Jenny Allen FAIM hopes to be known and remembered in years to come as a caring, determined and dedicated individual who looked to help others and loved her family and friends unconditionally. On the basis of her multiple career achievements to date, there is little doubt of this happening.
Currently Foundation for the WA Museum Chief Executive Officer, Ms Allen previously worked at The 500 Club, which followed a successful 16- year stint with Youth Focus WA. Within this role she took the not-for-profit organisation from fledgling start-up to a significant contributor to the mental health and wellness sector for young people. During her time with Youth Focus, Ms Allen picked up a range of accolades, including the Western Australian of the Year Community Award in 2013 and a finalist placing for WA in the 2014 Australian of the Year Awards.
Ms Allen also cited some of the proudest moments of her career while working for Youth Focus. “I am extremely proud of the successes I achieved in looking after young people and their families, seeing them at the beginning of their counselling journey and then at the end,” she said. “It would make my heart sing.”
Ms Allen spoke to Leader about this and some other key insights from her illustrious career.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
There have been many, but the success each year of Hawaiian Ride For Youth – its growth, its supporters and riders – and then two award wins in 2012 and 2015 for Best Charity Event at the Australian Event Awards were all thrilling achievements.
What has been most challenging and how did you overcome this challenge?
Heading up a not-for-profit with no money and little professional expertise was a challenge we overcame with the support of organisations and individuals in the corporate sector.
Do you have a mantra or work ethic that drives you on each day?
Enthusiasm and an insatiable wish to continue to learn and succeed in giving back.
How big an impact did your time with Youth Focus have on your leadership style?
The biggest impact was knowing if I could not achieve my goal one way, we as a team would work together to find another solution. I believe my compassion for humanity and its frailties made me a leader whose team’s loyalty and support gave me the impetus to always go further and beyond. I believe my 16 years at Youth Focus made me a better person and a strong and collaborative leader.
Was it difficult to leave Youth Focus and did you find it difficult to adapt to a new company?
In a word – yes. It had become part of me and my passion around suicide prevention and mental health was very real. I was not ready to retire and so made the decision to look for different areas that would give me challenges and opportunities to use my skills and experience gained as a CEO.
When you started working for the Foundation for the WA Museum, did you have a goal you wanted to achieve?
Together with the chair and the foundation board, we wanted to achieve a substantial endowment fund to give our WA Museum the opportunities that government could not. To accomplish this we needed to look at structural and positive changes within the foundation, and these goals meant growing the brand, achieving DGR-1 (deductible gift receipt) status so the foundation could receive donations from a private ancillary fund and looking at the operation of the foundation in an exciting and innovative way.
What does the future hold for the Foundation for the WA Museum?
Excitement, education, advocacy. An ability to share and bring the community along to enjoy, learn and feel enormously proud of this iconic one and only state-of-the-art museum being built in our city with recognition throughout the international community of arts and culture.
Are there any major career goals you would still like to tick off?
I would love the opportunity to chair an important and recognised organisation to make a difference in the area of children and youth mental health initiatives. It is an additional passion of mine, as I have always had a great love of children and young people.
Do you have any pieces of advice for emerging leaders?
Although you may be the boss, you also need to have the trust and respect of all members of your team, which means open and honest discussions where everyone contributes. Remaining open to new ideas, listening and knowing when to step in and guide your team is also a valuable strength as a leader. You are only as good as your team and colleagues who surround you.
Article reproduced with permission. AIMWA Leader magazine, Fellow Q&A, Chris Thurmott, Issue #12, September 2018