Ann Sherry is CEO of Carnival Australia, a division of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise ship operator and owns P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Costa, Cunard, Holland America and Seabourn.
In 1994, Ms. Sherry joined Westpac and had a 13-year career. Her first eight years at Westpac spanned senior leadership roles within the HR and public affairs functions, and working through key acquisitions (including Challenge Bank and Bank of Melbourne).
She served as Chief Executive Officer of the Bank of Melbourne and Group Executive, People & Performance and also Chief Executive Officer at Westpac New Zealand Limited since October 2002. She served as Head of Pacific Banking Division at Westpac Banking Corporation since May 2007.
Prior to Westpac, Ms. Sherry was First Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Status of Women in Canberra. She also served as Head of Westpac Banking Corp.’s Group Human Resources in 1999 and Group Executive in 2000. She has also been instrumental in initiating and delivering an internationally renowned CSR program at Westpac. Ms. Sherry served as a Non-Executive Director of Wilson HTM Investment Group Ltd. from June 17, 2008 to August 31, 2011. She served as an Executive Director of Westpac New Zealand Limited of Westpac Banking Corp. since September 8, 2006.
She has held Senior Bureaucratic roles in Australian state government in the areas of health, child care, employment and women’s policy. Nationally, she led the Office of the Status of Women from 1992 to 1994. In Australia, she has worked in the trade union movement and, among other representative and advocacy work, was involved in policy issues related to women’s employment and affirmative action. After training as a radiographer, Ms. Sherry took up various roles including, in the UK, as a prison social worker for adolescents and young adults.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Passionate, energetic, tenacious.
What is your life motto? Follow your instinct.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I started pursuing my career as soon a I started work. Depends how you define success. I was probably successful very early on. I published an article 2 years into my working life in a national publication. In terms of more defined success, I was running a piece of government when I was in my mid 30s, was working for a prime minister when I was 40, became a CEO when I was 46, so it depends how you define success really. But at every point of my journey there was something I thought made me feel successful.
How much time and effort did you dedicate? Goals shift, it’s not a linear journey. When I first started working it would have seem inconceivable that I could run a bank. I think career journeys you’ve got to start with a goal in mind and then when you get there see whether that was a big enough goal and if it wasn’t, set a bigger one and you do that again and again, and again! So I’ve had lots and lots of goals and each time I get to them I think…hmm, that’s not enough.
What are the challenges in your line of work? Oh gosh where would you start…the same challenges you have running any business. Keeping customers happy, finding ways to make money so that your business is successful and you can keep hiring good people and keep investing. For me there are lots of other challenges. I’m part of a global business so balancing needs of the Australian arms of business against the global needs of the business. It’s a very complex business and I’ve had lots of challenges with the reputation of the business.
What feedback taught you an extremely valuable lesson? I think it is, don’t lose your sense of humour.
In your mind, is formal training essential? I think it’s important but I don’t think its essential.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? It depends, I don’t think everyone needs a mentor in a formal sense, I think you need someone who you can talk to and someone who can talk to you honestly. In the context of mentor, I think that suddenly its something everyone needs, I actually don’t agree with it, but I think if need help there a lots of people you can pick up the phone to. Often I do things for people where they pick up the phone to me and say, ‘I’m thinking about doing this, do you think you could spend 20 minutes with me?’ – and I say sure. I think meeting someone every two weeks to chit-chat about things, which mentoring has become is not that useful for most people. The other thing that I would say is that women need other women to support them because there aren’t necessarily natural support systems. So I’d caution the distinction between mentor and support because I do think a lot of women do need someone to support them but not mentor them. I think there are a lot of capable women out there that are stuck with mentors and still not getting on.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? Firstly set some objectives for yourself and stick with it. I used the word tenacious initially because you one of the reasons I’ve been successful is, you can throw as many obstacles as you like at me, and that will not deter me. I think if you set yourself clear objectives you find a way to get around them.
Be true to yourself, don’t try to turn yourself into something you’re not because you think it’s something that’s needed in a job or organisation.
Work out how you are going to run your life as well as your career and keep your network of friends/family because you’ll need them, and finally, keep a sense of humour because there are lots of dull people!
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? Not wanting to fail would be one thing; also the people around me. If you’ve got good people around you they say to you, ‘come on, get on with it.’ Probably family have been good in those environments as well.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Sometimes yes. Sometimes it’s about being the right person in the right place, at the right time, and sometimes you make your luck. Sometimes it comes to you and sometimes you make it.