by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Click here to view past issues
Campus News : CONNECT:UOW July 2012
JULY 2012 CONNECT :UOW 7 CONNECT: ALUMNI Inspiring UOW alumni Larissa Robertson and Stewart Craine were the guest speakers at UOW Alumni Office's Ignite networking event for Sydney-based UOW graduates, held at Sydney's CBD Hotel in March. Alumni Officer GEORGI WILES hosted a Q&A session with Larissa and Stewart, and prepared these stories about their careers. LARISSA ROBERTSON Bachelor of Commerce 2004 As a child UOW Accounting graduate Larissa Robertson wanted to be a fighter pilot. What she didn't realise was that becoming an accountant could offer just as much excitement. After graduating from UOW Larissa was working for a large, not-for-profit organisation in Sydney that was facing financial disaster. When the board rejected her rescue plan, her response was to purchase the assets from the liquidator with capital she had raised herself and save the company. "I'd never run a company before. I didn't even know anyone who had run a company, but I just knew it had to work," Larissa said. "It was a very hectic time. I had no office, I had $60,000 in the bank and I was about to start with 180 staff on day one," she remembers. Despite her inexperience and the fact that she found out she was pregnant three weeks after the takeover, Larissa succeeded in saving the company along with 180 jobs. As CEO, in little over a year Larissa took her company, SCO Recruitment, from bankruptcy to the Smart50 list of Australia's fastest-growing SMEs. She also restructured the company to include a not-for-profit division, Trim and Proper Property Services, which works to alleviate poverty through employment. During the early stages, Larissa dealt with the loss of a major client, her two business partners and the discovery that an accounting error had hidden a $300,000 loss. But Larissa and her growing staff persevered to overcome the challenges. "I don't think that I actually realised the potential of the business for about the first 12 months. It was more about saving jobs and getting it going. But now, whenever I get to sit back and just look at how big we've got and what we've done, yes, it's amazing every time." Larissa says that her time at UOW prepared her for the high octane existence she has had in her career so far. "I worked full-time when I was at uni and so I didn't sleep much. But I developed the ability to learn and cope while dealing with stress, workload and deadlines. I think that was extremely important." To the outsider Larissa looks like a risk taker who has gained a lot from putting it all on the line. However she has a different perspective. "People are very scared of making big decisions and that was one of the reasons that the company I worked for failed in the first place. So for me it's actually riskier not to act than to take action." STEWART CRAINE Bachelor of Informatics 1998 Bachelor of Engineering 1998 Stewart Craine blames a "severe bout of insanity" for the decision to leave a position with Hydro Tasmania and start Bathurst-based renewable energy company, Barefoot Power. That was 2005. Today Barefoot Power has brought affordable lighting to well over a million people in the developing world, has received global recognition including an award from the G20 and has even won the support of entrepreneurial superstar, Richard Branson. Yet the engineer and unlikely social entrepreneur reflects on his career and the risks he has taken along the way with quiet humility. Graduating from UOW with a Civil Engineering degree in 1998, Stewart was not overly enthused by the idea of entering a graduate program. More to the point, he couldn't find one. "I had a first class honours degree but couldn't get a position at one of the top tier engineering firms," he said. "But I had also seen friends who graduated before me land great jobs at these firms and come back different. They were not the bubbly people I had known at uni and I thought they are just not having any fun." Stewart chose adventure over security and decided to investigate working overseas. His initial approach to Australian Volunteers Overseas (AVO) didn't open any doors. It was only once he had given up on the idea, bought a backpack and got on a plane to London that AVO contacted him with an opportunity. Two years working on renewable energy projects in Nepal followed, as did a passion for international development and a desire to make a difference. This life-changing experience introduced Stewart to the people and concepts that would later provide the foundation of Barefoot Power. But most importantly, it taught him what not to do. "While working in Nepal I became very aware of the flaws in the aid model. I knew that my future was in development, but aid seemed so ineffective and I could not volunteer forever," he said. It wasn't until years later, having returned from Nepal and started a job with Hydro Tasmania, that Stewart and colleague, Harry Andrews, came up with the solution to this career dilemma: Barefoot Power. Selling solar kits that employ LED technology to provide cheap, safe and efficient power to impoverished families in the developing world was not only a worthwhile thing to do it was a sustainable business. Not only would this make life better for families in developing nations but within six months the savings made on power would pay for the product. Stewart wrote an award-winning and water-tight business plan, and he and co-founder Harry threw everything they had into launching Barefoot Power. "I said that nothing would stop us except dying or going broke... We did go broke once, but we kept on going and reached our target of bringing light to a million people on schedule. "I truly believe that improving lives is what engineers are supposed to do and so I think I am on the right path," he said. GW Stewart Craine and Larissa Robertson share a joke at the UOW Alumni Office's Ignite event for Sydney-based graduates. INSPIRING ALUMNI IGNITE EVENT