In conversation with… Stefani Janson

By Lynette Dong

It’s been just over six months since Stefani Janson decided to turn her vision of empowering young Australian women in the workforce into a reality. Her innovative, multi-faceted approach recently caught the attention of the 2018 Cosmopolitan Women of the Year Awards, where she was a finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year category. Lynette Dong talks to our very own Navigator founder about being an entrepreneur, advice to her younger self and learning to embrace success.

Stefani with the wonderful Mel Thomas from the KYUP! Project who won the Game Changer category!

Stefani with the wonderful Mel Thomas from the KYUP! Project who won the Game Changer category!

Firstly, massive congratulations! Tell us how your nomination for the 2018 Cosmopolitan Women of the Year Awards came about?

It was a bit of a crazy story to be honest! As part of Navigator’s outreach to try and get the branding out into the world, we approached many magazines, and Cosmopolitan was one of them. When we first got in touch with Cosmo, they had a look at our content and mentioned that they might have something else in mind for Navigator, rather than the usual profile article or interview. We fervently waited for a few months to hear what it would be, and then they surprised us with a nomination! It was such a game changer for us, and of course, an honour for me personally to be listed alongside so many other incredible women.

That’s amazing, especially considering how you started Navigator just over half a year ago. What has been the highlight of your Navigator experience so far?

For me, it is the small wins that stand out — when we get feedback that we are really helping people, even in a little way, it makes me feel like we're on mission! When I speak at universities, high schools or corporate events I feel the greatest thrill: it is amazing to engage with professional young women, and see their response to, and engagement with, what we do. It's a real buzz.

What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learnt from being an entrepreneur?

I can probably whittle it down to four lessons: that money doesn't come easily; creating content takes A LOT of time; relationships are key; and resilience and persistence are non-negotiable.

You have coached many young people and given presentations to high school and university students on how to achieve their career goals. In your experience, what obstacles do young women struggle with most in pursuing their career dreams?

I believe there are a few key things:

1. Thinking they lack agency — Young women often don't speak up or advocate for themselves enough and may have a tendency to doubt themselves. Women: you are meant to be in the space you're in, so own it!

2. Thinking they lack control — In every situation, we need to focus more on what is in our control. See what is within your power and circle of influence, and strategise to make changes where you're practically able to. This will be far more effective than dwelling on the things you can't change.

3. Not backing themselves enough — We can get so caught up in thinking we don’t have enough knowledge or experience; however, even if you have 80 per cent of something under your belt, I am a firm believer that you can pick up the other 20 per cent along the journey.

If you could go back in time, what career advice would you give to your younger self?

Have confidence in your skills, intellect, grit and chutzpah, starting NOW.

On the topic of our younger selves... a few years ago, I was a finalist for Law Student of the Year at the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards. At the time, I distinctly remember being embarrassed by the recognition and didn’t feel comfortable telling others about it, partly because I didn’t want to seem like I was ‘bragging’ and also partly because I felt undeserving. Why do you think it’s the case that some women tend to downplay their successes, and how can we go about changing that to having an uplifting, affirming dialogue that celebrates women’s achievements?

Lynette, this is so AWESOME why did you not tell me about this sooner?!

Really good question — I don't know whether I can fully do it justice. I felt a real sense of imposter syndrome at the Cosmo Awards in Sydney: I was surrounded by incredible women who were making real differences in their respective fields, alongside some amazing glamazons (Elle Ferguson and Sammy Robinson, plus all the Bachie girls from Nick Cummins' series). I felt very out of my depth, to say the least.

A tactic that helped me in the Cosmo situation in particular was having a tried and tested elevator pitch, so I found it easy to speak about Navigator with conviction and strength, amidst all of the feelings of uncertainty. More broadly, to overcome these feelings and behaviours I believe it is important to surround yourself with other women who are willing to celebrate their success. I have found that being exposed to women who aren't afraid to publicise their achievements makes me: (a) feel a happy warm fuzzy feeling and (b) helps to change the social narrative and create a norm around sharing our wins openly.


Stefani Janson