Photo via Daily Telegraph: Women behind Aussie Ashes triumph
By Taryn Elder
Here at The Delivery we love to celebrate the women who help to shape the game of cricket. This week we caught up with Kate Banozic who is part of the senior leadership team at Cricket Australia, to ask her what it's really like to work for one of Australia's largest sporting organisations and what advice she has for others who hope to follow in her footsteps.
It’s not often you hear of a role which – without mincing words – combines the traditional responsibilities of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO). Then again, Kate Banozic is not your average leader.
As Cricket Australia’s Executive General Manager of Business and Advisory Services (BAAS), Kate has left an indelible mark on the world of sports administration over the past two decades.
We cleared a space in her busy schedule to sit down and chat about her career so far, and also learnt a few valuable lessons that will be handy for anyone thinking about a career in sports administration.
Kate, you have a really important role within Cricket Australia, effectively holding the dual roles of CFO and COO. What are the main areas of the business that you oversee?
It’s a really interesting and varied role. The main focus areas for me are to provide leadership across the business to support the delivery of the strategy. Having oversight of technology, risk, finance, legal, integrity and project management places me in a unique position of influence.
Growing up, did you always know what you wanted to do?
I knew at the age of 16 that I wanted to work within business and that is a major factor for why I’m here today. When I finished high school I enrolled in a commerce degree, with a double major in marketing and accounting. It seemed like an odd mix at the time but I wanted to learn and develop a diverse skill set. I also knew that I wanted to combine my passion for sport with business.
So where did it all begin for you in terms of your career?
I actually started my career in the motor vehicle industry, with Ford in Geelong. I learnt some very valuable lessons about business and by chance landed a role with the Geelong Football Club. I guess it was a bit of a defining moment and I didn’t really look back, as I found that working within the sporting industry was exciting with many opportunities to make a positive difference.
Combining that role with your time at Cricket Australia, that puts your time within the sporting industry at close to 20 years?
That’s right, I’ve now been at Cricket Australia for 14 years. The initial goal I set myself when I joined the organisation, was to be here for three years. I think the reason I’m still here is because there has been so much progress and change during that time. Of course, like any job, there have been many sliding-door moments. However, I honestly believe that the game is making a real difference and what it brings to people’s lives, is bigger than cricket itself.
Do you think there are any major differences between working in sports administration, compared to other corporate environments?
I actually think that there are more similarities. For instance, understanding and knowing what the purpose is, creating a culture of high performance and excellence, having a strategic approach and creating value for consumers and stakeholders. However, the biggest thing that differentiates a sporting organisation compared to any other corporate environment, is the level of passion that is involved. Having two boys who can relate to cricket makes a big difference for me personally. A lot of people in the sporting industry enjoy what they do and this comes through in the delivery of their roles.
How do you maintain productivity within your team?
Within any environment, there should always be great teamwork, on and off the field. It’s also important to build relationships and really get to understand people and what drives them. By understanding what motivates them, you’re better informed as a manager or leader to make a difference to their personal career development. Everything we do in business involves relationships and people.
Have you come across any major challenges working with the sporting industry?
It’s inevitable that we will all, at one time or another, come across challenges in the workplace regardless of the industry of choice. A lot of it comes down to societal norms and an unconscious bias. If we want to try to change attitudes, we need to educate people and create a greater awareness of what that unconscious bias may be. In the early stages of my career, I received interesting responses and reactions about how I managed my life outside of work, as my husband was a stay-at-home Dad with our two children. However, people’s mindsets to life balance outside of work have and will continue to change.
What have been some of the major achievements during your career?
It always comes back to the people I’ve worked with. I’ve seen many go on to do bigger and better things, which is a great feeling. I’m also proud and passionate about the evolution cricket is undergoing to become a sport for all.
A sport for all, does this message hold personal significance for you coming from a multicultural background?
Yes, most definitely. Growing up in a country town, English wasn’t my first language, Croatian was. It was special to be able to really feel like I belonged by playing cricket with the other local kids. With almost one in two Australians either born overseas or having a parent born overseas, having common ground to share experiences is only becoming more important.
Do you feel like cricket is heading in the right direction?
It’s in a really strong place. As an organisation, we’re really clear on our vision of being A Sport For All, and when you have a workforce that really believes in this, as well as thousands of volunteers who are equally as passionate, that’s a recipe for ongoing success.
And what about the uptake of cricket as a sport for females in Australia?
Encouraging women and girls to know cricket is a sport for them too is still a huge opportunity for Australian cricket. The results so far are strong, with almost 300,000 females playing the game and the launch of the Women’s Big Bash League this past season has created even greater awareness of the game for females. In saying that, there’s always more space for it to grow.
Do you have some advice for people considering sports administration as a career?
Back yourself, have confidence in your abilities, build a network and talk to these people constantly. Also, most importantly, make sure you have fun along the way. Be persistent, if you believe in something go for it, don’t give up. You can also have it all, a career and a family. It’s not always easy but work out what balance you’re happy with. Don’t look back, just go forward.
And lastly, any great advice you've received from a mentor?
I’ve had a lot of mentors over the years and the one piece of advice that sticks out is, “what’s the worst that can happen by being bold and courageous?”