You may recognise Emma Baulman if you’ve dropped by the UNSW Canberra Student Administrative Services. Emma is currently the acting Deputy Manager and has worked in the university sector for more than 10 years. Thriving in environments that support learning, Emma has completed Bachelors and Masters degrees in communications and literature studies, a Graduate Certificate in Career Development and Counselling, and Japanese language and museum studies – talk about lifelong learner! From imposter syndrome to perfectionism and self-doubt, Emma unpacks how she remains resilient in the face of these challenges.

How do you – or would you – overcome challenges in sectors that are traditionally perceived as male oriented?

Like many women, imposter syndrome is a well-worn path for me; apparent from early childhood when I disregarded certain career options due to self-conceived notions of gender roles. In the early years of my career, I inhabited roles that I deemed safe and free from challenges that may trigger self-doubt. I have been lucky in my career to be surrounded by mentors, both male and female, who have encouraged me to question the boundaries I placed on myself.

One such mentor recognised the imposter syndrome in me, having likely experienced it herself. Her advice was to disregard self-doubt, not to shy away from opportunities, and embrace them “like a man would”.

Due to this encouragement, I have been driven to challenge myself whenever the opportunity arises. Proving to myself that “I can” has become a personal commitment to defy the imposter thought pattern. Success is proof that “I did”. And failure when overcoming challenges doesn’t really exist. Perceived failure is just not reaching your self-imposed expectations and an opportunity to reflect on how you can learn and grow.

How do you maintain resilience in the workplace?

Ever been in an interview and been asked, what is your greatest weakness at work? My go to answer was perfectionism. And yes, this was the tried and tested positive-masked-as-a-negative answer. But years have taught me that there is nothing positive about perfectionism.

Resilience is challenging perfectionism. Accepting and owning your mistakes. Seeing most “mistakes” as what they really are, an opportunity to develop.

Another core part of maintaining resilience is being self-aware, knowing how and understanding why you react the way you do when faced with difficulty. Fundamental to maintaining resilience for me is staying positive and avoiding dwelling on what I can’t control. Indulging in negativity results in depleting my morale and the morale of my colleagues. Having a support network of colleagues also contributes to my resilience; colleagues who you can seek advice from when challenged is an invaluable resource. I believe that if you lead with kindness and compassion, the same will be returned to you.

What advice would you give to your younger self (or other young women) about leadership?

Early in my career, I saw people who were younger than me or who had additional familial responsibilities, progress quicker in their career in the linear sense of promotion. I felt insecure and an urge to take swift and immediate action to push my progression; I did not want to be perceived as stagnant and, therefore, lesser. Upon challenging these thoughts, acknowledging that a career comprises many different aspects of life, and that self-fulfilment is the goal, I have realised that no career needs to follow a strict path – progression is personal. Similarly true is that there is no strict path to leadership.

A recent question was asked of me – who is a leader that you would model yourself on? When I first found myself with no immediate answer to this question, the imposter syndrome reared its head. Am I a leader if I cannot identify with a leader? Further consideration of the people I hold in highest esteem illuminated my answer. I am drawn to advocates – those who compel people to their cause as an organic result of their passion. They may not identify as a leader, but they show leadership qualities while striving for their values. So, I would advise my younger self that although my passions may not be as lofty as those that I hold in esteem, my personal brand of leadership can be found via endeavouring to be the best version of my authentic self and by maintaining my values.

See more International Women’s Day profiles:

FLTLT Kaylee Verrier
Dr Fiona Buick
Jean Dinco
Davina Mansfield