Adversity also means Opportunity

WORDS OF BEK

I was to have travelled to India to speak at the Women’s Economic Forum (WEF) 2019. It is a conference where women (and men) come together to exchange ideas in the hope that sharing experience, knowledge and networks can support economic and personal growth for women around the world. It is a global network and approximately 200 women were expected to attend. I was to be one of them.

Combined with that, I was one of the group chosen to speak with a charity run by the Australian delegate supporting this forum, the wonderful @Shar_Moore These wonderful young women had come from all kinds of backgrounds and were facing the possibility of studying to become doctors and engineers and I was looking forward to sharing my story with them and the myriad of possibilities that lay before them.

I was due to travel on the 9th April with the rest of the amazing delegation from Australia. I was in the hairdressers on the 2nd April getting prepped and pimped by the amazing Dana from @beautifyhairdesign

I had received my intravenous medication for my Rheumatoid Arthritis not a week earlier and it was full systems ready, set, GO for the big trip. Plus I was also booked to see the Taj Mahal – stopover for one night after the conference and before the meeting at Project RANi . Except something wasn’t right. Except, I was determined to overcome it, nothing was going to stop me. Turns out surgery did stop me. I was in hospital that night by 8pm representing with a blood pressure reading that was scaring people more than my pain levels, and the pain levels were through the roof. Turns out my gall bladder was filled with balls (technically called gall stones)– so full in fact one had popped out and was lodged in a pipe somewhere. Once that was determined, I was then prepped for emergency surgery. The nurses were very pleased that I had my hair and nails done for the visit and paid me a great deal of compliments. I love nurses. They do a great job in pretty extreme circumstances, and a bit of humour makes a bleak place just that bit lighter. So I always try and make jokes with the nurses so we can both laugh at our shared circumstances. There is no need to abuse the people who are making you as comfortable as you can be in, what are also pretty rotten circumstances for at least one of you #writethatdown I digress, because I am still devastated that I couldn’t go. One of the doctors was pretty nasty about it. I finally received the emergency surgery on Thursday 4 th April. I was maybe starting to accept that it might not perhaps be smart, to maybe consider, that perhaps, it was a possibility, I could not go to India… It certainly wasn’t acceptance at that point. So this particular doctor, on her rounds, with an audience, thought she would demonstrate her incredibly poor, very bad manners, terrible bedside skills, and clearly acknowledging my humanity, that despite making it all that way through what had to a have been a tough journey to obtain her skills

(dubious as I am about them); instead of being respectful of another powerful women, she dug another kind of scalpel under my skin and asked (and yes, the voice matched the attitude) “So, you still going to India?” Now I get that I couldn’t go. I get that it would have been risky and dangerous and quite potentially life-threatening if I got worse and not better. But that was MY acceptance to come to. In my own time, which admittedly, was a short window by this stage. Not her story to mock, to sneer, to spit upon. And it was mocking. It was nasty, nastily delivered, while I was drugged to my eye-balls, vulnerably lying with some tubes still sticking out of me, less than 12 hours after my surgery finished and dealing with my grief at not being able to deliver some (hopefully) supporting and powerful messages to women who might benefit from hearing what I have to say.

And so she sliced. I have several words I have used to describe her that I will not print here. I may make a formal complaint. I may move on from it without doing so. I haven’t yet decided because I am more focused on myself than I am on the slings and scalpels of others. I am more concerned with getting better and continuing my missions to support other women, to lift up those that I can reach, than I am spending time worried about some nasty piece of work having a dig ‘cause thinks I am some privileged women complaining about her holiday plans – or whatever story she told herself to make it okay for her to be such a terrible person in that moment. I get she might not even be a terrible person generally speaking. But she was in that moment a woman who didn’t just drag a woman down, she kicked her while she was in down and in pain. That’s just plain old ordinary average run-of-the-mill nasty. It happens everywhere, every day, to lots of people. And some of them aren’t as willing, or empowered, or confident, or even aware enough to know that you don’t have to be affected, and you certainly don’t have to take on the nasty acts of others. You can move beyond it.

