Our people are our biggest asset here at Compass Group Australia (CGA) and Jo Kirwan has truly made her mark, working in roles across many different sectors for the last 20 years. Currently a Senior Operational Coach in CGA’s Leadership Academy, Jo’s journey began in a very different part of the business.
First starting in 2002 as Accommodation and Mess Manager at HMAS Harman under the ESS Defence sector, only a few months later, Jo was promoted to Site Manager, looking after the day-to-day delivery of Defence services including accommodation, cleaning management and catering. Her next move was to the Defence College of Canberra and after successfully making an impact there, in 2007, she was given the opportunity to join the ESS Defence team in Sydney in an Operations role, based at HMAS Watson Naval Base where she remained until late 2014. In this role, Jo supported several VIP Domestic and International tours and events, including Heads of State. It also gave her a unique and closeup view into the wonderful and selfless work that our Defence personnel do in supporting and protecting Australia’s interests on the domestic and world stage.
Over these years, Jo was also offered several training and development opportunities. “During my time with the ESS team in Sydney I was offered a place in the Emerging Leaders Program,” she shares. “The program is designed to build professional networks with your peers from across the Compass Group Australia business and assist in developing your leadership style and giving you useable skills to take back to your business.”
Making the decision to move closer to her parents in Queensland, in 2014, Jo was successful in applying for a FIFO Senior Operations role flying between Darwin and Brisbane. Her role in Darwin included being responsible for feeding around 3,500 tradies who flew in from all over the country to complete the building of the ICHTHYS (INPEX) LNG Gas Plant. The Village, known as Manigurr-ma, had 3,500 rooms, 350 staff, 44 Laundries, sporting and entertainment outlets as well as a huge dining facility. Jo and her team ran the maintenance, the gym, ensured the beers were cold and the meals were ready for residents which, at peak times, were upwards of 10,000 per day!
“Working at Manigurr-ma could be described as being part of running a small town with state-of-the-art resort style facilities. I made life-long friendships during my time on this project,” shares Jo.
After her success in the Emerging Leaders Program, Jo was chosen to attend the Insights Leadership program in the UK in 2016. This program brings the top 24 Managers from across the global business together for an intensive leadership program.
“I jetted off to London wondering how a girl who worked FIFO out of Brisbane could possibly mix with my international peers at our worldwide headquarters. This opportunity grew my confidence and helped me to understand what I needed to do to get my leadership game to the next level.”
“With this opportunity, I also understood that Compass Group is far reaching and the opportunities are endless. If you are willing to do the work and accept the offer when it comes your way, the company can deliver.”
This incredible opportunity led to so much more. After years of FIFO, Jo took a leap of faith in 2019 and was successful in becoming General Services Manager at Queensland Children’s Hospital, with Medirest. It was a chance for Jo to keep her feet on the ground and expand her knowledge in another area of the business, but it also allowed her to pursue her passion of helping CGA employees.
Not long after, Jo was selected to be part of a new steering committee, where she supported with creating the Women in Leadership Program, otherwise known as Ignite, which she also participated in.
“In the Ignite program, I met an incredible group of talented women who are forging their own paths across the CGA landscape in all areas and brands of our business. I’m still part of the Steering Committee and remain dedicated to identifying and supporting our future leaders.”
A testament to growth and development, Jo was approached to join the newly formed Leadership Academy in early 2021, where she has remained since. The Leadership Academy aims to support every employee of CGA by building capable leaders and ensures every employee has the ability and access to grow and develop in their career.
“Being part of the dedicated and enthusiastic team during the development of the Leadership Academy, as well as being part of many working groups in support of our future talent have been the highlight of my time at CGA. Coaching our leaders is a cause very close to my heart and I’m grateful I have the chance to pay-it-forward to our talented team members every day.”
Read more about our People here.