CAUGHT IN THE CROSS­FIRE

In­ter­view with Matina Jewell

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - IN­TER­VIEW: SA­MAN­THA MCLEAN WORDS: TARA TYRELL

IN 2006, MATINA JEWELL’S life changed for­ever while on duty, with a car ac­ci­dent in the an­cient Le­banese city of Tyre. She was thrown onto the bul­let­proof wind­screen of her ve­hi­cle, the im­pact so strong it broke her back in five places and rup­tured her di­aphragm. Evac­u­ated to hos­pi­tal, it wasn’t long be­fore she heard that her team­mates back at the UN com­pound had been killed in an air strike.

Matina writes about her ex­pe­ri­ence in her book Caught in the Cross­fire, a true in­sight into her life as a peace­keeper in the war-rav­aged Mid­dle East. The book tells the story of cop­ing against the odds, mak­ing de­ci­sions to de­ter­mine your suc­cess and ques­tion­ing your think­ing. It is also the first book in Aus­tralia to con­tain QR code tech­nol­ogy, al­low­ing read­ers to step into the story: by scan­ning a bar­code sym­bol with their phone they can watch videos taken while Matina was in the Mid­dle East.

When Elite Agent caught up with Matina re­cently, we were in­spired. First we wanted to know what led her to a ca­reer path with the Armed Forces.

“Dur­ing my school­ing I had been look­ing at dif­fer­ent ca­reer paths, but a piv­otal point for me in de­cid­ing what I ac­tu­ally wanted to do with my fu­ture was that I played a lot of sports. I rep­re­sented Aus­tralia in a cou­ple of sports, 10 sports at state level. [And trav­el­ling to places like China] gave me a whole new per­spec­tive on life out­side of Aus­tralia,” she says.

“It made me far more ap­pre­cia­tive of the priv­i­lege I had. My Chi­nese op­po­nents would ask me if I’d ever seen stars at night, be­cause it was some­thing that they had never seen for them­selves!”

Matina re­turned from that ex­pe­ri­ence with five ca­reer goals: to travel over­seas, to help dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, to be in a team en­vi­ron­ment, to be a leader and to fo­cus on some­thing that was a com­bi­na­tion of sport­ing and aca­demic. The ADFA ticked all the boxes and, with an added goal of be­com­ing fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent at the age of 17, the drive to suc­ceed in the Armed Forces out­weighed the sur­prise her par­ents ini­tially felt.

“I re­mem­ber their part­ing words were, ‘There’s no way you’ll see mil­i­tary ac­tion as a woman’ and here I am, five over­seas mis­sions later and hav­ing al­most lost my life. I could have died so many times.”

Along with serv­ing in a num­ber of war zones around the world, Matina was the first woman to qual­ify as a Navy diver, de­spite be­ing in the Army; she was also the first woman to qual­ify to fast-rope out of he­li­copters to board smug­gle ships

– some­thing that is usu­ally re­served for Spe­cial Forces but which be­came a ne­ces­sity at the time.

“I was given the op­por­tu­nity to do things with my ca­reer I’d never imag­ined, and at the same time I was in a lead­er­ship role with sol­diers look­ing at me to pro­vide the ex­am­ple, to leap out of that he­li­copter and lead my team in ex­treme en­vi­ron­ments.”

Given the path her ca­reer led her on, there is lit­tle doubt that at some point Matina was ter­ri­fied of what lay ahead or, more ac­cu­rately, around the cor­ner. So what ad­vice does she have for manag­ing fear?

“The most ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion I’ve ever been in was in Le­banon dur­ing the 2006 war. We were sur­rounded by Hezbol­lah guer­rilla forces and in a split sec­ond it went from mon­i­tor­ing a peace agree­ment as an un­armed peace­keeper to sud­denly be­ing thrown into full-scale war­fare where Is­raeli fight­ers had at­tack he­li­copters,” she says.

