A brief history of the past six months


I’ve fallen into a black hole. A black hole of work, responsibilities, changes and self realisations. It’s been a tough 6 months for me as I ventured out of the world of big business into the world of small business. My last post was published just as I joined Right Angle Studio, an eclectic and innovative outfit based in Paramount House.

Small business is everything I thought it would be, and more: it’s raw, it’s direct, it’s satisfying and it is scary. I’ve worked as a trusted partner and adviser to an impressive suite of clients while at Right Angle and have learned a lot from collaborating with Barrie Barton, founder and owner of Right Angle.

What small business offers is a real sense of agency and a direct ability to shape the way services are delivered to clients. It is also an unforgiving environment, where risky business decisions can eat into already lean profit margins or into cash flow. Looking back at these past 6 months, all I can say is that I have grown as an individual. I’ve seen and experienced the difficulty of changing things from the top, of creating and maintaining culture, of presenting professionally even if you are doing something for the first time.

It was also the first time that I was a leader on whom others relied and looked to for immediate solutions. Whether on projects or on internal processes, the role of leader had always been one I’d aspired to, perhaps with a pinch of optimism and a grain of naivety. Being a leader is tough: it may sound obvious to many of you, but my leadership journey until joining Right Angle had been a protected one, one that was happening within a sheltered context, with a sleeping giant to seek protection from if things went wrong.

Also, up until now, a lot of what I thought was leadership was centered on me as an individual, as a star performer and an overachiever. The insight I gained over the past 6 months is that leadership is everything but about the leader herself. It’s about generous listening, empathy, admitting wrongdoing, about compromise. It’s about how well you connect to people’s motivations and support them to be the best they can be.

It’s been a humbling experience, that I gain a lot of strength from, and has clarified in my own mind what are my personal values and professional objectives. To such an extent that I’ve decided to leave Right Angle to set myself up as my own boss, the maker and owner of something distinctly shaped by me. This may sound a little contradictory, but in fact, I am shaping this new business adventure on the idea of facilitation. My role can’t be to be a placemaking guru that imparts wisdom to the teams I work with. I must constantly be transitioning out of a leadership role into a coaching role and a support role. I want to work with teams to make them better, not me.

I salute the courage and vision of Barrie in creating and maintaining Right Angle as a multi-faceted business that houses several business models. He’s managed to retain the edgy and evolving character of a business that started as an online publishing business into a business that is advising the big end of town. He’s taught himself the principles of city making and has developed a sensitivity to placemaking that very few trained professionals have. He’s made the business a true reflection of his personality and ambition.

It is through watching and witnessing his story, the way he’s built on his achievements year in and year out that I’ve come to terms with my itch to do just that. This decision, for me, is the culmination of a long maturation process (and some sleepless nights) and a step I am very excited to take at this point in my career and my life.

I’ve also met some of the most amazing people whilst working at Right Angle. People that are talented in so many ways, that can write, program cinemas, design, create places and dj all at the same time. I well and truly plunged in the deep end of Sydney’s creative industries and enjoyed the swim.

As I embark on this next stage of my life as a gun for hire, a collaborator that has one foot in, one foot out, I may not always rub shoulders with people as inspiring as Penny McVey, Hahna BuschAriane Halls, Kate Jinx, Hayley Morgan, Sonja Kallstrom, Heath Killen, Jack Brown, Cleo Brathwaite, Evan Keravan, and Michelle Cao, but I know that they will always be up to something amazing and part of an extended network of collaborators.

My ambition for my new career is to capitalise on collaborations, to form teams through trusted networks as opportunities arise but doing it as professionally as the big end of town. Nimbleness and customisation will be my pillars, transformation and facilitation my mantras.

So it is with bittersweet sentiment that I farewell the Right Angle team, and move into the next chapter of my life. World: the game is on.


3 Responses to “A brief history of the past six months”
  1. Maria Kowalczyk says:

    Hi Michelle, how many months have we not seen each other? Must have been ages. I had no idea that you have left Srup and joined a smaller firm and now I also find that you are starting on your own. Awesome work Michelle and great articles. I wish you the best!!! Maria P.S. Where are you based now? In case of a casual dinner or lunch one day?


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Joan says:

    A better version of the Michelle I knew, after just 6 months away? Sounds fantastic. Good luck with the next 6 months.

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