Catherine Matthews cried when she saw the Greater Western Sydney Giants women’s AFL team run out onto the field for the first time… And realised that, at 27 years old, she finally had female sporting role models who inspired her.
In this interview, the Master of Management graduate tells us about her role on the Board of the GWS Giants, what it’s like to listen to customers talk about their financial well-being, mentoring university students, and how she balances her hectic Sydney schedule.
You’re on the Board of Directors of the Greater Western Sydney Giants… what inspired you to ‘get on Board’ and what does your role involve?
Growing up in Victoria, I have always been surrounded by AFL, and then I moved to Sydney two and a half years ago for work. Suddenly, there was no AFL, but it was all about rugby!
I joined the Giants right before we were granted the license to get the women’s football team. So in the 12 months I have been with the company we have grown from one men’s football team, to a women’s football team, and a netball team as well. Awesome!
I had a moment earlier this year when I was watching the Giants women’s team play for the first time. I had teared up about seven times before they even went out on the field!
My role as a Director is to look at strategy and governance. I also sit on two sub-committees that have different focuses. One is the women’s advisory committee, where we look at how we can engage women in our club in all areas.
I’m also on the community advisory committee, where we tackle how we ensure we are giving back to the communities in Western Sydney and the ACT in the most effective way possible.
The first season of the AFLW has been so significant, particularly knowing the players as people – not just athletes you see on screen. Watching them I thought ‘I want to go back to my gym and work on jumping high and tackling like our players do’.
I realised that whilst I’ve always exercised and always played sport, I had never looked up to females for their athleticism. I’m so glad that is changing.
To now have these women playing sport at the highest level in Australia, I have female sporting role models that make me want to be better at the sports I play in my personal life. To see young boys and girls idolise the AFLW players is such a fantastic sign for the future of sport in Australia.
How was your experience studying your Master of Management (Human Resources) at the Melbourne Business School?
I absolutely loved studying my Masters at the University of Melbourne. I learnt to try new things, I learnt the value of being authentic, and how important it is not to be a carbon copy of everyone else – but to embrace being different.
At [Melbourne] University, diversity was appreciated, and I have been pleased to see that trend continue as I have gone into the workforce.
I went into my Masters thinking that I wanted to achieve all these goals – like joining a society, getting work experience and going on exchange – things I didn’t get to do in my undergrad. And I got to do them all during my Masters, as well as meet the most incredible people who are now so dear to me.
The thing I remember about my Masters, and especially in contrast to my undergrad, was there was much more emphasis on developing you as a person.
When I was doing my Masters, the University didn’t want you to burn out focusing on getting 100 per cent in your assignment grades - they wanted you to figure out what you wanted to do and support you in contributing to societies and case competitions, and whatever else you could fit in.
You’re on the FBE Alumni council, can you tell us about that?
The FBE Alumni Council looks at how we can keep our alumni engaged and get them to give back and connect with the university through a variety of ways, not just fundraising! I’m passionate about it because I loved the University during my time there as a student, and I didn’t want that time to end once I graduated.
I have been involved in the Dean’s event in Sydney, as well some working groups. I also mentor current students, and I really enjoy that.
I tell my mentees it’s OK to not know what you’re going to do after university – things will not turn out badly just because you can’t visualise exactly what role you want. I had no clue, and I am so happy every day.
Can you tell us about your role as a Customer Experience Manager?
My job at Macquarie Bank is about empowering the customers. My aim is to represent the customer and make sure the bank designs all its products and services with a customer-first approach.
My job involves spending a lot of time with the banks customers, listening to their financial needs and stories they tell us, and relaying this information back to the bank. That’s a big part of why I enjoy my job - because I love talking to people about their lives.
People’s financial wellbeing does underpin the type of life they have. I get to sit there and find out about people’s life goals and priorities, and then think about how we can help them maximize their life!
Before we spend any money on building a product, we design a way of showing the customer the concept early. This could be with an iPad with a form, or a service acted out in some fashion.
The aim is to get that early feedback, before we begin investing time and resources developing the product that might not resonate with the customer.
You also play sport on top of your job, your role with the GWS Giants and the Alumni Council… How on earth do you balance all your commitments?
It’s a constant work in progress. Do I think I have excellent task management? No, I don’t. But I know that I want to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time, and that doesn’t happen naturally, unfortunately, so I constantly work at this!
I like to look at my week coming up, see where my commitments are, and then look at where I have available time. I then think about what else I want to achieve that week, and try to make sure I slot in every ‘role’ I want to be.
I don’t want to just be a good employee. I also want to be a good daughter, sister, partner, friend, and housemate, and one who has managed to sleep, exercise, and have time to herself!
I’ve had to work out what makes me happy and then I do the juggling to fit everything in. The people I look up to are not the smartest people in the room, they are the people who radiate happiness and kindness across all the roles they take on, and they are the people I admire.