Stephannie Jonovska - Creating a Legacy: Business improvement, digital transformation and inspired action

May 2021

Stephannie Jonovska prides herself on being a culture maker, not a culture taker. What she means by that is her ability to take small, simple actions every day to demonstrate behaviour that creates a culture of movers and shakers. After many years of personal and professional self-reflection, Stephannie knows herself intimately well and has learnt that the best way to make change is to be a down-to-earth human being, no matter the meeting, conversation or setting.
 

What is your point of difference Stephannie? What are your areas of expertise?
I have a real passion for transformation. My role with BlueScope is about leading the finance function to embrace technology at scale and that means robotics, data and machine learning. Yes, finance is my background and was my ticket to the board game, but these days, every board member has to be financially literate. Now I can talk more about digital and transformation than my peers. From a strategy perspective, there is a huge difference between directors that are digitally literate and those that are not, and the truth is, we all need to be in this forever-changing world. In fact, the Australian Financial Review recently reported that Australia needs 6.5 million digital workers in the next four years to keep up with technological change, according to research from Amazon that reveals the technology skills gap continues to deepen. A big part of my point of difference is encouraging greater education and openness to digital leveraging because I speak from experience, not just theory and curiosity. I’m also a people connector, someone who thrives off high energy and the richness of a diverse people. My role is to understand the culture and to set the tone.
 
When and why did you decide to pursue boards?
In 2010, my finance management role was to be made redundant, which didn’t actually eventuate. Needless to say, as part of that experience, I went to see a recruiter who said my CV was extremely impressive, but I should consider getting on a board. Funnily enough, I had been considering stepping into the boardroom. I had been exposed to WOB and joined their Getting Started program. I met amazing women and made lots of connections. On the Monday following Friday’s course, one of the ladies sent me an advertisement for a board role, which was Director for WEA Illawarra — a registered training organisation that offers the community quality adult education and leisure courses, work skills training, accredited training and foundation skills services. I actually knew of WEA Illawarra because my mum had learnt to read and write English through the organisation after my father passed away at age 64 years. It gave her motivation to get up, pack her bag and do her homework. I decided to go to the AGM, met some of the directors and got elected because I expressed a personal interest and because of my strong financial background, which was required for good governance at the time. I remained with the organisation for nine years! Despite losing 40% of our revenue because of changing governments, we put in a school for children who don’t cope in mainstream education. It was both a growth initiative and had a positive impact on our kids at a critical juncture in their lives. I learnt that if you don’t put your hat in the ring, you never know where an opportunity can take you! Last year I received my lifetime membership with WEA Illawarra, which is such an honour.
 
Can you share what boards and committees you currently sit on?

  • Non-Executive Director at Peoplecare Health Insurance
  • Chair of Peoplecare’s Nominations, Development and Remuneration Committee
  • Chair at CPA Digital Transformation Centre of Excellence
What other boards have you previously been on?
  • Director and Chair at WEA Illawarra
  • Committee Member of St Mary's Star of the Sea College Governance and Nominations Committee
Who inspires and motivates you?
I think it’s the humble beginnings of my migrant parents who came from Macedonia that has had the biggest impact. They taught me to have respect for others, to help the disadvantaged and to recognise that your life is not the “right” life — it’s just a life and others will live and lead theirs differently. I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on myself as an individual and looking at my own career. That’s helped me get clear on the legacy I want to leave. I truly believe that leadership is about leaving people better than when you first met them. In my spare time, I thoroughly enjoy mentoring CPAs and people that I work with. I learn so much from each person I engage with, and when they return and tell me the changes they have made, it is so rewarding.
 
I recently launched Ladies in Finance Time and the whole premise is to inspire the next generation of finance women. I’m hearing the same story from 15 years ago — that we have so many talented women in finance, but not enough in leadership positions. I don’t want to hear this same old story in another 10 years. It’s time to take action!
 
How has WOB helped you on your board journey?
The Getting Started program is what started me on my board journey. It’s like having a virtual support mechanism. It’s so accessible and I often point women in WOB’s direction when they are starting out. It’s got that cheer squad environment and it’s really powerful! It’s a great way to get quick skills, but you can also dive in deeper if you want and need.
 
What words of advice can you share with women starting out on their board journey? 
  • Start simple, small, now
  • It’s not all about the skills; it’s about the will
  • You need an element of bravery to take the leap
  • Get skilled in areas that you have a gap in
  • Consider how can you pay it forward
  • Don’t get caught up in the analysis paralysis. Take action — it will give you confidence
  • If you don’t land your first position, that first attempt is just as important as getting the gig

About Stephannie Jonovska
Stephannie is a high-energy leader known for her drive and commitment to achieving commercial outcomes through effective people and stakeholder leadership. With over 25 years’ experience in manufacturing and solutions across finance, procurement, business improvement and transformation, she has built a leadership reputation for actively and successfully disrupting the status quo. Stephannie holds several directorships in the Not-For-Profit sector, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of CPA Australia.