My portfolio is quite an eclectic document, reflecting the varied nature of my life and career to date.
As I mention in my timeline of key events, a big turning point for me was when I elected to abandon my tertiary studies in order to look after my mother who had been diagnosed with cancer. I had never before been faced with an ethical dilemma like that, and in listening to my inner self and realising that it was more important to me that I was there to support her rather than studying at university, I unlocked an aspect of myself that I am still exploring.
I enjoyed significant academic success at high school, and while this encouraged me to pursue subjects that I found intellectually stimulating, I also found that I was unhealthily preferencing independent working practices rather than seeking collaborative solutions. It has taken me a long time to appreciate the inefficiencies of putting pressure on myself to achieve things solely under my own steam, and my time training at Covent Garden opened my eyes to the enormous successes that can be achieved through working together as an effective team.
As a result of developing a trust in other people’s expertise, my professional practice completely changed – where once I wanted to be in control of every aspect of a production, I now trust in the abilities of my colleagues. The design brief included in my collection of artefacts expresses where I have come to on that journey so far, highlighting the fundamental need for negotiation and collaboration in my work practices. This process really opened my eyes to my need to develop tools to effectively work with others, and this led me to seek out a better understanding of myself so that I could identify my areas of weakness.
Researching various personality-typing systems was a huge help in forcing me to pinpoint the ways in which I prefer to work. My investigations led me to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram system, where I found I could identify trends in my thinking that were codified by both of these systems. I found that while I enjoyed looking at the ‘big-picture’, there was sometimes a danger that I would lose focus of the details that I needed in order to achieve my goals. I also found that I was identifying with a leadership style that leant towards finding new paths to solutions rather than using existing models.
Certainly, this individualist streak has proven to have both benefits and drawbacks. When acting in my favour, my determination to forge my own path has caused me to look beyond my immediate surroundings – when I discovered my great love of opera, for example, I investigated where in Italy I could train in order to explore the roots of this artform. This led to some mind-broadening experiences as I was exposed to other cultures and ways of looking at things that differed from my suburban Australian upbringing. My focus on the macro, however, has sometimes been at the expense of the micro, where I have been guilty of prioritising the efficiency of reaching a larger objective at the expense of completing the small steps that lead us there.
Appreciating that, in order to create a safe and motivated working environment for colleagues, I would need to develop my interpersonal skills, I took steps to educate myself about how to work more empathetically with teams. My completion of short courses in this area is an indication both of how much I want to improve this aspect of my professional practice, and also of my determination to continue to grow personally. I now have tools with which to motivate my colleagues that leave behind my former ruthlessness in the pursuit of excellence and instead focus on how we can each work to our best in achieving our goals.
This developing desire to motivate others to create change is linked back to my very firm sense of social justice, and I have tried to invest my professional work with an element of social responsibility.
This is what drew me to contacting the Stage Directors UK organisation, as I wanted to not just work in my field, but also help to make it better for others. This work is largely behind the scenes and doesn’t carry a great deal of formal recognition, which I think is also important to try and balance my Myers-Briggs-identified tendency towards arrogance and overconfidence. I have been encouraged to take this enmeshing of social responsibility and professional practice a step further as a result of courses I have studied, and drew upon my learnings to draft a speech outlining a proposal for using art and culture to combat sectarianism in Belfast. This felt like such a natural combination of my interests and my expertise that, now that I possess the skills to communicate persuasively, I am keen to pursue more of this work in the future in an attempt to use what I know to make the world a better place.
My statement of Professional Practice Philosophy, then, is to continue to use my strengths in big-picture thinking to support my desires to create social change through my work. By building on the work I have done to improve on my interpersonal skills, and developing new ways of providing inspiration to my colleagues, I can bring the focus back to those details that will help me not only work effectively but, through my professional practice, continue to make a difference.