Monday, May 16, 2022

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HONAN ON THE MOVE: A Careers Spotlight Series - with Honan’s Dominic Brettell

Joining Honan in 2011, you’re 18 months into your role as Head of Client Service, Newcastle/Hunter where you’re responsible for driving Honan’s expansion in the region, tell us your biggest professional/personal learning during this time.  

Play to your strengths but remember to keep learning! In the early years of my career, I worked hard to develop a well-rounded skillset and knowledge base. This gave me a solid foundation from which to start building on my strengths. We tend to enjoy things we’re good at or passionate about, and success often follows.

In addition to focusing on my strengths, a good business will listen acutely to the needs of its clients. This philosophy has led me to learn about new areas of insurance,  new industries, and risk classes. I’m a generally curious person by nature and have a passion for learning, so have welcomed these opportunities to grow.

What was the motivation behind your seachange, and did it meet/outperform expectations?

There is much I could say about this. The reasons for moving were both personal and professional, but for me, it boiled down to wanting a better quality of life for myself and my family,  both now and into the future.

Everyone knows the challenge of achieving work-life balance, and I had been getting it wrong for too many years, and not from lack of trying. I had a nagging thought that  ‘things don’t have to be this way’, and a belief that by making a bold change, I would move closer to working in the natural flow of my strengths, temperament,  and desire for balance. I also strongly believed that this would lead to greater enjoyment and fulfillment in my work, and ultimately, higher quality output.  

The Brettell family.

Tell us about the business community in the Hunter region – the challenges and opportunities alike.

One of the earliest lessons  I learned, which was music to my ears, is that in Newcastle people work to live (and not the other way around). Life comes first and work supplements life. That being said, there is a good degree of interconnectedness between business and community life. This initially presented a business challenge when you’re the new kid on the block, but through genuine involvement in the community and a demonstrated commitment to the city/region, building strong personal relationships has led to business opportunities.  

Honan is a proud sponsor of the Wanderers Women's Rugby Club in Newcastle.

In terms of the region itself, there’s plenty going on. A walk along the river foreshore in the city shows the scale of recent development. Greater Newcastle is Australia’s seventh-largest city/urban area by population, and the Hunter region is  Australia's largest regional economy with significantly greater economic output than Tasmania, the ACT, and NT. 

While Newcastle was historically known as a mining/steel town, this has most certainly changed.  There is still a large mining industry, which will remain a challenge for the region in years ahead, however, the writing has been on the wall for many years. The region has already evolved beyond mining and will continue to do so.

The Hunter has very strong and diverse industries. Namely, the professional and technology sectors, advanced manufacturing, health and medical in line with an aging population,  property & construction, agribusiness/food & beverage (Hunter  Valley), education (Newcastle Uni), and defence & aerospace (Williamstown  RAAF base).

As somebody who has traded their city life for country living, what has been your experience with remote/hybrid working arrangements? Is it the way of the future as more people move to regional centres?

I have certainly noticed an influx of people moving from the city to the region. This was already a trend pre-COVID, but one that accelerated through 2020-21 and I believe one that will continue.

One of the previous major drawbacks of moving out of the city but maintaining a city job was the office commute. Clearly, this has been mitigated with the arrival of remote and flexible working arrangements between employee and employer.

What do you wish you had known before taking on the role and moving to the region?

I wish I knew how good  Newcastle was because I would have moved years earlier. In all seriousness though, the timing was right for my circumstances.  


If you could share one piece of ‘career’  advice with your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to take a  few risks early in your career. The costs are lower when you’re younger.

Taking an opportunity to develop Honan’s presence in a new region was obviously a big decision. Reflecting on your career to date, what has been the biggest career decision you’ve made, or what career decision has had the most impact on you to date?

My recent re-location decision aside, there haven’t been many big career decisions but rather lots of little decisions which, over time, have charted the course of my career.  Any decision that had the potential of changing my course was one I  considered deeply. I reflected on where I was, where I wanted to go, and what felt right. Thinking about it now, some of my most important decisions were actually those where I decided not to make a change.    

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