The power of just saying 'Yes'

Fidelity’s Women and Wealth network hosted accomplished lawyer turned endurance athlete and social impact leader, Samantha Gash, for a series of discussions focussing on habits of a high performer. Sam is no stranger to success; having completed numerous ultra-marathons, raising funds for numerous causes, founding her own business Her Trails, and being a mother to her 5-year-old son, Harry, she is someone who we turn to for inspiration on reclaiming resilience and purpose. 

But her success has not come without its challenges. Like the rest of us, Sam has had her fair share of adversities. From this, she draws on what it takes to keep moving forward. Of her many lessons, we explore how she got to where she is now.

A three-letter word

Having found herself at a roadblock, Sam realised that she started to be known as the ‘No’ person. She had turned down so many opportunities that those around her stopped asking her to things, knowing the inevitable outcome. 

In her mid-twenties, she decided to take the advice of a mentor and start saying Yes. So, the year of yes began and changed the course of her life.

Performing in the outback

Sam described feeling clumsy performing shows to groups of indigenous communities in remote parts of the Australian outback. This decision to step outside her comfort zone awoke her passion of working with underprivileged communities, which she now continues to do through her work with World Vision.

Bob Marley and a hippie van

Sam spent months in a van with only one backpack on her shoulders, travelling around parts of America. Whilst she had a fun time singing music and making new friends, this experience taught her that she didn’t need a lot of possessions to be happy, appreciating the things she has.

The turning point

Perhaps the most profound ‘yes’ moment was when she agreed to a marathon after being asked by a friend. A self- described ‘non-runner’, she committed to her decision and started a rigorous training program. Not even a half-marathon prepared her for the struggle ahead. As she neared the final 10km of the trek, she found her mind and body giving up completely. Keeping her head down, she kept moving forward behind the footsteps of a friend who refused to let her quit and before too long, found herself sprinting the final 200m of the marathon in the grounds of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

Through her pain, Sam found her passion for endurance athleticism. She would go on to accomplish such feats as running or trekking through Nepal, India, South Africa and Australia, and completing Racing the Planet - an ultramarathon series across 4 of the world’s harshest deserts. She puts her passion to use not only for herself, but for others through her numerous fundraising efforts.

Learning what it means to say No

There’s a caveat. Saying yes is a way to push your boundaries and reclaim your resilience, but once you have found those things that serve your happiness, it’s ok to say no. Nurture your ‘yes’ decisions with the ability to say no to those that aren’t serving them. 

Sam’s lessons in saying yes are inspirational. We have asked some of the women at Fidelity to share times when saying yes opened the door to opportunity.

We can all be inspired

After hearing the impact saying Yes had on Sam, we asked a few of the women at Fidelity to share a time when saying Yes gave them a new opportunity in their career.

Michelle Harris, Head of Marketing - Australia

I moved to Ireland after getting married, leaving the funds management industry where I had built my career and reputation, to an unknown in a country where jobs in funds management marketing were few and far between.

While it took me three months to land a job, I was offered a role at Tesco Personal Finance to launch their new car loans and personal finance products. Talk about being thrown in the deep end! Despite me knowing I knew nothing about the products, the market and the industry I said ‘Yes’! 

I’m not going to lie, learning and working in a new country with local nuances, launching unfamiliar products onto supermarket shelves and petrol stations, with a fixed launch date in sight, pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many different ways! Before I knew it, I was having conversations around point-of-sale promotions on petrol gauge nozzles whilst also learning about the complexity of different loan scenarios and car insurance clauses.

However, the experience and insights I gained from working internationally, with the added complexity of co-ownership between a bank and a supermarket, certainly helped me when I joined Fidelity.  

Now having been in the industry for more than 25 years, I’ve learnt that embracing new opportunities (despite your internal imposter syndrome!) opens doors and ensures that you continue to learn. And if you’re lucky - there are added benefits too like making new friendships, exploring new places and seeing new perspectives that stay with you for life.

Daniela Jaramillo, Head of Sustainable Investing - Australia

During the recent pandemic, I was still on maternity leave with my second child, my 3-month-old daughter, when I was offered a position at Fidelity. The job was a stretch from my past role; firstly, it was with a global company, secondly it encompassed country level responsibility, and finally, I would be joining as a remote worker from Melbourne whilst the broader investment team was based in Sydney.

Looking back to that time 2 years later, my decision to say ‘Yes’ to the position has been a great step in my career. While I had impostor syndrome at the beginning, I have grown into the role, and even received a promotion! Being in a different city from the investment team and working for a global company became advantages as I was able to work remotely, which was perfect for spending more time with my daughter while my husband was on parental leave. Not to mention the added flexibility in a role where I need to attend a lot of late-night meetings.

Melinda Horneman, Associate Director of Events, Sponsorship and Operations - Australia

At the ripe age of 23, like many young Aussies, I picked up a backpack and set off for a backpacking adventure through Europe. After four beautiful months in the sunshine, I found myself flat broke and decided to set up ‘home’ in London where I could earn some additional funds to further my travels.

After a few applications, I found myself working for a broking firm on their trading floor as a Marketing Assistant and PA to the CEO. It wasn’t a far cry from my previous work experience, and I had always been interested in marketing. Plus, the trading floor brought about a new level of excitement and intensity in a workplace that I hadn’t experienced before!

After only a few months in the job, the Marketing Manager left for maternity leave and there was a vacant position which I was asked to step up and fill. Before I could even give it a second thought, I found myself saying ‘Yes’ and everything changed (Perhaps it was the just the naivety of a 23-year-old?). 

I had no idea what I was doing at first. Saying ‘Yes’ meant taking on new responsibilities, learning and adapting to complex financial concepts, liaising daily with our external PR agency, and continually pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. It wasn't always easy, but it opened doors to new opportunities and expanded my skill set. The relationships I built over that time I still carry through to this day, in mentors and other industry contacts whom I have called upon for advice at various crossroads over the last 16 years. 

In a male-dominated field like finance, being open to new opportunities encouraged my willingness to learn and helped to carve out my career to date.