Tess Ogle: You Can Do Anything But Not Everything

What do you want to be when you grow up? Tess Ogle wanted to be a dentist but a desire to change the world paved a successful corporate path for her instead.


Tess Ogle wanted to be a dentist. But fate, a desire to make a difference, and a healthy dose of risk-taking paved a successful corporate path for her in one of the world’s leading construction management organisations.

Ogle was the guest speaker at the recent Executive Women Australia Master Class series where she spoke to an audience of powerful executives. In taking them on her professional journey, she fearlessly highlighted her failures and setbacks along the way and how they acted as great opportunities for learning and growth.

Ogle had actually chosen to study dentistry in university but struggled through the realities of the profession. For starters, she hated the sight of blood and the thought of spending hours looking into people’s mouths took away the romance from her childhood dream. She also wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world.

Yet it was also dentistry that opened the door to her true career. Ogle was working at a dental clinic when she met her future boss in the emergency waiting room. They exchanged notes on the market trading of small mining companies, which was Ogle’s weekend passion. By the end of the conversation, he offered her the position of market analyst.

Years later Ogle asked him why he had made her that offer and he replied, “You’re the only female I’ve met with an interest in mining and if you are interested in the mining sector then you would be interested in a mining organisation.”

Ogle had no idea what opportunity had been presented to her at the time. Six months into her new role, she found herself supporting her new boss in an initiative to expand the business globally. This then opened up a network of global executives, which in turn boosted her own network. She then paired up with a teammate on another initiative in a move to leverage and sharpen her skills.

Ogle was hungry and ambitious, a combination which soon led her to her next role in Western Australia where she was given the freedom to shape her job description into whatever she wanted. The next opportunity was a meeting and presentation to the East Timor business council for a general infrastructure services development project.

“I thought, I can take that on,” Ogle said. Unknown to her, this would result in a major change in her career trajectory.

“I was presenting to the Ambassador of East Timor when it struck me that I wanted to do international aid development work. This was how I was going to make a difference in the world.”

With her hand on her heart, Ogle said that this choice was one of her most “amazing experiences” but also one of her biggest failures. For every rock she uncovered there were at least five major issues that could take a lifetime of work to resolve.

As the project began attracting the attention of some very high profile individuals, Ogle once again spotted and seized the opportunity to take her career further.

She also spoke about the seven years that she lived out of a suitcase and her two massive failures, one of which she was sure she was going to get fired for. But it was her closing words that rung loud and clear.

“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything,” she said.

Ogle’s key attributes to success are resilience, initiative, adaptability, passion and courage. She has since set her sights on the role of chief operating officer (COO) and wants to be involved in a merger or acquisition, which could well be on the cards.

Her tips to success:

1. Find a sponsor or mentor with a vested interest in your career.

2. Be ambitious. Most women pass up on opportunities because they only have 60% of the required skills while men will go after those same opportunities with only 30% of the required skills.

3. Turn your failures into successes and learn from them.


To find out more about Executive Women Australia and their Executive Master Class series, visit www.executivewomenaustralia.com.au



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