Lovely team at Cocktail Revolution, Australia’s only national street style magazine interviewed me about my journey of starting up my career in Australia and founding Leaders in Heels.
The brains behind one of Australia’s fastest growing online magazines for professional women Leaders in Heels, is Polish born Kasia Gospos. Commercial analyst, management accountant (ACMA) and project manager, Kasia was bored with life as a Financial Controller in her native Poland and applied for a transfer with her company to ANYWHERE else in the world. As luck would have it, she was sent to Sydney and here she is, five years later, with a job she loves (in a different company) a husband she loves and a successful creative outlet with Leaders in Heels.
While it might sound like Kasia’s had a dream run with a good education – she is a chartered management accounted with a masters in Finance and Banking and a post graduate diploma in Management Accounting and Controlling – and opportunities that seem to fall in her lap, it hasn’t simply been a matter of luck at all. More like hard work, endurance and putting herself out there. And like most people, she’s had her fair share of downs as well as ups including a miserable time at work as the favourite target of a workplace bully here in Australia. She has learnt the hard way, not to take anything for granted. “I lost a job 4 weeks after I started. My boss turned out to be a bully having no respect for people. The longest 4 weeks of my life.”
But like a lot of high achievers, Kasia doesn’t dwell on the negative, even though she’s had more than her fair share. Rather, she says that every time she thought that life was hard on her and she was being rejected, she was actually being redirected to something better, and it shows. “I love my current job” she says, now working for one of the fastest growing tech companies in Australia, Vocus Communications. “But five years ago I worked as a management accountant for a mining company. I had no passion for this sector and I was trying to change the industry. Eventually, I realised that I wanted to move into a more creative industry, like beauty or fashion”.
It was hard. Every recruiter she spoke to said it was impossible because she didn’t have the industry experience. But Kasia had made up her mind.
“I decided to set up a beauty blog and write up to three posts a week to position myself in the beauty sphere.” Through the networking opportunities that arose from this, it took only three months before Kasia was offered a job as a business analyst in a company that provided analysis and market research for the beauty industry. “I was responsible not only for business analysis, but also the design and launch of a new market research product,The Beauty Diary “.
Meanwhile, it was Kasia’s experience in the Australian workplace that saw her start Leaders in Heels. Her female colleagues were failing to apply for promotions and when Kasia asked one of them about it, her colleague replied that she’d hoped that the boss would recognise all her efforts and ability. Of course, he didn’t and she was overlooked for the job.
“I started Leaders in Heels when I worked as a management accountant in mining. One day, a female colleague told me how disappointed she was that she was not given a chance to apply for the vacant roles in our department. I asked her if she told our boss that she was interested in that role. She didn’t. She hoped that her hard work and talent would be recognised. I come from Poland where women are pretty liberated and are not afraid to ask for what they want. Living and working in multicultural Australia I started realizing the differences, the unconscious bias and stereotypes that exist in the worplace.”
Kasia started Leaders in Heels to provide a forum to help empower and educate women to take charge of their own careers and take up positions of leadership. Kasia attributes her mother as her inspiration “who taught me that there is no bigger achievement for a woman than achieving her independence”. Judging by Leaders in Heels‘ significant online presence and social media following, she’s definitely onto something!
But don’t think that that was easy for her either! Developing her first website was one of the hardest things she’d ever had to overcome.
“It was my first entrepreneurial experience. In 2010 I hired a web developer to build my first website. I was very unlucky with my choice; the developer turned out to be a scam, the project got dragged on for 9 months and I didn’t even get to see a website apart from the invoice for 200% of what we initially agreed, not mentioning that I already prepaid a few thousand dollars. Frustrated, worn out, tired, feeling like a failure and completely desperate, I hired a lawyer who only added more costs to my already expensive project. But even having tribunal orders didn’t help get my money back as the developer simply deregistered his business and disappeared. After 12 months in this miserable case I decided to start again. But since I didn’t have any money left, I decided to study web development and build the website myself. The happy ending to this story is that two years after I launched the website and of its continuous popularity the web developer emailed me back that he would pay his debt off if I remove his name from my blog post, How to choose a Web Developer.
Despite losing a few thousand dollars through this experience, Kasia’s new found web development skills produced the highly successful Leaders in Heels that now generates 50,000 page views per month after only two years!
While she enjoys her career and has a successful outlet for her creative side with Leaders in Heels, the single most important thing in Kasia’s life is her partner Nino. Describing him as her “best friend” and a “true feminist”, Kasia says Nino is indeed an “equal partner” sharing with the housework and supporting her when she is busy with Leaders in Heels. This successful partnership can be attributed in part to the principles or leadership traits that Kasia identifies for career success.
There are six of them and Kasia maintains that she has always followed them in her career. The six traits that follow form the basis of the Leaders in Heels Manifesto.
“To succeed, women need to be passionate, creative, innovative, confident, determined and kind”.
And FINISH! Kasia’s most striking personality trait is “getting easily excited and persistent in finishing projects”.
“I have noticed many people have great ideas but lack the determination to finish. I seriously think this is a disease of our society and it should be treated.” We can only agree with this inspirational dynamo.
So who is Kasia’s icon, guru or role model? We asked Kasia if she could spend one hour with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Her answer, not surprisingly perhaps, is Elon Musk, the founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX. “He’s one of a kind… an entrepreneur and inventor who is not afraid to take giant risks and invest in visionary projects like mass-marketed electric cars, a solar energy leasing company and a fully reusable rocket. At heart, he is a humble scientist who is betting on the basic laws of physics to save our species from ourselves and advance our civilization globally. All of his projects are looking to take us into a better future, to take us into the stars and create a sustainable Earth. He can picture the future in his mind and he is working hard towards making it happen, even if it means proving that our governments are inefficient in spending and innovation. He says that “when something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour” and he really walks the talk. He is an inspiration for me.”