You see, I know where my privilege comes from – I earnt it. I grew up in poverty, in a domestic violence situation where there was never enough money for food but always enough money for drugs and alcohol. I paid my own way through university by getting a low paid “cadetship” (another word for cheap labour) role in my chosen industry. AU$3.33 an hour to be precise. And was paid in minute- long increments, none of this rounding up thank you! If he said I started at 7:36am and I wrote on my timesheet 7:35am, guess what? I didn’t get paid for that minute. Yep, that really happened and yep, I really put up with it. I was 17 years old. It was my first job out of an environment where I was raised to never question what I was told. I had no skills to negotiate or even begin to understand what my rights were. I just needed to work and earn money to get out of the situation I was in, so worked my ass off, I did. His office was also in his own house that he showered and lived in. There were other blokes working there too. I never knew how weird this was until I told people this story and they looked at me like “WHAT??!” That is just one example and it’s the first in my career of 28 years since then and counting. I’ve earned my money, my job titles, my qualifications, my knowledge, and my position, as well as the ability to share how I managed to overcome my circumstances and actually be a success.

During this time I have been working on accepting this really (badword) news about India, one of the ladies I have mentored has written a beautiful message in a guest blog discussing how I have inspired her life in the time we have known each other, and shared skills that have changed her possibilities. Her opportunities.

Another approach was random, completely unexpected, asking me to be a brand ambassador for beyondBeanie insta tag @beyondbeanie

One of the founders is in design and architecture and supports Arthritis Foundation as a volunteer. The sales of the hand-made beanies and other products available support women, artists and children in Bolivia, most of them from rural areas and/or disadvantaged communities. Talk about aligning with my values! I was privileged to be asked and am organising that as I write this. (Watch this space for official announcements – but you heard it here first and hope that this does make a difference and create opportunities for the community.)

I am the guest speaker for an event in Melbourne in the middle of May (tickets available ) and if you can attend, I would love for you to come and introduce yourself. It is the 15th year the BPW Geelong group has been around for and I will be at their   Moving On Up Breakfast, which is designed to encourage people to strive to ‘Move on Up’ in their lives and careers. The topic is one of my favourites – Resilience. Your Greatest Asset. It kind of coincides with the theme of my life! There have been more than a few other wonderful moments during this recovery time, where the women in my circle gave back to me at a really low moment. And so, I grieved for my loss, and then I got on with it. I am back at my desk sorting plans and making progress on other things, like writing this blog. Like supporting other women. Like applying for a book award (because you never know if you don’t try!). Like finding other ways to contribute to women through on-line communities while I am in recovery and supposedly “resting”.

I don’t do resting well, although I have had to learn, rapidly. Surgery is not arthritis, and frankly give me arthritis any day over major surgery again. It is always relative, what we can learn to live with, isn’t it?

So onwards, upwards, outwards and over it – as long as you’re using it, you’re not losing it. And that goes for my attitude as well as my bendy-not-so-bendy joints.

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Guest Blog by Nurdiah K

Words by Bek – I met Nurdiah in the same week she started work in the industry as she describes below. I saw an amazing young woman who was keen (and pretty clueless about what was ahead of her!). She had some amazing raw materials and plenty of potential, and so we have worked together to craft a beautiful and powerful women. I asked her to share her insights on what mentoring has done for her and she has created this beautiful story that makes me feel incredibly privileged to work with her and watch her development. It gives me a great deal of pleasure – in this month of April’s awe-inspiring women – to introduce to you to someone who is already, and will be, creating amazing things for her future!

Journeying with a Mentor

Journeying with a Mentor

Just shy of three years ago, I began my journey. I had no understanding of what I was about to get myself into. All I knew is that I wanted a change in my ‘job’ and that it was about time I stopped procrastinating stepped onto the path to pursue the career I dreamt, spoke and was fearful of for so long – Project Management. I was longing for a challenge and didn’t want to regret being in the same situation a year from now. Same thing, different day. I didn’t want that.

