"You can’t do anything without a shared vision."

As Manager of Alumni & Community Relations at Curtin University, Jysae Hooper leads a dynamic team of professionals every day. But despite her leadership role, she never imagined on being a manager, let alone a leader.

“I always knew I wanted to work in arts and culture or community, but looking back to how I felt at high school, I never thought I’d be in a leadership position. My year twelve results were dismal to say the least.”

In fact, the most important thing for her after school was getting out and seeing the world.

“When I finished high school, I wasn’t ready to go back to study straight away. I ended up taking a five-year gap-year.”

Jysae moved around WA and overseas, eventually volunteering for a not-for-profit in Peru, helping rebuild a town after it was devastated by an earthquake. It’s these experiences abroad that have helped her build her current leadership style.

But not every experience went as planned. While at the not-for-profit, Jysae co-organised a cultural festival to raise funds and engage the local community.

“The program consisted of local musicians, performers and artists, and a semi-famous Peruvian band, Afrodisiaco, at night.”

“The day-time part of the festival was incredible. We attracted around 500 locals, but not one single person came to see Afrodisiaco.”

“We couldn’t believe it. It was truly devastating for me and my co-organiser, and the 50-something volunteers who had helped put the event together.”

But just because the event wasn’t a success, didn’t mean Jysae didn’t take something away from it.

“On reflection, I realised that you can’t effectively engage a community without consulting that very community you’re trying to engage. You can’t do anything without a shared vision, and at no point did we ask the community what they really wanted from the festival.”

The experience in Peru was a huge turning point for Jysae. She decided to return home and embark on university study, a Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) – her dream degree.

“I applied and was rejected. I thought I’d have enough ‘life experience’ to enter as a ‘mature aged student’ despite my high school results.”

Jysae then enrolled in a university bridging course, and reapplied to WAAPA the following year, and got in. Fast forward three years, Jysae was awarded highest course average upon completion.

“I couldn’t believe it. It is the proudest moment of my life to-date. Having almost failed year twelve to achieving that, it was the most remarkable feeling. It gave me a little more confidence in myself and my abilities.”

Moving onto Jysae’s current role, she carries that hard lesson learnt in Peru with her every day: to effectively engage a community, you must consult with the community and ensure the vision is shared by all.  Consultation is also a key part of leading her team at Curtin.

“We set goals together, but I do my best to let my team members find their own way to achieve those goals, and support them however much they need.”

“I love seeing other people achieve and being a small part of that. Every day I strive to inspire my team and empower them to grow, while also having a bit of fun.”

As a leader, she also deeply values authenticity, which she credits the Rising Leadership Program with helping her realise.

“I went through the Rising Leadership Program thinking I needed to change my personality at work in order to be a good leader.”

“The Program helped me realise that I got into my leadership role by being my authentic self.”

Even past challenges have helped Jysae better understand herself as a leader, and help her get through moments of self-doubt.

“I look back at past challenges and remember how I tackled them. Bumps in the road always feel insurmountable at the time, but I’ve always found a way through. Reflecting on that, and knowing how far I’ve come from that insecure teen who almost failed year twelve, gives me the confidence I need to overcome challenges now.”

Jysae was voted Valedictorian of the Rising Leadership Program by her peers.

“To be voted Valedictorian was a huge confidence boost in my leadership journey. I still have many days of self-doubt, but the Rising Leadership Program proved to me that I can be my authentic self at work, and that that’s enough.”