The Second Best Time Is Now Leadership, People and Projects

“Every time my friends say “How do you do this”, I don’t always remember exactly how, but I know I did it.”

By Brett Jenkin

I grew up on a farm west of Mallala, about an hour north of Adelaide. I grew up on the farm and commuting an hour and a half each day to school in Gawler before moving to boarding school in Adelaide. Boarding school is where I really started honing my competitive side, trying as many sports as I could – at one stage I was doing 7 different sports! At this point I was definitely the budding scientist/engineer and an introvert, and my outlet was sport. I wasn’t a massively social person due to my lack of confidence contributing to social situations, and I wasn’t good at processing new information. I was an over-thinker.

This started to change when I spent a year on exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016. It was where I started taking control of my own development, and began to actively pursue the adventures, learning opportunities, and accomplishments that I wanted to achieve, rather than just drifting with the flow because that was the easiest path.

In July 2017 I was fortunate enough to participate in the inaugural Energy Assessment of Timor Leste with Project Everest Ventures. This experience changed the way I act in every aspect of life. It boosted my confidence in both social situations and project development. I realised how much I could achieve, how I didn’t need to know everything before making a decision, I could back myself when I felt like I was in the deep end and trust my gut when reacting to new information. It made me feel like anything was possible as long as I kept an open mind and was prepared to work for it. The experience was the real turning point of my life and led to the person I am today.

As a trekker, Brett was part of the Energy project in Timor Leste in July 2017. After successfully completing his Team Leadership Training in September 2017, he returned to Timor Leste the following July to continue the development of the Energy project. He is currently completing his Senior Leadership training, which will see him returning to country as a Senior Leader to manage multiple teams, projects, and is responsible for every trekker and other leaders on the ground.  

The role of Team Leader is to help the project and help others. I had no idea about business before starting with PEV, but I learned. A lot of the project is about connecting with people, either the local community or members of your team; I learned more tools to do so while on project, too.

I always received the same question from both my team and others when talking about my experiences overseas: “How do you balance between putting the best people on a task to progress the project or tasking people who could use the opportunity to develop their skills?”

I think there is little need for a balance, this is my focus: project and people development is a big part of the role and can be achieved in the same way. By pushing the project to fail fast, promote the hustle, and encourage learning from failure, it naturally leads to self development and self confidence in a sense of achievement. The single most motivating thing in the world is progress and if I can show my team their impact on the project progress, they get hungry for even more. The team starts to improve themselves so they can become more efficient and more effective in project matters. It’s my job to facilitate this.

The best thing about being a Team Leader is watching others grow. Getting to see the people around me develop, embrace learning on the fly and make the most of the opportunity is something pretty special to witness. I get to help them get better at helping others, and make a difference one step at a time. That’s what gets me out of bed every day, and that’s what’s up.

The hardest part of the job is playing the Bad Cop. I’m a very social person and consider myself pretty easy to get along with; I enjoy smiling and having a laugh. However, some people can try to take advantage of that to be lazy. It can be frustrating not being able to participate in the banter because you’re watching someone use it as an excuse to slack off and distract others. I want to develop my teams, and push them to be the best they can be. You can’t be friends with everyone, and it can’t always be smiles and laughter.

What advice would you give to someone considering undertaking international work experience like PEV or applying for leadership training?

Learn How To Communicate Effectively

At the end of the day, a university degree is a ticket to an interview, it gets you to the door. Communication is the key, every successful person I look up to is an excellent communicator and it got them to the other side of the door. I have been fortunate to see both sides of the coin, and can guarantee that it’s much easier to connect with someone if you know how to communicate your passion and your why. It’s much easier to make an effective presentation when you know how to keep the attention of the audience, however many they may be.

Make Excuses for Why it Could Work, Not Why it Couldn’t

You can make it fit; you can manage a fulfilling life while at uni and the grades won’t suffer. Go out for dinner, catch up with friends, drive the 10 hours, go on exchange, make the effort. Every experience adds value to your life and your own little dictionary of lessons. You have personal hotspot, you can work remotely and make it work. Every time my friends say “How do you do this”, I don’t always remember exactly how, but I know I did it.

Start Sooner

The best time may be a week, months or years ago, but the second best time is now. If I had started sooner, I could have fit a second exchange in, got more work experience, or be in a more senior position with Project Everest Ventures. Sure it would have been awesome, but I didn’t know that was a possibility till I had hindsight. So I’m doing my best to get there now, and take every new one that comes my way so instead of “what if” it becomes “What now”.