Georgina Exton is the Senior Manager of Sponsorship at Paralympics Australia, where she works on delivering the Australian Team to the Summer and Winter Games.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
If you asked me even five years ago what I would be doing now I would not have picked it but at the same time I’m not surprised.
After landing an internship with the ‘Australian Olympic Committee’ (AOC) in 2008 I was fortunate to have this lead in to full time employment working on events & fundraising for the Olympic Team but also coordinating the day to day activity and programs for the NSW Olympic Council.
A highlight was playing a key role in the delivery of the London 2012 Welcome Home Celebrations tour around the country for Australia’s Olympians.
With a passion for teaching I decided at the end of 2012 to enroll part-time in a Master of Teaching (Primary) via correspondence, which led to full time study and finishing my time with the AOC in early 2013.
After 2.5 years of study, including three prac placements and part time work in sports coaching, PE teaching and event work I jumped in to the classroom and began experiencing the challenges and joys of a primary school teacher.
After progressing quite quickly, my heart and head kept drawing me back to the sport management industry and I finished my time in the classroom but I’m so grateful to have teaching as a skill-set. I was then faced with the task of finding ‘that’ job.
With no in depth experience in sponsorship but plenty in the unique realm of ‘(Olympic) Games delivery’ I was hired as ‘Sponsorship Account Manager’ at the then Australian Paralympic Committee in 2016 and hit the ground running in to the Rio 2016 Games campaign.
More than four years later I am now Senior Sponsorship Manager for (re-branded) Paralympics Australia (PA), working as part of a small but fierce team to not only deliver an Australian Paralympic Team to summer and winter Games but to normalise disability in this country through the Paralympic movement, and change lives through sport.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
No one day is the same, prioritising is a necessary skill and our commercial team’s motto is ‘every day is a school day’.
Working for a not for profit with charity status does come with the challenge of resourcing, which is why prioritising is key. A lot of the time my ‘to do’ list goes out the window as unplanned requests and tasks pop up frequently, particularly in my role in sponsor servicing.
If I was to give you a 30 second elevator run down of what I do I would say that my job is to manage and service all of our partners, supporters and suppliers to ensure all contracted benefits (and non-contracted) are delivered through best practice sponsor servicing.
Quite frequently the 20/80 rule applies. On any given week, 20% of our partners take up 80% of my time, which is dictated by their campaigns, planned events and activity and opportunities to leverage the partnership.
For example I coordinate Paralympians to speak or appear at sponsor events, run Paralympic Corporate Challenges where sponsors can ‘come and try’ a Para-sport such as wheelchair basketball, coordinate workshops for sponsors, a lot of brand and IP reviews and approvals in sponsor campaigns, working with sponsors to develop fundraising and partnership activation ideas, reviewing sponsorship agreements, tracking and reporting the delivery of benefits.
OK, this is more than a day but at the same time I can be working on elements of all of this throughout any given day.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes absolutely, and now more so than ever as all organisations are experiencing. It’s amazing when you’re forced in to something how adaptable people can become.
Even prior to the pandemic my workplace (for the most part) has supported flexible working, it was definitely something I had to get used to early on as I hadn’t experienced it in previous workplaces and I felt that with the freedom of flexibility came a lot of trust.
At the end of the day, as long as you are getting your work done productively and contributing as an employee in other ways, does it really matter what your hours look like?
As we moved in to working from home more, for me, it did take the pressure off as I wasn’t travelling to and from work and off-site meetings with stakeholders all the time and also trying to fit my gym and sport activity in, eat well and ‘try’ to find time to rest and recharge (not something I am great at).
The flexibility does help alleviate that ‘rush’ to be organised and to fit everything in to find that balance we all strive for. Flexible work allows for flexibility in other areas of your life, which is great for so many reasons.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I don’t think I am ever perfectly balanced in areas of my life. I think accepting that takes the pressure off finding that balance. There’s always one area that is given more attention but I guess as long as that attention is shared among other areas, perhaps that can be deemed as ‘balance’.
Work shouldn’t define us but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a big part of us, particularly if you’re passionate about what you do. My sport and my training are huge parts of my life and a big part of what makes me tick, it’s a non-negotiable for me and no matter how much I have on with work, it’s important to me that I put this first, otherwise if you let ‘work’ interfere with ‘life’ you’ll end up resenting your job and place of work.
I think remaining realistic about what you can fit in and when it’s ok to miss the gym or have a night off sport, or doing those couple of extra hours of work when you need to is key to finding that work-life balance.
The more efficient and productive you can learn to be in your role I think will help to create that time to enjoy the ‘life’ part outside of work. I try not to let one dictate the other.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
This is an interesting question in the midst of a global pandemic. A big one for me was the decision to stop playing hockey this year with a club that I had been with for 14 years.
I knew my work year was going to be full on and at that point that I made the decision the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games were due to take place in August but then the pandemic kicked in so everything was at a standstill anyway.
Now in saying that, I still play Oz Tag and train at the gym so it was more the need to take something off my plate to get some time back to myself and make sure I was looking after my mind and body this year as I was close to, if not burnt out at the end of 2019.
Once the pandemic kicked in I started doing some cross-stitch, I attempted to read more and ironically I also decided to try my hand at Women’s Rugby Sevens. So much for the rest but why not at the same time?
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I’m a fan of Bryce Courtenay’s books (Jessica, The Persimmon Tree, The Family Frying Pan) and on my list to read is Paris Letters, a true story about a woman who has had enough, quits her job, saves up and moves to Paris.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
When much of our lives are in the hands of apps, I still like to think I’m not dictated by them. But in saying that, the ones I use the most are around my gym schedule and training program but I don’t think there is any product, gadget or app that I can’t ‘live without’.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Serena Williams. What an absolute machine.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
One size doesn’t fit all. Find what works for you, do what makes you happy and once you can find that one thing that intersects both your passion and purpose, you’ll never work a day in your life. Age shouldn’t be a barrier to trying new things nor should it dictate where you’re ‘supposed’ to be in your life.
Before you go…
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