Paul Galea: Hello, Anna. How are you going?
Anna: I’m alright.
Paul Galea: Just introducing you to our listeners and readers, Anna. You left IGS in 2002? Is that right?
Anna: That’s right. The Class of 2002 feels like forever ago now.
Paul Galea: And I remember you very fondly as a very hard-working, very clever and a very lovely young woman. So unless things have changed dramatically in that time, you’re probably going to be a very nice person to interview. What are you doing now, how did you get there and were there any sort of detours or little blips on the way that makes an interesting story?
Anna: Well, lots of detours, but I’m working at the ABC at the moment in the impact team in the factual department, mostly making short-form observational documentary-style content about communities and individuals that are doing things, important things that encourage conversations, on issues like ageism and gender equality. That’s just an example. Lots of different issues.
How did I get here? I studied media at university and was volunteering at an organisation called Vibewire, which was pretty unique at the time because it was a digital online magazine and quite cutting edge in terms of the fact that it was doing that and I just got all my friends to write articles, commissioned lots of different pieces. I had other media students and friends become editors for different sections, and we sort of grew it. It was called Vibewire.net and it was lots of fun.
Paul Galea: So you were sort of at the cutting edge of that whole new digital world. With the media, it would have been pretty new then, wouldn’t it?
Anna: Yeah, it was pretty new. I mean, I guess it was at a stage where people were still reading hard copy news at that time. So it was a little bit newish. It was also exciting, the Internet was exciting. It was still developing in a way where people didn’t know where it was going to go and there were lots of opportunities like it was kind of up for grabs. It was lovely to be doing that, and then at the same time, I was lucky enough to get the job at Channel 10, because I knew some people who worked there, and I got a job at the news library.
And from that, I started volunteering as a news editor and then got a job there and then one fine day, there was a job advert for a new show called Q and A, and they needed a digital producer and I was working in TV, but also working in this digital space, so I applied. Actually, I wasn’t their first pick. Apparently, I gave a horrible interview and kept telling them that I didn’t know how to do anything and that I was sorry. They told me that I actually could do it! I remember my boss at the time saying, “why did you say you didn’t know how to do that, when you clearly know how to do that?” and I’m like, I don’t know, it was really stressful.
Paul Galea: I’ll tell you something. There’s a thing called the Dunning Kruger effect where very, very good people undersell themselves at interviews because they’re very hard on themselves and people who are not so good think they’re pretty great and go fantastically well at interviews. I think you’re just actual proof of that!
Anna: Maybe you can cure me of it because……
Paul Galea: Well, you’re probably too high achieving to be cured of it, which is good! Now, the other thing I noticed in that was that you mentioned that you volunteered a couple of times, and I know that in my generation, for instance, people volunteering their labour was just not done. But obviously, for you, it worked really well because it positioned you to take opportunities when they came.
Anna: Yeah, I guess I didn’t think about it like that. I didn’t think about it as me volunteering my time. I thought about it as people giving me their time to teach me something. So, you know that it’s kind of a give and take in that respect. I was just excited that someone wanted to pay attention to me to teach me something.
Paul Galea: Yeah, you’re upskilling to a point where when that actual job comes along, despite what you said in the interview, you could actually do the job and do it well.
Anna: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a way of getting skills and real-world experience.
Paul Galea: Now, world experience. You weren’t just doing this sort of stuff in Sydney. Tell us about that, please.
Anna: So I definitely travelled a bit. I did a year of uni and then thought, ”I need to go overseas,” and was very, very lucky that we had the opportunity to do that before COVID became this drag on our existence. So I went travelling with a very good friend of mine from IGS and then we met more of my best friends from IGS overseas. We are still the best of friends to this day. So we first went to Asia, and then we went to Europe, and then we went to South America. We took seven months off university and just travelled.
I worked at a dental surgery really hard to save up. And I had all these pretty pennies to spend and all of these life experiences and it was just amazing. That was the first time. And then later, I went on exchange to France, which was great, because I got to use my IGS French skills. This was very good and also really fun and then I took a bit over a year of leave without pay to live in New York, where I worked first in a digital agency and then was employed by Al Jazeera in their newsroom. It was really amazing because I was really embedded in life in New York at that time. 2012 and ’13 was the trip to New York, 2007 was the exchange trip in France, and I think it was 2004 when all the best friends were travelling together.
Paul Galea: Okay, so you’ve done your first bit of work, a bit of study, some travel, and obviously the work in New York. And you say you’re working for Al Jazeera in New York. Can you remember any sort of tension with that at all, because, I imagine after September 11, there might have been a little bit of antipathy towards people from Al Jazeera?
