Where Are They Now: Abby Rees

"Right and wrong are ‘finite’ and because each decision leads to new things, you’ll never really know, so make the best one you can at the time with the information you’ve got and let the anguish about ‘trying to get it right’ go."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Abby Rees, Director of PunkPD.

What are your big wins/challenges since we last spoke?

OMG so much has happened! I’m going to focus on the wins because I’m an eternal optimist (with a healthy dash of realism mixed in) and we’ve had 3 very big and super-stellar wins to share.

I was reading my past interview with your fabulous selves and came across this element:
Similarly, in my industry, it has been safe for so many providers to simply rehash a PowerPoint and pull out a workbook. Yawn! If this were conducive to effective learning, we’d all be masters. PunkPD aims to disrupt this- to raise people’s expectations of their own learning experiences and their capacity to learn, by providing the new and different. We are constantly evolving what we do and how we do it and I love it!!!

Our aim to be a disrupter in our industry was celebrated and recognised through the much-coveted Altitude Awards in 2020 (particularly in 2020 as this year presented many challenges and opportunities to rise to for anyone in business). We were so chuffed to be the recipient of ‘The Change Maker’ Award which is described as: an award for a groundbreaker business, a smasher of boundaries, recognising innovation and disruption.
It’s a night I’ll never, ever forget! Winning the Change Maker Award meant so much to me and it’s actually the only award I’ve won that I keep on display in my office. I’ve spent my life dedicated to what I call ‘the ministry of change’. You might say that I’m intentionally in a constant state of evolution, both professionally and personally. As an ‘education junkie’ at the core, I am always learning, implementing, growing, changing, theorising, testing and tweaking what we’re doing at PunkPD and how we’re doing it. Normally I’m someone never lost for something to say, but I got up on stage to accept the award, shaking from a mix of overwhelm and excitement and, after an awkward silence, I kid you not, the first thing I said was “I wish I was a Yoga Instructor because right now I just want to kiss my own ass from both directions’. Luckily, this speak-before-thinking moment incited raucous laughter instead of stunned silence.
To continue to expand how we live and embody our values (energy, excellence and tenacity), our strategic goal for 2022 is to have a seamless and totally immersive PunkPD ‘Experience’ for our clients, end-to-end. This involves refining current practices and has involved adding two completely new elements to the way we do Professional Development and changing our models of delivery. These are totally exciting big wins for us and add to how and what we can offer in such unique and amazing ways.

The first, and I am just so over-the-moon about this, is the creation of our very own signature space for Professional Development. I’ve called it ‘The Asylum’. I know this invokes images of a bygone institutional era, but I’ve called it this because ‘asylum’ literally means ‘safety, shelter or protection’. And that’s why I’ve designed and created our space. Its purpose is to provide a safe haven for ‘rebel’ thinkers, those who want to challenge the status quo, innovate and shake the shackles of norms, constructs, and possibilities. In short, it’s the perfect environment for intelligent, thought-provoking Professional Development. The space is designed to induce energy, creativity, and thinking outside the box through the use of colour, shape, natural light, and layout. It’s unlike any space I have ever seen before and it’s so perfect to now have a space that physically supports and visually represents our philosophy and approach. The Asylum doors officially open in mid-March.

Another big win has been developing our very own online learning platform, The PunkPD Academy. This platform allows us to provide content for people to access at any time and is perfect for people who may work shifts, for large organisations who require a quick roll-out of personalised professional development, or for someone who needs support at short notice preparing, like help with for an interview. If we can’t get them a Coaching appointment, at least they’ll have access to brilliant tools right when they need them most. It caters for different learning styles and is a great compliment to our live face-to-face (or virtual) facilitation. The PunkPD Academy is live and ready to rock!

What advice would you give yourself 5 years ago?

You know what, I’d reiterate one piece of advice I discovered around that same time and give myself three new pieces…
I’d reiterate that I don’t have to have all of the answers because I have the skills to figure things out and, if I do my best each and every day, the horizon will continue to unfold, questions and challenges will continue to appear and I will continue to learn and grow as I lean in to what is presented.
Although I don’t know whether I would have listened at the time, my additional advice includes these 3 things:
• There’s no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision. Right and wrong are ‘finite’ and because each decision leads to new things, you’ll never really know, so make the best one you can at the time with the information you’ve got and let the anguish about ‘trying to get it right’ go.

• Your ‘problems’ are really privileges. Act accordingly.

• And, related to the advice above, my recent (and probably only) spiritual practice is to revel in the ‘significance of my own insignificance’. I have a practice of walking up whatever mountain or hill is nearby looking at all the wonder of nature and all the houses and buildings around me, full of people just like me, worrying about this or that. It puts little worries into perspective. No matter what I do, don’t do, or achieve, the world is going to continue tomorrow. It’s so peaceful. I could have used this five years ago too!

What do you want to ask your future self?

Laughs! Wouldn’t that ruin the fun? Awesome question though and it’s really got me thinking!
Did you keep living the value of being a rebel and keep being brave and doing the hard things? What did you learn and did you grow as a result?

What are you proud of right now?

We’re so excited to launch The Asylum and keen to welcome people into the space. We’re also chuffed to kick off the PunkPD Academy to coincide with our remodelled programs.
While we specialise in bespoke programs for individuals, teams and organisations, we have a high demand for our ‘open access’ programs. This year we’ve diversified how we’re offering these and lovingly we’ve called our professional development models:
1. PunkPD Intensives: these include half day, full day and two day intensive professional development programs
2. PunkPD Extensives: these include extended professional development programs held across multiple months
Our two ‘Extensive Programs’ are new this year and just about to launch. Career Ninja provides ongoing career planning and recruitment support to really figure out what you want to do and slay it in interviews. Rebel Leadership provides insights into all the things no one ever tells you to hone your own brand of leadership and completely rock it!

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