Miss Penny Winn
About the speaker
Our speaker today is Miss Penny Winn.
Penny is the Director Group Retail Services and a member of the Management Board at Woolworths Limited. She is responsible for leading the Logistics and Information Technology divisions and the Customer Engagement teams. Penny is also a Director on Quantium – Australia’s leading Data Analytics Company.
Penny began her retail career at Grace Bros, before joining Woolworths Limited in 1987. During her time with the Company, she held a number of key roles, including, General Manager of Retail Support, National Manager of Banking and General Manager of Project Mercury, with responsibility for the transformation of the Woolworths Supply Chain.
In 2006, Penny was seconded to the role of Director of Strategy and Change at Asda Stores U.K. a division of Walmart. Upon her return to Australia in 2008, Penny took upon the role of Executive General Manager of Merchandise and Logistics for Myer.
Penny holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Australia National University and a Master of Business Administration from UTS.
It gives me great pleasure to invite Miss Penny Winn to deliver the occasional address.
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Members of the Council, staff, Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Families and Friends.
Thank you for the invitation to deliver the occasional address today.
May I begin by paying my deepest respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and to their elders past and present.
Congratulations to all graduates here today.
You have toiled hard to achieve that precious piece of paper – your ticket to the world.
Like most tickets this one grants you entry to the game. It carries with it the potential of great enjoyment and achievement but also the requirement to understand and play within the rules.
When I received my ticket to play, the world was a different place and the field of play and game plan quite clear.
Industries and companies took years to come into being and build to greatness. Graduates took a job and mapped out their career with some degree of certainty often staying with the same company for almost their entire life.
Today the playing field is quite different and the rules of play oblique.
Businesses form and disappear faster than any time in history.
The four largest technology companies have an average age of 20 years but had a market capital value of $1.4 trillion in 2014 – most of that growth in the last 10 years.
If you need any proof about speed of growth just look at Instagram Launched in October 2010 and then bought by facebook 18 months later for $1billion.
Predicting how the world of business will exactly look 10 years from now is just too hard.
Which companies or industries will be leaders, what fields will be the growth areas, even where and how we will work are all questions that if you tried now to give a definitive answer, you would be wrong.
So how do you, as graduates, reconcile the certainty of the degree in each of your hands with that uncertain future?
An early boss of mine had the right slant on this – he had a practice of hiring university graduates wherever possible, regardless of the discipline. When challenged on appointing a science grad to a retail role – he retorted, it’s not what they’ve studied but how they think. You see university grads have learnt different ways of looking at things and when they apply their ways of thinking they challenge and force us to come up with new answers.
So what you bring to the world is not just an MBA but a degree in thinking that if used well can take you anywhere.
You must honour this degree in every situation you find yourself and you will find yourself in different situations.
Throughout the years I have found myself in many different situations. I started my career in finance but in more recent times have probably become more well known within the logistics and digital fields.
Did I have degrees in these disciplines?
What I did have was my degree in thinking differently combined with opportunities presented to me, which of course I grabbed – no matter how left filed they seemed.
Back when I graduated I would never ever have predicted that I’d be running a supply chain that moves over 1.2 billion cartons a year in trucks that go to the moon and back each month, nor dreamed that I would be responsible for leading Australia’s largest online retailer but here I am, because I grabbed opportunities.
My next piece of advice then, is grab every opportunity that comes your way because you never know where it will lead you.
In doing so, you’ll also learn lots and have fun along the way.
Really that’s the secret to a successful career – you need to be earning, learning and having fun and if you’re not hitting 2 out of the 3 as a minimum then it’s time to move on to another opportunity.
The last piece of advice comes from Vice Admiral James Stockdale. who was one of the most-highly decorated officers in the history of the U.S. Navy.
To quote Wikipedia: “Tortured over 20 times during his eight-year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner's rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again. He shouldered the burden of command, doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken.
So how did he survive when hundreds did not?
To quote him: “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
And so that is the late James Stockdale’s contribution to this talk. Let me put it in terms that relate to you.
When you leave this place and journey forward you will endure hardship, hopefully not of the level suffered by Admiral Stockdale. But you will find at times that you cannot see how you might ever reach your goal.
But what Admiral Stockdale is saying to you is this: The only important goal for you is the long-term life goal that you set yourself.
If you hold that goal in your sights then the turmoil along the way will not matter.
So I leave you with two thoughts: If you have your big goal firmly held, you can endure all the setbacks along the way.
So when you leave this room start to give some thought to what your life goals might be.
If you are setting yourself a goal in business or in life, try approaching it as others will when you have finally retired. Think about what you would like the newspapers to write about your career when you retire. What you stood for, what you achieved.
The second thought is that you are entering a business world that’s changing fast and your currency of technical and academic knowledge will depreciate quickly. You’ll be just fine provided you combine your degree in thinking with new opportunities that come your way.
Today you’ve received your ticket to the game.
Use it to gain entry, get the best seat in the house if you can, but then it’s up to you.
Whatever you do, wherever you end up, play well, have fun and enjoy the game.
Thank you and good luck!