Murdoch Associate Lecturer in Management, Cass Spencer, didn’t always want to work in management or be an academic. But after years of frustration with past jobs, she realised that the only way forward was to help fix the problems from within.
I’ve always been a high achiever. I was in the gifted and talented program at Willetton Senior High School, so I spent my high school years surrounded by like-minded people who wanted to be doctors and lawyers. That environment had so much pressure, and I panicked when it came time to choose what I wanted to study at university. Instead of heading to uni like many of my friends, I moved to Queensland and then to New Zealand.
I started working in fast-food restaurants for a few years, working my way into management positions and training new staff. I then moved into currency exchange and found myself rewriting and localising training manuals to comply with local laws and restrictions. I eventually became a senior foreign exchange consultant, training new employees and conducting regular upskilling in counterfeit currency detection – especially when the USA started introducing their coloured bank notes. I even worked with law enforcement to stop a traveller’s cheque scam.
As in most companies, management changed and with that came more change. At this point, I realised one of the pain points in all of my jobs was working with people who couldn’t manage others or had a limited understanding of building high-performing teams.
The only way I could fix this was to get into human resources and solve the source of the problem.
University as a mature aged student
I returned to Perth and enrolled in the Bachelor of Business at Murdoch as it was the most efficient way to get my qualification. It was close to home and allowed me to complete my double major in Human Resources Management and Business Law. At the time, I was able to take some postgrad units during the summer and winter breaks, so when I graduated, I graduated with an undergraduate degree and also a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration, all completed in three years. At any other university, this would likely have taken four to five years.
I loved studying at Murdoch, how the campus felt, how friendly and supportive everyone was, and just the general atmosphere. After I finished my studies, I never really wanted to leave. I wanted to give students that same experience I had. I guess I was in the right place at the right time, and I was lucky enough to land my dream job at Murdoch as an Associate Lecturer in Management.
Empowering the next generation
Teaching has allowed me to address the concerns that brought me to study at a higher level and empower the next generation of managers and business leaders. I teach a range of management and human resources units where students learn how to interact and influence behaviour. They also learn to develop strategies to evoke change in organisations and within themselves. These skills help students create and communicate their personal brand and value and demonstrate that in a business environment.
To me, teaching is more than theory. It is giving students opportunities to interact and learn hand-on through projects and internships. We’ve just completed an industry project with students consulting for RCR Mining Technologies and NRW Civil and Mining, where the students developed an apprentice retention strategy. The apprentice manager was incredibly impressed with the analysis and ideas and is looking at other ways they can collaborate with Murdoch students in the future.
Cass’s 5 top tips for business students
- Talk to people and ask questions - ask academics, other students, and support staff (we can’t help if we don’t know).
- Read the manual. It might sound boring, but the LMS, unit information guide, assessment instructions, and assessment rubrics all have a wealth of information.
- Get involved - join a club, start a club, volunteer, or do summer work placements, whatever your heart desires.
- University is only one part of your future – have a plan for the rest. Get experience through internships and develop professional networks.
- Everything in moderation. Don’t get bogged down in studying that you forget to take care of yourself. Exercise, socialise, and make time for hobbies and self-care.