Alicia Nees, Director Luxury Flooring left school after Grade 10 with limited opportunities in front of her, and says she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. What she has gone on to achieve is nothing short of astonishing, and is due to her outlook of wanting to take advantage of every opportunity, explore it and see where it takes her. She moved to London for work, then to the USA where she studied a diploma as a Chef in natural foods. On returning to Australia, Alicia started a successful business Luxury Flooring twelve years ago with her husband, and grew it via word of mouth to supply to large corporates across Australia including Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Jetts Fitness.
On top of her role as Managing Director of Luxury Flooring, where she is responsible for all business operations including supply negotiation, pricing, accounting and business management, Alicia decided to pursue a corporate career in Logistics and Supply Chain. She currently holds the role of Supply Chain Manager for The Clean Food Co.
In order to validate her skills and experience developed on-the-job, and to support her ongoing business leadership career trajectory, Alicia commenced studying an MBA through Swinburne Online in 2017. The ability to study flexibly around her work and family commitments has lead to her maintaining a High Distinction average, and also receiving a certificate of Academic Achievement in Accounting.
You left school after Grade 10, moved from London to the USA, studied to become a Chef, started a successful Luxury Flooring business in 2006, created a sold-out Colouring Book and have a successful corporate career in Logistics and Supply Chain. Tell us how all these career transitions came about.
Wow, when you say it like that, it seems like a lot! I guess given that I didn’t have a lot of opportunities after leaving school, I never really knew what I wanted to be, or even what I could be. All I knew was that I wanted more in life.
The journey to where I am today has been an incredible adventure. It’s crazy where life can take you when you are driven, but don’t necessarily know where you are going. I simply took hold of every opportunity I could and ran with it.
Over the past 6 years, I found myself building up a career in business operations and supply chain. I didn’t realise at the time, but this has given me the career direction that I needed. I now know this is where my strengths lie and have the clear goal of becoming a Chief Operating Officer of a multinational company.
You started your MBA through Swinburne Online to validate your professional skills. How does the MBA fit into your career plan?
I always felt that an MBA would validate my skills and ability to lead. Now that I’ve started it, I realise it offers so much more than that. The MBA is not only self-validating, it’s strengthening, building on and leveraging from my existing repertoire.
The learnings have already proven invaluable in my chosen career path and I believe this MBA will equip me with the tools I need to reach my long term goals.
How has the flexibility of Swinburne Online’s MBA program allowed you to combine study, work, running a business and lifestyle? What features do you most appreciate?
Studying online is flexible, but it requires a lot of dedication. Having worked from home before, I’ve learnt the discipline required to study online. On my study days, when I get home, I step over the washing, ignore the kids mess and never turn on Netflix! All of these distractions have the ability to make your day magically disappear.
I continue this discipline throughout all aspects of my professional and personal life. I’m always inspired by Gail Kelly’s statement: “If I’m watching my son play soccer, that’s what I’m doing. If I’m going to a school concert, that’s what I’m doing. I turn the phone off. I actively tune into whatever I’m doing”. This is how balance my time and I found that studying online really complements this; I can manage my own time by studying as and when I choose to.
Tell us about the academic award you have received from Swinburne Online, and what it meant to you.
This award meant so much to me. Entirely self-taught, I’ve judged my own abilities and been judged by others. I believed accounting information and managerial decision making was a genuine strength of mine and this just proved it. This small success has greatly empowered me. It was the wakeup call I needed to start believing in myself.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has been believing in myself professionally. I wasn’t the smartest kid at school. For many years I actually believed I wasn’t smart at all. It’s taken a lot of hard work, career exploration and many failures for me to realise that I actually am smart, and that I can be anything I want to be. After realising my potential, I am even more motivated. I’ve set far-fetched goals and know I can achieve them.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my resilience. I have tried a lot and failed a lot, but I never gave up. And I never will! I will make the most of every day and of every exciting opportunity that comes my way. Life is meant to be a journey, and although I’ve probably had more than my fair share of obstacles, I am still excited for the journey ahead; obstacles and all.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
My advice would be to do what you love – personally and professionally. You may find yourself in a position or a place where you feel like you’re stuck, but you don’t have to be. Make a change, make as many changes as you need in the pursuit of happiness. Live life in a way that makes you happy.
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