Human on the Inside with SHEforce’s Sally Caruana


5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Sally, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! You’re the Founder of SHEforce – an agency you established in 2021 to enhance labour hire solutions in the building and construction industry. In particular, SHEforce is committed to increasing the presence of women on worksites (currently only 12% of women work in construction), whilst also supporting men who want a career in the industry. In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?

I am an advocate for empowering women and men with different skill sets to develop a career in the building and construction industry.  I’ve built solid relationships with large and medium-sized commercial, residential and civil construction businesses across Victoria and they are supporting me to increase the presence of women on worksites.  In addition to helping provide women and men with job security, SHEforce’s employee engagement program focuses on educating and empowering women and men to take control of their financial wellbeing. 

Prior to establishing SHEforce, you spent nearly 5 years with CBus Super Fund as a Senior Client Relationship Manager, and earlier, ~10years in various marketing communications roles for organisations as diverse as ANZ, Liberty Oil, Fair Work Commission, National Civil Contractors Network, Lindon Financial Group and Standard & Poor’s in the UK. Your list of ‘over and above’ professional certifications is equally vast; spanning endemic technical qualifications alongside emotional intelligence (Australian Institute of Management) and courageous leadership (Brene Brown Education & Research Group) accreditations. How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

My personal purpose is to build and foster enriched relationships with all my stakeholders. What drives me is my positive outlook on work and life, and my ability to see problems or issues as opportunities to solve and develop. Starting SHEforce has given me the opportunity to step further into my purpose, and I now have a rewarding career, loyal and satisfied employees/clients and a work-life balance.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

When I finished high school I had no idea on what career path I wanted to take so I enrolled in an Arts Degree majoring in English Literature and Sociology; my two passions being language and people. During my University days I worked at a call centre and after I finished my degree, my manager suggested I work alongside the sales and marketing manager to foster and develop relationships with new and existing clients. That’s when I was introduced into the world of sales and marketing and knew that I needed to undertake further studies to broaden my business knowledge.  After a few years, I enrolled to undertake my MBA (Marketing) which introduced me to wider strategic and operational activities within a business. My qualifications are aligned with my current role as CEO, as it’s given me the technical and strategic knowledge to establish and build a successful business.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …

To my 21 year old self, I’d say continue to enjoy life; continue to learn and grow; continue to work hard and embrace challenges as part of your professional development and most importantly continue to be inquisitive of people’s backgrounds, cultures and what’s important to them.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?

Communication is integral to my business as it is the reason it exists.  If I hadn’t fostered and developed relationships with clients in my previous roles, then I would not have been able to establish SHEforce. Communication is also important as it allows me to understand my employees and client’s needs, and truly tailor a solution for them. Empathy is another trait that is pivotal to forming successful long lasting relationships.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

My superpower is definitely building relationships.  I genuinely love people and love to get to know them and know what drives them.  This has enhanced my understanding of people’s personalities, their behaviours and how they interact.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

As a naturally ‘big-picture’ person, I’ve had to work really hard on my attention to detail. My 20 years in marketing, developing campaigns and collateral, researching trends and reporting outcomes has driven me to focus on reviewing my work continuously to ensure it’s correct.  

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent secondary or tertiary graduates, or other individuals keen to work in a trade, what would it be?

Learn as much as they can about their chosen career in construction, and find a mentor to guide and advise them through it.  Also, don’t expect to be a leader immediately, be a novice and learn all facets about your career, as it will give you solid foundations to be a successful leader.

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

What would influence my decision would be the applicant’s personal values and if they align with my core business values. All applicants may have the same knowledge / expertise, however they may not be the right fit for our culture and business vision.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?

Safety is at the forefront of my new business so I’ve just completed a Certificate IV in Workplace Health & Safety.  In addition, I’m broadening my knowledge by reviewing industry hot topics, developing and updating safety policies and procedures especially now in our Covid world. On a personal note, this year I have promised myself that I will focus on learning a second language –  when I lived in London my two best friends were both fluent in five languages and I only spoke the one!