A drive to succeed

THE fluid work marketplace and increasing job flexibility mean the post-WWII job-for-life mentality has gone. In fact, statistics suggest we will change career an average of eight times during our working lives.

But some career shifts can still make us sit up and take notice, particularly when they prove so successful.

Joanna Ammon has one such tale of success to tell. After leaving her established career in finance seven years ago to drive a taxi, Ms Ammon has risen to one of the top spots in the taxi industry in her role as the chief executive officer of the industry’s peak body, The Taxi Council of WA.

A WA Business News 40under40 winner, Ms Ammon spoke of her radical career change and subsequent successes at a networking event for young corporate women hosted by her fellow female 40under40 winners last month.

She attributes getting to the top of a male-dominated industry to having a thick skin, per-severance, and through the support of key industry members.

“I left a middle management position in finance and decided to drive a cab. It was a major career shift and, yes, people did think it was a strange move,” Ms Ammon said.

“In terms of my career shift, I had been there for some time and I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t growing. If anything I was starting to rot.

“I woke up one day and decided to drive a cab.”

Ms Ammon is now in the somewhat more “credible” position as CEO of the peak industry body, a role she gained through passion and support from colleagues.

“Career advancement for taxi drivers is pretty limited,” she said.

Ms Ammon said she desperately wanted a position on the Government’s now defunct taxi industry ministerial advisory board and, after persevering for two years, was asked to represent the taxi industry at a government level.

“I got involved in meetings and committees and got involved with driver training, driver safety, and other issues,” she said.

“The first two years were the hardest. I was out driving and pulled up in a cab rank. I walked past a group of men carrying on about how a minister had put a woman on the board and saying things like: ‘What would she know?’

“I walked up and said: ‘I think you are talking about me and that’s my cab’.”

She now has gained support from the industry and cites Swan Taxi managing director and Taxi Council of WA chairman Kevin Foley as one of her key supporters.

“It’s a cultural change for them. For some industries where it is really male orientated and old school it can be threatening and sometimes they don’t take you seriously,” Ms Ammon said.

“You can’t force change on them. But through being a quiet supporter and recognising their achievements, they then supported me ... when I reflect on it, every move I have made has been with support.”

The advisory board was disbanded two years ago and Ms Ammon took on a new role as CEO of the independent industry body with the aim of consolidating the industry.

“It meant constitutional and cultural change,” she said.

Ms Ammon said getting the support from different factions in the industry came from working closely with Mr Foley.

“He is very highly regarded in the industry,” she said.

“The key thing for us is developing rapport and trust. We have a mutual respect for each other.

“I don’t think enough women know or appreciate that they’re not getting to where they could be because they go it alone.”

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