Humans of Open Universities Australia: Meet our Content Lead, Cat

A ‘braided river’ career path, a crystal ball moment from Bill Gates, and a heartfelt letter with complete disregard for the third wall—here's Cat.

Open Universities Australia Content Lead Cat

We're no Vogue, but if the world of higher education had a red carpet, Content Lead Cat would be our May 2024 cover story.

Tell us your name, your role at Open Universities Australia and how long you’ve worked here.

Hi Vogue! Oops, wrong publication.

Hi AD! Dang, wrong again.

Hi OUA, I’m Cat. I’m our Content Lead and I’ve worked here for 2.5 years.

Tell us about your career pathway. What led you here and why?

I think my career has looked more like a braided river than a pathway. Limnologists, I’m coming up with this analogy on the fly so please bear with me.

I studied a Bachelor of Communications in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In my spare time I played music, ran a small-but-mighty touring company with friends, and worked in retail. When I moved to Australia, I did all sorts to make ends meet. My best friend and I busked on Chapel Street to buy a refrigerator, I worked in shops, and over time I was fortunate enough to play and teach music in some amazing venues and write for publications I still feel humbled to have contributed to.

Eventually I began working in marketing, communications, and product development with a focus on content and brand strategy. Since then, I’ve worked in small businesses, start-ups and established companies. I was drawn to education in part because my family has been involved in the sector for a long time. They showed me how transformative learning is, which contributes to the sense of purpose I feel working at Open Universities Australia.

So, what’s with the braided river analogy? In a braided river many streams come together to form the whole. Up close they can look confusing, but with perspective—they’re beautiful, and they flow purposefully towards their destination. I relate to this metaphor because I can see how different skills and experiences from my life have come together, diverged, and grown over time to form my career– even if up close they mightn’t have made sense at the time.

Tell us about your role. What do you do every day to transform lives through education? Has your role evolved over the years?

I started as a Senior Content Designer before progressing into the Content Lead role. My work is diverse and always evolving with a mix of analytical, strategic, and creative skills.

In 1996 Bill Gates wrote that in the future of the internet “content,” would be “king.” Gates didn’t just mean content marketing—he meant that content would be what propelled “the internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”

Gates was right.

Through content, I get to work with product managers, user experience designers, sales and marketing specialists, software engineers and data analysts. I also get to lead a team of content experts whose skills span content strategy, design, management, marketing, communications, and production.

(If you’re reading this, hi team!). 

What personal strengths and abilities do you bring to your role?

In his recent letter to shareholders, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon wrote about the importance of leading with heart as “the secret sauce of leadership.”

“Heart cannot be overstated,” says Dimon. “Heart matters. And it makes a difference when people know and see that you actually care.”

I love Dimon’s sentiment and note that the Latin root word for “heart” also gives us the word “courage.”

When I look back at my career one day, I hope those are the personal strengths I will have consistently brought to my work: heart and courage.

(My teammates will attest, my personal strengths do not include a natural ability with complex equations or fondness for saying things like “circle back”).

What is your favourite thing about working at OUA?

OUA has a band, and it’s been one of the best surprises of my professional life.

Our current lineup is three guitarists, bass, drums, saxophone, keys, and vocals. We play everything from Led Zeppelin to Lizzo, Mariah Carey to Bruce Springsteen, and once we played a bad-but-memorable cover of Africa by Toto.

The band is so good now that when we played at OUA’s 30th birthday last year, strangers came up off the street thinking we were professionals playing a top-secret gig.

But here’s the real secret: we’re office workers. Gotcha!

The Open Universities Australia band

What is a highlight during your time at Open Universities Australia?

My highlight is getting to work with great people, trying new things together, seeing each other thrive, and seeing students thrive as a result. It might sound like I lifted that from a corporate vision statement written by a large language model, but there is genuinely nothing better.

What advice would you give to future students thinking about taking the leap into online study?

I’m going to try break the third wall here.

Hello, future student! I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing, but I bet you have dreams and goals.

I believe you have limitless potential, and I work with around 200 people at Open Universities Australia who believe in you too. We believe you deserve the opportunity to move in the direction of your goals, and we’re ready to cheer you on. More than that—we can help you get started through education.

Just hop onto open.edu.au and have a browse (conveniently, that’s this website!) Give us a buzz, message us, or book a one-on-one to chat.

What do you do when you’re not working behind the scenes at Open Universities Australia? How does this make you a better OUAer?

I spend time with my friends, family, and partner (hi Laurie!) play music, go to the gym, read, listen to podcasts, and watch TV and movies. I also have a website which is an experimentation in the applications of generative AI, and a way to interview people doing interesting stuff with technology.

These all help me be a better OUAer because when I’m doing these things, I’m thriving. When I am thriving, I’m better at encouraging my team to thrive. And, if my team is thriving, we can have a greater impact encouraging learners to thrive, which, to borrow a phrase from the great Australian film The Castle, is kind of “the vibe of the thing.”

How has working at Open Universities Australia influenced your life outside of work?

The stories of our students have inspired me to study. Right now I’m doing a postgraduate certificate in business entrepreneurship and innovation online.

If you had asked me 3 years ago whether I’d enjoy spending my weekends learning what a “discount rate,” is and the likelihood of success for new ventures, I wouldn’t have believed you. But I got curious to add new skills to that braided river of my experience, and one day I might be in a meeting and say “yes, this is an appealing investment factoring in the discount rate!”

(Jamie Dimon, if you’re reading this, please note I am still fine tuning my understanding of discount rates. Great letter to shareholders this year by the way!)

Finally, what book or podcast would you recommend to readers and why?

If you want to read a book on leadership, read The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Investors and Managers. If you’re interested in fashion or building a mindset brand, check out The Creative Pragmatist, Style Class or The Good Ick by Tibi founder Amy Smilovic. And if you just want to boogie for 3 minutes listen to Candle Flame by Jungle.

Thanks for having me Vogue, AD, OUA! 

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