Shuffling the deck

Have you ever felt like changing your career, but felt the odds were stacked against you? Christine Hendroff did. Despite a successful career in the gaming industry, her desire to have a family – and unforeseen health issues – meant she needed to change tack. With the help of Central, her gamble has paid off.

What you were doing before you came to Central?

I started at Burswood in 1995, as a croupier.  I really enjoyed the work, doing acting inspector roles and dealing in the private rooms to the high rollers. A position then came up in surveillance.  I had previous nursing degree experience which involved psychology units. I moved into the surveillance unit, and enjoyed quite a successful career there.

Essentially, this entailed acting shift manager roles and a period where I was asked to work on secondment with the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, to set up policies and procedures for Burswood Casino, to ensure they were complying with the Casino Control Act.  I moved around a fair bit.  Unfortunately, although I had a lot of experience from my 16 years at Burswood, I came out without a single qualification!

Why did you choose to switch careers?

My son was born in 2004, at 27 weeks and was really tiny and subsequently went on to develop autism and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a connective tissue disorder. So I was doing a lot of therapy with him.  We had a lot of medical commitments. This started to get in the way of a full-time role. So I was starting to realise that I would have to make a career change, but as I said, I had no qualifications.  So it was in this 2005-6 period that I seriously began to think about what I was going to do next.

Then in 2006, I was pregnant with my daughter and concluded, “Well, after this child, I’ll move on to a career change.”

Then my husband promptly went into complete renal failure while I was pregnant. He went on to dialysis immediately and was basically at hospital every second day. So immediately, I was pretty much a single parent. As supportive as Burswood were, there aren’t many job roles that could encompass those sorts of complications.

So I started jumping on the internet to begin looking.  I spoke to friends and looked for career choices where I would have the autonomy of being able to work at home if I wanted to, or also be able to work in a formal workplace.  It also, had to be flexible in terms of location as well.  Plus, I was seeking skills that would be transferable.  The skills I had at that time were for a high-end casino and there aren’t many of those around!

My husband was already in the publishing field.  I naturally knew friends and colleagues of his within the industry and I began by chatting with them.  I started to realise that printing or graphic arts would be a good starting point for me.

Why did you pick the Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts?

I think the reason why I chose that course was because it encompasses wide aspects of the industry. This includes the printing, which is very hands-on.  It involved working with printing machines and presses, making books, binding, and also covered design and layout, which is more graphic design, which itself then leads on to other courses in Central.  Namely, graphic design or web page design which often tend to work hand-in-hand.

The Cert III was a snapshot of pretty much the entire industry, a platform from which you could then choose to specialise.

Was Central convenient for you?
You worked in your own group, doing the various different units together. The lecturers and timetable organisers were excellent at making opportunities for some of the younger people to enable them to take on part-time work after study hours.

I was studying with another mature age student and we both had young children.  The arrangements were family-friendly and enabled us both to collect the children from day care.
We were given an opportunity to collaborate a little with lecturers, where they presented me with options.  For example, they might say, “Would you like to compress your hours into fewer days?” or “Would you like to have a bulk here and then possibly half a day off?” The lecturer sorted this out directly with me, under supervision of the portfolio manager.

They were also employing a lot of part-time lecturers as well, so it gave Central some additional flexibility. Many of them are still working in industry, so they had their own commitments to work around as well.

I’ve been to a couple of Perth universities. You just wouldn’t get that level of flexibility/opportunity (apart from study groups) to actually negotiate times for your lectures. I understand that this cannot be offered across the board, but the opportunity came up for me and it was great.

How did you secure your first work?

I began by doing three months work experience at Pilpel Print.  Basically it was a design, as well as pre-press, role.  I then picked up work on publications and promotional material for a company in Margaret River called Mika Muesli. It’s organic muesli. I arranged the production of their commercial material, business cards, posters, etc. I did a photo shoot for them of all their products and photography for their web page.

Then another job came via Central’s Deb Whittington. A fashion company called Flower were looking for someone who could re-interpret fabric designs that they had found on their travels around the world. They had found certain swatches and wanted something similar, perhaps in different colours.  They needed someone to re-colour to suit the fashion swatches they had chosen for that particular season. I started working for them in 2011 as well.

Then, in March 2012, my husband had a double kidney transplant.  So our lives changed once again.  We’re getting used to a new routine again, which is great, and I have now had my third child.  In the downtime, my husband and I have been setting up a business and beginning early promotion.

Your story is great in that it shows how you can come to Central and instantly apply what you learn.

Well, I think my story may be of interest in that it is not the formal way you go about it.  I mean, people usually go to school, come here, get a qualification, and go straight into industry and start working. That was never really my intention.  It was more of about developing something where I was going to be able to work from home, work for myself and under terms that I could actually incorporate into my life.  And it’s been brilliant.

I think it’s good for people looking for that flexibility, especially working parents who want to do something they think that possibly they can’t. But it is possible. There are different ways of getting there.

Would you recommend Central?

Definitely.  It was so convenient, that was the primary difference for me – the accessibility. Plus the flexibility I spoke of, being involved in setting timetables, compressing work hours, etc. That was ultimately the biggest thing for my family because most people have their own lives going on in the background.  So that was fantastic.

The lecturers had their own life experiences, as well as contemporary business experience from still working in the industry. They would then bring that into the classroom and introduce real-world situations which I think was more suitable.

At university, or other educational areas, you’re often spoon-fed information and it doesn’t really matter about the actual information that you’re taught.  It is just your ability to take it, digest it and regurgitate it.  Whether you use that information later on in your career is doubtful.  It is essentially an examination of your ability to learn, not the information that you will actually need on a day-to-day basis.

Whereas I think the information we were given was the hands-on, day-to-day information that we would need.  It was the tricks in the trade that the lecturers used themselves daily in their own professional careers, or in their previous history.  It was real-world information which was all so pertinent, even if we didn’t fully realise it at the time.

Plus it is also the Institute’s involvement with a lot of businesses outside of Central. I have noticed a lot of people coming back, previous students, managers and businesses coming back to Central and going “We value your students, we value the ideas here.  Have you got anyone in mind that can actually work on this?” We were hearing a lot of stories like that while we were studying as industry people would just drop in and visit the lecturers and classes.

Flower, the company my lecturers introduced me to after graduation, had come to Central because they were aware of the standard of graduates.  The lecturers have that standing and trust within the community and business community in terms of sourcing people and matching them to industry requirements.

All up, it was a lot of information over 12 months.  We were bombarded with it.   I think that it was good because everyone collaborated and it became less about some theory on a blackboard and more about people coming in with information on the latest bit of technology, or “I found this tutorial on the internet”, etc.  My course featured bulk exposure to such a broad spectrum of ideas.  It was great.

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