What NAB executive Kate Nuttall says she wishes she knew about work in her twenties

Women's Agenda /

Kate Nuttall is executive general manager of people at NAB. In this piece, she tells Women’s Agenda what she would tell her ‘younger self’ about work and building a career. 

Once, back in my twenties, I expressed an interest in working in human resources in the banking industry. Someone said to me: “Don’t bother, they won’t even look at you, you need to know banking”.

Here I am 20 years on working for NAB — it’s my first time in the finance sector, drinking from the fire hose, learning so many new concepts and frameworks. The joy for me in the role comes from working out how to apply my experience and HR practice to deliver business results, in a new paradigm through new people. Twenty years ago though, I too readily accepted that working in banking would never happen for me.

This got me thinking about what else I would tell myself, if I travelled back in time.

So here’s what I would tell my ‘younger self’.

There really is no such thing as a dumb question

If you are wondering what is going on in a meeting, chances are someone else is too. Even if you are the only one wondering, it’s better to ask questions to get clarity for yourself than sit in the dark and spend hours trying to get information without looking stupid. Look stupid to get smart — it’s a better use of everyone’s time.

Nearly everyone will get their heart broken by an organisation at one point

If you are in an organisation that is incongruent with your own style, find your tribe elsewhere. When organisations fundamentally change and you find yourself miserable, it’s time to break up.

You are going to do a lot of powerpoint that goes nowhere

Not every idea is a good one, or even a great one. You will do countless papers, powerpoints and analysis just to find that your organisation moves on faster than you can press print. It happens. Just make sure when an idea takes off that you have your hand up to help.

Keep yourself nice

You will come across mean and unkind people. You will come across bullies. Keep yourself nice. I enjoy children’s stories and have always found Cinderella’s “courage and kindness” goes a long way in the workplace.

Be who you are — there is no one like you

I have often heard people say, “oh that’s not what I’m like at home. That’s the work me”. How exhausting to have to “be” someone else. Just be you and be the best “you” you can be.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

Women's Agenda

Women's Agenda is a publication for career-minded women who want to stay ahead of the conversation.