Nichole Muratore – Grace Group Marketing Consultant interviews Vanessa Lakits, Grace Group Manager – Compliance & Risk for International Women’s Day 2021

NM: Hi Vanessa, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to meet with me!

VL: Hi Nichole, it’s a pleasure, I’m honoured that the marketing team has chosen me for this profile.

NM: We couldn’t think of anyone better suited! Tell me, how did you end up in your current role of “Group Manager – Compliance and Risk”?

VL: I started with Grace nearly 7 years ago as a Business Process Manager for records. In 2016, I was promoted to my current position and that’s really thanks to Grace Directors; Steven Brown and Michael Hyland.

NM: Can you explain how Steven & Michael’s recognition of your value as a Grace employee assisted with this promotion?

VL: Of course! I had the opportunity to really drive some improvements within the business and I had senior management backing me. Honestly, I was so lucky to be working side by side with senior management, Steven and Mike had a vision for the future of compliance and risk at Grace and they knew that I could help them execute it.

NM: That’s inspirational to hear! Can you tell me your biggest achievement so far at Grace?

VL: It would have to be the Integrated Management System (IMS).

NM: Oh so that was you! It’s a great system.

VL: Thanks! When I first came to Grace they were using a paper based system and there was no way to measure corrective action and customer complaints. In fact, one of my first objectives in my new position as Group Manager was to implement an online system where key information and forms could be found in the one place.

NM: How did you go about implementing such a huge project?

VL: Thankfully, before my time at Grace I was involved in a project to implement an online system. I learned a lot from that, specifically not to make it too overcomplicated. When it came time to implement IMS, I put together a business plan and made sure to consult with all relevant parties before going to the directors.

NM: It sounds like you have a lot of passion for your role.

VL: There’s a lot to be passionate about! I feel so lucky to work at Grace. We’ve achieved a lot of great things and it’s an environment where everyone can work together to drive improvement irrespective of gender. It’s not about whether you’re male or female, but rather I’ve always been treated as per what I can bring to the table. I’ve worked in a lot of industries and cultures and it’s safe to say that I feel most comfortable at Grace.

NM: That’s fantastic Vanessa, and I think a lot of people would share your sentiment. In saying this, do you foresee any challenges or opportunities for female advancement within our sector?

VL: I tend to look on the positive side of things Nichole, and I can see a lot of opportunities for women looking to come to this sector. What I love about this industry is that it is always changing and improving. Over the past five years it has been a natural progression for Grace to move away from being a very male dominated industry. Based on this, I think that diversification will continue and the opportunities for everyone will be endless.

NM: If I wasn’t already in this industry, you’d have convinced me! What advice would you have for someone new to the industry that is female?

VL: I think it’s important not to classify yourself but rather think about how you can fit in and contribute positively to the organisation. It’s important to remember that a good organisation – like Grace – will value you based not on your gender, but rather your ability to work together with others to achieve what you need to achieve. You need to find where your comfort zone is and remember to be honest with yourself and others.

NM: Thank you for that advice, I can see that being really useful to a lot of women in this industry, myself included.

VL: I’m happy to hear that!

NM: There’s always a lot of talk surrounding the glass ceiling, do you think something like that exists in our industry?

VL: Absolutely not! Maybe 15 years ago there were barriers for women in any industry, but Grace has been very quick to move with the times and make significant changes towards creating gender equality within the workplace. As I mentioned before, this change has been very natural for the company and we’re benefiting greatly from the increase of women in middle and senior management positions. I’m happy to say that no one is holding me back!

NM: That’s the kind of positivity a lot of women can support! Do you think that there’s a reason why the removals side of the business is more successful at attracting and promoting female talent than the information management divisions?

VL: That’s an interesting question, Nichole.

NM: Thanks, I do my best!

VL: I think that it doesn’t have anything to do with one side of the business valuing women more than the other. Rather, Grace Information Management (GIM) is very structured and it is an older business as well. To a lot of people the exciting world of removals is more innovating and thrilling than selling warehouse space, so it’s only natural that more women would gravitate towards that industry.

NM: You sound like you have a suggestion…

VL: I do! I think it’s as simple as changing the way we advertise for new positions. A lot of people don’t know that GIM has some very exciting and innovating aspects of the division, including Grace Digital Office. So actually changing the little things to really push that innovation factor could really go a long way in attracting new talent – both male and female!

NM: Great answer and certainly something to consider in the future. Ok last question, what motto do you try to live by?

VL: Oh that’s easy, my motto for this year is transparency and honesty. To me it’s almost like saying “there’s no judgement here” just tell us what the problem is so that everyone can pull together to come up with a solution.

NM: Transparency and honesty, now that’s a motto I can get behind!

VL: It works so well, I use it at home on my 14 year old daughter!

NM: How interesting! Do you find it works better on your young daughter or the hearty employees of Grace?

VL: It works well with everyone! My job is to offer guidance and provide people with a safe zone so that everyone can reach their full potential. Whether you’re 14 years old or 40 years old, there’s nothing better than people having your back, so it’s important to ask for help and work together to achieve better results.

NM: Vanessa, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. Thank you again for offering these valuable insights and taking the time to speak with us!

VL: Not a problem, I hope it helped.

NM: Without a doubt! Thanks and have a good evening!