I was born in Suva, Fiji and raised in Cirencester, England. My early childhood school years began in England, then back to Fiji where I attended primary and part of my secondary school years, followed by several years in New Zealand where I completed secondary school. After a long break from studying, I moved to Sydney in 2000 with two children in tow who were 4 and 8 years of age at the time to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) degree at the University of Sydney. I completed this in 2004 and went on to obtain a Corporate and Governance certificate from the Chartered Secretaries of Australia in 2006. I have been a solo mum for just over 20 years and am mum to two amazing sons Ben and Milan who are now blazing their own trail in their respective careers. Ben as a professional rugby player and Milan as a Senior Accountant and Sports Agent. I love to dance, sing, cook, bake, and watch rugby union. And if the opportunity arises, I love spending time with my 'heartbeats' - my children. I am a Christian who spends her time in prayer and reading the word of God (the bible) daily. Every Sunday morning and evening you will find me pre COVID at church or now during COVID on-line attending a church service. I love people and it is my daily mission that I treat others the way I would like to be treated and to love others especially those who are so difficult to love. This isn't a sign of weakness but one of meekness - a reflection of humility.
Becoming an Executive Assistant was not a career I pursued but a role that was offered to me at a time where I had to make some serious decisions on what was important to me at that time of my life; my children or pursuing a career. As a solo parent I played mum and dad so hands down it had to be my children. Prior to becoming an Executive Assistant, I worked as the Marketing Manager for the largest Distribution Centre in the South Pacific, CJ Patel as well as a Senior Account Executive for the advertising house M&C SAATCHI. Both roles were based in Fiji. Moving to Sydney post my graduation I worked as a Reporting and Statistics Analyst for St. George Bank and a couple years after that was promoted to the Marketing Services Analyst role in the bank's Corporate Marketing department. But the hours were a killer and there was no work/life balance. My children were suffering from the many hours I was away from them. So, I made a choice. I resigned and waited to see what would come up that could accommodate the time I desperately needed to have with my children and yet a job that would help pay the bills. I continued to wait and while I waited, I prayed. A week after resigning, I was asked to show up for an interview at a recruitment agency that was set up by the father of a dear friend from church. Literally hours of me walking out of the recruitment agency office, I received a call saying a Mining company was looking for an Executive Assistant, preferably a mum. This EA role would report into the CEO and Chairman and the work hours would be from 10am - 4pm everyday to allow this mum to get her children to school and be home in time to get homework and dinner done. After my first interview, the job was mine. I have always been good at planning and organising people's lives let alone mine. And in addition, I have always enjoyed writing, so I took the role on like a duck to water. As the years passed, I began to enjoy the role and everything that came with it that I haven't looked back. I have now been an Executive Assistant for 18 years.
How do you define success?
Success to me is not how much you have but what you leave when you finally check out of this place. It's your legacy. What will people remember you by when you're gone.
Success is not measured; it is what is experienced.
Time is always a challenge. It was a challenge then and continues to be a challenge today. Raising two children as a solo parent, juggling two jobs and attending university full time was perhaps my biggest challenge. Many times, when I could not make it to class because one of my sons was not well or I had to take my oldest son to a rugby trial game, I would sit up till the early hours of the morning and teach myself lessons that were taught in class that week. Being a mum and dad to my sons was challenging because I didn't have all the answers. Most of the time I would pray and like clockwork, everything would come into order. The challenges that once looked like mountains were now simple bumps on the road. If I didn't have time to meet the deadlines during the week, I would spend time during the weekend after the boys were in bed to work on this. Every spare time that I had, I would do the things I needed to do to be the mother and worker I needed to be.
What is your greatest career highlight?
I have two. A career highlight and a personal highlight. My greatest career highlight was being part of the team that helped secure the win as the State and National Australian Business Awards for customer service in a division of more than 500 staff in 2014 while employed as an Executive Assistant to the EGM Operations at CIVEO. Although this is outside the spectrum of career highlight, it is a highlight, nevertheless. Writing my first book and having it published this year.
Absolutely. There is a big push for work, life balance which I think is great. And there are now more opportunities for women to step up into roles that were usually dominated by males.
Do you have a mantra, or something you tell yourself to help you through challenging times?
Trust in the Lord and do not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I will acknowledge Him and He will direct my path.
What are some of your tips for balancing work and home life?
Keep things simple. Don't overcomplicate things. Juggling work and having a balance life is a mammoth task as it is.
Everyone loves to give advice. The key is to first be a good listener. Be intentional about getting to know your workmates. It doesn't cost anyone anything to be nice.
In your experience, what are some traits that are important to being an EA?
To be a good EA, you need to be a person that others can rely on. An EA needs to be trustworthy, loyal, calm, proactive, innovative, a good communicator, patient, a planner and organiser and most importantly humble.
What's next for Ema Volavola?
I have just had my first book translated into the Fijian language and will be released in time for Christmas. I am also in the throes of writing my second book. I love my job and it is this mantra that continues me to push myself beyond my own abilities - Do all I can do and be all I can be.