People profile: Lydia Plumb, Continuous Improvement Lead

11 March 2020

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual. Lydia Plumb, 7-Eleven Australia Continuous Improvement Lead, believes collaboration and inclusion will always achieve far greater outcomes than following the ‘status quo’ simply because it has always been that way.

“Everyone deserves to be heard and supported in whatever they want to do in life, regardless of their gender. Instead of trying to group people based on old-fashioned assumptions, we need to focus on everyone’s unique qualities, interests, strengths and to contribute,” Lydia said.

Lydia thinks that women should have more confidence in taking their chance in leadership opportunities.

“We should encourage and support women to step up, as so many of us are conditioned to let opportunities to lead pass to others, and we don’t even realise it. I am incredibly lucky to work alongside two very strong women and incredible leaders, both of whom have believed in me from the very beginning when I had no real runs on the board to back myself with. Thankfully, their support taught me to believe in myself and commit to whatever I was trying to achieve – even if I was one of the most junior, or had the least experience,” she says.

Joining the 7-Eleven Australia business in 2014 as part of the first intake into the graduate program, Lydia spent six months each in roles in Operations, Marketing and Supply and Operations.

“The 7-Eleven Graduate Program was the beginning of me starting to work out who I was professionally, and where I wanted to go. I was given so many unique opportunities and exposure to various core parts of the business that I would never have gotten so early in my career otherwise.”

These foundations gave Lydia the chance to learn and develop fast, perfectly positioning her to use her core skills and capabilities in her post graduate program roles. Lydia has progressed from Trainee Category Manager, to Supply and Operations Project Coordinator, before stepping into her current role as Continuous Improvement Lead.

“I was incredibly proud to be offered my first non-graduate role at 7-Eleven. After moving into the Project Coordinator role I’ve been able to successfully deliver my first major project, which was transitioning our weekly store mailbag system to digital solutions. I’ve also achieved my Six Sigma Green Belt Certification. I was determined to complete the certification before I finished to go on parental leave, and I managed to do it in my last week.”

While her formal qualifications and certifications have been important, Lydia says that her whole career to date has been one big learning curve.

“On reflection, I think setbacks have taught me far more than things that go completely to plan, which, given the nature of what we do, is rare! I have learnt so much from times that I have been challenged and was unsure how to move forward to keep the project progressing as we needed. I just knew that I had to find a way. I used whatever time I had to unpack the issue and explore solutions; consulting with and seeking support from people who had experience and knowledge in areas I didn’t. Collaborating with others has always provided me with the best possible outcome in the least amount of time to ensure overall success.”

Lydia says that her career guides and mentors have helped accelerate her learning and career growth.

“A huge part of why I am who I am is a result of the people who have guided and supported me in my career. Starting as a Graduate, I came on board with minimal experience and was open to learning from anyone who was prepared to teach me. I was extremely lucky with the managers that I reported to as they invested a lot of time and effort in mentoring and coaching me. I’ve established strong connections with a couple of leaders in the business who have supported me and pushed me to believe that I can do more and reach higher. There have been a number of occasions where I questioned whether I could do it but trusted their confidence in me and it paid off. Without people to look up to and lean on for support or guidance, I think it would’ve been very hard for me to find the passion that I now have in Continuous Improvement,” Lydia says.

The importance of equality, mentoring and guiding the next generation is at the forefront of Lydia’s mind at the moment. She is shortly coming back to work after taking parental leave for the birth of her first child.

“My stance on gender equality has always been strong and I have advocated for equal treatment and rights for as long as I can remember. When I became a mother, I realised that it means even more now than it ever did. I am raising a boy, who will one day become a man and will respect women in exactly the same way he respects men. However, I want him to understand and appreciate that it wasn’t always like this. I come from a family of women who have been career-oriented and fiercely independent for generations, even if it wasn’t the norm. We have come a long way, but there is still a very long way to go. Through raising our children to understand and advocate for gender equality then we can get there.”