Member Profile: Julie Ja
Julie Ja started at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, as a CASE Graduate Trainee in March 2020—just as the country (and much of the world) closed down for the COVID-19 pandemic. Working remotely with the Monash team, she’s been able to explore the many facets of advancement.
“What I’ve appreciated about working in advancement so far is how diverse, yet flexible, the sector is,” she says. “Whether it is alumni relations, fundraising, development services, writing, or research, there’s a space for all different skills and experiences to be refined.”
Here, Ja shares how she made her way to advancement (she studied psychology), career advice, what she’s been reading lately, and more.
You have a background in psychology. What drew you to advancement and the Graduate Trainee Programme?
One of the main reasons why I chose to study psychology at university is because I find people and the study of people fascinating. I also did a double major in sociology as well and found that this, coupled with psychology, really allowed me to understand people and groups on both a macro and micro level.
I was drawn to advancement for two reasons. First, advancement is still a relatively new sector in Australia, which means I have the opportunity to work with pioneers of the sector. Second, one of the core foci of advancement is working collaboratively with people in order to drive progress. My interests have always swayed towards social justice, health, education, and creating opportunities and resources for young people to thrive. Exploring my interests within higher education advancement seems to be a great way to do this, since the sector works to generate better educational opportunities and outcomes for current and future students.
What do you enjoy about working in advancement? What’s been the most challenging?
What I’ve appreciated about working in advancement so far is how diverse, yet flexible, the sector is. It has allowed me to see how transferable a lot of my previous skills and experiences are. Whether it is alumni relations, fundraising, development services, writing, or research, there’s a space for all different skills and experiences to be refined. I believe that’s been one of the best parts of participating in the Graduate Trainee Programme as I have been able to rotate across all of these different teams and produced work for each.
Working from home has been the most challenging bit. So far, I’ve only spent one day in the office and the rest working from home. I started in late March of this year, which was when Australia and the rest of the world went into shutdown because of the pandemic. It’s been a challenging experience getting to know my colleagues and the way Monash works, but I’ve been provided such great support by Monash despite the uncertainty of it all. What I really appreciate about Monash’s advancement team is that they’ve greatly prioritised team culture and well-being during this time. I’ve found that, despite starting my first job virtually, I feel included and aware of what’s going on within the team and university more broadly.
What’s a key lesson you’ve learned so far at Monash?
I believe that my biggest takeaway from Monash has been learning more about philanthropy and why people give. Australia is quite new to the concept of philanthropy and giving back to your alma mater. We don’t have a big culture of this at the moment; the concept of philanthropy is not really something that you come across unless you’re already involved in it. Through my time at Monash, I’ve been able to understand that philanthropy is not only about giving back to the community, but that working in philanthropy and fundraising as a profession is about actively building, cultivating, and maintaining relationships; this is one of the reasons why I want to stay in the profession.
What’s one piece of career advice that you’ve received or followed in your career journey so far?
I’ve really enjoyed working with my colleagues this year. That’s given me perspective on my anxieties about finding the “perfect” career. Perfect is the enemy of good. Perfect is the enemy of progress. I’m learning slowly to trust my curiosity and follow where my interests take me.
I used to think that what I studied at university was the field that I had to continue to pursue. I studied psychology and wanted to practice in the field. However, one of my biggest lessons is that the knowledge and skills that I’ve acquired during my time at university is applicable in so many settings. In this case, I am finding that my interest in working with people and having conversations to understand what makes them tick is something that is applicable to the advancement field. Although it is not directly related to my university course, I still feel fulfilled and purposeful. Follow your curiosity!
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
I really enjoyed reading Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia earlier this year, which is a series of essays edited by Anita Heiss. The anthology is an introduction to the many experiences that First Nations people in Australia go through and how each story is different. As a child of migrants myself, I found the anthology series eye-opening. It helped me understand more what being a settler in Australia is and how important it is for me to acknowledge and recognise this. It is a great introduction to racial literacy in Australia and I would highly recommend it.