We recently caught up with Lisa Kirstein, OKC 2002 and former AVѧԺ Captain. When reflecting on her journey over the last 20 years since graduating from Carmel, Lisa places her proudest moments into three buckets – time, treasure and talent. Now working as Head of Consumer Payments and Gift Cards for Australia and New Zealand at Wpay, a wholly-owned Fintech subsidiary of Woolworths Group, Lisa has some excellent advice for our Carmel students as they consider their future.

What goals did you have for yourself at the time of your high school graduation?

I recall wanting to achieve two goals - first was to complete my double degree at UWA with the goal of becoming a psychologist and then the plan was to live in London, with a degree under my belt. Nothing very exciting… but in true “cliched” style - other plans unfolded along the way. All said and done, I’m grateful for the journey I have been on so far.

Where have you studied and worked in the years after leaving AVѧԺ?

I completed a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Science, with majors in Marketing, Management and a double major in Psychology at UWA. During the five years it took to get my undergraduate degree, I moved to Melbourne for 18 months where I completed parts of my degrees at both Monash University and Melbourne University. Reflecting back now - I was only 19 when I moved to Melbourne to live, study and work (at one point I had 3 jobs at the same time) on my own. In hindsight, it was a pretty bold move which I’m quite proud of myself for committing to. #noregrets

During my undergraduate, I also completed a makeup artistry qualification and worked for Chanel as a makeup artist.

After completing my undergraduate and being accepted into the Psychology Honours Program at UWA, I decided to postpone any further studies and move to London. I remember the London newspaper headlines were all about the recession and the lack of jobs, so instead, I decided to take the time to travel through Europe, finally spending six weeks in Israel, before returning to London.

I was lucky enough to secure a role as makeup artist for Chanel and then managed to get a job as a Merchandising Manager for Cadburys. This was an incredible (and unique) job to land. I was in charge of ensuring Cadbury's products had prime position on the merchandising stand in about 1000 small stores across Central London. I received a 7-seater (coincidentally) purple manual-drive car packed with any kind of Cadbury's chocolate one could imagine. Driving in central London was quite nerve-wracking, especially in a manual car, without the support of Google Maps or navigation devices. A few times I found myself mistakenly circling Pall Mall, Buckingham Palace and some other iconic London landmarks - it was all part of the experience. My friends were definitely major beneficiaries of my job.

After 18 months traveling and working in London; I returned to Australia and moved to Sydney.

My first job in Sydney was for a loyalty and data-driven marketing agency called Global Red where I worked for three years before landing my first role at Woolworths.

In the 10 years working at Woolworths I have worked in about eight different roles, spanning the loyalty business (Everyday Rewards) and most recently in Fintech.

Can you describe your current role?

My current role is Head of Consumer Payments and Gift Cards for Australia and New Zealand at Wpay, a wholly-owned Fintech subsidiary of Woolworths Group. I am largely responsible for developing the business strategy, future direction and managing the day-to-day operations of these consumer-facing businesses.

Often people aren’t quite sure what consumer payments are - it includes any payment types/mechanisms that our Woolworths Consumers use. This includes the Woolworths Credit Card business, our proprietary (and Australia first of its kind) QR based Digital Wallet, known as Everyday Pay, the use of Apple and Google Wallets within our ecosystem and any future payments or fintech innovations that our consumers may use.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?

The unique combination of fintech and retail is energising - it's fast-paced, constantly evolving through cutting-edge innovation (often built on legacy foundations which makes it all the more positively challenging) and competitive. A super exciting landscape with never-ending learnings to continuously be building my career upon.

At Woolworths, we truly are customer first which I am very proud of. I love that we have the opportunity to help make a little difference in peoples’ lives - every little bit counts these days.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with incredibly talented and passionate individuals that inspire and motivate me.

Two of my most important values are - family and giving back to community. Both of which I am able to indulge in thanks to the wonderful work-life balance and flexible culture Woolworths affords.

With my family being spread across Australia and in the US, flexibility is of the utmost importance. In my current role I am fortunately able to fly around Australia for the Chagim and work as usual. During COVID I spent three months working in Perth and, after having not seen my sister and her family for 2 years, I flew to New York and worked there for two weeks.

My work days/weeks are demanding, some weeks I can be in 30-40 hours of meetings, so it is really important that I am able to also find “me” time. My ability to give my time to our community is enabled by the Woolies culture of supporting flexibility and work-life balance. In terms of community - I think it’s most fitting as a proud achievement.

What are you most proud of achieving in your life so far?

I am not one to overtly promote my achievements, however when I reflect on the last 20 years since finishing high school, I would bucket my proud moments into time, treasure and talent:

  1. The journey I have forged for myself, the life choices I have made, be it geographical moves, a career change, establishing new friends in new cities/countries, the travels I have embarked on with family, friends or independently, are my treasures. These are the moments, the memories, the learnings, the resilience and the strength I have gained. I am proud of the person I have (and still am) becoming.
  2. The time I have given to our Jewish Community. I am passionate about the For-Purpose space and have always considered it a fundamental part of one's duty to support and unconditionally give back to community; particularly the Jewish community. In the last 10+ years I have been a long-standing volunteer of NSW’s , on the Marketing and Events Committees and Chaired the Professional Women's Forum (Shalom; JCA) for over five years as well as completing The Observership Program. Most recently, I joined the Board of the Australian Jewish Fertility Network (AJFN), a phenomenal Jewish NFP that provides financial and emotional support to those struggling to achieve their dream of having a baby.
  3. Finally, talent - this would have to be completing an MBA whilst working full time. It took me 3.5 years to complete part-time; an enormous challenge but one I am incredibly grateful to have completed. Late last year, I finally managed to attend an in-person graduation ceremony where I was awarded the Deans’ Award for Academic Excellence.

Are there any long-term goals you hope to eventually achieve?

I have never really been one to write a list of goals or to sit down and plan my career. For me it is more about knowing directionally the pathway I wish to take than a plan or list of things to achieve.

I am constantly looking to learn, achieve and grow and I believe as long as I have that mentality the things that are meant to happen will happen in due course.

I read a lot of articles from Harvard Business Review on leadership and one of my favourite articles talks about adopting a flexible mindset, recognizing when it’s time to shift to a different strategy, knowing when to push hard on the career-accelerator and when to redirect your energy to health, family or life in general. It also highlights the importance of recognizing that your career is a marathon and not a competition against others. You are the driver and decider of what you wish to achieve for yourself.

What advice do you have for our current AVѧԺ students who are preparing for their future after graduation?

Time - carefully consider what you want to give your time to; how can you support the Jewish Community in a meaningful way that not only gives back to others but inspires and feeds your purpose.

Treasure - Be aware of the privileges you have been afforded and start to consider how you can contribute to something bigger than you. Small steps are better than none at all. Simply attending the charity event you weren’t going to or perhaps consider donating $18. Don’t leave it to the old generations… every contribution makes a difference.

Talent - everyone has unique talents - find yours and play to your strengths. Focusing on your strengths should energise and motivate you to achieve whatever it is that you wish to.

Influence - if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Always seek to learn from others. In a business setting influence is ‘king’ - learning how to influence sideways, upwards and down is crucial to achieving your career goals, empowering yourself and using your influence to empower others.