From office junior to CEO: how a stay-at-home partner can accelerate your career

Fifteen years ago Rebecca Wilson joined Buchan Consulting as a junior. Now, she’s the CEO. Thinking like an entrepreneur and putting up her hand for opportunities saw her climbing the ladder fast – as did a stay-at-home husband who’s helped with the two kids. Wilson’s a ‘real role model’ and the latest to answer our Q&A on what’s driven her career.

What is your job now? Chief executive officer of Buchan Consulting, one of Australia’s leading independent communication consultancies.

Describe an average day for you No day starts or finishes the same way or how I expect it to. Thinking on your feet, juggling multiple demands – internally and externally – and finding time to lift your eyes on how the business, my clients and staff are tracking is in all in a day’s work. It’s demanding, somewhat manic, but one of the most rewarding and exciting jobs anyone could have.

How did you get there? Did you wing it or plan it? I joined Buchan 15 years ago as a fresh-faced journalist in a junior role. While the written word is a passion, it was commercial life that excited me. So, I approached even this junior role with unbridled freedom to think like an entrepreneur but work like it was my own business … and it worked.

I worked my way up the business, moved to Sydney to open the Sydney office, became a partner and shareholder, established the health and investor communication practices and am now CEO. Was it deliberate? Not consciously, but I’ve always had an innate drive and approach that looks forward rather than contemplating or celebrating the past.

How do you manage the logistics of your career and your life outside of work? Anyone who says it’s easy isn’t telling the truth. It can be really hard. I have two young children (aged seven and four) and thankfully a stay-at-home husband (who makes an amazing chicken salad).

The most empowering thing a woman can have is choice. I choose to do what I do and so I accept that it comes with both the rewards and pressures of that choice. But whenever it all becomes too much – and sometimes it feels that way – I know that I have a choice to change it. And, well, I never do because ultimately that choice is what I actually love about what I do.

On a practical level, exercise is as important for clearing the mind as it is for staying fit, and I really try to be present when I’m at home with the family as much as when I’m in the office working with my team and clients.

What is the easiest part of your working week? And hardest? I genuinely love what I do and enjoy going to work. I’ve never had trouble getting out of bed. The hardest? Travelling and missing the small things at school. I always make it to the big and important school events, but it’s the little things that I feel bad about.

How do you think your younger self would view your current career? Not surprised but also not expectant. I lived in the moment and seized opportunities as much back then as I do today.

If someone else out there wants to develop a career like yours what advice would you give them? Have the courage to pursue the work you like doing but don’t think that you need to leave to do it. Tell your boss the work you like doing and create opportunities to do that work. Put up your hand to try something even if it means you might fail. You will learn so much regardless of how it ends.

Have you got any anecdotes about your career or daily life you’d like to share? Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In is one of the best I’ve read and two quotes I have on my desk that I look at every day are: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” and “Done is better than perfect.”

This article originally appeared at Women’s Agenda.


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