“As a leader, you’ve got to put aside your per­sonal fear. You need to be able to put your emo­tions aside so you can keep op­er­at­ing and keep be­ing de­ci­sive: mak­ing de­ci­sions, manag­ing the risks at the same time and be­ing able to keep clar­ity around what you’re do­ing.

“You’ve got to say, ‘Okay, yeah. I’m ter­ri­fied, but that’s not help­ing. I have no op­tion. I have to keep mak­ing de­ci­sions.’ Oth­er­wise it’s more likely that a worst-case sce­nario will oc­cur.”

Although it’s a far cry from step­ping into a war zone, as a prop­erty man­ager you’ll still face ad­ver­sity that chal­lenges your role and your mind­set. If you want to be a leader in your pro­fes­sion, Matina of­fers the fol­low­ing tips.

“It’s the lit­tle steps. Most peo­ple in busi­ness don’t go sud­denly from do­ing noth­ing to overnight busi­ness suc­cess. It’s a process. It’s the learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that come along and hav­ing that courage to make the most of it and keep pos­i­tive about what’s hap­pen­ing around you. Keep the mo­men­tum mov­ing for­ward, find your sense of pur­pose and hang on to it.”

In prop­erty man­age­ment, lead­er­ship is key to suc­cess. Ac­cord­ing to Matina, there are three key skills re­quired for some­one to be a great leader, re­gard­less of the in­dus­try they work in. 1. Ef­fec­tive del­e­ga­tion and em­pow­er­ing oth­ers to carry out your vi­sion. 2. Ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your team so there’s crys­tal clear align­ment of the leader’s vi­sion. 3. Know­ing your team so you can draw on in­di­vid­ual strengths and weak­nesses to make the team as strong as it can pos­si­bly be. No mat­ter the in­dus­try, you need to be ag­ile, brave and will­ing to tackle change – even if that change leads you in an un­cer­tain di­rec­tion. And when it comes to fac­ing chal­lenges in life, Matina says you need to fo­cus on the in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties that come from ex­treme ad­ver­sity.

“I hit ab­so­lute rock bot­tom af­ter I was in­jured so I know what it’s like, but my ad­vice to peo­ple go­ing through tough times is to fo­cus on your pur­pose, and if it can help oth­ers it does have a dou­ble pos­i­tive. If you’re a leader and you need to build re­silience in your team, try and fo­cus on a new sense of pur­pose.”

And with fo­cus and pos­i­tiv­ity two of her best traits, Matina is putting them to fur­ther good use by be­com­ing an am­bas­sador for Thank­ful Foun­da­tion, an Aus­tralian ini­tia­tive part­nered with the United Na­tions, that seeks to em­power women and chil­dren around the world.

“There are a num­ber of as­pects to it: look­ing at ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties and shift­ing our mind­set into one that’s more pos­i­tive; to be thank­ful for the things that we have, rather than striv­ing for other things or fo­cus­ing in a neg­a­tive way on all the things we don’t have, or are yet still to achieve or at­tain,” she says.

“As a so­ci­ety, we need to raise our chil­dren and our­selves to be­come more ap­pre­cia­tive of what we have, to look at what’s hap­pen­ing around the world and re­alise how very for­tu­nate we are to be in Aus­tralia.”

“MY AD­VICE TO PEO­PLE GO­ING THROUGH TOUGH TIMES IS TO FO­CUS ON YOUR PUR­POSE, AND IF IT CAN HELP OTH­ERS IT DOES HAVE A DOU­BLE POS­I­TIVE. IF YOU’RE A LEADER AND YOU NEED TO BUILD RE­SILIENCE IN YOUR TEAM, TRY AND FO­CUS ON A NEW SENSE OF PUR­POSE.” “IN A SPLIT SEC­OND IT WENT FROM MON­I­TOR­ING A PEACE AGREE­MENT AS AN UN­ARMED PEACE­KEEPER TO SUD­DENLY BE­ING THROWN INTO FULLSCALE WAR­FARE.”

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