Anna: Yeah, absolutely. They were always fighting the stereotype that Al Jazeera was a terrorist organisation, and it was very strange to experience that because I know that we were just people working in the newsroom together. There was that stereotype. But you know, it was great to be there because Al Jazeera has a focus on news from around the world. So remember when the Iran nuclear deal was happening, I happened to be at work and all of a sudden we were breaking new live rolling coverage and covering that situation. That was really incredible where that was a very important issue to an organisation like Al Jazeera. So, yeah, it was nice.
Paul Galea: That’s really interesting. Then obviously, you’ve got back to Australia, and then you manage to go from there to being an ABC producer?
Anna: It was pretty straightforward for me. I’ve worked around ABC in different parts, but I was lucky that my position had been kept for me. I went to work at Media Watch from there and then did secondments to various parts of the ABC. I guess I’ve been quite lucky in the fact that I’ve been able to work in different places and have a diversity of experience.
Paul Galea: Yeah, and I’m just going to accuse you of being a big-time name dropper here, Anna! You’ve dropped Media Watch, Q and A and Al Jazeera. That’s a pretty good-looking resume there! Now going on to things from school. Do you have any particularly happy memories from school or things that you really remember fondly from school?
Anna: I tried to have a think about a specific happy memory from school, and I think that what I found was I couldn’t think of anything specific because my whole experience of school was the friendships and relationships that I had and the whole experience as a result and it is all a really happy memory.
My best friends today are all from IGS so when I think about school, I think about the fact that I can’t believe there was a time we could all sit in a hallway together and spend the whole day together. And then go on being in classes together and then continue to talk on the phone at night together. I think that that is just so special and, you know, life really gets in the way as you get older.
Those friendships mean the world to me and so I just think of that time as just something that I hold onto and that I was really lucky to have. Also, I think that there’s also the fact that the teachers were so integrated and caring of us when we were at school. There is always a distinction between teachers and students but I do think the IGS community, when I was there, was special. It didn’t feel like there was an uptight relationship between the teachers and the students.
I genuinely felt like the teachers were people who cared about us and supported us and were friends to us and I have a particular memory about you, Mr Galea. I was at a running carnival, and I just remember being really upset that I’d broken up with a boyfriend and I remember you coming up to me and saying, “don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea” and no one had known that I’d broken up with him and that anything was going on. But to be seen by you in that way. That is kind of the spirit of IGS. It’s not formal in the way that other schools are.
For me, IGS was a place where there’s genuine caring and like I said, I still call the people that I went to school with my best friends, and I love them more than anything and to have that is more valuable than anything else.
Paul Galea: Anna, you make a very strong recommendation. I think it’s interesting what you say. What our kids don’t understand that now is that time when you get to spend your time with your very best of friends, probably the best friends you will ever have in your life. It’s there, and then it goes very quickly. One of my previous interviewees said the same thing. He said, “life gets in the way of being with your friends”, and that’s a bit true, isn’t it? We don’t know that when we are at school!
Anna: You just don’t get that time again. You don’t get that uninterrupted time to be silly and, I don’t know, maybe a little bit wild. And, yeah, it’s very special.
Paul Galea: I’m not going to ask the name of the boy you broke up with because that would be pretty cruel. But what I am going to ask is, did you find another fish in the sea?
Anna: I did. I found another fish. He is out with my children right now, stopping them from interrupting us, so that’s very useful.
Paul Galea: Well tell “the fish” that I said thank you very much. Now, how many children have you got, Anna?
Anna: Two children. A six-year-old and a two-year-old.
Paul Galea: Fantastic. So one last thing. I think you’ve sort of already mentioned this, but any advice to the kids at school that you can think of. Maybe not so much advice, but just things that they should be thinking about because I actually send these interviews to the Year 11 and 12 kids because I think it’s worthwhile them hearing from ex-students like you. So any ideas?
Anna: Well, I have three things. Like you said, I probably already said it, which is just enjoy every moment because you don’t get these years back and you don’t have the opportunity to just be with your friends like this.
The second thing and they’ll call me a giant nerd no doubt, is to learn because it’s such a joy and such a privilege to be taught, to sit and be able to absorb information, and to not have any responsibilities other than just to be learning. That is actually something that you don’t get later in life so, enjoy the fact that that is your only job right now.
My final thing is, for those who are very ambitious, don’t focus too much on a particular job that you must have because from when I left school to now there are so many new and different jobs that didn’t exist when I was in High School.
So just focus on learning and being creative and being a critical thinker and most of all, enjoying yourself because those are the things that will equip you to deal with the world in the future and to follow whatever career that you may want to or whatever life plan that you may want to have. Everything else; it’s not important.
Paul Galea: You are a delight to talk to Anna! Everything that you say shows that you’re a true IGS person. Your advice is excellent because I think you just nailed it in terms of the things that are important. And I’m just hoping that our kids listen! Thanks very much for the conversation, Anna.
Anna: Thank you so much. It’s so lovely to talk to you too.