Roots Run Deep: The Proud Queenslander Who Found His Place
Times change and cities grow yet Brisbane seems to move at its own pace. While Sydney hurtles, and Melbourne leaps and grooves, Brisbane proceeds, with a steady hand and a warm smile. The growing city and its people seem in good shape - proud of yesterday, content with today, and quietly prepared for tomorrow. The day I interview The University of Queensland’s Alex Jackson, I’m reminded of all these observations about the city we both live in. Proud of his roots, he’s self-assured but never arrogant. He’s looking to a bright future but is happy to take it one step at a time. A true advocate for work life balance, he’s a career professional but home is where his heart is.
UQ’s Home-Grown Leader
Born and raised in Brisbane’s Western Suburbs, Alex studied Business Management, HR and Marketing at the University of Queensland (UQ), while working part-time in retail. After graduating, he undertook a short work placement with the University, and everything flowed from there. Now 30 years old, he has progressed through four roles in seven years, developing his skills, experience and confidence.
“I’ve worked my way from HR Officer to Advisor to Business Partner, and am currently on secondment to the Recruitment Services team as Team Leader. It’s been a great few years. I know that many people switch jobs frequently but why would I? I really like it here.”
People management is relatively new to the internal recruiter. His team is about to grow to 15 people and he’s clearly taking the responsibility and opportunity seriously:
“This is quite a new team and we’re right at the beginning really. I’ve always been pretty laid back but I’m also driven to help the team achieve our potential. I want us to be the best recruitment team in Brisbane in the next year or two. I believe we have every chance.”
Prioritising Laughter... and Balance
A common pitfall for new managers is to try to be someone you’re not. Alex doesn’t even contemplate that tactic, preferring to stay true to himself:
“I like to keep things relaxed and have fun. I try not to force a style but you probably need to enjoy a laugh to feel comfortable in our team.”
With typical dry wit, he pauses and continues:
“No one’s quit yet so that’s a good start.”
Alex’s management toolkit contains more than just a few jokes, however. He is passionate and insistent about achieving work / life balance in his own life, and he brings this ethos to the people he manages.
“I love my job but I also really value time at home with our family, friends and doggos. Oh, and I love my sport! At UQ, I can have all of those things. You see people who are worn down because they don’t take the time they need. I tell my team not to take their work phone or laptop home with them; it’s important. When I first spoke to some new members of the team, there was a real sense of fear. They were saying, ‘I need to leave on time, for my kids. Will that be a problem?’ Of course it’s not a problem. This is UQ.”
This is UQ: A Proud Advocate
The most common themes in my conversation with Alex are pride and connection. He’s genuinely a ‘fan’ of his employer – its purpose, its history and its people.
“I get to work for a unique organisation that branches across our great state – you’ll struggle to find a town anywhere that doesn’t have some form of a UQ presence. We aim to give our students the best possible education experience and to support researchers who spend their lives working to make the world a better place.”
It’s fantastic to hear Alex link the role of his team with UQ’s overall purpose and ethos:
“You are the company you work for. UQ isn’t in it for shareholders; we’re here to benefit Queensland and the world through the research and the education we offer. My team and I are recruiting the Tutor who teaches the Student who goes on to do something amazing. We’re part of something which matters.”
The Quiet Man
I ask Alex about his future career plans. His response seems to come from a different era – a time, perhaps, when people felt less strongly the need for constant acceleration and instant gratification.
“I just want to build this team and make it work. I’m not sure yet that I even want to move higher than this level. I am ambitious – I just know what matters to me. I also want to progress based on what I achieve, and only when I feel ready.”
This leads me to ask Alex to share some achievements or moments he’s proud of. Again, his response contrasts with what some might expect from a 30 year old in 2019:
“I haven’t had any achievements that I’d write home about, but I’m not the sort of person to shout about that stuff. In terms of proud moments, being nominated by UQ to have this story written about me is certainly up there!”
Wouldn’t the acting team leader role be a highlight?
“Not until we’ve delivered. It was a great honour to be approached, of course. But we’ve got work to do first.”
Our conversation gradually moves away from work and towards one of Alex’s favourite subjects: sport. Like many growing up in Brisbane, winter means footy (rugby league), and summer means cricket.
“I’m a proud Queenslander and can be pretty fanatical when it comes to our sports teams. When State of Origin [the annual rugby league series between Queensland and New South Wales] comes around, the whole UQ HR team has to put up with me getting excited and decorating the halls with posters of the Maroons.”
Alex also shares that UQ is currently a ‘Premier Sponsor’ of the Broncos – his favourite team:
“If UQ ever becomes a front-of-jersey sponsor, I’ll be wearing a Broncos jersey five days a week!”
Home, career, sport – all in one place. Sounds pretty good to me.
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 20 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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