How a career break helped me become self-sufficient

AGL Energy

My day-to-day role has great variety. My teams and I have the pleasure of managing customer enquiries for non-standard AGL products and services, such as the Virtual Power Plant in South Australia and providing Go-To-Market support for innovative product trials and services such as launching the Google and Alexa voice capability and the new Solar Exchange platform.

We also review and test new technology to support the creation of new innovative products and well as rapid testing of new product ideas that are solving real customer problems.

In January 2017 my husband and I purchased a property 110km north of Melbourne in one of Victoria’s prominent wine regions – with a dream to become as self-sufficient as possible, growing our own food, raising chickens for eggs and generally living a sustainable life.

I took a seven-month career break to establish a productive home garden on the 14-acre property, which included researching all about how to grow our own produce organically.

I started production with my first vegetable patch trialling lots of different vegetables with amazing results, did some renovations on the chicken house to better accommodate the chickens and Guinea Fowl, built a 52-tree orchard space with overhead netting to protect the trees and fruits from birds and then expanded production into a second vegetable patch twice the size of the first. Plus keeping up with the general maintenance, such as weeding, that 14 acres requires.

It was hard work but very rewarding personally. And AGL was fantastic – they didn’t hesitate to let me take the time I needed, and my manager kept in touch while I was away, keeping me updated with changes in the business.

I now work a condensed week due to the long distance I travel (almost an hour drive, followed by an hour on the train each way) so I do my work over Monday to Thursday, with some really productive hours on the train to and from the office. The extra day allows me to focus on the property maintenance and get in a little deliberate exercise to keep fit.

I feel really blessed to work for an organisation that has been so flexible and allows myself and many others the time they need to meet their personal challenges or fulfil their dreams as well as pursue their career. I guess there is an upside for AGL as well – with this kind of flexibility we attract and retain the best talent and get better outcomes from our people, which in turn has a positive impact on the organisational culture.