Julie Irwin How did you find your start in the industry and how did you arrive at your current position?  

I originally started my career in Sydney in publishing at SRA then McGraw-Hill Book Company where I designed brochures and catalogues. From there I moved into a Finance support role then a Marketing role within Polaroid Australia. I had also completed study in the area of IT and was able to help support Polaroids team move into Microsoft Office products at the time.

My husband was part of a teaching scholarship which took him to the Newcastle Region. It was there I began with Aristocrat and the Gaming Industry. With Newcastle being a regional office, I was fortunate enough to have exposure to all areas of the business including sales order management, inventory, installs and logistics which gave me a cross functional view of the company and the gaming industry. With that exposure and my ability to pick up on IT software application processes quickly I was seconded to train the sales team with the Configuration tool and CRM and from their enlisted to work on a Project to incorporate the Australian National Sales Support Function into one team which resulted in me setting up and running the National Sales Support Hub from the Newcastle Office.

My next role was Project based work in the role of Business Process and Systems Manager focusing on Process Improvement supporting the sales function through business support sales systems. I was then seconded to work on the Global ERP replacement project as a Quote to Cash Functional Lead for ANZ with the eventual release of Microsoft Dynamics in the ANZ business replacing Peoplesoft. From there I continued into the America’s working on the move from Order Management in M2K to Microsoft Dynamics D365 partnering with Microsoft which had me traveling to our US office and working with my US counterparts. My home base was in the Hunter Valley so I spent a lot of time traveling locally as well. Eventually my husband and I moved to Sydney permanently 2 years ago for me to continue my role from Head Office. Once the Go Live for D365 I returned to the Sales Business into the role I hold today which is Business Improvement Manager.

What do you consider to be the biggest achievement of your career, so far? 

My project work on the restructuring and implementation of the Sales Support function in 2007. It was a huge undertaking at the time both personally and professionally. Originally, I was approached to run the team out of our Head Office in Sydney which I turned down but said I would do it from Newcastle instead. I believed in the local talent that could be acquired and saw a benefit in remote support working conditions as the team did not require to be onsite in Sydney Head Office to support a travelling Salesforce.

This Sales Support Hub has grown and is still successfully operating out of the Newcastle Office today.

What excites you most about working in the gaming and/or hospitality industry?  

It is a great industry to be part of hence why I have been in it for as long as I have. We are in the business of entertainment and social play. Our product is high quality, fun, bright and engaging. The industry ticks all my boxes as far and ever changing, technology based, and relationship orientated. Aristocrat focuses on fostering relationships and their people are their greatest asset and I am proud to be one of those people. For me it is an opportunity to continuously learn and be challenged. I always say I learn something new every day whether it be about the role I play in the business or people I work with. In Sales as well as working within IT Major Projects representing the business, I felt like I was not just part of a team but part of a work family. I come from a large family and that environment appeals to me.

I also see a healthy level of respect comradery and strong interpersonal relationships at gaming shows with our competitors. There is no disrespect or arrogance as you one might expect in the industry from each company instead it is one of support from my viewpoint and customer interest. I have been fortunate enough to have had far more positive experiences than negative.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

In my time at Aristocrat I have had been fortunate to gain exposure to positive leadership qualities as well as some negative, however I have taken learnings from both experiences to shape my values and career objectives. I have had several mentors that have made an impact and I find the ones I have been closer to and learnt the most from are those that are strong people managers. Someone that can strategically think about a situation as well as consider all opinions and encourages others to challenge that thinking and the decision-making process. A mentor or coach that makes you feel heard by being a sounding board, respected and cared for and they understand your role and the detail you present to them. One that should be there when it counts and even when it doesn’t and give their people the ability to shine and praise them openly for it.

This people orientated mentoring style provides me with an environment where I feel I can flourish and grow; without the concerns we all face traditionally at work I am truly able to do my best work for the business. This also then reflects in my personal life where situations that matter greatly to me and can be source of concern suddenly lift because the level of importance of them dropped due to my mind set, trusting my input and someone having your back as I have always had others.

This also dove tails into my own family support and values. My greatest mentors were my parents.  I would describe them to you as my compass and they centred me and taught me to be strong, supportive, caring, and respectful all the aspects of being a good person and a good employee. They taught me to never give up and always stand where others would fall. My mother was a very strong and caring woman and my father valued and encouraged his children’s contribution to the world of business.

What are some assumptions you’ve witnessed about women working in the gaming and/or hospitality industry?

I feel the role that women play in the gaming industry has transformed and is growing and I was fortunate enough to start working at a time where those tables were slowly starting to turn. I believe there was a misconception that woman did not have the interest or the understanding of the gaming industry. I support policies that value that contribution made and cultivate learning and skill sets that attain that desired performance level but for all genders. Policies set the guidelines; however, I believe it is up to an individual to change the behaviours of themselves and others through role modelling, respect, and empathy.

There is the assumption that women have families and therefore cannot work certain hours, or travel or attend gaming industry events both social and work related.  A lot of women such as myself don’t have children and therefore this stereotype of traditional female values should not be assumed but instead offer the opportunity for the individual to consider no matter what the gender type. I myself have had someone answer for a job opportunity in my past at Aristocrat due to travel or relocating concerns without consulting me.

Another assumption is that woman are not the main earner in their family. I often hear the commentary within the industry, but he has a family to support or he is a new father. Unfortunately, still today I don’t often hear the exact same level of concern for woman. Is that because of traditional renumeration differences or mind set I am unsure. I, myself have had to raise in salary reviews that I am the main earner in my family as the assumption has been that I am not.

Today in any industry, not just gaming, I think there may be an assumption that women want to be recognised because of their gender  instead of what they bring to the table. I support that we should take gender out of the equation and base a person’s input on their merit, performance, contribution, and experience and then being recognised because they are the right person for the job.