But, how do start? I had so much ‘catching up’ to do and to think that someone my age (28 at that time) would have started around 8 years ago, I felt I was already at a disadvantage – not to mention I was a female walking into a male dominated industry – Construction!

My introduction to the industry was like no other. It was September and I was given an incredible opportunity for a (then) small company who hired me as a Project Administrator/Trainee Project Manager. It was agreed that with time, exposure and training that the ‘Trainee’ on my role title would be removed. How long was this going to take? When would they know that I was ready? That I was no longer a ‘Trainee’. I guess it was the same as asking ‘How long is a piece of string?’. A few things I knew is that I wanted to be a Nationally Certified Project Manager within 5 years, have a good chunk of completed projects under my belt and most importantly, the salary to match! I was a single mother at the time and being an independent mother was a big deal to me.

During my first week on the job, I saw the General Manager of the Company let go and within months, the only other team member for my region say ‘It’s been great working with you!’ in an email while I was on holidays overseas. He gave me no indication, notice or a ‘heads up’ that I would be returning to work with no one (I repeat) no one in the office. Yet, there were three (I repeat) three unfinished projects. They were all in the delivery phase (check me out using the right terminology… ask me the same thing 3 years ago and God help ya!) I had barely been shown how to read plans let alone understand scope of works and specifications. These words and what they meant were foreign to me. Not to mention, the company I worked for had just been awarded an FSC project due to be kicked off in the upcoming months. What was I to do? Is this normal?

Then, came a Knight in Shining Armour. Well, more like a Superhero. A #GladiatHER In steel cap boots. Wearing Jeans instead of a cape. Wearing a polo shirt. Rocking purple hair. My Superhero’s name is Becky Paroz.

Over the next 2 and half years (and still to this day), Becky mentored, supported, encouraged, challenged, tested, sculpted, and threw me into the deep end. There were a lot of hard conversations (and tears on my end) that only my today self would understand it was part of her unique strategy.

Her unique style of teaching me about the industry had me gobsmacked some days, where I realised later she taught me a very valuable lesson without knowing it. She mentored me in a way that she knew so much about me; my strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes to harness qualities and skills and way of thinking I already possessed to be a Project Manager.


One of the qualities I admire about Becky, is that she taught me all of these things simply for the fact that she wanted a different experience for other women going through the same challenges in the industry. All she wanted in return was to see me believe in myself and use my true potential to influence someone like me one day and make a change in the world a person at a time. When she told me words of encouragement and eulogized me, I believed her – because it showed, and she proved it to me in how much she taught me. That’s inspirational in itself.

I have seen such a change in myself in such a small amount of time due to Becky’s mentoring. It’s not something you can describe on a pamphlet or put a price on. Taking away valuable life lessons that can impact your way of thinking, operating, negotiating, strategizing is something not a lot of people can offer you and really succeed and prove it. I have changed and grown so much in that I have self- confidence, I am able to initiate and get through difficult conversations, I am respected by men and women within my industry, able to think strategically and one of my favourites, pull off a mean poker face.

Becky has taught me that although first impressions can last, it’s what you bring to the table is what will change it. At the end of the day, it was not my hair, my make-up, my outfit nor my gender that was going to matter, it was my skills, knowledge, capabilities and confidence in myself that mattered. Like many superhero stories, this one has a happy ending. Two and a half years later, I achieved exactly those things I aspired to have/be – a Nationally Certified Practicing Project Manager, over $12 million dollars of completed Defence project under my belt AND earning the six-figure salary to match – all because I have the best mentor the industry has to offer, Becky Paroz.

Connect with Nurdiah Via Linkedin


If you would love to start your mentoring journey with Bek just contact her on the form below:

Empowering guest Blogger Mentoring

Strength to Strength

Jodie Lane – Author

The best part about having two female protagonists is I get to write two strong, but very different, women. I can explore what it means to be a strong woman in different settings, without stereotyping what it means to be strong.

