Ashley Sattler decided while at university that, if she was going to spend a lifetime at work, she would prefer to do something she felt good about. So she sought out a graduate program and joined the public service in 2010.
“I always wanted to work in an area or a field that made a difference and I knew if I was going to be working for many years, many hours a day, I’d rather be working on something meaningful,” Ashley said.
“I was always interested in issues of fairness and equity and there’s lots of work in the public sector in that space.”
She was initially employed by the Australian Public Service in the then Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Ashley later moved to Melbourne where she now works for the Victorian Department of Education and Training, as a manager in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy branch.
To help her deal with the growing challenges of her role, and to give her skills for the future, she is completing the final units of an ANZSOG Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) in 2020.
“My role is mainly focused on the design of the Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy Support initiative, a major initiative in every Victorian secondary school that funds schools to allow teachers to spend extra time supporting students who are falling behind minimum standards in literacy and numeracy, and provides these teachers with targeted professional learning to do this,” she said.
“I provide policy and design advice, with input from all relevant stakeholders, about the strategic intent and running of the program: how much funding should each school receive and why, which students are we targeting and why, how do we best provide support from central and regional offices and so on.”
This year she also has provided strategic planning and support for the Victorian Government’s work to support teaching and learning from home during the coronavirus state of emergency.
While it has been a challenge to balance the demands of a busy career with her studies, Ashley says ANZSOG’s EMPA provides access to networks and opportunities that she doesn’t believe she would be able to find elsewhere.
“With the EMPA, your cohort are your peers and they are people in a similar boat to you and have a huge wealth of experience in the workplace,” she said.
“You can learn heaps from the cohort itself, it’s not just about the curriculum. It helps to place your work in a much broader context because you are working with people from different jurisdictions across the public service.
“There are 100 or so students and everyone is in such a different role that you can see how your piece of the puzzle fits. It helps you see the linkages across departments and jurisdictions.”
The EMPA gives students an opportunity to build networks, encouraging conversations and collaboration, through intensive sessions and small group projects, where people work together without a project manager or boss.
“It helps to broaden your views of what career pathways there are in the public service because everyone is in such a different role and you can see your role as part of the bigger picture of delivering public value,” she said.
“It also helps you learn from different people’s perspectives and expertise when you’re working with them. We will be talking about an issue and multiple people will raise their hands and talk about how that issue or challenge has affected them and you get a real-world example. It’s really useful because you can see how other people have tackled the same problem.”
Access to an array of experts also was a major benefit. Ashley was particularly inspired to hear from the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Marilyn Warren.
“She worked in a hugely male-dominated industry for so long, her resilience was really impressive. Through the EMPA we get access to a huge range of really prominent and inspiring people, and hearing about their journeys and the things they found challenging what they’ve achieved and how they achieved it has been really good.”
All up, she says the EMPA has reinforced the value of her work as a public servant.
“The EMPA provides really good opportunities to reflect on your work and your role and why it’s important,” she said.
“I think the concept of public value is a little bit broader than what people think about in their day-to-day work, so it’s good to be reminded of the purpose of what you’re doing and the broader impacts on society. It’s been helpful to get perspective.
“It also challenges your brain in a way that might be different to your day-to-day work. The networks are invaluable. The quality is good too. I would definitely recommend it.”
Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA)
A part-time postgraduate qualification developed and delivered by ANZSOG exclusively for high-performing public sector managers.
Executive Fellows Program (EFP)
A three-week program challenging senior public service executives working in the public domain to develop new leadership perspectives in a contemporary and highly interactive setting.
Towards Strategic Leadership (TSL)
A unique two-week program that helps public service leaders develop the qualities needed to thrive in a senior executive role: a strategic outlook, political astuteness, personal resilience and the capacity to reflect and learn continuously.