her passion for people evident at every turn.
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