Case in point: my main character, Gwyn, is nineteen when we first meet her—bit of a dreamer, has a romantic streak. Yet when she is placed under extremely difficult circumstances—namely, is flung back in time to a violent siege—she not only survives; she escapes, forges friendships and ultimately saves some of the people she cares about. Yet she hasn’t lost her romantic side—she is confronted by uncomfortable realities and emotions, doesn’t always behave in a way she might be proud of, is frustrated and often frightened, yet still struggles on in an effort to do what is right.

Michelle on the other hand, fulfils the trope of bad-ass action hero; kicking butts and taking names. Adaptable, ruthless and determined, she perseveres through intense physical discomfort in order to do her duty. She is extremely capable and confident, so she fears little, knowing she will be able to fight her way out of trouble.

These two characters clash. It’s easy to call Michelle the strong one, but when you consider how Gwyn not only survives, but succeeds, without any of the physical and psychological training Michelle has, you realise how, despite her flaws, Gwyn has a strength of character that continues to grow despite the hardships thrown at it. Michelle’s personality risks hardening to breaking point, however, once her support systems are taken away, and it’s only through some painful self-reflection that she admits that Gwyn’s coping mechanisms are simply different, not weaker.

Right now I am part way through the last book in this five book time-travel series. I’ve had the opportunity to showcase each of my protagonists’ strengths and weaknesses—alone and together—and while they have formed a working partnership, their respect for each other doesn’t mean they are now best friends. Strong women don’t have to be the same. They don’t have to even be friends and have the same interests.

I am surrounded by strong women in my life, some of them very different. Capable, resourceful, powerful women—they achieve in many different areas of life. They are all managers to one degree or another: whether in actual job name, project managing multi-million dollar projects, or organising finances, renovations, teaching a classroom full of excitable and challenging students. Many of them are mothers—they have the strength to get up for the sixth time that night to a crying baby, corral toddlers out the door with lunches, nappies, spare clothes, water bottles. The strength of mind to deal with a relentless, unpredictable landscape. Many of them are creatives or academics, with the self-discipline to see through a multi-year project, persevering in the face of thankless tasks, with only themselves to hate or blame when the self-doubt overwhelms them in the seemingly endless days.

But they carry on. They survive, they improve, they thrive—particularly in the company of other strong women. And it is that theme I have sought to draw out in my books, that alone, a strong woman is strong, but together—with others—she is incredible.

Jodie Lane is the author of Turning Points – a time-travel adventure series that takes readers from the ancient world to an interstellar future. Based in Brisbane, Australia, Jodie is an enthusiastic historian, combining her love of travel with fascinating stories from the past. Find her books at www.jodielane.com or stay up to date with her events and news on www.facebook.com/authorjodielane

Jodie provided this blog on request because Bek loves how she makes the point that strong women don’t have to like  each but they do need to respect the others skills/beliefs.  It is a core part of my belief system.  I am half way through reading Jodie’s first book and am trying to free up a weekend to binge read the rest.  Purchase your copies of Jodie’s books and anthology contribution here .

guest Blogger

Redland Bay woman Becky Paroz to speak at Women’s Economic Forum

WORDS OF BEK

Redland City Bulletin with a story on the upcoming
Women’s Economic Forum in New Delhi.

“I am super excited to be a part of this global initiative as well as having three speaking spots over the course of a few days,” Ms Paroz said.

Having worked in the engineering, building and construction industry for three decades, Ms Paroz said she was familiar with the struggles of women living and working in a male-dominated world.

“I was one of 10 women in a course with 600 men,” she said.

“There was no mentoring (and) no programs to help us and even 30 years later, there is still not a lot of women in those fields.”

It was this need for support that led Ms Paroz to write her book Words of Bek, which was published in 2018.

The book includes personal anecdotes and advice, and also draws on Ms Paroz’s past struggles, including growing up around domestic violence and being diagnosed with a chronic illness as a teenager.

“I couldn’t find the book that I wanted to help me, so I wrote it,” she said.

“There’s not a lot of good solid advice for women outside traditional roles.

“Back when I was growing up and going through what I went through, these things weren’t really spoken about.

“I want to raise awareness and make people comfortable talking about what they’re experiencing.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE:

Empowering