“I love my job but found my dream role through volunteering”

This inspiring mum of two paved her career as a self-taught programmer and for 15 years has configured laboratory information management systems for various companies. But it’s through her volunteering with not-for-profit organisation West Welcome Wagon that she’s found herself in her dream role.

Candice shares with us her passion for helping asylum seekers and how she smashes mother’s guilt by finding time for herself between her family, work and volunteer roles.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
Wow, career journey! I always tend to associate that term with people who have climbed the corporate ladder, which I certainly don’t feel is me. I was always interested in science and I’ve always had an affinity for computers thanks to my dad. After studying lab technology (biotechnology) and forensic science at TAFE, I started working at a lab where I ended up working on their laboratory information management system (LIMS). I’m a self-taught programmer. I taught myself how to configure the software we were using at the lab, and further developed my programming skills over the years learning different programming languages so I could apply them to various software packages and applications. Over the last 15 years I’ve worked at three companies configuring their LIMS, but the role is more than just programming. It encompasses project management, business analysis, change management and stakeholder management.

You joined the West Welcome Wagon in August 2014. What has been your biggest challenge? What have you loved the most?
The biggest challenge for me has been managing the amount of time I commit to West Welcome Wagon.

It’s so easy to get swept up in volunteering, and volunteer burnout is a real issue.

I’ve certainly learnt a lot over the years about how to ensure I am balancing my time between volunteering, work, family and me (which we often forget about).

What I have loved the most is the people. Joining West Welcome Wagon was such a great way for me to meet new people and make new friendships. There are some amazing people in our community, and it never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to give. People are so generous, whether it is their time, items or money. It’s just lovely to see people willing to support the organisation and help asylum seekers in need.

You are a very inspiring woman and give back so much. What motivates you?
Oh well, that’s lovely of you to say! I guess I don’t really see it as me giving back so much but rather just doing my bit. I’m only one cog in the machine that is West Welcome Wagon. Without all our wonderful volunteers we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do. My motivation comes from listening to the stories of those we support. When you hear the situations some people have come from and what they have had to endure, I think it’s only natural to want to support them in any way you can.

Congratulations on being the proud mum of two gorgeous boys. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found about being a mum?
The guilt. Oh, the guilt. And the constant questioning of yourself. Am I doing the right thing by sending my children to childcare? Should I go back to work? Is it selfish to want to go to work? Maybe I should stay home? I wonder if they are OK. Should I call and check on them? Which then adds to the massive mental load you already have. I didn’t realise how many things my mum must have had going through her mind on a daily basis.

Where do you see your career going next? What is one dream you have that you have yet to accomplish?
That’s an interesting question and, if I am honest, I don’t think I considered what’s next in my career until joining West Welcome Wagon. My dream is for my role as CEO of West Welcome Wagon to be a paid role. It’s what everyone says isn’t it? To be paid to do something that you love. I put in a lot of volunteer hours at The Wagon both as CEO and as Board Secretary, but it’s not enough and I still have to support my kids and pay my bills. I look at other organisations that have started similarly to ours, like St Kilda Mums, and where they are now and think, yep that’s the goal.

How do you stay sane with the juggle? What is your way of coping when you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed or burned out? How do you look after yourself?
Ah the juggle question. I’m not sure I’m actually qualified to answer that as I often question how I do it myself! The thing that I have learned is that it is so important to take time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, it could be as simple as leaving the dishes in the sink and watching some TV. Or putting off answering emails and listening to some music instead. Fresh air. Exercise. Nature. For me, I start to feel sane again just from a walk outside with my headphones on to block out the world.

Favourite time of the day is…after the kids have just gone to sleep and I can focus on some me time.

I’m happiest when…I’m with my family and friends.

I’m addicted to…sugar (but I’m working on it!).

Favourite wardrobe staple for work is…my drop crotch chinos.

Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend is…my jeans.

My role model is…my mum (as corny as that might sound!).

Heels or flats? Flats all the way.

Discover more Real Stories from our Circle In community HERE.

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